Food file


MARIE-CLAIRE DIGBYtalks about food

Let them eat cake

As well as being good for frying and roasting, rapeseed oil can be used in baking, and if you buy one produced in Ireland, such as Derrycamma Farm (, you’re supporting local industry, too. Former Cavan resident Becky Wiggins, who blogs at, had me sold on the idea when she wrote about a moist, crumbly lemon drizzle cake recipe she makes with it. Now back living in her native Hertfordshire, Wiggins generously agreed to share her recipe, and it’s simplicity itself. The heart-shaped bundt cake tin she used is available from (£29.95), or Ann McNamee of Kitchen Complements on Chatham Street, Dublin 2, which stocks some of this Nordicware range, can order it on request.

Lemon and almond cake

100ml rapeseed oil

225g caster sugar

3 large eggs

1 lemon, zested and juiced

250g self-raising flour

50g ground almonds

1 lemon and about 3 tbsp icing sugar for the drizzle

Preheat an oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4. Dribble a little rapeseed oil into a medium cake tin, rubbing it about with your fingers.

Put the rapeseed oil, sugar, lemon zest and the eggs into a bowl and mix until light and foamy. Add the flour, almonds and lemon juice and stir in gently.

Pour the mixture into your oiled cake tin and bake it for 40 to 50 minutes (check whether it’s done by poking a knife into the centre – it should come out clean). Leave the cake to cool slightly, then tip on to a rack. Squeeze the second lemon and mix the juice with the icing sugar. Drizzle this all over the cake.


Fresh, irreverent and sometimes laugh-out-loud observations from Antrim-raised, London-based Luke Mackay (left), a private caterer and professional chef who says he has “advanced wine qualifications, a second-class English degree, Padi advanced scuba diving, and precisely no cooking qualifications”. That didn’t stop him rising to the position of head of hospitality at the BBC, though he’s now to be found slaving over hot stoves at an exclusive Notting Hill tennis club – both sources of excellent gossip, as you’d imagine. Definitely one to follow.

It’s blueberry time again, and at Derryvilla Farm in Co Offaly you can pick your own during August for €10 a kilo, a fraction of the shop price. The farm is 2.5 miles outside Portarlington, on the Edenderry road, and picking times are 9am-4.30pm Mon to Fri; 10am-4pm Sat; noon-4pm Sun.

Massive discounts online

Food shopping online used to serve one of two purposes – tracking down elusive artisan products, or simply ticking the boxes on the weekly shop and waiting for the supermarket delivery van. But there’s another type of online food retailer: websites specialising in selling non-perishable food products that have passed or are nearing their best-before date, at extremely cheap prices. They’re becoming a big business. Not everything these sites offer is past its best-before date – some products are slow-moving stock or cancelled orders. And where items are out of date, they are things that don’t pose any health danger. The best-before date, where it is approaching or exceeded, is always stated. will deliver up to 29kg of cut-price food and cleaning products to addresses in southern Ireland for £13.99; for addresses in Northern Ireland the cost is €10.50. It could be worth getting together with a couple of friends to take advantage of some of the rock-bottom price deals, such as eight packs of Giovanni Rana basil pesto tortellini for 99p; six packs of Ainsley Harriott couscous, also 99p for the job lot, and tins of kidney beans at 5p each.

The product range seems to change quite often, and is dependent on availability – but there seems to be a constant lake of cut-price Ambrosia tinned rice and custard. Instant noodles crop up a lot too, and those weird flavours of Walkers special-edition crisps (60p for a six-pack). But you’ll often find tins of organic tomatoes for just a few pence, and discounted Lifeforce dried beans and pulses, so it’s not all of questionable nutritious value. The product range can be a bit random – tinned monkfish livers, £4.99, from, for example – but there are genuine bargains to be had, too.