Darina Allen: Recipes from her family

This Autumn, four members of our family published cookbooks within a couple of weeks. It wasn’t planned that way but it was a lovely coincidence.

My latest tome “Grow Cook Nourish” was three years in the making, but is a slight departure from my other 15 books.

This one is encouraging us all to grow some of our own food.

Even if you live in a high rise apartment with just a window sill or a balcony, you can grow your salad leaves year round and much more besides, but in this article I’m going to focus on Rachel’s Home Baking and Philip Dennhardt’s Saturday Pizzas.

Philip, who did the 12-week Certificate Course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2006, is less well known than Rachel.

He teaches butchery, charcuterie and pizza workshops and runs the Saturday Pizza Café at Ballymaloe Cookery School.

In 2007 Philip came to us with an idea for a Pop-Up pizzeria on Saturdays and wondered whether we would be happy for him to experiment in the wood-fired oven in the Garden Café at the school.

We’re always excited by a new venture and of course, said yes.

Philip hankered after those delicious pizzas he had tasted in California and was excited about incorporating the fresh organic produce from our farm and gardens with fish and shellfish from the nearby fishing village at Ballycotton.

He made a pilgrimage to Italy and tasted pizzas from Rome to Naples.

Back home he experimented with flours and doughs until he was happy with the crust.

The result delighted us all and soon Saturday Pizzas had a cult following.

There was always a Margherita and pepperoni, but also a new vegetarian and non-vegetarian pizza, reflecting the seasons.

Philip is meticulous about his research, recording each week’s specials and tweaking the recipes.

One day, Philip told me that he would love to write a pizza cookbook.

Now here it is, a beautifully written book that will inspire even those who have never made a pizza before to have a go.

And you don’t need to own a wood-burning oven – you can get excellent results in a conventional oven.

The fun continues every week at Saturday Pizzas here in Shanagarry with Philip’s combinations.

I hope you will be inspired to release your inner pizzaiolo.

Rachel, familiar and much loved by the fans of her TV programmes, serves up another helping of delicious sweet treats in her 15th book.

Her newest book has also been enthusiastically received.

It hit the shelves on October 5 and has been shortlisted for Cookbook of the Year in the Bord Gáis Irish Book awards, as has Rory O’Connell’s, Cook Well Eat Well.

I ate the magnificent salted caramel peanut bar with a fine pot of tea at the Stephen Pearce Café at the weekend, I thought I’d ask Rosa for the recipe.

She looked baffled and told me it comes straight from Rachel’s new book Home Baking.

It’s on page 132 – worth the price of the book alone for this one recipe.


Rachel Allen’s Peach and Almond Squares

Makes 9

  • 175g (6oz) butter softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 175g (6oz) caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g (6oz) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g (3½ oz) ground almonds
  • 5 peaches cut in half and pitted
  • 2-3 tablespoons peach or apricot jam (optional)


  • 20cm (8in) square cake tin with high sides

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350ºF/gas 4. Grease and line the base and sides of the tin with baking parchment. Put the butter in a large bowl and cream it with a wooden spoon until soft, or use an electric beater on slow or a food processor. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, adding 1 tablespoon of flour each time and beating well after each addition. Sift in the remaining flour and the baking powder and add the ground almonds. Fold in to combine.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top using the back of the spoon. Put 9 halves of peaches in 3 rows of 3, cut side up (there will be half a peach left over for the cook!).

Bake for 45-50 minutes until the sponge is pale golden and springy to the touch. Gently warm the jam in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat, and brush over the sponge and peaches while still warm. Serve warm or leave to cool.

From Home Baking by Rachel Allen, photography by Maja Smend, published by Harper Collins

Rachel Allen’s Spanish Cheese, Honey and Thyme Tarts

Makes 4

  • 1 lb of puff pastry
  • Flour for dusting
  • 1 egg
  • 150g (5 ½ oz) rind removed Manchego cheese or other hard, matured cheese
  • 4 teaspoons thyme leaves
  • 2-3 teaspoons honey


  • baking sheet

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400ºF/gas mark 6. Line the baking sheet with baking parchment. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to 22 x 35cm (8 ½ x 14 in).

Cut the rectangle in half lengthways and then in half widthways to make 4 smaller rectangles, each about 11 x 18cm (4 ¼ x 7in). (Alternatively you can make 4 round tarts; roll the pastry into a square instead of a rectangle and cut 4 circles about 14cm, (5 ½ in) in diameter – I use a saucer for this.)

Dust off the excess flour on top of the pastry, then flip the pastry pieces over and dust off again. I flip them over after cutting for a better puff around the edges. Using a small sharp knife, score an 8mm (3/8in) frame all-round the edge, cutting two-thirds of the way through the pastry. Put the pastry pieces on the prepared baking sheet.

