Double Lamb Chops with Sumac, Broad Beans, Melted Cherry Tomatoes and Coriander Flowers

IN THE US something very interesting is happening, it’s virtually a grassroots revolution.

And it’s spreading to cities all over the world — people seem to feel a deep need to produce food locally once again. Rooftop farming, including backyard chickens and rooftop apiaries, is now a major international urban trend.

I first noticed the guerrilla garden movement on a visit to San Francisco about five years ago.

Virtually every patch of waste ground or disused parking lot had been commandeered by eager gardeners who planted vegetables, herbs, and salad leaves. Some shared their surplus with local shelters and sold the remainder from stands.

Since then I have visited numerous projects, particularly in the US. From the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley and the City Slicker Community Farms in Oakland, California, to a two-acre farm in the centre of Austin, Texas. Some projects are one-man bands, others community based.

There are over 700 urban farms and gardens across New York City alone. Last year, I visited Brooklyn Grange a two-acre rooftop farm on top of a five-storey building on Northern Boulevard, New York, established in May 2010.

On a recent trip, I looked at a couple of other models, a branch of Brooklyn Grange at the Navy Yard, 65,000sq ft of vegetable beds on the top of an 11-storey building. This project provides a livelihood for four people, employment for a further 10, and 30 apprentices plus a refugee training programme.

Anastasia Cole Plakias showed me around and explained how, nowadays, there is growing support at government level for initiatives that are helping to change the food system and which deliver environmental benefits.

Hurricane Sandy really spooked New Yorkers, particularly those in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. So any initiative that contributes to storm-water management (a buzz word) is welcomed and supported.

Anastasia explained that the Navy Yard got a Sare (sustainable agriculture, research, and education) grant from the mayor and department of environmental protections. Rooftop farms and green roofs not only utilise space that would otherwise be empty and unused, but they absorb rain and storm-water run-off that would end up polluting the East River.

They also absorb heat during the day and release it into the atmosphere at night, and decrease the heating and cooling needs of a building.

The Nave Yard Project also links up with GrowNYC on a composting programme. Locals collect their organic waste which, when composted, enriches the fertility of the soil, the biggest challenge for rooftop farms.

The Edible Schoolyard started by Alice Waters in Berkeley now has a branch in Brooklyn which partners with schools to build gardens and kitchen classrooms where children can engage in hands-on learning.

Top chefs are also frantically growing their own produce and linking in with local projects but there is a whole other article in that of which more anon.

Meanwhile, those of you who have been growing will be enjoying the fruits of your labours. Here are a few ways I have been enjoying the bounty of our gardens, greenhouses, and hedgerows over the past few weeks.

Double Lamb Chops with Sumac, Broad Beans, Melted Cherry Tomatoes and Coriander Flowers

Serves 8

Great with a green salad and some freekah.

8 double lamb chops with cutlet bones attached

2-3 tbsp sumac

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

225g (8oz) Broad Beans (see recipes)

Melted Cherry Tomatoes (see recipe)


Fresh coriander flowers if available

A pinch of sumac

Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8,

Score the fat of the chops. Sprinkle each one with sumac rubbing it well into the fat and flesh.

Season with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to a roasting tin.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes, turn off the heat and allow to rest.

Meanwhile cook the broad beans (see recipe). Just before serving make the melted cherry tomatoes (see recipe).

To serve: Pop a double lamb chop on each hot plate. Spoon some warm cherry tomatoes around the edge. Sprinkle with broad beans and coriander flowers if available. Alternatively use some shredded mint leaves. Sprinkle with a pinch of sumac and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Broad Beans

Freshness is vitally important with broad beans, both flavour and texture change within hours of picking. A little summer savoury added to the cooking water enormously enhances the flavour.

Serves 6

675g (1½lbs) young broad beans, out of the pods

2-3 sprigs of summer savoury (optional)

15g (½oz) butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring 600ml (1 pint) of water to the boil in a medium saucepan and add 1 teaspoon salt and the summer savoury if using. Add the broad beans, bring back to the boil and cook for 2 -5 minutes depending on size and freshness. When cooked, taste and drain quickly tossing in a little melted butter and lots of freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Note: If the broad beans are larger cook as above then drain and refresh under the cold tap until cool enough to handle. Pop each bean out of its shell then toss in hot melted butter or extra virgin olive oil. Season and serve immediately.

