Archive for the ‘Gluten-free Recipes’ Category

A Christmas Carol Feast

Roscommon’s best book club ate at my supper club last night for a festive feast.   Earlier this year I cooked the feast from Marlena di Blasi’s The Lady in the Palazzo for the same group.   For their final meeting of 2011 they read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  I was given free reign to choose a menu from foods mentioned in the book.

Negus & Roast Chestnuts

Turkey liver pate, figs & oranges


Bob Cratchit‘s Prize Turkey

Sage & onion stuffing

Roast & mashed potato

Cranberry & apple sauce

Fresh apples & oranges, plum sorbet

Mince pies

Christmas pudding lit with brandy

‘Negus’ is hot port or wine, sweetened and spiced.  I served hot port with sugar, cloves, mace and orange slices as the book worms arrived.  Hot roast chestnuts were served at the table along with tiny turkey liver and fig canapes.

For “gruel”, I ladled a smooth, creamy mushroom soup over cooked and toasted barley and topped all with toasted golden oats and a swirl of cream.  It had the effect of looking like porridge but tasting like a comforting mushroom soup.

Main course was the turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  Scrooge buys the prize turkey on Christmas morning for his employee Bob Cratchit as a gift.  In the famous Christmas feast there’s goose.  We opted for the bigger bird to feed all 12 of the diners.  I bought the turkey from Castlemine Farm, who source it from the Friendly Farmer.  It was free-range and dry plucked.  Tasted amazing and well worth it!

Fresh and exotic fruit features a good bit in A Christmas Carol – piles of them in the green grocers and at the feasts.  Fruit was a treat – try convincing people this now!  T’would be a dietitian’s dream.  I featured slivers of apples and orange segments with a spicy fruit coulis and damson sorbet.

The fruit preceded the traditional mince pies, Christmas pudding and brandy cream. Coffee, tea and chocolates were distributed.  The book club ladies (all ladies) continued to digest and talk books for another while.

It’s said that with A Christmas Carol, Dickens put the Merry into Christmas.  What a feat.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Turkey Liver Pate

My turkey came with the liver, heart and neck.  I made enough pate for about 24 canapes with 1 liver.

1 small shallot, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 turkey liver

150ml red wine

salt & pepper

1 tbsp fresh herbs -e .g. parsley, thyme, sage

85g butter


  1. Melt 25g of butter in a frying pan over a low heat.
  2. Add the shallots and sweat gently until soft – 5 minutes or so.
  3. Add the turkey liver, garlic, pinch salt and pepper.  Increase the heat slightly and cook for 5-10 minutes until the liver is cooked through.
  4. Add the red wine and herbs and simmer until it reduces by three quarters.  Place the whole lot in a jug and blend with a hand blitzer.  Add the butter in small knobs, blitzing between each bit.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Allow to cool fully before serving on bits of toast.
I served the pate with pieces of dried figs that I rehydrated in a simmering, spicy liquor of fresh orange juice (2 oranges), fresh lemon juice (1 lemon), sugar (to taste), mace and cloves.  It took about 10-15 minutes over a low, simmering heat to plump the figs up sufficiently.





Viking Bowls for French Onion Soup (And Shepherd’s Pie Recipe)

Last year I posted a recipe for French Onion Soup – a real favourite with us this time of year.  With a great supply of onions hanging in the shed and longer nights, it’s the perfect comfort evening meal.  Yes, a meal – if I make this for dinner that’s it!  A hearty bowl of this soup and a nice warm glass of red wine.

I’ve never found just the right bowl for this dish and been on the lookout for years.  Standard bowls are too wide on top and may not withstand the hot grilling at the end.  The perfect vessel for me would be a fairly narrow earthenware bowl where the base is roughly the same width as the surface but with a tulip narrowing towards the surface.

Last year at the Roscommon Lamb Festival a Historical Reinactment Group camped on the grounds of Roscommon Castle.  They were dressed in costume, slept in canvas tents, show-cased some medieval skills and battles and we, the public, were invited to wander around their camp.   A small camp that got my attention was inhabited by potter Jaqui Wright.  She makes replicas of archeological pottery discoveries.  It was here I came across her “new” range of pottery made with black Viking clay.  They are hand-shaped and then fired.  She glazed the inside of the bowls and mugs, although the glazing step wouldn’t have happened back with the hardy Vikings.  In fact, they would have eaten/drunk everything out of the one vessel and were not fussed, I’m sure, about cross-contamination.

I ordered 6 bowls from Jaqui that day.  She said it would be a few months and she would phone me.