Whisk the egg with the pinch of salt to make an egg wash, then brush the egg wash over the frame, not going over the edges. Inside the frame, lay down the slices of cheese, making sure to cover the whole surface of the pastry inside the frame. Scatter ½ teaspoon of the thyme leaves over the cheese in each pastry.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and put on warm plates, then drizzle the honey thinly over the top of each tart. Scatter the remaining thyme leaves over the top, and serve.

From Home Baking by Rachel Allen, photography by Maja Smend, published by Harper Collins.

Philip Dennhardt’s Tomato Sauce

Makes 800 ml

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 x 400 g (14oz) cans of good-quality whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan set over a medium–low heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and season with the salt and some freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables for 8–10 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook, uncovered, for just 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 3 minutes on a low heat. Good-quality canned tomatoes don’t need to be cooked for very long, plus the longer you cook the sauce, the more water evaporates and the thicker it becomes, which isn’t the consistency that you want – pizza sauce should be thin but not watery.

Whizz the sauce with a hand-held blender until smooth, or you could leave it a little chunkier if that’s what you prefer. Taste and check for seasoning – add a teaspoon of sugar if the tomatoes are too bitter or acidic. The sauce is now ready to be used right away, or it will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week or it can be frozen for up to six months. This recipe makes enough sauce for five pizzas.

From Saturday Pizzas at Ballymaloe Cookery School by Philip Dennhardt and Kristin Jensen, photographer Mowie Kay and published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Philip Dennhardt’s Classic Pizza Dough

Makes enough for 2 x 25 cm (10 in) pizzas

  • 200 ml cold water
  • 300g ‘oo’ flour or strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1⁄2 x 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt

Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, then add the flour to the water and add the yeast and salt in separate piles. Mix for 10 minutes on a medium–low speed. For the first few minutes it will look shaggy and you might be worried that it won’t come together, but leave it be and by the end of the 10 minutes the dough should be smooth, springy and slightly sticky. Check the dough after a couple of minutes, though, to see how it’s coming along.

If it’s really dry and isn’t coming together, add another tablespoon of water. If it looks really wet, add another tablespoon of flour. Alternatively, if you don’t have a mixer, you can knead the dough by hand. Sprinkle your work surface with a little flour and tip the dough out onto it. Knead it by hand a few times to bring it together into a smooth, round ball that holds its shape well and springs back when you poke it. If it doesn’t pass those tests, knead it for 1–2 minutes more.

Using a dough cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough in half. Pressing it firmly into the work surface, roll each piece into a smooth round, like a tennis ball. Put the dough balls on two side plates or a baking tray dusted with flour. Cover tightly with cling-film/plastic wrap or soak a clean tea towel in cold running water from the tap and wring it out really well, then cover the dough with the damp cloth.

Place the covered plates or tray in the fridge for at least 6 hours, but ideally overnight or even up to 48 hours to let it have a long fermentation and a slow rise. The longer you let the dough sit in the fridge, the more flavour it will have.

Take the dough out of the fridge one hour before you want to cook the pizzas, making sure you keep it covered with the clingfilm/plastic wrap or damp cloth so it doesn’t dry out. When you’re ready to shape the dough, dust a pizza peel or a thin wooden chopping board generously with flour. You can either stretch the dough by hand or use a rolling pin. If you’re using a rolling pin, dust that with flour too.

Take the rested dough ball off the plate or tray using a dough cutter or a bowl scraper, making sure the dough ball stays round at this point. Place the dough ball onto the floured peel or board and dust some flour on top of the dough too. Press down the middle of the dough with your fingers, but don’t press the edge of the dough ball, as that will be the crust later. It should already look like a little pizza.

The dough is now ready to be stretched by hand or rolled.

From Saturday Pizzas at Ballymaloe Cookery School by Philip Dennhardt and Kristin Jensen, photographer Mowie Kay and published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Hot Tips

The Irish Cheese Biennial Awards were held recently at the Grainstore at Ballymaloe House. Over 160 cheeses were entered including 16 brand new cheeses. Mount Leinster Clothbound’ Coolattin was crowned the overall Supreme Champion, a superb cheddar cheese from summer milk when the cows were grazing on fresh clover richpasture made by Tom Burgess on his farm near Tullow, Co. Carlow. For a full list of awards check out irishcheese.ie.

A Special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to two pioneers, Louis and Jane Grubb of Cashel Blue who have inspired so many. Jane and Louis who started to experiment in their own kitchen now run a several million euro business with the help of their daughter Sarah, her husband Sergio and a loyal and highly skilled team.

Honey: The new season honey is in the shops and Farmers Markets now so stock up while it’s still available. I particularly love raw honey and found some from the Little Apple Farm in Co Kilkenny at the Midleton Farmers Market last weekend. Philip Little www.littleirishapple.ie

Santa’s coming… Today Santa arrives on the train from Cork to Midleton with his elves and will visit the Midleton Farmers Market where he will be welcomed at 1pm by Darina Allen. Think Christmas carols, treats and lots of fun. Contact Irish Rail for tickets to travel with Santa from Kent station to Midleton or just come along to the Midleton Farmers Market. www.irishrail.ie


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