Ballyknocken House & Cookery School
Mint is possibly the most common herb and has been used extensively used in both sweetand savoury dishes. There are many different varieties but the most popular are apple mint,peppermint, pineapple and spear mint. All these pair so very well with chocolate dessertsas with well as savoury dips like hummus and in drinks especially with lemon, melon and tropical fruits. Spearmint and peppermint teas are delicious after a long working day. Mint is packed with Vitamin C and small amounts of B2. It is also great for relaxing and easing the muscles.
It is perhaps a bit too easy to grow! we have pots of mint (I prefer to put mint into pots so I can move them into the shade as they tend to wilt on a warm day) near our kitchen door, not only is it for easy to access but that lovely minty smells glade into the kitchen during the summer months. If you need to storage the mint, place the stems in a bowl of cold water and cover the leaves with a plastic bag. Place in the fridge. This will keep for 2 - 3 days.
Makes about 120ml
3 mint sprigs - any variety - spearmint or peppermint
150ml light scented oil
2 jars with lids
A small piece of muslin / cotton fabric
1. Bruise the leaves slightly
2. Pour over the oil
3. Seal with lid.
4. Place in a cool place for 2 days. Shake from time to time.
5. Place the fabric over the 2nd jar, secure with an elastic band.
6. Slowly filter the oil.
7. This will keep for a 3 – 4 weeks.
Chicken with Pinenut and Mint Pesto served with Roasted Mint Butternut
Be careful not to add too many mint leaves – if you have large ones just reduce the number. Add more oil and pinenuts if you feel it will taste too medicinal.
4 small chicken breasts
4 sundried tomato slices, sliced in half
8 slices prosciutto
6 - 7 mint leaves
A small bunch of parsley
60g parmesan, grated
125ml olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into wedges
2 oranges, juice of 1 and slice the other into wedges
Mint leaves, chopped
4 cocktail sticks
1. To prepare the pesto, place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until fairly
smooth. Add a little extra oil if you feel that the pesto is too thick.
2. To prepare the chicken, make a “pocket” in the chicken breast with a sharp knife.
3. Spread some pesto into chicken breast and place 2 slices of sundried tomato into the cavity.
4. Wrap with a slice of prosciutto.
5. Secure with a cocktail stick.
6. Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas 4.
7. To roast the butternut, drizzle olive oil and a few mint leaves over the butternut wedges.
8. Roast the butternut until golden and soft – this will take about 30 – 35 minutes depending
on the size of the wedges.
9. To cook the chicken, sauté in a pan with a little olive oil, carefully turning the chicken,
until golden brown, place in the oven for a further 12 – 15 minutes.
11. To assemble, place the butternut on a platter, remove the cocktail stick, slice the chicken
in half and place on the butternut squash wedges.
Mint Chocolate Roulade with Rose Cream
Serves 8 - 10
The rose water gives this cream filling a wonderfully delicate flavour, try adding Creme de
Cassis for a change.
90g golden caster sugar
2 small mint leaves, very finely chopped (almost a paste)
50g cocoa powder, extra for dusting
90g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp rose water
Coco powder for dusting
Red rose petals
1. Prepare the oven to 190C / Gas 5.
2. Line a 30 x 40cm swiss roll tin with baking parchment, butter and dust with cocoa.
3. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together into a bowl.
4. Beat together the eggs and sugar until pale and thick (This will take about 7 to 8 minutes).
5. Gently fold the flour, cocoa and mint in with a metal spoon.
6. Pour into the tin and spread evenly.
7. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until firm to the touch.
8. Sprinkle some caster sugar on a separate piece of parchment.
9.Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before turning it out onto the other piece of parchment.
10. Peel off the lining parchment and neatly trim the 2 longer edges.
11. Roll up the sponge using the paper underneath. If it cracks - don’t worry it is part of the
charm. Cover with a damp tea towel. Allow to cool.
13. In the meantime, whisk the cream until stiff and fold in 1 tsp rose water.
14. To assemble, when cooled, gently unroll the sponge and spoon over the rose cream
15. Reroll the roulade using the parchment to help you, without pressing to hard on the
16. Place on a serving platter, dust with icing sugar, sprinkle over some rose petals and a few mint leaves.
With “Catherine’s Italian Kitchen” and “Catherine’s roman Holiday” being aired on RTE, it would be an understatement to say that I absolutely love basil. It sings of all things Italian.
