Diva Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake and other recipe's from Darina Allen

* Shannen Keane’s Diva Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake
* Smoked Irish Salmon with Cucumber Ribbon Salad and Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise
* A Plate of Gubbeen Charcuterie
* Smoked Ummera Chicken Salad with Ballyhoura Apples, Walnuts and Dried Cherries

We’re on our ‘school tour’ with students from 13 countries. Oh how beautiful the countryside looks. 

First we visited Bill Casey to learn the story of the Shanagarry Smoked Salmon, next a visit to Philip Dennhardt’s Pizza Palace where the Saturday Pizzas are cooked in a woodburning oven. 

At Gastro Boot Camp, for 12 weeks, students are looking out for ways to use their newly acquired skills to earn a living from their cooking. 

It’s Thursday, so our next stop was Mahon Point Farmers Market to taste Lauren’s steak sandwich with real Béarnaise Sauce, a BLT or Raclette; a brilliant Volcano pizza from Simon Mould’s woodburning oven, a whole grain or lentil salad drizzled with a spicy dahl from The Rocket Man or chicken tikka and other temptations from Green Saffron. 

I couldn’t resist some bone broth and Vietnamese pho from Rachel McCormack of Sonny’s Merchants of Broth.

There’s ice cream, sushi, hummus and pitta, seaweed, gorgeous cakes, great coffee, chocolates... 

Customers are snapping up Tom Clancy’s beautiful plump chickens, duck eggs and little speckled quail eggs from his farm in Ballycotton. 

There’s always a queue at the fresh fish stalls, both for O’Driscoll’s in Schull and Trevor McNamara in Ballycotton. 

Other stalls have tantalising vegan and gluten free food, there are organic vegetables, freshly dug and still covered with soil, plus fruit, fresh herbs and plants. 

Arbutus Bakery have crusty artisan breads to tempt and inspire the students. 

Then we were back onto the bus to head to Gubbeen Farm just outside Schull. 

The students were blown away by this entrepreneurial farming family of ‘food makers’ who continue to inspire others to think outside the box. 

Tom’s herd of friesian cows produce the milk for Giana’s Gubbeen cheese. 

The whey gets fed to Fingal’s pigs which make the bacon and ever growing range of charcuterie. 

Clovisse grows the organic herbs for the cures and a wonderful range of beautiful vegetables, fruit and salad leaves for local restaurants. 

Onwards to Timoleague where Anthony Cresswell of Ummera smokes chicken and duck as well as the Ummera smoked salmon. 

A few miles away in Bandon we called into Urru, Ruth Healy’s food shop, delicatessen and café. 

Our final stop was at Diva bakery and cafe in Ballinspittle. 


Shannen Keane’s Diva Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake

Diva Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake and other recipe's from Darina Allen

350g (12oz) flour

100g (4ozs) cocoa

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

450g (16oz) caster sugar

1 tsp salt

450ml (16 fl ozs) cold water

100ml (3½ fl ozs) + 2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Vegan Chocolate Frosting

220g (8ozs) pure soy, vegan butter

110g (4ozs) vegan cream cheese

250g (8ozs) icing sugar

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

110g (4oz) good quality chocolate, 70%

Grease and line 3 x 9 inch cake tins with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3.

For the cake, mix the dry ingredients together. 

In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients together.

Next, mix the dry and wet ingredients together, pour through a strainer and beat again.

Divide the batter between the three tins. Bake in a moderate oven for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely.

To make the frosting:

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Let cool slightly. 

Cream the vegan cream cheese and vegan butter. 

Mix the melted chocolate into the cream cheese mixture. 

Add icing sugar to blend, then the vanilla extract.

To assemble:

Place one cake on a serving plate. 

Spread the chocolate frosting around the base. 

Add another cake base, spread with more frosting. 

Top with the third cake base. 

Spread remaining frosting on top and around the sides of the cake.

Smoked Irish Salmon with Cucumber Ribbon Salad and Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

Diva Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake and other recipe's from Darina Allen

Bill Casey stresses the importance of buying smoked Irish salmon rather than Irish smoked salmon which can be imported farmed salmon smoked in Ireland. 

Let’s support our local producers.

Serves 8

25-350g (8-12oz) smoked Irish salmon

Pickled cucumber strips, made from 1 cucumber, 2 tsp salt, 110g (4oz) sugar, 75ml (3fl oz) cider vinegar

Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range

2 tbsp French mustard

1 tbsp white sugar

150ml ground nut or sunflower oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp dill, finely chopped

Salt and white pepper

Sprigs of dill

Chive or wild garlic flowers

Freshly cracked black pepper

On the day of serving: First make the cucumber pickle. 