So I was very excited a couple of months ago when she phoned me to say they were ready.  She lives in quite a rural part of the country – in county Sligo but very near the Roscommon border.  Jaqui does not do mobile phones, email, or websites so she gave me good, old-fashioned directions to her house.  I got lost on the way (my fault, because I do find, if you really take instructions litereally, people generally give perfect directions to their houses – I did a lot of home calls in my previous job as a community dietitian) but did find her secluded dwelling where she creates all this fabulous pottery.

The bowls are just what I wanted.  They’re beautifully rustic, oddly shaped and very pre-old worldy.  They look quite stone-age on my dresser with glassware and delicate china coffee cups but I love them!  Perfect French onion soup vessels, they have the added bonus of being oven-proof and are great for individual pies.

Jacqui Wright, Pottery Design’s contact number is 071-9182022 and here’s a site telling you some more about the Historical Reinactment Group.


Traditional Shepherd’s Pie with Root Vegetable Topping:

For 4-6.  Make individual pies or a large dish of it.


1 tablespoon rapeseed oil

1 large onion, finely diced

2 carrots, finely diced

500g minced lamb

200ml lamb or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons tomato puree

few dashes Worchester sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme leaves

salt & pepper


Root Vegetable Mash:

3 medium potatoes, peeled & halved

1 carrot, peeled & chopped into 2.5cm chunks

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped into 6cm chunks

1/4 turnip, peeled and chopped into 2.5cm chunks

1 tablespoon butter

dash milk

Salt & pepper


Preheat the oven to 190 C.


For the meat:

Heat the oil in a wide frying or sauce-pan.  Add the onions and carrots.  Season with salt and cover to sweat over  a low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes until soft.  Remove the lid and increase the heat to high.  Add the lamb and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring often over a high heat.  Continue cooking until the lamb is browned all over.  Add the tomato puree, Worchester sauce, balsamic vinegar, honey, thyme and stock.  Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer gently for 20 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and add more honey or Worchester sauce as needed.


For the topping:

While this is happening, cover the prepared vegetables for the topping in a large saucepan with just enough cold water.  Bring to the boil with a lid and cook gently until the vegetables are tender.  Drain the water off fully and return the saucepan to the heat.  Add the milk and butter, salt and pepper.  Heat the milk fully before mashing the vegetables together.


To assemble:

Lay the meat sauce in the base of your serving dish.  Spoon the mash on top and spread it out to cover the meat.  You can make a design on the top with a fork and brush with melted butter or top with grated cheese.  Bake until the mash is golden and the meat is bubbling underneath.  Serve with a green salad or extra green vegetables.  …… plus tomato ketchup: “Tacky but good” as Jamie would say.

Warm Beetroot, Mushroom & Leek Salad

As a student of nutrition for 4 years in Dublin I sought out a fitting place to work – Cafe Fresh in the Powerscourt Townhouse.  It’s a vegetarian/vegan/wholefood restaurant run by Mary Farrell.  Mary was good to us there and staff lunches were by far the healthiest fare in Dublin.  My dingy flat diet was mainly lentil soup/stew; with fish, mashed potato and broccoli on a splash out day.  Cafe Fresh provided welcome variety and some great recipes that I still use.  They served a lovely organic roast beetroot, mushroom and shallot salad.  This version is inspired by that and is a real earthy dish for November.

Warm Beetroot, Mushroom & Leek Salad

Serves 1 for lunch or 2 as side-salad for dinner

1/2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tsp butter

2 egg-sized fresh beetroot, boiled until tender

3 flat mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 leek, roughly chopped

sea salt

1/2 tsp English mustard

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 tsp dried marjoram

sea salt & black pepper

toasted seeds to garnish

Heat the butter and rapeseed oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the leeks and season with salt – cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, thyme and marjoram and another pinch of salt and continue cooking until the mushrooms are just tender.

Peel the beets and slice them into wedges.  Stir the warm beets, mustard, black pepper and balsamic vinegar into the mushroom/leek mix off the heat.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve with toasted pumpkin & sunflower seeds on top.

This is good by itself but I ate it with beetroot cous-cous (yes, I am turning pink!).  I had some fresh beetroot juice leftover from my kids class (where we made beetroot icing for beetroot and chocolate muffins), which I brought to the boil and poured over dry cous-cous.  The cous-cous absorbed the colour and earthy flavour of the beet juice.


Preserving basil

We need some space in the tunnel so the basil had to come out.  There were two types of basil – the regular stuff and holy basil.  I set about preserving some of their summer flavour for the dark days ahead.

Holy Basil!

Very fragrant in a different way, holy basil smells a little like a slightly out of date body cream – weird I know but finding it really hard to describe!  Luckily it doesn’t taste like gone off cosmetics and is actually delicious thrown into a curry (especially coconut based) at the very end.  It’s no more difficult to grow than basil but does go to seed quite a bit sooner.  And it also goes very well with tomatoes.