We mainly have the "sweet basil'' - ocimum basilicum, but I am the proud grower of Thai basil too, which has an unusual aniseed flavor. But it is the “Italian” basil that I keep returning to – it makes some fantastic pestos (with pine nuts or almonds for example), is fantastic with tomatoes and also works really well in salads.
For a more unusual use for basil, try basil sugar with strawberries – simple crush 2 basil leaves in a pestle and mortar with 2 tbsp sugar and sprinkle over the strawberries. Delicious!
Our basil plants are strategically positioned on the window ledges in the cookery school to get the most sunshine and also to remind us to water them! I know from experience that they like well drained soil. Buon Appetito!
Basil, White Chocolate and Pistachio Biscuits
Makes about 20
We really don’t think of adding basil to a sweet dish, particularly biscuits but these are delicious. Just use 2 large leaves or 3 small one otherwise it may taste medicinal.
110g butter, softened
100g light muscavado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 small basil leaves
_ tsp bread soda / bicarbonate of soda
120g white chocolate, roughly chopped
80g pistachio nuts, chopped and toasted
A few nuts for decorating the top
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C / Gas 4.
2. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
3. Place the sugar into the food processor with the basil leaves and blend.
3. Cream the butter in a mixer, add the basil sugar and cream until light and fluffy.
4. Add the vanilla and egg.
5. Fold in the sifted flour and bread soda, add the chopped chocolate and nuts.
6. Place a spoonful of the mixture onto the baking sheets, leaving about 5cm between the cookies.
7. Sprinkle a few nuts on top.
8. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until golden brown.
9. Cool slightly on the baking sheets and then move onto a cooling rack.
10. Store in an airtight container.
TIP: Substitute the pistachio nuts for hazelnuts or nibbed almnods.
Balsamic Basil Pork with Olives
While testing recipes for our Quick and Easy class we tried this on the BBQ and made the sauce on the BBQ as well and I couldn’t stop eating it!.
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 pork loin chops
2 tbsp green olives, pitted
A handful of basil leaves, torn
Salt and pepper
1. Mix the vinegar, oil, mustard and garlic in a bowl.
2. Score the pork and pour over the balsamic dressing and leave to marinade for 10 minutes.
3. Heat a heavy frying pan or griddle pan, cook the pork for about 4 minutes on each side.
4. Remove the pork from the pan and keep warm allowing it to “rest”.
5. Pour the marinade into the pan together with the olives, cook for 2 minutes.
6. Add the juices from the pork and check for seasoning.
7. Stir in the basil.
8. Place the pork onto a serving plate, spoon the basil and olive sauce over the pork and serve with new season potatoes.
10. Garnish with basil leaves.
Tip: Tear the leaves instead of chopping as they become bruised and black. It is also great in stirfries with chinese cabbage, aubergine, tofu and cashew nuts.
Chives are part of the alluim (onion) family. They grow abundantly in the herb garden and we try our best to harvest them quickly but they seem to be so happy and just continue to produce fine long thin stems that we can use in our salads, casseroles, fish dishes and much more. As the herb garden is so close to the cookery school, we step out and harvest the chives, as well as the pretty lilac flowers which look great with a watercress and orange salad.
Chives are so durable – keep a pot outside your door and you will be delighted that you can use it so much. Keep it damp and in a sunny part and it will reward you with a great bunch of stems. It is also packed with vitamin A and C as well as calcium and iron.
Here are some recipes to enjoy the fruits of our herb garden
Courgette, Leek and Chive Risotto
My next TV series, Catherine’s Roman Holiday, features all good things Italian – but simple too. I think food should not be complicated and that when the ingredients are good and fresh, the flavours should shine through. This risotto is an easy family supper recipe with the best of the Irish summer garden – courgettes and chives.
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small leek, finely sliced
1 medium courgette, grated
400g risotto rice
150ml white wine
1.5 litres chicken stock, heated to simmering
2 tbsp chopped chives
25g freshly grated Parmesan
Courgette crisps for garnish
1. Heat a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and the knob of butter. When the butter is foaming, add the leek and cook for 4 - 5 minutes, until it’s beginning to soften.
