Chilli Kale

I can happily munch away at bowls of stir fried chilli kale.


It’s delicious  on the side of a dinner or piled on top. Last night I made a risotto with the last of the tomatoes and borlotti beans and piled some chilli kale on top.


We grow a few different kinds of kale. My favourites are the Asparagus kale and Raggedy Jack or Red Russian as it’s also known. Both of these kales are more tender than curly kale or the more fashionable Cavalo de Nero but whatever you have got will work with the recipe below. Just cook a little longer if you are using curly or cavalo.

It’s quite a loose recipe – you need a big handful of kale for each serving as it cooks down considerably. Wash the kale, strip the central stem from each leaf then roll a few leaves together and cut finely.


Heat a frying pan, add enough oil to cover the bottom and then add half teaspoon of chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and a about a teaspoon of finely chopped garlic.


Keep the heat low whilst the flakes, seeds and garlic gently flavour the oil then raise the heat and stir in the kale. You might have to add the kale  in two stages, letting the first batch wilt down before adding the second. Keep stirring the kale , season with a little salt and after a few minutes add couple of table spoons of water. The steam created will help the kale to cook.


Test for doneness. If you think the kale’s still too coarse add another couple of tablespoons of water and repeat the process then serve with whatever you’re having.

Absolutely yummy!


Up the Pumpkins!


We went on holiday for ten days and when we got back I could have sworn the grass had grown by 10 inches! As always in this beautiful fertile island the grass keeps growing. The drop in temperature doesn’t mean that everything else is as keen to keep growing though. The spinach and chard are now on a go-slow and even the kale production has slowed down. Mind you they all get picked so hard for the kitchen at the shop that it’s hardly surprising that they need a break.

Luckily the pumpkins are ready to harvest. We grow the Crown Prince and Queensland Blue varieties.. They aren’t huge this year but they’re not going to grow any more now – in fact pumpkins don’t like the temperature to be below 18c so it’s a wonder that they grow at all.

For us it is a precious crop. Pumpkins store very well and are very versatile, we make them into pies, soups, cakes, hummus, curries, with pasta, pilafs…. The options are endless.

They also have many nutritional benefits, being high in antioxidants, vitamins and fibre.

Each 100g of pumpkin provides 26 calories, no saturated fat or cholesterol, plenty of vitamin A – great for eyesight, vitamin C and B

So all in all it’s a great vegetable to include in your diet.

It’s delicious simply roasted as a side vegetable but it’s also the beginning part of many recipes, which transform it into something more substantial.

To celebrate the pumpkin harvest and with Halloween arriving at the end of this month here’s a pumpkin recipe. This recipe for filo pie is inspired by our recent holiday in Greece where the bakers are the masters of filo pies.

Filo is very easy to use. Just go to your local shop or supermarket and pick up a packet and follow the instructions below. Don’t worry if it breaks up a bit , just patch it up. It’s quite forgiving.

This recipe is for the dense orange flesh type pumpkin. Halloween pumpkins are too watery for this recipe so if you can’t find the hard skinned blue/grey variety it’s best to substitute a butternut squash.


Pumpkin Filo Pie


750g pumpkin flesh

2 onions

200g feta cheese

2 eggs

half tsp ground cinnamon

about 200mls olive oil

salt and pepper

a packet of filo pastry – defrosted


Pre heat the oven to 180c.

Peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds and cut the flesh into roughly 2cm cubes. Put the pumpkin onto a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle over the cinnamon and season with a little salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. It doesn’t need to brown nor go crispy. Leave aside to cool .


Peel and chop the onions. Sautee gently in a little olive oil, until they soften and becomes translucent.

Crumble the feta onto the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together.

Stir in the cooked pumpkin and onion, giving it a bit of a mash as you go. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Oil a baking tray that is 20cm x 30xm and has about a 5cm rim. If you don’t have one of these try a large cake tin.


Open the packet of filo and carefully unroll it. Take the first sheet and lay it in the tin leaving the excess to hang over the edge of the tin. Brush with olive oil. Turn the tin and lay the next sheet so that the overhang is on the other side.


Brush with oil Repeat this 3 times – there will now be 6 layers of filo.


Spread the pumpkin mix over the filo then cover with 4-5 sheets on top, brushing with olive oil between each sheet and tucking in some of the overhang as you go .


This will make rough parcel. Brush the top with olive oil. Score the top of the pie down the middle with a sharp knife then cut each half into 4. This will ensure the tart can be sliced once baked.


Cook in a pre-heated oven 180c for 40- 60 minutes or until golden on top. Allow to cool for fifteen minutes before eating..


Revithnos from Sifnos

Sifnos is one of the Cycladic islands in the Aegean Sea, it’s about 25kms long and 15kms wide and very hilly. It takes bit of effort to get there which is  why this beautiful spot is not a mass tourist destination. The main town, Apollonia is in the centre of the island and the roads run down from there to little villages, fishing ports and deserted beaches.


