Darina Allen: Little bites for the summer months

Three times a year we offer a tapas course, it’s always oversubscribed as is the canapé class. We all love little bites of something tasty and delicious - such a lovely way of eating.

I so wish that every pub in Ireland would offer a couple of tapas or ración, as the slightly bigger bites are called in Galacia.

How wonderful would it be when you drive around the countryside, if you could drop in at any pub and get an offering of a local speciality for not more than €5.

A taste of that place.

It could be a piece of local cheese or some good bread with a homemade chutney or relish.

This breakfast scone with good bacon and hardboiled egg and mayonnaise is a favourite.

Or Ummera smoked chicken or duck on sourdough with a little cabbage and fresh herb salad.

Homemade beans and sausage could be served in a little caseula or bowl, everyone loves beans and toast.

We are hugely fortunate to have so many artisan and specialist food producers around the country.

In virtually every county, you will find some foods unique to that part of the county, even to the parish.

Think what’s produced in your local area and serve that proudly in your pub or café.

Many of these foods are ready to serve, just a question of combining a few appealing ingredients on a plate or platter.

A plate of Gubbeen charcuterie, some good bread and pickles, a ball of Macroom or Toonsbridge mozzarella with a few sweet cherry tomatoes, a couple of fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or organic rapeseed oil from Kitty Colchester’s Second Nature Oils in Co Kilkenny.

The blaa in Waterford is an example of a food that has had a tremendous renaissance and makes a light and fluffy base for any number of good sandwiches.

If I had a pub in Tipperary, I’d certainly be serving some of the beautiful farmhouse cheese, Cashel Blue or Crozier, Cooleeney, Camembert and my latest find the excellent cloth bound Derg Cheddar cheese from the Cooney family farm.


A Plate of Locally Smoked Fish with Horseradish Sauce and Sweet Dill

We have fantastic smoked fish in Ireland. Artisan smokers like Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery in West Cork and Frank Hederman of Belvely near Cobh and Anthony Cresswell of Ummera have developed a cult following for their wild smoked Irish Salmon and other fish.

Smoked mackerel is the least expensive but one could have a selection of smoked fish - smoked salmon, smoked mussels, smoked mackerel, smoked trout, smoked eel, smoked tuna, smoked hake and smoked sprats.

First make the horseradish cream and sweet dill mayonnaise.

Slice the smoked salmon into thin slices down onto the skin, allow 1 slice per person. Cut the mackerel into diamond shaped pieces, divide the trout into large flakes. Skin and slice the eel. Thinly slice the tuna and hake.

Choose four large white plates drizzle each plate with sweet dill mayonnaise, divide the smoked fish between the plates. Arrange appetizingly, put a blob of horseradish sauce and cucumber pickle on each plate. Garnish with a lemon wedge and sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves.

Occasionally we serve just three different types of smoked fish, for example salmon, mussels and trout on tiny rounds of Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread. A little blob of cucumber pickle goes with the smoked salmon, while a blob of homemade mayonnaise is delicious with marinated smoked mussels and a blob of horseradish cream and a sprig of watercress complements the pink smoked trout.

Horseradish sauce

Serves 8 - 10

  • 3 - 6 tablespoons (4-7 1/2 American tablespoons + 3-6 teaspoons) freshly grated horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • lots of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8fl oz (225ml/1 cup) softly whipped cream

Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.

Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not over mix or it will curdle.

The sauce keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days, covered, so that it doesn’t pick up other flavours.

Dill Mayonnaise

  • 1 large egg yolk, preferably free range
  • 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons. + 2 teaspoons.) French mustard
  • 1 tablespoon. (1 American tablespoon. + 1 teaspoon) white sugar
  • 1/4 pint (150ml/generous 2 cup) ground nut or sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon. + 1 teaspoon.) white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon. + 1 teaspoon.) dill, finely chopped
  • Salt and white pepper

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.

To Serve: Wipe the dill mixture off the salmon and slice thinly. Arrange on a plate in a rosette shape. Fill the centre of the rosette with mustard and dill mayonnaise. Garnish with fresh dill.

Serve with brown bread and butter.

Macroom Mozzarella and Cherry Tomato Salad with Basil Pesto

Darina Allen: Little bites for the summer months

Serves 4

  • 6 oz (175g) Macroom Mozzarella cheese
  • 9ozs (285g) ripe cherry tomatoes
  • sea salt, freshly cracked pepper and sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Basil Pesto (see recipe)


Basil leaves


Crusty bread or Focaccia

Half the cherry tomatoes around the equator.

Season with sea salt, plenty of freshly cracked pepper and a little sugar.

Add a little basil pesto (see recipe), toss gently, taste and correct the seasoning.

Carefully slice the Mozzarella into 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick rounds, (really good Mozzarella is tender and delicate) or tear apart.

Put one or two pieces of Mozzarella on to a white starter plate, place a few pieces of cherry tomato haphazardly alongside.