2. Add the garlic and rice and cook for a few minutes more, until the rice is shiny and opaque.
3. Add the wine and simmer for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
4. Reduce the heat and add the hot stock a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly until each ladleful is absorbed,
5. Add the courgettes at the last minute. The rice should be creamy but still firm to the bite.
6. Remove from the heat and stir in the chives and parmesan.
7. Season well and serve with courgette crisps.
To make courgette crisps:
Slice a courgette very thinly and fry until golden. Drain on kitchen paper. You can make these ahead of time and just pop them into the oven for 2 – 3 minutes to crisp.
Tip: When grating courgette, make sure that you squeeze the excess moisture out of the courgette, this gives a much better texture in general to courgette dishes.
Chive and Lemon Salmon Cakes
You could use any firm white fish in this recipe. My children love these with a summer leaf salad. I encourage them to create their own salads and we have a prize at the end – our family version of Ready Steady Cook!!!
350g cooked, skinned and boned salmon
350g freshly mashed potato
2 tbsp chopped chives
_ tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to season
Zest of _ lemon
1 beaten egg
60g breadcrumbs for coating
1. Mix the salmon and mashed potato, chives, cayenne and seasoning together with the lemon zest.
2. Form 8 flat cakes. Brush with beaten egg and roll in breadcrumbs. Chill for 30 minutes.
3. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Fry the cakes for approximately 4 - 5 minutes on each side until golden brown and crisp.
4. Serve with crème fraiche and lemon wedges on a bed of watercress.
Tip: If you haven’t crème fraiche, a little lemon mayonnaise with capers works well.
Instead of the breadcrumbs, you could use some finely ground hazelnuts or pinenut for the coating.
While we often think of lavender as being a traditional Victorian fragrance used to scent wardrobes and bedrooms, it also works beautifully in honey, vinegars and a variety of desserts such as ice creams, crème brulée and meringues.
I have used lavender sugar in these recipes and it is so easy to make, simply use 1 teaspoon of lavender flower heads in one cup of caster sugar, leave for few days or so, and shake from time to time. Sieve the sugar to remove the flowers and store in an airtight container. It is important to use organic flowers or purchase lavender from your local health shop making sure that it is the culinary grade. These recipes are from some of our cookery school classes and are always well received.
An old classic — lavender pairs very well with chocolate so try it in your next chocolate mousse or even crystallize some lavender flowers for decorating.
150g lavender caster sugar
150g chocolate, broken
100g self-raising flour, sieved
25g hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 180°Celsius or Gas 4.
2. Grease the base of a 20cm shallow, square cake tin and line with baking parchment.
3. Beat the eggs and sugar with a hand whisk.
4. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water (bain-marie) until smooth.
5. Stir the chocolate into the egg mixture.
6. Add the flour, nuts and stir again
7. Pour into the tin, spreading evenly.
8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until just set.
9. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto wire rack.
10. Take off the parchment paper and cut into 12 squares.
30g white chocolate for decorating
Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water (bain-marie).
Make a small paper piping bag. Snip the end and pipe daisy shapes onto parchment paper.
Leave to set. Remove with a palette knife and place on top of the brownie.
Lavender and Strawberry Shortbread Biscuits
Makes 25 —depending on size of cutter
We have added strawberries, if you have large ones you may only require 5 for this recipe. Serve the shortbread with fruit fools, compotes or as a wafer for an ice cream sandwich!
200g white flour
60g lavender caster sugar
6 strawberries, hulled and chopped
1. Preheat oven to 180˚Celsius or Gas 4.
2. Put the flour and sugar into a bowl and rub in the butter.
3. Add the strawberries.
4. Gather the mixture together and knead very lightly.
5. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
6. Roll out to 7mm thick.
7. Cut into rounds with a 6cm cutter or into heart shapes.
8. Bake in the oven until pale brown, approximately 15 minutes.
9. Remove and cool on a rack.
For all baking, don’t forget to reduce the oven temperature by about 15% when using a fan oven.
Coriander is a bit like marmite — you either love it or hate it. Reportedly, one in ten people cannot abide coriander as it leaves a soapy taste in the mouth. And I can echo that, as I have met many guests in our cookery school that perceive the leaves to be an unpleasant taste and smell. Nevertheless, I love coriander and use it in as many dishes as I can.