The island also has plenty of tracks linking everywhere together which formerly would have been used by donkeys. There aren’t many donkeys these days, they seem to have been replaced by Suzuki Jimneys and similar little vehicles which are the only way to get down to many of the hamlets.


Sifnos tourism has a walking trail initiative, there are lots of way marked tracks to beautiful places. It’s mostly a case of what goes down, must come up – challenging trails with spectacular views.


We walked out from the village that we stayed in crunching almonds underfoot and feasting on ripe pomegranates, figs and prickly pears. There are trees laden with lemons, olives and quince waiting to be harvested.


The views are spectacular and with the glorious autumn weather, a very comfortable 25c-30c – it’s a great way to get an all over tan.


The friendly people who are happy to have visitors are famous for their traditional Greek food, lots of vegetable mezze, grilled fish and meat. Bakeries  produce pastries of all sorts of shapes and sizes filled with different cheeses or cheese and spinach and these make great portable emergency rations.

Chickpeas are one of the crops grown on the island. It’s crop that doesn’t require watering which on an island where it mightn’t rain for eight months is a good thing. I now realise  why my chickpea growing experiment failed so miserably in Ireland,as not only is there a very high humidity  I watered them to boot. No wonder they weren’t happy!

The recipe that the island is most famous for is Revithnos – a chickpea soup – one of these ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes. It’s cooked slowly in the oven using just a few key ingredients – chickpeas, onion, olive oil, lemon and bay leaves. It’s traditionally served on a Sunday with bowl of olives and fresh bread. The chickpeas are soaked overnight on Friday then  rinsed and cooked in a ceramic pot  called a tsoukali. Formerly everyone took their pots to the bakers who loaded up the ovens and left  them overnight to be collected for lunch after church on Sunday. The slow cooking makes the chickpeas velvety soft in an emulsion of olive oil and onion which is brightened up with a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s another one of these dishes that isn’t going to win a beauty contest but will healthily sustain body and soul.


Cooking something in the oven for 4-5 hours is probably off putting  for most of us and  we don’t have friendly bakers with wood fired ovens around here so it’s probably best to cook the chickpeas slowly on top in a heavy pot with a good lid then finish up for an hour or so in the oven. If you own an Aga or range you’re in business. Just pop the pot in the slow oven and go to bed!

Revithnos – Chickpea Soup

350g chickpeas

150mls olive oil

2 large onions

2-4 cloves garlic

1 -2 bay leaves

lemon juice

salt and pepper


a handful of parsley


Soak the chickpeas over night then drain well.

Peel the onions and garlic and chop finely.

Put the olive oil into a heavy pot and heat gently. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onions melt down but don’t let them brown. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook for a further two minutes then add the chickpeas and bay leaf. Stir everything together for a few minutes then add enough water to cover everything by 2-3cm. Bring to the boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for one to one and a half hours or until the chickpeas are soft.

Stir in the juice of a lemon , add a little more water if it looks like it’s getting dry and season with a little salt. Pop the pot into a low oven , 150c, oven for an hour.

Serve with a little chopped parsley on top, lemon wedges and fresh bread and olives on the side.

A glass of red wine goes down well with this too!




The Blackberries are Back!


This recipe is a good excuse to go for a walk. The hedgerows are full of ripening blackberries, here in West Cork


I have been traipsing around with my little helper trying to fill a little bucket with blackberries so that we can make blackberry and apple muffins. Each day there are more ripe blackberries than the day before and we are just getting to the stage where we find enough berries to actually arrive home with some in the bucket.

I have two good tips if you’re in a position to go picking. One is to go armed with a dock leaf as there seem to be as many blasted nettles as blackberries and the other is to feed the little helpers a snack before setting out. This definitely ups the odds of arriving home with berries in the bucket.

It’s apple time here too and we have a bumper harvest of apples this year so I have been playing with recipes to combine the two.


One of the most successful is this ancient recipe that our neighbour cut out of a magazine and gave to my Mum when I was little. It’s so ancient that the original recipe is in pounds and ounces and uses margarine which very few people bake with anymore.

It’s one of those recipes where you don’t need many ingredients nor do you have to do a lot to make the cake. It doesn’t even need any machinery although a food processor does speed things up.

I’ve wiggled the measurements, exchanged butter for the margarine and added in some blackberries. The result got scoffed which is always a good sign!


Blackberry and Apple Cake


450g cooking apples

150g blackberries

300g flour

1tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

200g butter – diced

125g caster sugar

3 eggs



Pre heat the oven 180c

Prepare a 24cm spring form cake tin. Line the base with parchment paper

Weigh out the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Put into a big bowl or a food processor and add the cubed butter.

Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips or pulse buzz in the food processor until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. If you have used a processor now is the time to tip the mix into a bowl.

Peel and core the apples and cut into a small dice. Mix the apples and blackberries gently through the flour mix.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk together then pour into the big bowl and gently mix everything together with a metal spoon. Do not overmix. Tip into the prepared tin and gently even out the top.

Bake for 50 minutes. Poke a sharp knife into the cake and if it comes out clean the cake is ready. If the knife is sticky cook for another five minutes and try again.

Dredge the top of the cake with caster sugar whilst it is still hot.

Delicious, and the cake will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box.

Courgettes on the Grill

I’m sitting here writing this surrounded by buckets of courgettes.


The sunshine, followed by an intense blast of rain, has sped up the growth and todays picking produced an interesting assortment of different shapes and colours.. Some are huge – it’s amazing how much a courgette grows each day if the conditions are good.

The weather definitely affects their production. The plants need a good amount of water and love sunshine. They are better cared for when we have a heat wave as I’m all up for an all over tanning opportunity. Standing in the garden spraying water is on my list of relaxing jobs. The days when it’s overcast and looks like rain are the worst because the watering doesn’t happen. Somehow my brain equates sunshine with watering, not clouds.

As the summer moves on so do the plants. They get bigger and begin to sprawl. We have eaten the first flush and are no longer hovering over the plants waiting for them to grow as there are other exciting vegetables maturing and sneaking into first place. This means that quite a few pass under the radar and get very big.

This all brings us to the annual courgette conundrum. We have been enjoying a variety of recipes – soups, salads, stews, pizzas, cakes etc.

I particularly like this salad of grilled courgettes. Very simple and easy to make and size doesn’t matter. Big, small and medium courgettes are all fine.

I use a cast iron grill pan for grilling which leaves funky looking griddle marks but a barbecue or regular grill would do the job too. The important thing is the heat. It must be hot. Whichever method you use it’s important to pre heat to sizzling.

Grilled Courgettes and Halloumi


4-6 medium courgettes

200g halloumi

2tb sunflower seeds

2tbs pumpkin seeds

a big handful of mint, chopped

1 lemon, washed well

approx 150mls olive oil

salt and pepper


Cut the courgettes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.. Sprinkle over a little salt and put into a bowl. Toss gently then leave for 20- 30 minutes. The salt will draw out some of the excess water. Put the courgettes onto a clean t-towel and pat dry. Wipe out the bowl and return the courgettes and toss with a little olive oil.

Heat the grill to very hot, griddle pan to very hot or have good barbie on the go.

Put the courgette halves on the pan/grill etc. Don’t overcrowd. Best to do in a couple of batches. Cook for 4-5 minutes each side. Less if it looks like it’s burning rather than a light char.

Put the cooked courgettes in a large clean bowl and leave to cool

Slice the halloumi – medium/thick slices – and rub a very little olive oil over them – too much and the cheese will burn.. Grill for a minute or two each side, until lightly golden. Put aside to cool.

Heat a dry frying pan then stir in the sunflower and pumpkin seeds, toast on a medium heat. Keep tossing the seeds so they cook evenly until lightly golden. Take off the heat, tip into a small bowl and leave to cool.

Slice the grilled courgettes on the diagonal into strips.

Slice the halloumi on the diagonal into strips

Put the courgettes and halloumi into a large bowl together with the zest of the lemon, juice of half, the chopped mint and a good glug of olive oil.

Grind a little black pepper over then toss everything together with your hands.

Taste. Add some salt if you think the flavour is a bit dull or more lemon juice if you think it needs further brightening up.

Eat warm or room temperature.


It’s pea time!


Our peas are up and podding up nicely. They enjoy sun and rain, so have been steadily coming on.

We don’t grow too many real peas and truth be told half the time our peas end up in a serious muddle, the mange tout look very similar until a certain stage and often the ‘pea’ peas get harvested too early in a case of mistaken identity. We’re well aware of this problem but don’t seem to be able to get on top of it. Each year finds us humming and hawing and scrabbling around looking for the identifying markers that were carefully put in at the end of the row when the peas were planted. They mysteriously seem to relocate and confusion abounds.

Not many people grow regular peas anymore, there’s time involved and by the time enough are podded for dinner it’s easier to buy them frozen but it surely is a sweet treat. I like to eat them like sweeties, picking a few pods and munching away whilst gardening. They bring back childhood memories of sitting on the doorstep with my mum in the sunshine when I would help with the shelling and no doubt eat as many as landed in the colander.

It’s worth noting that peas began to deteriorate as soon as they’re picked, the sugar rapidly converts to starch, which is why frozen peas are so successful. If you can get you hands on recently picked peas they are delicious, but if they’ve travelled far it’s maybe not worth the effort.

