Author Archives: tara

Pronto Pork Chops with Lemon, Sage, Rosemary & Beans

This is my first recipe posting since having my baby girl 9 weeks ago. It has been a whirlwind of joy, euphoria, exhaustion & bewilderment. It would be fair to say that the husband and I have been fairly shell shocked! After some complications & lots of hospital food I was very glad to get home. My parents took pity on us and delivered us delicious meals every evening for about 7 weeks. This was absolutely fantastic and was a real highlight of the day- seeing the basket, full of containers arriving and wondering what today’s (often 3 course meal) was with our mouths watering. Alas, all things must come to an end and we have been fending for ourselves again recently. It has been lovely to be able to get back cooking- I have always  loved the ritual of cooking the evening meal and all that it symbolises-the working day is over &  family time is beginning. With a new baby it is, of course, difficult to spend lots of time in the kitchen so some evenings simplicity and speed are key. I love this recipe as it is tasty, filling & nutritious. It really is worth trying to get free range pork chops on the bone as the flavour will be far superior. In Drogheda, my local town, I have been buying them from Tuites Butchers who rear their own but there are lots of others around the country you can buy from online such as Crowes Farm, Oldfarm & James Whelan Butchers

(Serves 2)


2 Free Range Pork Chops on the bone if possible

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

100 ml white wine

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 lemon, halved

1 400g tin of cannellini beans or butter beans

1-2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole

a bunch of fresh sage


  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C
  2. Rinse the beans in a sieve or colander
  3. Season the meat on both sides and brush some oil on
  4. Heat a heavy bottomed, ovenproof frying pan until very hot
  5. Brown the meat on all sides & remove from pan to a warmed plate
  6. Add the wine and deglaze the pan
  7. Add the beans to the pan and return the pork with any juices
  8. Add the rosemary & sage and squeeze the lemon over the meat and leave the halves in the pan
  9. Place the pan into the oven and cook for 3mins then turn over & spoon the juices over the other side of the meat
  10. Return to the oven for a further 2 mins
  11. Let the meat rest for at least 5 mins before serving , mash the garlic with a fork and spoon the juices over the meat when serving

Serve with some steamed greens or tossed leaves.

Easy peasy Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemons & Herby Cous Cous

I was on twitter the other evening when Colette from Cakes, Bakes & Other Bits asked the question- What is a Tagine? This opened up a bit of discussion and triggered a funny memory for me. When I was about 10, my parents went on holiday to Morocco returning with a tagine. Lots of people thought it was a hat. My Dad had gone to lots of trouble to get it home from the market (to be fair this was before Ryanair & the tiny baggage allowances we have nowadays) he had bought it in only to find the chimney part had cracked. Anyway, not giving up on the dream of making a tagine at home, he persevered and insisted on using it on our electric ’80’s style cooking rings. All was going fine until he was just about to serve it up when he lifted the chimney part off and it crumbled in his hands and into the stew. Very disappointing after all his hard work! He informed me this morning that the remnants became a flower pot for years afterwards!

This is a dish I frequently make in my cookery classes and always goes down a storm! It’s a great dish for feeding a crowd as all the work is done earlier in the day so that you can spend time with your guests when they arrive.

My understanding is that a tagine is the cooking vessel made of earthenware from North Africa. It is used to slow cook stews using lamb and chicken mainly. Nowadays, we tend to think of a tagine as the stew itself using North African spices such as cumin, turmeric, coriander, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, all spice, cloves etc. The spice blend Ras El Hanout is also often used which contains a small amount of rose petals to give a light fragrance. It will often contain preserved lemons, dried fruits such as apricots, dates & raisins.






Serves 6

Lamb Tagine


1.5 kg shoulder of lamb, ask your butcher to bone, trim and cut it into 2 cm dice

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped finely

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

3 tablespoons of honey

500mls of lamb stock

1 aubergine, chopped into cubes

2 preserved lemons, pips removed, quartered

Large handful of toasted, flaked almonds

Bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

For the marinade:

2 tablespoons ras el hanout

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ tablespoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 ½ tablespoons paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoons ground black pepper



  1. Mix the marinade ingredients with 75 mls of water in a large bowl
  2. Add the lamb and ensure it is well coated
  3. Cover and leave for 24 hours if possible
  4. Heat a large casserole and add oil
  5. Brown the lamb in batches, ensuring you keep the pan hot
  6. Reduce heat, add more oil
  7. Add onions and sweat for 5 mins, then add the garlic and stir for 1-2 mins
  8. Return the lamb to the pot and add the tomatoes, lamb stock and honey
  9. Boil and then put in oven
  10. Stir after 1 ½ hours and add aubergine and preserved lemons
  11. Return to oven for 1 hour, cooking for a total of 2 ½ hours
  12. Sprinkle the almonds and coriander over the tagine and serve with couscous.