It grows easily, outdoors or in a tunnel, or keep a few pots on your window ledge. The leaves and stems can be used in cooking. Choose bright green leaves that are not yellowing or wilting. Coriander has great health benefits, namely vitamin A, B1 and 2, loads of vitamin C and iron. Add a few chopped leaves to your morning fruit juice. Coriander leaves and mango juice work very well together.
If you have an oversupply, try freezing coriander. Place the leaves on a baking tray lined with parchment and put it in the freezer for a few hours. When frozen, gather it into a zip-lock bag, label and date and it will keep frozen for up to two months. There is no need to thaw before adding to soups and casseroles.
To get the most flavour from the seeds, toast them in a dry pan and this allows all the wonderful aromatic flavours to escape. Seeds are easily available at supermarkets and health shops. Store them in a dry, cool place. Try using the seeds in the poaching liquid when preparing fish or adding a little ground coriander to pancakes to give them a flavour of Middle Eastern cooking.
Spicy Sweet Potato and Coriander Soup
With soup the trick is to make extra and freeze it, so there is always something tasty to hand when you need it. I adore this soup recipe and sometimes, instead of the sweet potatoes, I use butternut squash, turnip, potatoes or parsnips.
2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp hot curry paste (to taste)
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 potato, peeled and diced
1.2 litres hot chicken or vegetable stock
juice of a half-lemon
handful coriander leaves
freshly ground pepper
1. Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion, coriander and cumin seeds for about 5 minutes until softened.
2. Add the garlic, tomatoes and curry paste and cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes are softened and pulpy.
3. Add the sweet potatoes, potato and hot stock and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are very soft.
4. Add the fresh coriander leaves and blend the soup using a hand-held blender.
5. Add the lemon juice and check the seasoning.
6. To serve: ladle into warm bowls, top with a spoonful of crème fraiche and a few coriander leaves. Serve with warm naan bread.
Thai Noodle Salad
This is so easy for a light, healthy lunch on the patio. You could also add a little roughly chopped roasted chicken or even a few mango slivers. The dressing can be made a few days in advance.
160g mange-tout or sugarsnap peas, trimmed
200g egg noodles
60g cashew nuts, toasted
3 carrots, peeled and cut into julienne
1 small cucumber, sliced into ribbons
bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 tsp sweet chilli sauce
3 tbsp sesame oil
5 tbsp light soy sauce
juice and zest of a lime
pinch of brown sugar
salt and pepper
sprigs of coriander for garnishing
1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and blanch the mange-tout or sugarsnap peas for 1 or 2 minutes until slightly tender. Drain and refresh in cold water.
2. Cook the noodles according to the instruction on the pack. Set aside.
3. Prepare the dressing by whisking together the chilli, sweet chilli sauce, sesame oil, light soy sauce, juice and zest of 1 lime, sugar, salt and pepper.
4. Wash the cucumber and slice lengthways into ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Set aside.
5. Arrange the mange-tout peas, noodles, carrots and coriander into a large bowl and drizzle over a little dressing.
6. Toss the salad and place on a large serving platter or individual bowls, sprinkle with a few coriander sprigs and the cashew nuts and serve immediately.
Cooking with majoram
Marjoram is the sweetly scented herb native to the Mediterranean region. It grows very well in Sicily, where the locals believe that it had the power to banish sorrow. In Crete, it was the symbol of honour.
There are three varieties but the most popular here is the oregano also known as wild marjoram which has the strongest flavour and is used mainly in Italian cooking. We grow a good supply for the Southern Italian cookery classes.
An excellent stuffing for chicken, marjoram enhances the flavours of pumpkin and carrots (hence I have included the recipe for the soup) and works well with cheese and egg dishes. Add marjoram to stuffed mushrooms and of course is the most important herb for pizzas.
Marjoram freezes very well; chop a teaspoon of the herb, add a little water or wine and freeze as an ice cube, this is very convenient just to pop out into a casserole or soup.
Most importantly, it is incredible easy to grow and looks so attractive not only in the herb garden but as part of a mixed border too.
Carrot and Marjoram Soup
All vegetable soups freeze very well, so I tend to make them in large batches and freeze. That way, I can always put a quick supper on the table or give my father a quick snack when he comes in from working on the farm.
6 large carrots, diced
3 shallots, finely chopped
Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp butter
800ml chicken stock
2 tsp marjoram, chopped
Cream to garnish
Marjoram leaves for garnish
Sauté the carrots and shallots in the butter until the shallots are soft. Add the marjoram, chicken stock and stir. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time until the carrots are soft.