Basil is not one of those herbs you dry – it retains no flavour this way (lack of oils).  I usually freeze basil pesto without the cheese and it works so thought why not just whizz up the basil with some oil and freeze?  It’s not space consuming and this method means you have little nuggets of intense basil oil to add to a dish.

For the regular basil blitz 2 handfuls of basil with 100ml olive oil and transfer to ice-cube trays.  For holy basil use rapeseed oil instead (not too mediterranean incase it’s for curry).

I put these in the freezer for a few hours, then emptied them out to store in a freezer bag and popped them back in the freezer for later use.

If anyone has a more eloquent description for the flavour of holy basil please share!!

Preserving tomatillos & tomatoes

This year I’ve grown tomatillos in the tunnel and have sent some up to Cafe Azteca in Dublin. Hugo from Cafe Azteca visited us here with his family last January and gave a great Mexican Cookery Class.  He then sent on tomatillo and jalepeno seeds.  We had grown tomatillos before but really hadn’t much idea what to do with them.  I tried out a few recipes this weekend and can report good results.  Good news for the future of tomatillos here because the head gardener wasn’t too impressed with all the space they took up!

tomatillo june 2011

A tomatillo is sort of a green tomato, except it has a more interesting growth process and quite a different flavour. The plants flower and then drop down a hollow, green ‘lantern’, into which the fruit then grows.  The taste is sour/sweet.

I first tried a couple of cooked salsa recipes.  This one turned out like a ketchup so I’m calling it:

Tomatillo Ketchup – Mexican-style

makes 8 jars

3kg tomatillos, roughly chopped

3 white onions, roughly chopped

8 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped

6 fresh jalapenos, chopped

2 dried chillis – e.g. guajillo – lightly toasted over gas flame to soften & roughly chopped

Place all these ingredients in a large saucepan.  Heat and bring to the boil – reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the onion is soft.  Now add:

1 bunch fresh coriander

225g sugar

Heat to dissolve the sugar fully.  Blitz with a hand blender to a fairly smooth puree. Bring back to the boil and store in sterilised jars or bottles.  Place sterilised lids on immediately.  Store in a cool, dark press.

It’s lovely and would be a great, flavoursome ketchup replacer, but I wasn’t really going for a ketchup.  I flaked and added sugar towards the end of cooking because I thought it was going to be too sour.  Then it turned into ketchup.  So I started again and came up with a yummy, hotter salsa.

Tomatillo Ancho Salsa

This recipe is exactly as above but instead of 2 dried chillis add 8 dried ancho chillis (lightly roasted over gas flame and roughly chopped).  DO NOT ADD SUGAR. Preserve in the same way.  This salsa would be lovely drizzled over quesedillas, tacos, burritos….and also good for dipping good quality sausages into as I found out yesterday morning.

Hugo had explained that I could use tomatillos in place of tomatoes for ‘pico de gallo’ – the everyday fresh tomato salsa.  I had a look through Thomasina Miers ‘Mexican Food made Simple’ and she has a great recipe for a roast chilli tomatillo salsa.  The only changes I made was to leave out the lime juice ( I think the tomatillos lend plenty of sour on their own) and stick to jalapenos (which I have in the tunnel) instead of serranos.  This was the tomatillo triumph of the day!

Classic Roast Salsa Verde

500g tomatillos

2 cloves garlic

1 large jalapeno chilli

1 large tbsp chopped coriander

1/2 white onion, finely chopped

1 pinch sea salt

First you roast the tomatillo, jalapeno and unpeeled garlic cloves in a dry frying pan. You do this until the tomatillos are blistering and become soft (10-15 minutes).  Take the jalapenos and garlic out of the pan earlier (after 5-10 minutes).  Once they are done, roughly chop the tomatillos, take the stalk off the jalapeno and peel the garlic cloves.  Add these ingredients to a blender and hit blitz a few times to give you a rough puree.  Pour into a bowl and stir in the finely chopped onion, coriander and salt.  Taste – is it good?  Serve with tortilla chips.  Delish!

That is the salsa at the front of the picture, with classic pico de gallo next to it.

Pico de Gallo (not roasted)

3 ripe tomatoes, diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large jalapeno chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 large tbsp chopped coriander

1/2 white onion, finely diced

juice of 1/2 lime

1 pinch sea salt

For pico de gallo just mix all the ingredients together and enjoy with chips.

I’m reading a book called ‘A Year in the Village of Eternity’ by Tracey Lawson.  It details the authors food year spent in Campodimele, Italy where people live particularly long, healthy lives.  There are lots of recipes included and I wanted to try preserving tomatoes as described in the book.   We don’t have tons of tomatoes but I gathered up the surplus from a few people and made 5 jars thick tomato sauce.