Herby Fragrant Couscous

Serves 6



300grms couscous

300mls hot chicken stock

2 limes, cut into wedges

Bunch of mint, roughly chopped

Bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

Optional: Sml knob of Butter

  1. Place couscous into a bowl and cover with chicken stock, leave for 5 mins
  2. Fluff up couscous with a fork and add herbs (& a knob of butter if desired)
  3. Sprinkle some lime juice over, season and mix
  4. Serve






Autumnal Salad of Young Goats' Cheese, Roast Beetroot & Fresh Walnut with Vanilla & Orange Dressing

This is not so much a recipe as an assembly job. I love the earthy, autumnal flavours of this salad woken up by the zesty dressing and sweet sourness of the blackberries. I have not given quantities for this (apart from the dressing) as it is up to you how much you make of it! It is extremely simple but I feel it warrants a mention because the mix of flavours is so good. I personally could not stop eating the blackberries with great lumps of the cheese when I was supposed to be tidying up!

This is an effortless starter dish ideal for dinner parties as it looks so pretty and really stimulates the appetite!


1 Beetroot

Young, fresh goats cheese. I used Ardsallagh

A handful of walnus (if you can, use fresh)


A selection of young baby leaves

Some edible flowers to decorate,

½ an orange, juiced

1 vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla paste if you have it in your storecupboard)

Extra virgin olive oil


Preheat the oven to 180˚ C

To roast the beetroot, gently wash it and trim the tops, leaving a little root

Drizzle a little oil over and wrap up in tin foil

Place in the oven for about 45mins

When it is just cool enough to handle, peel the skin off using a knife. You may wish to wear rubber gloves for this!

Chop the beetroot into bitesize pieces

Tear the goats cheese into smallish chunks

Make the dressing by mixing 3 tablespoons of oil,3 tablespoons of orange juice & vanilla seeds. Taste and season.

Place all the remaining ingredients in a largish bowl apart from the edible flowers.

Toss the salad with the dressing and serve with the edible flowers.


Christmassy Sage & Chestnut Soup

I love chestnut soup! I have made lots of variations of it and taken inspiration from many recipes for this one. I particularly like Nigella Lawson’s version but I have tweaked it so many times that the following recipe is by far my favourite way to do it. By all means, roast the chestnuts yourself if you fancy it but for convenience I use the vac packed type. If you can’t get these, unsweetened puree will suffice.

I made this soup as a starter for Sunday lunch recently. We had 8 adults, 3 children & 2 dogs. The soup went down well with both adults and children alike. Although it is ideal at Christmas time it is not confined to it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :0)


(Serves 6 generously)


1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 carrot, chopped

1/2 parsnip, chopped

1 stick of celery, chopped

A good glug of olive oil

A couple of Sage leaves, chopped

250 grms of vacuum packed Chestnuts, chopped or 1 tin of Unsweetened Chestnut Puree

1 small tin of Chickpeas

75 mls Marsala, Madeira or Sherry

750 mls of Chicken Stock

Salt & Pepper

3-4 Slices Parma/Serrano ham or streaky rashers

A dollop of crème fraiche for each bowl


Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the veg for about 10 mins or until softened with a pinch of salt

Add the chickpeas, sage and chestnuts and continue cooking for another minute or so

Add the most of the alcohol (keeping a little back) and allow to bubble up

Add the chicken stock and simmer for about 30 mins

When all the ingredients are soft, blend the soup and check for seasoning

Add the remainder of the alcohol and stir through

To Serve:

Cook the bacon until crisp and chop up finely

Pour the soup into bowls and place a dollop of crème fraiche on each, topped with the bacon



Fragrant & Gently Spiced Butternutsquash & Sweet Potato Soup

I first made this soup at Fairyhouse Cookery School a few years ago and was mad about it. It has since become a regular feature both at home and at cookery lessons where the punters always love it! It is a really hearty and filling soup and perfect for lunch or even as a lighter evening meal. It is particularly suitable for wet & windy days like today!I really like to make my own curry paste for this as it really gives wow factor to this soup. I have given you a simple recipe below for it and it keeps well in the fridge for weeks as long as it is covered with a little oil and a lid. It also freezes well so if you do go to the effort, you can use it over and over. If you are buying the curry paste, try and get a more authentic type such as Mae Ploy.


