Darina’s late mother, Elizabeth O’Connell, could make pastry and bread like no other. And bringing up nine children, as well as serving food in her pub, the Sportman’s Inn in Cullohill, Co Laois, she sure had a lot of practice. This is the pie that she baked every day for the pub. It’s also great with other fruit, such as rhubarb, plums or gooseberries.
700g cooking apples
150g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 egg, beaten
A very small splash of milk
For the pastry
50g caster sugar
350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 Make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer. Add the eggs, one by one, then reduce the speed and mix in the flour. Turn out on to a piece of floured baking parchment and flatten into a round, then wrap and chill for 1 hour, or overnight, if possible.
2 Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 3mm. Use a little less than two thirds of the pastry to line an 18cm x 32cm x 2.5cm tin, or a 23cm diameter round tin. Roll the remaining third to a rectangle or circle to fit the tin as a lid.
3 Peel, core and dice the apples into 2cm chunks and place in the tin. Sprinkle with sugar and add the cloves. Brush a little water around the pastry rim and lay the pastry lid over the apples, pressing the pastry edges together to seal. Use the leftover pastry to make shapes to decorate the top. Combine the beaten egg and milk to make an eggwash and brush over the pastry.
4 Bake in the oven for 45-60 min, until the apples are tender and the pastry is a rich golden brown. Sprinkle with sugar to serve.
Baked creamy vanilla rice pudding
Rice pudding is ingrained as one of the desserts of my childhood. Mum used to bake it rather than cook it on the hob so that it would come out with a golden topping, but still be creamy underneath. I have tried using different jams in the bottom of the dish before the rice goes in and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I think raspberry works best.
2 tbsp raspberry jam (optional)
75g pearl rice/pudding rice
50g caster sugar
150ml regular or double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the roasted rhubarb
100g caster sugar
1 Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3.
2 If you want to add jam, spread it on the base of a 1-litre pie dish. Mix the rice and sugar together in a bowl and spread evenly over the bottom of the dish.
3 Pour the milk and cream into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir in the vanilla extract, then carefully pour over the rice and sugar (I usually do this while the dish is sitting on the rack in the oven).
4 Bake in the oven for 1¼-1½ hours, until the rice is soft and the top is golden.
5 To roast the rhubarb, pre-heat your second oven to 230C/gas 8. Slice the rhubarb at an angle into pieces 3cm long, then tip into a bowl. Place the butter and sugar into a saucepan and stir to melt the butter. Pour over the rhubarb and stir to mix, then spread out in a single layer in a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 12 min or until tender and a little scorched around the edges.
6 Serve rice pudding with roasted rhubarb and all its delicious juices.
Blueberry and lemon almond cake
Sweet blueberries love the tangy kick of lemons, while lots of ground almonds bring a buttery richness to this gorgeous gluten-free cake.
100g butter, plus extra for greasing
100g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
150g ground almonds
100g blueberries (fresh or frozen)
25g fresh blueberries, to decorate
For the lemon icing
75g icing sugar
Juice of ¼ lemon
1 Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3. Butter the sides of a 20cm cake tin (I use a springform tin) and line the base with a disc of baking parchment.
2 Cream the butter very well, then add the caster sugar and lemon zest and beat well. Add the eggs, one by one. Mix in the ground almonds, then tip the mixture into the prepared tin, levelling it out well. Scatter the blueberries over the top.
3 Bake in the oven for 30-35 min, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Take out of the oven and leave to stand for 10 min, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack.
4 Once cool, place the cake on a serving plate and make the lemon icing. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually mix in enough lemon juice to bring it to a thick, creamy, drizzling consistency. Drizzle the icing in a criss-cross design over the top of the cake, then scatter with the fresh blueberries.
Sue’s oatmeal bread
This recipe surprised me from the start. When Sue Cullinane, one of our great teachers at Ballymaloe, told me about this simple bread from her childhood made from oats, yoghurt and a couple of other ingredients, I was not so sure. I was even less sure the first time I tried making it, as I tipped the heavy, dense dough into the tin. But, hey presto, after one hour in the oven I realised I had a gorgeously nutty and nutritious loaf, not dissimilar to a great brown soda bread.