Preserved Tomato Sauce

6kg fresh, ripe tomatoes – halved or quartered

6 pinches sea salt

Place the tomatoes and salt in a wide saucepan and heat.  Simmer for about 1 hour until you have quite a thick tomato sauce.  Stir often to prevent sticking at the base. Meanwhile sterilise jars and lids.  Place a basil leave in each jar.  Use a funnel to transfer the hot sauce to the hot jars. Seal immediately with the lid and wrap the jars in newspaper and a blanket (a very important step apparently).  This would be the method my mother uses also but she usually freezes the resulting puree to use later in the year. It will be a bit of a treat to open summer for a pasta sauce some dark winters evening.

Blackberry Fool & Garden Sculptures

It’s blackberry season!  And milking season here at the farm.  The head gardener has started milking the Jersey cow and brought me some homemade yoghurt today.  It’s rich, creamy and very mild – the extra fat toning down the sourness of a natural yoghurt.  I will, at some point, post up ‘how to make yoghurt’ as I’ve been making a lot of goats milk yoghurt lately (for the supper club).  It hardly needs a post really – heat the 1 pint milk to 42 C or hand temperature warm and stir in a few teaspoons of live natural yoghurt.  Leave in a warm place, covered, for 12-18 hours (e.g. hot press, on range/stove overnight).  And you have yoghurt.

On holidays in Edinburgh once, we came across a gorgeous little restaurant late after tramping around looking for the perfect place to eat.  That time the tramping paid off. The food was really simple and seasonal – I had a courgette & lemon pasta dish, he had great steak – and I just loved the dessert.  Not at all fancy but it tasted great.  A very simple rhubarb fool – just stewed rhubarb and yoghurt/cream, maybe a biscuit – I can’t remember.  It’s a nice thing to do with fruit in season.

This fool is something to make with fresh, fresh blackberries and now is the time!  I picked blackberries this evening – mostly for the freezer and some for this quick dessert/snack.

For 2 people take:

1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries and blend with 2 dessertspoons runny honey.  Take 1/2 cup of this mixture out into a separate bowl.  Now add 1 1/2 cups of thick natural yoghurt (e.g. greek if you don’t have a jersey cow to hand!) and blitz quickly to combine. Taste – does it need more honey?

To assemble spoon some extra natural yoghurt into a glass (or wine glass).  Carefully spoon some blackberry yoghurt mix over to create another layer before finally spooning a layer of reserved dark blackberry puree on top.  Enjoy on its own or with a sprinkle of crushed ginger biscuits.

What do you think of our new additions to the garden?  Designed and created by local artist Noel Molloy, who is also a gifted performance artist.

Supper Club: Vegetarian Special

Odhran (supper club chef friend and co-cook & -founder) and I have had a few requests to run a vegetarian supper club evening.  So the date has been set for Sunday 4th September and we’re setting out the rough menu here.  A 7-course vegetarian menu for all you veggie lovers. Rather than feeling restricted, we’ve really had to struggle over what makes it to the menu. See, we’ve chosen early September for a reason – the selection of produce is pretty amazing and everything is going to taste just as it should.

We’ve also christened our dining experience here – now called ‘The Hidden Leek Supper Club’.  In the next couple of weeks The Hidden Leek will be out on it’s own blog/site….

If you’d like to experience careful, imaginative cooking of purely local and seasonal ingredients, in an intimate dining room with fellow happy eaters then get in touch!  

The Hidden Leek Supper Club

 Menu 4th September 2011 @ 5.30pm


Complimentary Aperetif



Tomato bisque, stuffed cherry tomatoes, basil 

Dillisk crepes, sea vegetable mousse, puy lentil dressing 

Beetroot tasting plate

Damson sorbet, pink pepper sherbert 

Seasonal ‘stew’ stuffed cabbage, polenta chips 

Goats milk yoghurt pannacotta, toffee apple, balsamic & apple syrup 

Chocolate torte & sorbet, honeycomb, coffee sauce, elderberry fritters

Vegetarian cheese plate 


To Book Call: 0879439446 or 0857747319

or email

Roast Beetroot

And a recipe for you…….recently I was cooking dinner for a family gathering.  I wanted to cook everything together in the oven to keep it simple.  This beetroot turned out just lovely – a low temperature oven about 16oC.

Take a good, large piece of tin foil and spread it out flat.  Pile some fresh marjoram in the middle and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.  Leave 1 inch of stalk at the top of the beetroot (medium size – 1 per person).  Scrub the beets carefully without removing the root or stalk.  Place the beets on top of the herb.  Wrap the tin foil up well, trying your best to seal the package fully.  Place the package on a tray and pop into the oven for 2 hours.  20-30 minutes before serving open up the package and allow to cook open in the oven.  I serve these whole, without even peeling the beets – the eaters can work it out for themselves.  The earthy flavour and taste is just so……beetroot!