  • Vegetable/groundnut oil for cooking
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 butternut squash (cubed, not too big)
  • 1 small sweet potato, cubed (same size as squash)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons curry paste (homemade recipe below/shop bought or if not available, add grated ginger, chilli, lemongrass or lemon zest)
  • 400 ml vegetable/chicken stock
  • 200 ml coconut milk (the rest of the tin can be frozen)
  • Bunch of fresh coriander, chopped


  1. Heat a large saucepan.
  2. When good and hot, add oil & sweat onion with a pinch of salt for 5 mins
  3. Add garlic for 1 minute
  4. Add butternut squash and sweet potato and sauté for 5 mins with lid on
  5. Stir through curry paste to coat all veg
  6. Pour over the stock and cover
  7. Simmer for at least 10 mins
  8. Check veg is soft by inserting a knife
  9. Blend with either a stick blender or in a food processor
  10. Return to pot, whisk in the coconut milk and fresh coriander
  11. Check for seasoning & serve

Homemade Thai Curry Paste

  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 5 fresh red chillies, chopped coarsely
  • 2 green chillies, chopped coarsely
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 4 onions, chopped roughly
  • 2 sticks of fresh lemongrass
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • zest of half a lime
  • A tablespoon or so of Sesame Oil to loosen (use the groundnut or vegetable oil if you don’t have sesame)

Toast the seeds in a dry pan until fragrant. Remove to a pestle & mortar and grind until fine.Check how hot your chillis are by tasting a little. If they are very hot, you may want to reduce the quantity of chilli in the paste. Add all the other ingredients to a food processor and whizz until you have a paste.


Paula's Pumpkin Pie


My friend Paula from A Table Provence was here to stay for a couple of weeks recently. She is Canadian and it just so happened that Canadian Thanksgiving fell on a day that she was visiting. Of course we had to celebrate with her and she prepared a traditional Thanksgiving meal for us with all the trimmings including a herb stuffed Chicken (should be Turkey but since there were only 3 of us it seemed a bit crazy!) with roast yams, fresh orange glazed carrots, creamy mashed potato & gravy. It was simple but delicious fare! We finished with this Pumpkin Pie  & Chantilly cream. I love the spices and the almost biscuity texture of the pastry. It really is worth making the Chantilly Cream as it complements the pie so well. I loved it so much that I demo’d it at My Chef at Home’s event at the beautiful kitchen showrooms of Ray Shiels and at the ICA’s headquarters in Termonfeckin!

Ingredients for the pie filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 235grms fresh cream
  • 400grms pumpkin puree
  • 165grms mucovado sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp each grated orange zest, salt, all-spice, cloves, ginger and nutmeg

Preheat oven to 220°C, 425°F, Gas Mark 7

To make the custard/pie filling:

Start by cutting the pumpkin in half and clean out the seeds. Once clean, cut the pumpkin into small pieces. Place on a baking sheet and bake in oven for 30-45 minutes, or until soft. Let cool, then remove flesh from skin and puree or mash the flesh with the back of a fork. Leave the pulp in a fine meshed sieve for a minimum of 2 hours or leave overnight over a bowl to allow excess water to extract itself.Meanwhile, make the pastry.

For the Pastry:

This recipe makes two portions. You can freeze one and the hard work is done for next time! For this, you will need a 9” flan dish.

250grms white flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

230grms unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

60-120mls of iced water


  1. In a bowl combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and quickly process by crumbling butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  2. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Once puree is ready, mix all ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.

Roll out pastry and place in a 9″ pie dish. Crimp the edges between your fingers. Place the custard inside the pastry.

Bake at 230°C,450°F, Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 180°C,350°F, Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes more or until the tip of a sharp knife inserted comes out clean. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with Chantilly whipped cream.

Chantilly Whipped Cream:

235mls fresh cream
2-3  tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, vanilla powder or vanilla paste

Whisk the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until soft peaks form. The cream should hold its shape but still be satiny in appearance.




BBQ Sumac Ling with fennel & wild rice with goats cheese & chilli

A few weeks ago I did this recipe as a guest blog over on the lovely & very informative Wine Alliance blog. If you are interested in all things wine, go and have a look. Frank and Maurice are passionate about wine and exclusively import wines to distribute to a cooperative of independent buyers. This means that the consumer has the chance to taste wines from smaller wineries that may have otherwise been prohibitive for the retailer to purchase.To read the whole recipe click here.

Come join me for a Cordon Bleu Cooking Demonstration a part of the Bealtaine Festival

I will be doing a Cordon Bleu Cookery Demonstration in advance of a screening of the movie Julie & Julia at the Droichead Arts Centre in Drogheda at 1pm this Tuesday, the 17th May. The event is part of the Bealtaine Festival which is coordinated by Age & Opportunity, the not for profit organisation aimed at getting older people involved in the community. The event is free to over 55’s but all are welcome! Delicious tasters for everyone!

