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Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread

I did a course at Ballymaloe near Cork in Ireland some years ago and fell in love with the place and the people. My wife Melanie Eclare photographed the gardening section of one of Darina Allen’s books ‘A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School’. The cookery school they have there is surrounded by their own organic farm and garden and pretty much everything they use in the school kitchens is grown on site. You can’t beat that. This bread is about as good as it gets. It is the staple on their tables every day and is the first thing you learn to make when you get there as a student. Thanks to Timmy Allen for teaching me this, it never lets me down.

When making Ballymaloe brown yeast bread, remember that yeast is a living organism. In order to grow, it requires warmth, moisture and nourishment. The yeast feeds on the sugar and produces bubbles of carbon dioxide which causes the bread to rise. Heat of over 50˚C will kill yeast. Have the ingredients and equipment at blood heat. White or brown sugar, honey golden syrup, treacle or molasses may be used. Each will give a slightly different flavour to the bread. At Ballymaloe we use treacle. The dough rises more rapidly with 30g (1oz) yeast than with 25g (3/4oz) yeast.

We use a stone ground wholemeal. Different flours produce breads of different textures and flavour. The amount of natural moisture in the flour varies according to atmospheric conditions. The quantity of water should be altered accordingly. The dough should be just too wet to knead – in fact it does not require kneading. The main ingredients – wholemeal flour, treacle and yeast are highly nutritious.

Note: Dried yeast may be used instead of baker’s yeast. Follow the same method but use only half the weight given for fresh yeast. Allow longer to rise. Fast acting yeast may also be used, follow the instructions on the packet.


Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8.

Mix the flour with the salt. The ingredients should all be at room temperature. In a small bowl or Pyrex jug, mix the treacle with some of the water, 150ml (5floz/generous 1/2 cup) for 1 loaf and crumble in the yeast.

Sit the bowl for a few minutes in a warm place to allow the yeast to start to work. Meanwhile check to see if the yeast is rising. After about 4 or 5 minutes it will have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top.

When ready, stir and pour it, with all the remaining water (10fl ozs/275ml), into the flour to make a loose-wet dough. The mixture should be too wet to knead. Allow to sit in the bowl for 7-10 minutes (time varies depending on room temperature). Meanwhile, brush the base and sides of the bread tins with a good sunflower oil. Scoop the mixture into the greased tin. Sprinkle the top of the loaves with sesame seeds if you like. Put the tin in a warm place somewhere close to the cooker or near a radiator perhaps. Cover the tin with a tea towel to prevent a skin from forming. Just as the bread comes to the top of the tin, remove the tea towel and pop the loaves in the oven 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for another 40-50 minutes or until it looks nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. The bread will rise a little further in the oven. This is called “oven spring”. If however the bread rises to the top of the tin before it goes into the oven it will continue to rise and flow over the edges.

We usually remove the loaf from the tin about 10 minutes before the end of cooking and put them back into the oven to crisp all round, but if you like a softer crust there’s no need to do this.

Crispy Kale

image009We have so much kale growing in the garden because it is one of the best ways to get your greens in through the winter. It is very easy to grow, gives great value and is highly nutritious. By the time we are fed up with it and it is going bitter towards the end of the winter we feed it to the cows, who love any fresh green by the end of the winter, or we compost it. Making sure to chop up the thick woody stalks so they will break down easily. The variety we grow is Dwarf Green Curled’

To make crispy curly kale:

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. De-stalk 5 large kale leaves from the mid-rib. Chop finely.
  3. Toss in a bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil and a large pinch of salt.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until crispy.

Serve immediately while crispy and hot.


Shallot Tarte Tartin

Shallot Tarte Tatin

This is a recipe from Riverford that I love because I am a huge fan of shallots. I grow loads of these baby onions for their sweetness and use when I don’t want a whole onion. They are also a key ingredient in sauces like béarnaise, and personally I could not do without them. With thanks to Riverford Farm. They are big organic farmers in our area who produce tons of food from land managed organically. Can’t say fairer than that.

A savoury twist on the classic French apple tart, this makes an excellent lunch or supper with a simple green salad and some good sharp cheese (goat’s or other). If you don’t have the rightsized ovenproof frying pan, transfer the cooked shallots to a small greased pie dish or shallow cake tin before topping with the pastry.


  • 50g butter
  • 500g shallots, peeled
  • 120ml good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • small bunch of thyme, tied together tightly with string
  • 1 x 300g ready-rolled sheet
  • all-butter puff pastry
  • salt and black pepper


  1. Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed ovenproof frying pan (beware wooden and plastic handles!). The shallots will shrink a lot, so the pan might need to be smaller than you’d imagine. Add the shallots and cook on a medium heat until they start to brown, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the balsamic vinegar, thyme, a teaspoon of salt, some pepper and enough water to cover. Poach the shallots until they are cooked through and completely soft, about 10 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Remove the thyme, then bubble the liquid and reduce it until the balsamic vinegar becomes syrupy. Remove from the heat and check the seasoning.
  3. Cut a circle of pastry a little larger than the pan, then lay it over the shallots and quickly tuck down the sides (without burning your fingers). Cut a small slit in the centre for a steam vent. Immediately place the pan in the oven and bake for 20–30 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, and then invert on to a large flat plate or wooden board, cut into wedges and serve warm.

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