Roast parsnip soup with apple crisps

from ‘Avoca cafe cookbook 2’

‘Perhaps the sweetest of all the root vegetables, parsnips are an integral part of winter eating, their nutty robust flavour making them as good with roast meats as they are on their own’.

A perfect autumn warmer for a cold evening…

3 parsnips, diced
3 tbsps olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 potato, finely diced
50g butter
600ml light chicken stock
4 tsps creme fraiche
4 tsps chestnut puree
1 tbsp snipped chives
1 eating apple

Make the apple crisps well ahead, preheat the oven to 140c, core the apple and thinly slice. Lay the slices out on a baking tray and place in the oven for 2 hours, or until dried and crisp.

Preheat the oven to 200c. Toss the diced parsnips in the olive oil, season well and roast in the oven for 20 mins or until well coloured.

Gently saute the onion and potato in the butter over a low heat for 10 mins, stirring occasionally. Add the roasted parsnips and the stock and simmer for 20 mins, or until all the veg are soft. Allow to cool slightly, liquidise, then reheat and check the seasoning.

Garnish each bowl with a tsp of creme fraiche, a tsp of chestnut puree and the apple crisps, along with a few snipped chives.

Pea picking

Ryan and Fionn spent a good deal of time this summer standing in front of various pea beds stripping them clean of their fruit…. it was one of the only ways to get them to stand still if we had to get a (very quick) job done in the garden. They love picking, opening (with their teeth mostly) and gobbling the peas inside. They do get a bit confused between round pods that need to be opened and sugar peas that you eat whole (pod and all)… so have given up trying to stop them chewing the whole pod – they like it  and doesn’t seem to do them any harm… and who am I to challenge a two year old doing something that they like?

Bees in the garden

The world bee population is in dire danger, and with it, so is plant life everywhere – anyone who has seen ‘bee movie’ knows what happened when the bees stopped working…no bees, no pollen carrying, no plant pollination, no plants. We planted flowers everywhere we could this year – because we like them mostly, but it is great to see the bees buzzing around the sunflowers on a (rare) sunny day – gives hope that we can make a difference!  SO – GROW FLOWERS!!!

Pumpkin hunting

One of the jobs that the children love the most in the garden is looking for the pumpkins – it is a treasure hunt and there is great excitement to see who will find the most/biggest hiding under the huge leaves that spread over more than 4 feet for each plant.  There are some great ones ripening (hopefully) on the beds now – with our wet weather the beds are soggy, even with the ground cover fabric, so we have put broken slates under each pumpkin stop them from rotting on the ground….

Apple harvest

After a couple of years nursing new apple trees and losing most to birds we are delighted with our apples this year – on the trees planted in 2006 we have had a great crop of elstar apples that looked gorgeous and tasted really delicious. Quite a few were eaten straight from the trees – and they didn’t last long, but they really did taste how an apple should! I recently heard that it has been a bad year for apples in Ireland (no doubt weather related) – so feel even luckier for that.

As Autumn rolls in…

The change of the season is well underway and we have changed over most of our tunnel crops. The tomato plants are still cropping well – most of our other crops had to go to make room for new season planting. The new winter salads, orientals, spinach and herbs are all in place and getting established while the days are still fairly long and relatively (?) warm. Even though the weather has been so wet the growth in the tunnels has been very good for the last couple of weeks.

The new season of root vegetables are coming in – Irish carrots, parsnips and swede turnips are all available now.

We have two beds of pumpkins that the boys love to search for under their huge leaves – they are ripening now and will be ready in October.

There is a calm (at last!) in the garden – everything is growing away steadily, but the intense growth has definitely passed and you can feel the change of the season clearly.

I never thought I would look forward to winter – but, having chased the garden since last March (and not been able to keep up at times…), we need a quiet patch to enjoy what has grown, to think about what we have learned from our efforts (alot!), and to plan how to use our experience to do it all better next year!

Health benefits of kale



Publications International, Ltd., the Editors of.  “Kale.”  23 March 2007. <>  21 August 2009.
Inside this Article

Health Benefits of Kale
Kale is king. Along with broccoli, it is one of the nutrition stand-outs among vegetables. It fights fat through its ability to mingle in a variety of roles — in side dishes, combined in main dishes, or in salads.