Here is the Menu I will be cooking:

Menu Cordon Bleu

Saumon Cru mariné à l’enth et poivre rose

Dill & pink peppercorn marinated salmon


Carré d’agneau nourri au lait en croute d’herbes, jus de groseille, pommes Byron

Herb crusted roast milk fed rack of lamb, red currant jus,  pommes Byron


Petits pots de crème vanilla, thé et caramel brulee

Vanilla & tea caramel brulee

Strawberries with Basil, Balsamic , Mascarpone & Hazelnut Sables


This recipe may seem like an odd combination at first but is really fresh and light- perfect for alfresco entertaining. There are a few steps in it but they are all easy and the whole thing should take no longer than about 30 mins. Go ahead- try it, you’ll love it!


125 g Flour

85g Butter, cold & cut into squares

30g Icing Sugar (& an extra tblsp)


30g Hazelnuts

150g Mascarpone Cheese

100mls Cream, whipped

1 punnet of Strawberries, sliced and stalks removed

Vanilla Extract

50g Caster Sugar

50ml Balsamic Vinegar

200ml Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

1 bunch of Basil

A drop of Olive Oil


Preheat the oven to 180°

Start by making the biscotti. Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the icing sugar & salt.

Rub the butter into the mixture with your finger tips until it resembles breadcrumbs

Knead the dough on a floured surface for a couple of minutes and leave to rest for 10 mins.

Roll out the dough, it should not be sticky so you will not need to flour the surface.

Cut out the biscuit shape you want, I recommend fingers as they can be use to scoop up the mascarpone later.

Push hazelnut pieces into the dough and bake for 8-12 mins

To make the sauce, place the orange juice in a pot with the most of the caster sugar (keeping a tblsp back) and a few basil stalks. Warm VERY gently to allow the flavours to infuse. Leave to cool.

In a separate pot, reduce the balsamic vinegar until it becomes a syrup.

Place the strawberries in a bowl and add a tblsp of the sugar, a pinch of salt and the balsamic vinegar reduction. Allow to macerate for at least 10 mins if not more.

To make the basil paste for the mascarpone “sauce”, place a little olive oil in a pot and add the basil leaves and a small pinch of salt. Warm gently and break down with the back of a spoon, stirring until you have a rough paste.

Place the mascarpone in a bowl and whisk a little to loosen. Add the basil paste, tblsp of icing sugar and the vanilla extract.

Fold in the whipped cream.

To serve & decorate:

Strain the orange juice mixture into a jug or bowl.

Place two biscottis on  each plate, top with the strawberries and a dollop (or quenelle if you like) of  the mascarpone mix.

Drizzle the orange sauce over and spoon a little of the balsamic & strawberry juice around the edge of the plate.


Vietnamese Prawn Rice Paper Rolls

These little rolls are absolutely delicious and are a perfect starter for a warm sunny day .A nice cool glass of Riesling goes down a treat with them!Please don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients as it is more of an assembly job really. The only real cooking involved, is the poaching of the prawns. The rolls can be assembled and left in the fridge a couple of hours before your guests arrive. Just make sure to cover them with a damp clean teatowel if you are doing this. Alternatively, don’t assemble them at all and leave all the fillings on a large platter for the guests to assemble themselves.The platter looks really beautiful as all the colours of the ingredients are really vibrant. The dipping sauce is an absolute must!


1 bunch rice noodles

1 packet of Vietnamese ricepaper wrappers

1 large carrot

A few handfuls of beansprouts

4 spring onions

A bunch of fresh Coriander and Mint

For the Prawns:

About 20 Prawns (I recommend buying & shelling Dublin Bay prawn tails & cooking them yourself)

1 large piece of ginger, peeled & sliced

1 clove of garlic, finely sliced

1 tablespoon nam pla

1 fresh red chilli, sliced

2 spring onions, sliced

To poach the prawns:

Peel the prawns by holding them with the legs facing up. Squeeze to break the shell and pull the shell off at the tail end, taking the entrail with it.

Place shelled prawns, slices of ginger, nam pla, chilli & spring onions  in a pot and cover with cold water

Bring to the boil and remove from the pot as soon as they are cooked (about 30 secs)

Remove to cool in a colander & pour cold water over

Cut each prawn in half

To assemble the ricepaper rolls:

Prepare noodles as per instructions on the pack & cool in cold water

Finely slice the spring onions and the carrot (use a mandolin if possible) into matchstick size

Roughly chop the herbs

Wash the beansprouts and trim if desired

Fill a large bowl with luke warm water and place the discs of rice paper into the bowl 2 at a time. Submerge for about 2 mins or until softened and remove.I recommend  keeping the rice papers in a clean, damp tea towel whilst you are hydrating them as they dry out very quickly.

  • Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and toss in the dressing
  • One, by one, place the filling along the middle of the paper rolls in a line
  • Tuck in the ends of the paper rolls and roll up

It can also be a bit of fun if you serve all the ingredients on a platter and allow diners to make up their own rolls. If doing so, serve the dipping sauce in small bowls.

Asian Dipping Sauce/Dressing

2-3 limes, juiced

2 tablespoons of nam pla

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until sugar dissolves