Cut the cucumber in half, then cut into strips using a potato peeler. 

Put the cucumber into a deep bowl, add the sugar, salt and cider vinegar. 

Toss gently, leave to macerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise. 

Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble: Unwrap the smoked salmon, cut down to the skin in thin slices or into 1/3in dice. 

Arrange the drained cucumber strips and the smoked salmon in a haphazard way on each serving plate. 

Drizzle with Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise. 

Garnish with tiny sprigs of dill and chive or wild garlic flowers.

Finally add a little freshly cracked black pepper over each serving. Serve with Arbutus Brown Yeast Bread.


Ummera Gravlax or Smoked Mackerel with Cucumber Ribbon Salad and Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

Substitute Gravlax or Frank Hederman’s smoked mackerel for smoked salmon and proceed as above.

A Plate of Gubbeen Charcuterie

Diva Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake and other recipe's from Darina Allen

Thin slices of Gubbeen chorizo, Gubbeen ham, salami, coppa, chistora

Add a few fresh radishes and some of Clovisse’s salad leaves with crusty country Arbutus breads, sourdough, yeast or Irish soda bread and a glass of red wine.

Arrange the meats on a large platter, open a good bottle of red and tuck in! Follow up with some Gubbeen cheese and crackers.

Smoked Ummera Chicken Salad with Ballyhoura Apples, Walnuts and Dried Cherries

A delicious summer salad to enjoy the produce of several artisan products at once

Serves 6

225g (8oz) boneless smoked turkey or chicken, cut in julienne

1 large Ballyhoura apple, peeled, cut in wide matchsticks and tossed with 1 dstsp lemon juice

1 small red onion, peeled, thinly sliced and macerated in 1 dstsp lemon or lime juice

3 tbsp dried cherries, or a fistful of fresh cherries, stoned

75g (3oz) shelled walnuts, lightly roasted

250g (9oz) baby salad leaves

Lemon Honey Vinaigrette

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 pinch salt

1 tsp runny honey

1/2 tsp Irish grainy mustard

6 scant tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare each item as above. 

Next make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. 

Just before serving, toss the salad leaves in a little dressing — just enough to make the leaves glisten.

Divide between six deep plates, sprinkle some smoked turkey or chicken, apple julienne, onion rings, dried cherries and toasted walnuts on top, garnish with sprigs of flat parsley or chervil if available.


Check out Fingal Ferguson’s new fermented salamis from the Gubbeen Smokehouse — love at first nibble: Handmade knives need to be ordered ahead and unless I’m mistaken, these will become collectors’ items. 


Oriel Sea Salt in Drogheda, Co Louth: John Delaney continues to innovate. 

Irish mineral sea salt kiln dried and whiskey smoked sea salt has just landed on my desk. 

This beautiful pure salt is worth keeping an eye out for; www.orielseasalt.com 

Achill Oysters: The Euro-Toques EirGrid Food Awards were announced on Monday June 13. 

The first seaweed producer to win an award was Hugh O’Malley of Achill Oysters in County Mayo who described the history of his oyster farm as ‘achieving the dream’. 

His oysters have a unique flavour owing to the peat land sourrounding Hugh’s farm and the high level of salinity in the water; www.achilloysters.com 

A Taste of Istanbul: Our ‘Taste Of’ series here at Ballymaloe Cookery School usually reflects my most recent culinary adventures. 

On my first trip to Turkey, I was absolutely enchanted by the flavours and diversity of the food in Istanbul and Cappadocia. 

I can’t wait to share a selection of my favourite finds with you on this two and a half day course which also includes an optional evening presentation of my culinary adventures in Istanbul. 

Tuesday July 19 – Thursday July 21; www.cookingisfun.ie 

Eat Yourself Well with Anti Inflammatory Nutrition Plan with nutritionist Debbie Shaw: Debbie will teach a one day course focusing on 3 lifestyle choices, bone broths and fermentation, anti-inflammatory foods and blood sugar balancing that are important for sustaining long-term health and vitality; €165 includes light lunch, tastings, and delicious easy recipes. 

Saturday July 9, at the Castle Holistic Centre in Castlemartyr, 9.30am-4.30pm. 

Booking is essential – phone 086 7855868 or email debbieswellness@gmail.com 


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