Mary Jo’s Waffles

ONCE a term on the 12-week certificate course, all the students pile into a bus. 

There’s always great excitement as we head off on our Ballymaloe Cookery School tour — everyone reverts back to giggly schoolkids but although it’s a super fun day it’s all about garnering ideas that inspire the students. We visit a farmers’ market, artisan producers, fish smoker, farmhouse cheese maker, maybe a café and restaurant, or food truck.

This term, we started at Mahon Point Farmers’ Market — a sizzling ferment of brilliant ideas and myriad stalls selling predominantly local food. Where to start? The Old Millbank Smokehouse has a wonderful range of potato and fish cakes. Gorgeous pies — chicken and chorizo, steak and Guinness, roast vegetable and goat cheese, and scotch eggs from the West Cork Pie Company.

The Good Little Cook have arancini to make even Italians weep. Marshmallows to die for from Cloud Confectionery. Marcus Hodder makes homemade gelato and serves it with fresh crispy waffles. Irresistible cake pops from Treat Petite. Carl Fahy’s Galway Bay bagels and pretzels made from scratch. Mick’s homemade nut roasts from Nutcase Food Company. Super Spanish-style baking from Silvia and Olga at La Cocina, including their Portuguese custard tarts.

Gluten-free treats from Gan Gluten for the fast-growing wheat intolerant and coeliac market. Fumagalli’s fresh pasta, lasagne and pasta sauces, numerous cake, preserves and cookie stalls, Arbutus artisan bread and I haven’t even mentioned the farmers, fishermen, local veg or herb growers, Lolo’s steak sandwiches, Arun’s Green Saffron spices, Volcano pizzas, Rocketman salads etc.

From there we headed for West Cork to visit the Ferguson family farm at Gubbeen outside Schull.

Three generations of the Ferguson family live on the 150-acre dairy farm and add value to the produce in a variety of ways. The milk from Tom’s herd of Friesians and Jersey cows goes to the dairy to make the now famous Gubbeen cheeses, the whey from the cheese-making gets fed to the pigs for Fingal’s Gubbeen bacon and charcuterie. Clovisse grows the organic herbs to flavour the sausages and salad leaves and edible flowers for local restaurants. Giana also has a collection of fancy fowl, geese, ducks and chickens and Fingal in his ‘spare time’ makes hand-made knives when their three little boys have snuggled down for the night. The produce is sold at five farmers’ markets and specialist shops around the country. The students were gobsmacked by the entrepreneurial spirt of the family.

We had a picnic and food from the farm in the conservatory and gardens and then set off to Ummera smokehouse near Timoleague. There Anthony Creswell told us about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of running an artisan food business since the 1980s. We tasted his award-winning smoked salmon, duck, chicken and dry-cured nitrate-free rashers.

Our last stop was just a few minutes away in the village of Timoleague where Gavin Moore and Michelle O’Mahony opened Monks Lane Wine Bar & Café last May. Their simple menu reflects the fresh local produce of the West Cork area where they are spoiled for choice.

My students from seven different countries were thrilled and inspired by their brief interlude in West Cork and are already talking about planning a longer trip to discover even more West Cork magic.

Mary Jo’s Waffles

Mary Jo McMillan worked with us at the cookery school on several occasions — she was a passionate and perceptive cook. This is her recipe for waffles which I enjoy much more than mine.

Makes 12

175g (6ozs) white flour

15g (½oz) sugar

A pinch of salt

2 tsp baking powder

50g (2ozs) butter, melted

350g (12ozs) milk, slightly warmed

2 eggs, free-range and organic if possible, separated

75g (3ozs) of batter for each waffle

Preheat waffle iron. Sieve all the dry ingredients into a deep bowl. Make a well in the centre. Mix the warm milk, melted butter and whisk in the egg yolks. Pour the milk and egg yolk mixture into the well of dry ingredients. Stir together to form a batter. Whip the egg whites stiffly and gently fold into the batter. Heat the waffle iron. Pour a 75g (3oz/scant ½ cup) ladle of batter onto the iron. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp and golden on the outside.

Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve hot in a variety of ways both sweet and savoury.

Waffles with Fresh Fruit and Berries

Ripe berries of all kinds, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, boysenberries, sliced peaches, nectarines, apricots and bananas are all delicious with waffles. Pile the fruit on top of hot waffles, or serve it on the side of the plate. A blob of softly whipped cream doesn’t go amiss!