Drizzle the Mozzarella with a little basil pesto - careful, it’s quite intense.

Garnish with fresh opal and Genovese basil and flowers and a sprinkle of freshly cracked pepper.

Serve with lots of crusty country bread or Focaccia.

Breakfast Scones with Bacon and Egg

Makes 18-20 scones using a 3 inch (7.5 cm) cutter

  • 900g (2lbs) flour
  • 175g (6oz) butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 25g (1 oz) castor sugar
  • 3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
  • 550-600ml (18-20fl oz) approx. milk to mix
  • 18-20 bacon rashers, freshly cooked
  • 9-10 hard-boiled organic eggs
  • watercress sprigs
  • homemade mayonnaise and or Ballymaloe Relish or tomato ketchup

First preheat your oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together.

Rub in the butter.

Make a well in the centre, pour in the milk and mix to a soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured board.

Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round.

Roll out to about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick and stamp into scones.

Put onto a baking sheet.

Brush the tops with egg wash.

Bake in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown on top.

Cool on a wire rack.

Split the scone in half and butter.

Fill with bacon, 1/2 hard-boiled egg, a blob of mayonnaise or tomato ketchup and a sprig of watercress.

West Cork Chorizo and Coolea Cheese Bunuelos

  • 8ozs (225g/2 cups) white flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 free range eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6flozs (175ml) warm beer
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) peanut or corn oil
  • 10ozs (275g) chorizo, skinned and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 4ozs (110g) grated Coolea cheese
  • fresh parsley leaves, preferably Italian
  • Deep fry or 3/4 inch (2cm) oil in a frying pan

Sieve the flour into a bowl.

Add the red pepper and mix well.

Make a well in the centre and add the beaten egg yolks, olive oil, beer, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground pepper.

Mix well, cover and allow to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

Heat the oil to 190°C /375ºF/Gas Mark 5.

Meanwhile cook the chorizo in a frying pan over a medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Fold the whites into the batter with the chorizo, parsley and cheese.

Drop tablespoonfuls of batter gently into the hot oil, turn occasionally until golden, 2-3 minutes.

Drain on kitchen paper.

Serve and garnish with parsley leaves.

Serve immediately.

Fluffy Cheddar Cheese Toasts

Another little gem of a recipe to have up your sleeve when you are feeling peckish yourself or to serve in a pub. It’s made in minutes and loved by everyone including children.

Serves: 2

  • 2 slices of white bread
  • 1 egg, preferably free range
  • 110g (4oz) grated mature Irish Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon English mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

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

Butter the bread and place the buttered side down on a baking sheet.

Whisk the egg in a bowl with a fork, add the grated cheese and the mustard and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Spread this mixture onto the slices of bread and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes approximately or until puffy and golden on top, a teaspoon of chopped chives or a tiny dice of crispy bacon is also delicious added to the above. Serve cut into fingers.

Hot tips

Dinner at Island Cottage on Heir Island is one of the highlights of my summer in West Cork.

John Desmond and Ellmary Fenton are open again for the summer season until mid-September 2017. Bookings are now being taken.

One can also book a private cooking class with John or lunch at weekend.

Tel 028 38102 or email info@islandcottage.com

Great Food, Quick

Time starved? Worn out by endless multi-tasking? Driven demented by traffic gridlock?

Underwhelmed by the idea of buying convenience food?

Don’t despair.

In thistwo and a half day cookery course beginning on July 24, we will show you how to make delicious and nutritious everyday meals fast.

Super-fast actually, because in half an hour or less, from start to finish, you will be able to produce scrumptious dishes, all of which look good, taste good and are easy to prepare.

Think heart-warming soups, simple starters and main courses, incredible crepes, yummy desserts and irresistible homemade bread.

Finally, we will talk about your store cupboard must haves, essential for whipping up delicious dishes at high speed.

If you can’t afford to spend hours in the kitchen, you can’t afford to miss this course.

It’s a favourite and it’s often oversubscribed so book early. www.cookingisfun.ie


Jane Murphy’s feta — we love the way many of the Irish farmhouse cheese makers are creating import substitutes — is a delicious Irish version of hitherto imported cheese.

Delicious, crumbly and less salty than the Greek original.

Look out for Toonsbridge Feta also.

Ardsallagh 021 4882336 or enquiries@ardsallaghgoats.ie or Toonsbridge 02641471.


Kids in the Kitchen, Monday July 31st 2017

Kids absolutely love to cook; they can’t get enough of sieving, kneading, rolling, measuring and mixing.

This course will equip children aged 8-15 to proudly cook a range of simply delicious food for friends and family.

They will learn how to cook a number of their favourite dishes from scratch before enjoying a lunch of what they’ve made.

Then it’s off outside to feed the scraps to the hens and see the vegetables growing in the glasshouses.

This is an action-packed morning of delicious learning and fun.

Minimum age 8 years.

Bring an apron and a couple of knives.



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