Melted Cherry Tomatoes with Mint

Serves 8 people

40 ripe red firm sweet cherry tomatoes

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or more butter

3-4 tbsp fresh mint

1-2 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary

Salt, pepper and sugar

Scald the tomatoes for 10 seconds and peel carefully.

Just before serving, heat the butter until it bubbles in a frying pan large enough to take all the tomatoes in a single layer.

Toss in the tomatoes and roll gently over a medium heat until just warmed through. Sprinkle with the herbs and salt, pepper and sugar.

Turn into a hot vegetable dish and serve at once.

Note: Great care must be taken when cooking the tomatoes; otherwise they will disintegrate into a mush.

Green Gooseberry Tartlets

Makes 36 tartlets approximately

JR Ryall, who is head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House, recently showed us how to make these delicious green gooseberry tarts.

His pastry recipe is also amazing, but you could use puff pastry instead.

1 quantity cold cream pastry (see recipe)

450g (1lb) green gooseberries (topped and tailed)

caster sugar

Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.

Using plenty of flour, roll the cold pastry to a thickness of 2mm (1/8 inch).

Cut the pastry with a 7.5cm (3 inch) round cutter and use the discs of pastry to line a standard flat-based bun tray.

Cut the gooseberries in half and arrange 6-7 halves on each disk of pastry.

Place a rounded teaspoon of caster sugar on top of the fruit in each tartlet.

Bake the tartlets for 15-20 minutes or until the sugar begins to caramelise and the pastry is a golden brown colour.

Remove the tartlets from the bun tray while still hot — use a palette knife for this — and place on parchment paper which has been sprinkled with caster sugar.

These tartlets are best served warm.


Open Apple Tartlets: Replace the gooseberries with thinly-sliced eating apple.

Open Rhubarb Tartlets: Replace the gooseberries with thinly-sliced pink rhubarb.

Cream Pastry

This pastry keeps in the fridge for up to 6 days.

110g (4oz) cold salted butter

110g (4oz) plain flour

150ml (5fl oz) cold cream

Sieve the flour into the bowl of an electric food mixer.

Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour using the paddle attachment until the mixture forms a coarse texture (slow speed and then a little faster). DO NOT over-mix; if you do, the mixture will form a shortbread-like ball! Pour the cold cream into the coarse mixture and mix on a low speed until a smooth pastry forms. Wrap the pastry in parchment paper and chill overnight.

Always roll cream pastry straight from the fridge.

If the pastry comes to room temperature it will be too soft to handle!

Rory O’Connell’s Strawberries with Lemon Basil

Serve these little flavour bombs at the end of a meal and watch the reaction — a gem of a recipe.

Fresh strawberries

Fresh lemon basil leaves

Just before serving, insert one lemon basil leaf carefully into the slit on the top side of a beautiful fresh strawberry.

Repeat with the others. Serve immediately — a sensational combination of flavours.

Hot tips

Artisan Cider: In 2005, Daniel Emerson was busy in marketing and communications when his father-in-law, a viticulturist from the Loire Valley, gave him an apple press.

He hasn’t looked back since. Daniel and his wife Géraldine produce Stonewell Cider in Nohoval, Kinsale, with apples sourced from orchards in Carlow, Kilkenny and Waterford. They use traditional handmade methods and only fresh apple juice — no concentrate here.

Devotees can really taste the difference. Telephone 086-8691148; for stockists visit

A Long Table Dinner at Ballymaloe Cookery School: Tickets have just gone on sale for this year’s Long Table Dinner hosted by Darina Allen in the greenhouse in the midst of the tomatoes and scarlet runner beans on Tuesday, July 30 (it’s been a sell-out for the past two years).

Rory O’Connell will create the menu — a celebration of the produce of the organic farm and gardens and local area, with fish and shellfish from nearby Ballycotton. Dinner is €120 per person. Advance booking essential. Proceeds go to East Cork Slow Food Educational Project. Telephone: 021-4646785/

Darina and Rachel Allen cook together at the Grainstore, Ballymaloe House.

A sell-out earlier this year, Darina and Rachel return with their entertaining cookery demonstration on Thursday, July 25 at 8pm. Tickets €25; to book phone 021-4652531 or

Everybody loves a good barbecue. Learn how to make delicious sauces and marinades and unusual recipes including chicken paillarde with tomato and basil salsa, butterflied leg of lamb with fresh spices, barbecued salmon with hoisin sauce, and souvalakia kebabs.

Barbecue course, Saturday, July 20, 9.30am to 5pm at Ballymaloe Cookery School. 021-4646785 or to book.


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