For a green, kale is unusually high in fiber. This helps create the bulk you need to fill you up and to keep you full for a good amount of time. Kale is also an excellent source of nutrients, especially vitamin A and calcium. With a combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, kale is a dieter’s dream food.

Health Benefits of Kale

Though greens in general are nutritious foods, kale stands a head above the rest. Not only is it one of your best sources of beta-carotene, one of the antioxidants believed by many nutrition experts to be a major player in the battle against cancer, heart disease, and certain age-related chronic diseases, it also provides other important nutrients.

In addition to beta-carotene, kale posses other important carotenoids: lutein and zeaxathin. These carotenoids help keep UV rays from damaging the eyes and causing cataracts.

According to recent research results, kale is an incredible source of well-absorbed calcium, which is one of the many factors that may help prevent osteoporosis. It also provides decent amounts of vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin B6, manganese, and potassium.

The manganese in kale helps your body’s own antioxidant defense system, superoxide dismutase, protecting you from damaging free radicals. Its folate and B6 team up to keep homocysteine levels down, which may help prevent heart disease, dementia, and osteoporosis bone fractures.

Nutritional Values of Cooked Kale
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Calories     18
Fat     0 g
Saturated Fat
0 g
Cholesterol     0 mg
Carbohydrate     4 g
Protein     1 g
Dietary Fiber     1 g
15 mg
Vitamin A
8,854 IU
Folic Acid     9 micrograms
Vitamin C     27 mg
Calcium     47 mg
Magnesium     15 mg
Potassium     148 mg
Carotenoids     17,172 micrograms

Traditional teatime sponge cake

Traditional Sponge Cake
From ‘Avoca Tea time’

Although this is a recipe that everyone is familiar with I am including it for a couple of reasons: It has no butter, so is low fat (even with cream filling) which reduces cake related guilt… it needs no raising agent, which I think is amazing, considering how light it turns out… and it shows off how good duck eggs are for baking. Duck eggs have more albumen in the white, which means that they are better than hen eggs for any recipe that needs them to thicken and lift (eg meringues, buns and particularly – sponge cake). And – it really is an old fashioned treat.

5 large v fresh eggs (hen are fine, but duck are better)
150g caster sugar
150g plain flour, sieved

Strawberry jam
200ml whipping cream, whipped

1.    Preheat oven to 170c. Line 2 x 16cm, lined with parchment paper
2.    Beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until the thick ribbon stage is reached – takes about 10mins. Very gently, with a metal spoon, fold in the sieved flour.
3.    Spread the mix evenly between the two tins, bake for 20-25 mins, until firm to the touch. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
4.    When totally cold top the first cake with jam, then cream. You could also add sliced fresh berries. Place the second cake on top. Dust with sieved icing sugar and decorate with berries/flowers if wished.

Broccoli, cherry tomato, hazelnut & feta salad

Broccoli, cherry tomato, feta & hazelnut salad
From ‘Avoca Salads’

This is a great combination of sweet, salt and the crunchiness of the broccoli and nuts. Lovely as a side dish with green salad and fresh boiled potatoes.

110g hazelnuts
400g broccoli florets – bite sized
110g feta cheese, bite sized chunks
225g cherry tomatoes, halved
200ml French dressing

Toast the hazelnuts in a hot oven, until skins brown. Tip into a tea towel and rub off the skins. Allow to cool, then  put the hazelnuts in a bowl with the broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Gently toss with the dressing and season with pepper. Salt may not be needed, as the feta is usually salty enough. Top with the feta.

Courgette & Almond soup

Courgette & Almond soup
From ‘Avoca Soups’

This is a delicious soup – I got the recipe and a bowl from a trader at UL farmers market (Sarah at Chilli loco) – it’s creamy, mild and really tasty.

50g butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
600ml veg stock
3 courgettes, finely chopped
25g ground almonds
125ml double cream, plus extra to serve (could be single if fat conscious…)
125ml milk
Flaked almonds to serve

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onion and potato and cook over a very low heat for 5 mins. Add the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 mins or until the potato is cooked. Add the courgettes, bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 mins. As soon as the courgettes are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the almonds, cream and milk. Puree in a blender, then reheat gently and season to taste. Serve topped with a few toasted flaked almonds and a swirl of cream.