Waffles with Bananas, Toffee Sauce and Chopped Walnuts

2-3 sliced bananas

110g (4oz) coarsely chopped walnuts

Toffee sauce

110g (4oz/1 stick) butter

175g (6oz/¾ cup) dark soft brown Barbados sugar

110g (4oz/½ cup) granulated sugar

275g (10oz) golden syrup

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) cream

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.

Put some banana slices on top of the waffles, pour toffee sauce over and sprinkle with the coarsely chopped walnuts.


Real homemade marshmallows are a forgotten flavour but are easy and great fun to make. Toast them over an open fire or drop one into hot chocolate and watch it slowly melt.

Makes about 64

Vegetable oil

2 teaspoons icing sugar, sieved

2 teaspoons cornflour, sieved

25g (1oz) powdered gelatine

2 organic egg whites

500g (18oz/2¼ cups) granulated sugar

1 x 20cm (8in) square tin

Line the tin with a bakewell paper, brush lightly with sunflower oil and coat with icing sugar and cornflour.

Sprinkle the gelatine to cover 125ml (4½ fl oz) water in a small bowl. Allow to sponge for 3–4 minutes. Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks, preferably in the bowl of a mixer — this makes adding the sugar syrup to the egg whites much easier.

Put the sugar into a saucepan with 250ml (9fl oz) water. Stir over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and continue to boil fiercely until it reaches 122C/252F (firm-ball stage) on a sugar thermometer. Turn off the heat.

Pour the dissolved gelatine into the syrup and stir. Watch out — the syrup will bubble up a little.

Switch the food mixer on the lowest setting so the egg whites carry on whisking, then pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a gentle trickle, whisking all the time. The mixture will change texture and become creamy. Continue to whisk until the mixture becomes really thick but is still pourable.

Pour into the prepared tin and leave to set in a cool place — but not the fridge — for an hour or two.

Dust a clean chopping board with the rest of the cornflour and icing sugar mixture and coat a sharp knife with vegetable oil.

Gently ease the marshmallow out of the tin. Make sure it is dusted all over with icing sugar, then cut into squares.

Oil and dust the knife again as often as necessary. Thread the marshmallows onto skewers or spear them with forks. They are delicious toasted over an open fire.

Blueberry and Lemon Verbena Jam

Delicious with cheese but also great in a layer cake or on scones. If lemon verbena is not available, include the zest of the lemons instead.

Makes 5 x 375g (13oz) jars

1kg (2½lb) firm Irish blueberries

Juice of 2 lemons

A large handful (about 50) lemon verbena leaves, roughly chopped

700g (1½lb) granulated sugar, warmed

Pick over the blueberries and discard any that are bruised. Put the blueberries in a wide, low-sided saucepan or preserving pan. Add the lemon juice, lemon verbena and 300ml (½ pint) of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the warmed sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Boil until a setting point is reached. Fill the jam into sterilised jars, cover and store in a cool, dry place.

Marianne’s Beef Tenderloin

A perfect recipe for a stress-free dinner party.

Serves 8-10

1 whole fillet of well-hung beef, 5 lbs approximately

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Grey Poupon Dijon mustard

450g-500g (16-18oz) streaky bacon

Preheat oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8

Place the tenderloin in a roasting pan, tuck in the ends. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Slather the tenderloin generously all over with Grey Poupon Dijon mustard.

Wrap the tenderloin with slices of streaky bacon to cover it completely.

Roast, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 25 minutes for rare meat.

Test with a meat thermometer, it should register 60C/140F.

If you would like it a little better done, return it to the oven for an additional five minutes.

Remove, cover and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Serve either hot or at room temperature with chosen sauces and accompaniments.

Hot tips

The Nordic Food Revolution: Chef and cookbook writer Trine Hahnemann will do a (not to be missed) Slow Food Event at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on the exciting Nordic Food Movement, Thursday, November 20, at 7pm. For details and to book telephone 021-4646785.

The Craft & Design Festival at Ballymaloe returns for its fifth year offering work by more than 100 of Ireland’s best craft professionals in Ballymaloe’s Grainstore and The Big Shed, Shanagarry. The Living Craft area is a new addition to the Festival. It will showcase skills from a cross section of craft makers and food producers. Interactive stands and tastings will delight visitors as they watch and enjoy these masters of food, drink and craft doing what they do best — creating something of beauty by hand. The Festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday, November 15/16, from 10am to 6pm. Both admission and parking are free.

Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé: With the grape harvest coming to a close across the wine regions of France, celebrate ‘La Paulée’ — the year’s work in the vineyard, with the new season’s wines — Beaujolais Nouveau, and Muscadet Primeur, available from this Thursday, November 20, in restaurants, cafés and wine shops.


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