Add the orange zest and simmer for about 2 minutes. Blend in a food processor until smooth.
Return to the pan and heat gently. Ladle into warm soup bowls and garnish with a swirl of cream and a few marjoram leaves. Serve with crusty bread.
Tip: To test when the soup is ready for pureeing, simple press a cube of carrot against the side of the saucepan with the back of the wooden spoon. It should be very easy to squash the carrot. Then remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before pureeing. This applies to all pureed vegetable soups
Chicken with Roasted Marjoram Tomatoes
One pots are so easy and it is always good to have a few in your repertoire of recipes. I sometimes add chopped courgette to the tomatoes in this recipe, especially as I always have a glut of courgettes in the mid to late summer.
4 large chicken breasts
120g cherry tomatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
8 – 10 black olives
1 tbsp fresh marjoram, chopped
Salt and pepper to season
Preheat oven to 190C / Gas 5.
Toss the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, chilli, olives and marjoram in a bowl.
Place chicken into an ovenproof baking dish.
Pour the tomatoes and olive mixture over the chicken, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
Roast the chicken for about 20 - 25 minutes or until the juices of the chicken run clear, spooning over the juices from time to time. Transfer chicken to serving platter. Drizzle the tomatoes, olives and juices over the chicken.
Garnish with a few sprigs of marjoram. Serve with potato and onion wedges.
Tip: Try this recipe with some fish; either cod, haddock or monkfish would be lovely as an alternative to chicken
Cooking with fresh fruit and vegetables: LEMON BALM
One of my favourite herbs is lemon balm — I adore its gentle lemon scent. Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, is related to mint and very easy to grow. My only problem is that it grows like crazy in my herb garden and can take over. For that reason I have had to find some inventive used for this wonderful herb. But it is really such a versatile plant. I use it not only for garnish but also to make a tea infusion, poach it with apricots or gooseberries, finely chop it and add it to cakes and add it to whipped cream with a dash of limoncello.
Other uses for lemon balm include infusing it in ice cream or berry sauces. It also works well with sugar syrup for fruits like mango or orange. Infuse the leaves in caster sugar for a day or two and use the sugar for baking cakes and biscuits.
Strawberry and Lemon Balm Smoothie
The 21st century breakfast — the smoothie. If you don’t have a smoothie maker, your blender will do just as good a job. I particularly like the combination of the strawberries with the apple in this recipe, but equally you could use raspberries or blueberries.
100ml apple juice, chilled
120g strawberries, hulled and halved
4 lemon balm leaves
5 ice cubes
2 tsp honey
Add the strawberries, lemon balm leaves, ice and pour the apple juice into the blender or smoothie maker. Blend for 40 seconds. Check for sweetness and add more honey to taste, if required. Pour into tall glasses, garnish with a sprig of lemon balm and serve immediately.
Lemon Balm and Raspberry Shortcake
I dry my lemon balm in the early autumn. I simply pull the stems, tie them together and hang upside down to dry. Once dry, I pull the leaves — they will fall off rather easily — and crumble to leaves to store for the winter.
In this recipe, I sometimes add the ground, dried lemon balm to the shortcake ingredients, not only for flavour but also for the attractive green flecks it creates in the biscuits.
This shortcake recipe is a very easy dessert for a dinner party — no stress involved. The biscuits can be made a few days ahead and kept in an airtight container.
For the biscuits
170g white flour
55g caster sugar
For the filling
100g raspberries, retaining a few for decorating
3 tbsp cream
4 lemon balm leaves
2 tbsp sugar
lemon balm leaves for decorating
icing sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 180˚Celsius/Gas 4. Place the flour and sugar into a bowl and rub in the butter. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 7mm thick. Cut into 16 rounds with a 6cm cutter or into heart shapes. Bake in the oven until pale brown, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack.
Meanwhile, using a pestle and mortar (or a mini food processor), crush the lemon balm and sugar together, add to the mascarpone and cream. If still too stiff, add 1 more tablespoon of cream.
To assemble: place 1 biscuit disc on the serving plate. Spoon some lemon balm mascarpone cream onto the biscuit, add a few raspberries followed by another biscuit disc and press down lightly. Decorate with raspberries and dust with icing sugar.