There must be some massive pea farms out there somewhere, filling freezers worldwide with packets of neat green peas. I checked out the processing and came up with these interesting facts;

Peas are harvested, transported from the fields and frozen within 150  minutes, that’s only two and a half hours – 30 minutes picking by a machine called a ”viner’ which sucks up the peas from the field and removes the pods, 30 minutes travelling to the factory then 90 minutes to wash grade and freeze. It takes only 6 minutes to freeze a pea!

This all makes them the ultimate convenience vegetable, ready to use and very easy to prepare.

Here’s a recipe for a light and fresh pea soup, equally simple to make with fresh peas or frozen peas.  It can be eaten hot or, if the heat-wave comes, chilled. I like it with a little creme fraiche but that’s optional.


Pea and Mint Soup


1 onion

1 medium potato

25g butter or olive oil

750mls vegetable stock

450g peas – fresh or frozen

a bunch of mint, roughly chopped


Peel and chop the onion. Heat a saucepan, melt the butter or add the olive oil then stir in the chopped onion. Cook on a gentle heat.

Peel the potato and dice small, stir in with the onion and add a little salt and pepper to season. Cook gently for ten minutes without browning. This slow cooking is important as it adds depth of flavour,

Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the potato is tender then add the peas. Bring back to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat, add the chopped mint and puree using whichever gadget you own – stick blender, liquidiser or food processor, until smooth. Adjust the consistency by adding some water if the soup is too thick and check the seasoning.

Serve either hot or chilled, with a little dollop of crème fraiche if you fancy.

Easy Peasy!


Rhubarb, Rhubarb


The garden has speeded up big time in the past few weeks. The rise in temperature and some sunshine had all the little seedlings that were at the ‘Will I or Won’t I” live or die stage zoom into action and grow like mad. Suddenly the glass house wasn’t big enough to hold everything. There has been a frenzied potting up and transplanting out session and it’s looking good. Everything is thriving with the sunshine and rain treatment.

Taking into consideration that everything is a few weeks behind with the cold start there’s still a bit of a gap on the eating front. We have spinach and chard again in the tunnels and lots of young herbs in the garden but apart from that and the thriving clump of rhubarb it’s all potential. Potential beans, peas, spuds, fennel, kales etc., all settling in to their newly made beds outside.

The rhubarb is looking great as usual. It’s obviously happy and grows prolifically. The trouble is that apart from the initial excitement at a rhubarb tart or crumble it’s uses are quite limited. I do make a rhubarb and ginger jam which is delicious but with so much else to do jam making isn’t the top of the list.

I decided to play around and put the rhubarb in a salad. I googled for recipes but most called for roasted rhubarb, which might be delicious but not the texture I was looking for in a salad so I decided to try a light pickling and the result was very good, lovely sweet, sour and crispy and excellent together with beetroots, quinoa and orange.

Here’s the recipe, and I will be carting bunches of our rhubarb to the shop so if you fancy trying it without cooking pop in and pick some up

Beetroot , Rhubarb and Quinoa Salad


2-3 beetroots

1 red onion

2 stems rhubarb

1 orange

150g quinoa

2 tbs white balsamic vinegar

1dsp caster sugar

a bunch of mint – chopped

100mls olive oil

100g fresh goats cheese or feta – optional


Cook the beetroots. Give them a wash and tidy up the top where the greenery was then either rub them with olive oil and put in an oven tray and cover with silver foil and bake them for I hour to one hour and a half (180c) or put them in a saucepan and cover with water and simmer covered with a lid for 25=40 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size of the beetroot. Test whether the beetroots are cooked by piercing with a small sharp knife. If it goes in with no resistance, the beetroot is cooked.

Measure the quinoa and water into a small saucepan. Add a little salt and bring to the boil then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 12-15 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. Tip the quinoa into a large bowl and leave to cool.

Peel the red onion and slice finely. Sprinkle over a little salt and rub into the onion. The rings will fall apart.

Wash the rhubarb then slice , on the diagonal into skinny pieces.

Put the vinegar, sugar and a good pinch of salt into a bowl and mix until dissolved. Stir in the onion and rhubarb and put aside for at least 15 minutes.


Peel the cooked beetroots and dice into equal sized cubes.

Peel the orange with a sharp knife to remove all the skin and pith then remove each segment of orange with a sharp knife by cutting each side of the segment, leaving the skin behind. Do this over the onion and rhubarb to reserve any juice.

Fluff the quinoa up with a fork, then add the beetroot, chopped mint and orange pieces. Lift the onion and rhubarb out of the bowl leaving the vinegar mix behind and add to the quinoa. Whisk the olive oil into the vinegar then pour over the salad. Quickly toss everything together , check the seasoning – it may need a little more salt.


Serve with fresh goats cheese or feta crumbled on top or without if you want to keep it vegan and dairy free.