This Mediterranean pasta soup is a type of minestrone soup. It is a comfort soup with lots of goodness, full of vegetables and the tomatoes are the key.

You could use San Merzano tomatoes instead of the cherry tomatoes. Orzo is a lovely pasta in the shape of rice and I love cooking it with a touch of cream or smoked salmon.

The orzo bulks up the soup. I always keep it in my cupboard. We use it in the restaurant also. Tuscan kale is easy to grow and is delicious in this soup

Slow cooking is the secret to this sticky balsamic beef brisket. I love these lesser-used cuts which are full of flavour. Beef brisket is good value and the key is to cook it low and slow and then it melts in the mouth. Your local butcher will give you the best of Irish beef.

The balsamic and the honey give a lovely sweet and sour effect. It is lovely with some mashed potatoes and peas.

These are chocolate brownies with a little swirl of caramel from a tub of caramel sauce. It is a lovely treat. What’s for Pudding, based in Kilmessan, Co Meath, make the most delicious sticky toffee pudding but they also have a gorgeous caramel sauce and a butterscotch sauce.

They are well worth checking out. We use good-quality chocolate with a good high cocoa content. Ann Rudden here in Cavan makes a lovely chocolate called Aine’s Chocolate. You could also add some pecan nuts or roasted hazel nuts, both of which are great in this.

We recieved great feedback from my recent Greenway Food Trails series on RTÉ. I want to thank all the county councils who helped us make the programmes. Hopefully we have captured the beauty of each county we visited and the wonderful food.

Happy cooking,


Mediterranean pasta soup

Mediterranean pasta soup.

Serves four

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 tbsp tomato purée

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of cherry tomatoes

450ml (¾ pint) vegetable stock (from a cube is fine)

100g (4oz) orzo or any other soup pasta shape

100g (4oz) cavolo nero leaves (Tuscan kale or use regular kale)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and thyme and sauté for six to eight minutes or until the vegetables have taken on a bit of colour.

2 Stir in the tomato purée, then pour in the cherry tomatoes and stock.

3 Bring to the boil over a high heat, stirring.

4 Add the orzo or soup pasta to the pan. Reduce the heat and simmer for eight minutes, until the pasta is just tender.

5 Remove the tough stalks from the cavolo nero or kale, then roughly tear the leaves into pieces. Add to the pan, season and switch off the heat. Leave the soup to stand for 10 minutes, until the kale is wilted, then ladle into bowls to serve.

Sticky balsamic beef brisket

Serves 12

1.75kg beef brisket

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

A knob of butter

6 red onions, cut into wedges

500ml beef stock

120ml balsamic vinegar

4 tbsp honey

1 tbsp soy sauce

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

3 tbsp cornflour

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

Mashed potatoes

Steamed cavolo nero

Steamed baby carrots

1 Preheat the oven to 160°c (325°F/gas mark 3).

2 Dry the brisket with kitchen paper and season generously. Heat half of the oil in a casserole over a high heat and brown all over for about five minutes. Transfer to a plate.

3 Add the rest of the oil to the casserole with the butter and sauté the onions for six to eight minutes, until they are starting to colour. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

4 Put the stock in a jug and whisk in the balsamic, honey, soy, garlic and thyme. Put the brisket back into the casserole and pour over the stock mixture. Cover and cook for two hours, then remove from the oven and add the onions. Cover again and cook for another 90 minutes, until the beef is meltingly tender.

5 Carefully lift out the brisket and transfer it to a board. Snip the string and use two forks to shred the meat, discarding any fatty bits. Put the cornflour in a small bowl and stir in two to three tablespoons of water until you have a smooth paste. Whisk this into the liquid in the casserole, then stir in the shredded beef. Bring to a simmer over a low heat and cook for a few minutes to thicken the sauce slightly.

6 Serve the sticky balsamic beef in wide-rimmed bowls with some mashed potatoes, cavolo nero and baby carrots

7 Freeze the extra portions.

Caramel swirl brownies

Neven's caramel swirl brownie

Makes 16 squares

175g (6oz) butter

175g (6oz) dark chocolate (55–70% cocoa solids), finely chopped

3 eggs

225g (8oz) light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

75g (3oz) plain flour (or you can use gluten-free)

3 tbsp cocoa powder

1 x 400g (14oz) can or jar of caramel

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/ gas mark 4) and line a 20cm (8in) cake tin with non-stick baking paper.

2 Melt the butter in a pan, then take the pan off the heat and add the chocolate. Leave the chocolate to melt, then stir until smooth.

3 Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract for three minutes. With the whisk still going, pour in the melted chocolate mixture.

4 Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together into a bowl, then fold this into the wet ingredients with a spatula or metal spoon.

5 Spoon into the prepared tin. Add dollops of the caramel all over the surface, then swirl with a toothpick or skewer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until dry on top but still slightly gooey and fudgy inside.

6 Leave to cool, then cut into squares and serve.