Makes one 900g loaf
425g rolled oats (not jumbo or pinhead)
¾ tsp sea salt
2 tsp bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
2 tbsp mixed seeds
500g natural yoghurt
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Line the base of a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment.
2 In a large bowl, mix the oats, salt, bread soda and mixed seeds.
3 Whisk the egg into the yoghurt. Pour the yoghurt and eggs into the dry ingredients and mix well. The dough is meant to be dry and sticky at this stage, so don’t worry.
4 Scoop the dough into the tin and bake for 50 min.
5 Turn out of the loaf tin and bake for a further 10 min. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Tip If you use a 500g pot of yoghurt, you can measure the oats by filling the pot twice.
Iced banoffee cake
If the banana-toffee twosome is your thing, try making this version of a banoffee cake that can conveniently be made in advance and stored in the freezer until serving.
800ml vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
Grated chocolate, to serve
For the base
200g digestive biscuits
75g butter, melted
For the toffee sauce
50g brown sugar
90g golden syrup
30g plain flour
75ml regular or double cream
1 Put the base of a 23cm springform cake tin upside down in the tin (so the lip of the base is facing down) and secure the clasp. This will make it easier to slide the cake off the tin base when it’s ready to serve.
2 Put the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and whizz to the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs (or place in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin). Tip them into a bowl, add the melted butter and mix well, then tip into the tin. Press firmly into the bottom of the tin to create an even layer, then flatten the surface and place in the fridge while you make the toffee sauce.
3 Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the brown sugar and golden syrup and bring to the boil, then add the flour and whisk the mixture over the heat until it is smooth and thickened. Next, pour in the cream and milk, whisking all the time, and continue to boil, while whisking, for another 2 min, until thickened. Take off the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
4 Peel the bananas and cut into slices 5mm thick, then lay evenly over the biscuit base. Once the sauce has almost cooled, pour it over the bananas. Place in the freezer for 5-10 min and take out the ice cream to soften slightly. Spread the slightly softened ice cream over the toffee sauce to cover it completely, then return to the freezer until the ice cream is firm.
5 When ready to serve, scatter the cake with the grated chocolate and cut into slices. Serve straight away.
Apricot and cardamom bread and butter pudding
I blame my Nordic roots for my obsession with cardamom. It works its magic with apricots in this divine and creamy bread and butter pudding recipe. Be sure to seek out plump green cardamom pods with aromatic black seeds inside.
10 fat green cardamom pods, peeled and crushed to give ¾ tsp
350ml regular or double cream
100g sugar (caster or granulated), plus 1 tbsp
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g dried apricots, chopped
50ml boiling water
6 slices of white bread, crusts removed (slightly stale if possible)
30g soft butter
Softly whipped cream
1 Place the crushed cardamom seeds in a saucepan with the cream, milk and the 100g of sugar. Stir over a high heat as it comes up to the boil and make sure the sugar dissolves. Once it comes to boiling point, turn off the heat and set aside for 2 min, then pour it on to the beaten eggs and vanilla extract, whisking all the time.
2 Place the chopped apricots in a cup or heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set the apricots aside to plump up while you butter the bread.
3 Lay the bread out on your worktop and butter it with the soft butter. Cut the slices into 12 triangles. Lay 6 triangles of bread in the bottom of a 1-litre pie dish, buttered side up, then scatter the plumped apricots over the bread. Arrange the remaining triangles in a chevron design over the apricots. Add the cream and egg mixture, then sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon of sugar and set aside for 1 hour if possible (or overnight).
4 Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and place a bain marie of steaming water in the middle of the oven (a roasting tin half-full with boiling water). Place the pie dish in the roasting tin and cook for 1 hour or until golden and puffed. Allow to cool slightly, then serve with softly whipped cream.