With signs saying when the jersey cows are next being milked, a just-planted vineyard and giant cabbages the size of a curled-up child, Airfield is a 38-acre working farm incorporating food gardens, which in turn feed the on-site cafe. It's not exactly what you expect to find in the heart of Dublin suburbia, especially not in the shadow of the temple of consumerism that is Dundrum shopping centre.

A rather special spot, Airfield was set up as a charity in 1974 by the previous owners, a pair of colourful sisters, Letitia and Naomi Overend - born in 1880 and 1900 respectively - who had a weakness for fine cars which they tuned and ran themselves. On display is Letitia’s 1927 Rolls Royce, which comes complete with trailer hitch. It's that balance of luxury and frugality that is evidenced throughout the farm, which is open to the public, the generosity of nature managed in a sustainable framework with a focus on education and recreation.

I went there for lunch but couldn't resist the chance for a whistle-stop tour of the grounds from gardener Kitty Scully, particularly enjoying meeting the hens after I had eaten one of their poached eggs on my black pudding salad. I also loved the sense of space, with different areas having their own particular focus: gloriously gnarled medlar trees in the walled garden, a well-used fairy fort that kids can play on, espalier-trained native Irish apple trees creating a maze. There’s something different around every corner, that's if you don't – as I did – visit on a chilly, rainy November day. At least you know that there’s that café for warming up afterwards.

Clementine and cinnamon shortbread

I had forgotten how much I love shortbread until I got a couple of pieces with my coffee in the Overends Café. Buttery, crumbly and not too sweet, it’s also quick and easy to make. While the shortbread in the café is plain, I like to ring the changes through the seasons: cinnamon and clementine zest for cold winter days; dreary, not-quite spring calls for cardamom and orange; add sticky vanilla seeds for a summertime version to go with fruit fools; take some finely chopped crystalised ginger and drizzle with melted plain chocolate for autumnal luxury. Makes 24 fingers.

200g butter, cubed and at room temperature

100g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

225g plain flour

75g cornflour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Zest of a clementine

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/150C fan.

  • Put the butter into a deep bowl, add the sugar and cream together with an electric whisk or wooden spoon until pale and creamy. Add the flour, cornflour, cinnamon and clementine zest. Mix with a wooden spoon, then your hands until the dough starts to come together.

  • Using your hands, spread and pat the crumbly mixture into a 20 x 30 x 4cm baking tray, smoothing down with the back of a spoon.

  • Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden. While still warm. Sprinkle liberally with caster sugar. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into 24 thin fingers. Keeps well in a (hidden) airtight container.

    Caroline Hennessy is an award winning food blogger. Visit her website here