Author Archives: tara

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




Easy Fragrant Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Raita & Pomegranate

This week I am posting easy, tasty alfresco dining recipes. Since I am having friends over myself this weekend, I thought many people would be doing the same so why not suggest an easy 3 course meal perfect for casual summer entertaining? The idea is simple- minimum work with maximum taste.  Most of the work takes place before your guests arrive so that you can still enjoy your friends and familys’ company when they arrive!

Thanks to Cliona O'Flaherty & Sharon Hearne-Smith for shooting & styling this photo

This lamb dish is great for catering to larger groups as you tend to get a variety of slices that are rare, medium & well done due to the non-uniform thickness of the meat.

Serves 8-10


For the lamb:

1 butterflied leg of lamb

2 tsp Fennel seeds

2 tsp Coriander seeds

2 tsp Cumin seeds

2 tblsp Cardamom Pods

1 tsp Cayenne pepper

100 mls Olive Oil (bog standard is fine for this)

50mls Soy sauce

grated zest of 1 orange

5 garlic cloves , roughly chopped

For the Raita:

1 small tub natural yogurt

Fresh mint, finely chopped

1/2  cucumber

1 clove garlic, minced or chopped finely

lemon juice

To Garnish:

A bunch of fresh Mint

1 Pomegranate (seeds removed) or pack of seeds from the supermarket


  1. Place the coriander seeds in a dry pan and gently toast, add fennel & cumin  seeds to the pan a few seconds later as they take less time
  2. Place all the seeds and the cardamom pods in a pestle & mortar and grind. As this is a rustic dish, leave the cardomom pods in the mix as they are easily removable later and give a fantastic flavour
  3. Mix all the marinade ingredients together and pour over the lamb.
  4. Leave in the fridge overnight if possible but try to give it at least 6 hrs to infuse
  5. To make the raita, combine the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and mint
  6. Remove the lamb from the fridge an hour before cooking
  7. Heat either a BBQ or a griddle pan to a high heat (smoking) and place the lamb on. The idea is to char the outside.
  8. Reduce the temperature and continue to cook, basting with the marinade, for about 20-30 mins or to your liking. If it is easier, place in an oven (180°) to finish.
  9. Allow to rest fopr at least 10 mins before carving.remove any cardamom pods that are visible.
  10. Arrange the slices on a platter and scatter with the mint leaves and pomegranate seeds. Serve the raita on the side or drizzle over the lamb.


Wild Boar Pâté with Lavender

I have been wanting to buy Wild Boar for a while now so when I met TJ Crowe of Crowe Farm (who specialise in high quality pork & bacon products)at Inishfood in Donegal, I had to ask him if he had some.To my delight he did and he killed one a few weeks later. I ordered a shoulder and some liver. I got a huge amount of liver and will be posting further recipes using it and the shoulder. This is a lovely rich pate and the lavender serves to add a more fragrant note to the overall flavour. I think its a perfect weekend lunch recipe served with crusty bread or melba toast and pickles or chutney.

Ingredients :

300g Wild Boar Liver (sliced evenly & soaked in milk for at least 3o mins, membranes removed)300g Butter at room temperature & an extra knob for cooking

2 tsp Dried Lavender

1/2 tsp Sea Salt

2 Shallots, finely diced

2 Garlic cloves, finely diced

A splash of Marsala

Optional: Clarified Butter, 100g


Place the lavender and salt in a pestle & mortar and grind until fine

Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan, add the garlic & shallots & lavender

Allow to soften over a medium heat

Add the livers to the pan and cook until just done on the inside (cut a piece open to check)

Allow to cool slightly and place in a food processor

Deglaze the pan with the marsala and flambé if desired

Add the lovely bits to the food processor and whizz for a few seconds


Allow to cool for a few minutes then add the rest of the butter

Whizz until smooth and place in serving dish allow to cool.


If using clarified butter, melt butter in a small pan on a VERY low heat and switch heat off. Leave to sit until butter fat rises to the top and the milk solids have sunk to the bottom.Using a small ladle, pour onto surface of the pate & garnish with a sprig of lavender if possible.


Monkfish wrapped in McCarthy Kanturk Pancetta & Chocolate, Pistachio & Honey Black Pudding with Rhubarb & Puy Lentils

I met Jack McCarthy of McCarthy Kanturk butchers at Harrys Bar & Restaurant for the Inishfood event in March. We were treated (among many things) to a taste of their newly developed 80% Cocoa solids, Pistachio & Honey Black Pudding. Everybody was raving about it – a new twist on an old favourite. McCarthys have won many awards for their black pudding and when I sampled them I could see why. They really are delicious. This recipe is inspired by Jack challenging me to do something “different” with the Chocolate Black Pudding. We really enjoyed how the tart rhubarb cut through the richness of the pudding and monkfish and how the lentils soaked up the syrup. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!


6oog rhubarb, chopped into 3cm pieces

50g sugar

120g Puy Lentils

120 ml White Wine

120 ml Chicken/Vegetable Stock

A Sprig of Fresh Mint

600g Monkfish Tail

200g McCarthy Kanturk Chocolate & Pistachio Pudding

4  slices of Pancetta

4 Cocktail Sticks

Serves 4

For the Rhubarb:

Preheat the Oven to 180°

Place rhubarb in a dish & sprinkle sugar over.

Cover & bake for 20 mins.

Squash with a fork and leave in syrup.

For the Puy Lentils:

Place 120g Puy Lentils in a pot & cover with 120ml white wine & 120 ml chicken or vegetable stock. Simmer for 20 mins or until tender.

Chop some of the mint & stir through, adding a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Season to taste.

For the Monkfish:

Cut the monkfish into four pieces.

Lay the pancetta on a board and place the black pudding followed by the fish on top.

Wrap the bacon around and secure with a cocktail stick.

Bake uncovered for about 15- 20 mins (depending on the thickness of your monkfish)

Don’t forget to remove the cocktail sticks!

To Serve:

Place the rhubarb on the middle of the plate, place the monkfish on top and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Serve with the puy lentils.


Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Truffle Oil

On a recent trip to O’Briens Chop House in Lismore, Co. Waterford, I had a small taster of their Jerusalem Artichoke soup. Richard is a very gracious host who picked up on my heavy hints about wanting to try the soup but also wanting game terrine for my starter by letting me have a little cupful. It really stayed in my memory and I just had to make it when I got home. This is my version with a big nod of thanks to them for the inspiration…

(Serves 4, generously)


350g Jerusalem Artichokes, scrubbed & trimmed, chopped

1 Onion, finely chopped

1 small Potato, chopped

2 small Carrots

2 sticks of Celery, leaves reserved

A handful of Parsley stalks

2 Bay leaves

500 ml Chicken Stock

50 ml milk

Knob of Butter

Glug of Olive Oil

To Finish:

Truffle Oil (if available but well worth it!)


Chop all the vegetables to a similar size so that they cook at around the same time

Melt the butter in a pot and add the olive oil

Add all the vegetables and sweat on a medium with the lid on for about 10 mins or until softened, stirring every now and then

Add the bay leaves, celery leaves and parsley stalks and stir over the heat for a minute or so

Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil, add a small amount of salt & pepper

Simmer for about 10 mins & Remove the bay leaves.

Using a hand blender or liquidizer, blitz until smooth

Add the milk and check the consistency & seasoning

Serve with a few drops of the Truffle Oil