Buckwheat and Blackcurrant Chocolate Slab

Chocolate Cake with Blackcurrants

Every year, in the field at the back of the cottage, I plant something meaningful. A mighty oak now 8 foot tall, found as an acorn in a wood near Gort, co. Galway in 1995; another one a little bit smaller, given years ago by my Dad, from my Grand Parents’ house in Brittany. I want the wildlife to be happy, as this is not really for me, a mere contribution, a legacy maybe? Maybe… I have Hazel, Chestnut and Walnut trees in there, Aronia and Sea Buckthorn for the crazy berries and a couple of years ago, I planted some goose berries and blackcurrants… At last, a decent crop!

The Field

The rule about foraging, is 1/3 for your face, the rest for nature. Of course I enjoyed picking a few berries as I went, one could call it quality control I guess, I just wanted to make sure, or rather go back to my summers in Fouesnant, when we gorged ourselves in the tall fragrant bushes by the house while playing “Hide and Seek”; I think I enjoy the smell of the Blackcurrant leaves more than anything else… The truth is out!


I am not going to lie to you; as I was gathering a wee bowl of the berries, the fruits of my loot, my mind was already set on a chocolate theme; brownies came to mind, but my Gran used to make a fine chocolate cake – my Aunt too- and I wanted to sync all these inter cultural memories in something a bit lighter, using some of that Buckwheat flour my Boss brought back from Brittany where he and his family had sojourned a few weeks ago: ” Brittany is really, really nice” he said to me while handing me the gift. ” I told you so, now you know, now you know…”.

Blackcurrants and Gooseberries

You’ll Need:

  • 150 g of 70% Dark chocolate
  • 150 g of Iris salted butter
  • 4 whole happy eggs
  • 50 g of organic honey
  • 80 g of buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp of natural “wine” baking powder ( optional)
  • Two handfuls of blackcurrants or your favourite berries
Chocolate and Butter

How To?

In a bowl over a Bain Marie, melt the chocolate honey and butter together. In another bowl, mix the flour with the eggs and whisk until smooth… When the chocolate and butter mix has melted, pour the flour and egg mix on top while keep stirring…

Ganache, flour and eggs

Pre-heat the oven at 180 c and take a shallow oven dish, the reason behind is that you want a quick and uniform bake; make sure the dish is rubbed with butter and flour ( remove excess flour). Pour the chocolate mix and top and tap left, right and centre for the mix to be well spread. Add the berries on top, gently pressing on them… Bake at 180 c for 20 minutes ( check after that with the tip of a knife, all ovens are different but this should do)…

Fruits on top before baking

Take the slab out of the oven and let it cool by the window…

Ready to serve…

You’ll find that this chocolate cake is very light and digest, yet packed with flavours. The “zing” of the blackcurrants work really well. I serve it with reduced homemade jam sieved and a bit of fresh cream…

Chocolate Cake with Blackcurrants

Keep Well and Eat Happy

Slán Tamall


Raw Beetroot and Watermelon Carpaccio

Organic beetroot and watermelon Carpaccio

Something weird happened yesterday; that guy I know came in to buy a few bits, olive oil and some cheese of course. Always friendly, touching fifty, a happy family man who runs a retail business not too far from here, in the middle of the Island some might say. Like a lot of people from this area, being involved or even from a farming background is almost inevitable. We were chatting and he shared with me some good news he had just received regarding his own business, that that extension will happen after all…

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Butternut Squash Ravioli with Young Buck Cheese Sauce

Butternut Squash Ravioli with fennel pistou

It was July 1996, I had moved a couple of months earlier in Galway, over staying my welcome from my West Belfast friends I had met the previous summer. The company and the craíc were good which didn’t entice me to find my own place. I didn’t take up too much space, a sleeping bag behind the sofa and a few boxes in the corner, a safe little space, peaceful… But the peace got broken that night in July; a stand off over the annual orange order parade in Drumcree, outside Portadown in County Armagh, escalating in riots that spread across the North, resulting in two deaths and hundreds injured. The North was on lock down and the house turned into a refugee centre, friends literally fleeing violence, others, holidaying in the south, unable to go home. The TV was on all the time, the radio and the huge anxiety was palpable when the phone rang in the middle of the night, fearing for the safety of a loved one as most of them had experienced at some stage. I was going to throw a bit of humour on the whole thing, calling this post “Orange is the old Black”, but instead this story inspired me to do a little recipe, with butternut squash, a cheese from Newtownards in the North, called Young Buck  Buckwheat from Brittany, and fresh fennel from the garden, to more peaceful times, may long it continues!

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Tabouleh Blues Tale

Tabouleh and Hummus toasts

When I was a kid, my Dad wasn’t the cook in the house; my mother – and through silly cultural reasons- naturally adopted the role. That said, it didn’t mean that my father, like other men in Brittany couldn’t or wouldn’t cook; “au contraire mon frère” like we say in some parts of Dublin 4. I remember how, a long time ago, an Irish guy explained to me that a man who cooks is considered as, well, a bit of a sissy… To which I replied a bit surprised and annoyed at that silly cliché ( now long gone), that if cooking was making a man more effeminate, having a shower with 14 other lads after the Sunday Game must just be a bit of male bonding so… I know it was a cheap shot, but it just came out like that. I’ll stick to cooking thank you.

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Smoked Tuna Salad

Smoked Tuna salad
Smoked Tuna Salad

Last Thursday, I went to give a talk and a tasting with the staff of a famous restaurant in BlackLion, Co. Cavan… ( ok, if you must know, it was MacNean House), lovely people, beautiful place, amazing Cavan countryside on the way to Leitrim and Sligo, literately a stone throw with the Fermanagh border, Belcoo, or what the locals euphemistically call “The North”… You’ve got to love it! I enjoy doing these cheesy talks, but somehow I feel a certain anxiety and apprehension, I hide it well, I face it well but this leaves me in a paradoxical discomfort. To remedy this – at least for a while – I like to abandon myself, switch off and return to my first love, wildlife, nature, ornithology. The day before, superb sunshine out, I headed for Westmeath, Lough Derravaragh to be precise….

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Melon and Mint Ice Cream

Melon and mint ice cream

Something amused me the other day; I stumbled upon a new trend called “Avolatte” or for you and me, a latte or a flat white coffee being made in an avocado skin. That is right, you read correctly. Maybe it was a bit of Australian humour, hippsterization of food gone wrong, a world gone mad in search of novel ideas… I just smirked all the way home, feeling a bit sorry for people who clearly had lost it… Yes, I smirked and that very night I woke up smelling a strong whiff of humble pie, freshly baked, the sweet aroma of revenge filling up my room…

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A Lemon Tart for Nikki

Lemon Tart and Coffee

In 1982, we left the city for an idyllic life by the shores of the “Golfe”. Building a house was a big deal then, and I guess it always kind of is, especially the first home you are going to owe, move in as a family. The wonderful adventure lasted 8 years, all the ingredients for happiness were obvious, laid magically in front of us, vocations were born there, the start of a long life as a “Blown In”, a life of never really belonging anywhere and a talent for making new friends quite easily… Yes, a lot happened under that roof in 8 years; life changing moments? Absolutely! Life shattering? Definitely! By 1990, it was all over, my parents separated and my sister and I kindly refer to our childhood and teenage years’ abode as “The House of Hell”…

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