Update...The winner of Food for Friends by Edward Hayden is...Evelyn Corry.
Congratulations Evelyn, your new cookbook will be making its way to you soon.
I have quite an extensive collection of cookbooks, scattered on different shelves throughout my house. Admittedly some are much more utilised than others. I like recipes that have a straight-forward method which include ingredients that are easily sourced. One book which I have enjoyed cooking from, in the past couple of years, is Edward Hayden’s Food to Love, hence I was very much looking forward to the release of Edward’s latest book, Food for Friends. I certainly wasn't disappointed. The book is centred on entertaining at home, catering for such events as dinner parties, summer barbecues, movie nights in, and so much more. It’s a fantastic book which would make a wonderful addition to any family’s cookbook collection. You will be familiar with Edward from his weekly cookery slot on Ireland Am and his recipes are also regularly featured in national publications. I'd the pleasure of cooking with Edward live on Ireland Am and at Taste of Dublin in 2011. Edward is an absolute gentleman and his personality shines through the recipe introductions and the ‘handy hints’ in Food for Friends. A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to interview Edward and find out a little more about the man behind all of these marvellous recipes. 

Do you come from a foodie family?

To a certain extent I suppose I do. Perhaps not in the modern way we understand the 'foodie' but definitely good quality home cooking of well-chosen and sourced ingredients was of paramount importance to my mother as we were all growing up. She was a very typical Irish 'mammy' at the time and baked every day-bread, scones, buns (no one made cupcakes in those days!!) and cakes as well as big pots of stew, meat pie, home-made soup and roasted chickens.

What's your earliest food memory?

My uncles lived in the UK when we were small and my grandmother used to go and visit them every year and on one such occasion as she returned I thought it would be a great idea to bake her a cake. At the time we had a snow white solid fuel Rayburn cooker. We also had a big blue tupperware bowl, into which I put some flour, sugar and egg and mixed well. I then place the blue bowl on top of the aforementioned cooker to allow it to cook as I went off to play. The 'cake' never baked and the cooker was never the same again! Good intentions though!

When did you first realised that you wanted to cook professionally?

I worked in the Duiske Inn, Graignamanagh when I was in school and did all catering jobs there. I washed everything from the glasses to the plates and from the toilets to the potatoes and grew a great respect and understanding for the hospitality industry and could see that it was the industry for me.

Who's the most famous person you've ever cooked for?

Brian O Driscoll. I’ve also cooked for my favourite singer Sandy Kelly.

Have you any favourite cookbooks?
I have an addiction to cookery books, like so many other food enthusiasts so I have quite an extensive collection of books by various authors. Mary Berry, Delia Smith and Darina Allen all have books that I seem to call upon again and again.

What other food personalities do you admire?

I think that Darina Allen has a great level of culinary integrity and i always enjoy her as she extols the virtues of traceability, seasonality and 'fuss free cooking'. I think she is one of those people in the industry who says what she would like to do, then she does it...and believes in it!

This is your third cookbook. I love that it based around home entertaining. Was it difficult to decide on a theme/angle for the book? 

There are so many books out there that it is always difficult to come up with a slant. For me it came sort of naturally as the brand that I have been building is that of 'Edward Entertains' so we just picked a whole series of different occasions which would require catering and chosen some complementary recipes for each chapter.

Asian Crusted Salmon{pg 157}..Scrumptious!
Have you a favourite recipe from Food for Friends? 

Hot & Spicy Beef Curry. I don't make it that often but when I do I really enjoy it with a long cool beer!

When and where do you do most of your book writing?

I do all of my writing in my office at home and mostly late into the night. I am a bit of a night owl and find that I get quite a lot done in the hours of darkness. Daytime is nigh time in our house!

What advice would you give to anyone who is considering a career in food?

Ohhh…So much advice.
Work hard and work your way up through the different sections.
Be nice to EVERYBODY-You catch more flies with a spoon of honey than with a jar of vinegar.
Believe in yourself and never ever compromise on your own values and what you believe to be true.
At all times be yourself-that’s unique and special enough-no need to play make believe.

Many television chefs have their own restaurants. Is this something that would appeal to you in the future? 

Not at the minute. I am currently working on developing my own 'Edward Entertains Cookery School' which hopefully will open in late spring 2013.

What will be keeping you busy in the coming months?

Getting the cookery school sorted, continuing my weekly slots of TV3 Ireland AM, my fortnightly cookery column with Woman’s Way Magazine and ...Getting a tan!!
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Here I am with Edward at Taste of Dublin 2011.

Food for Friends by Edward Hayden is out now in hardback priced €24.99. It's available from all good bookshops and on www.obrien.ie. The lovely photo of Edward and the Asian Salmon photo were kindly provided to me by The O' Brien Press. 

I have one copy of Food for Friends to give away to one lucky reader. The good people at The O' Brien Press will post worldwide, so everyone is in with a chance. All you have to do to enter the give-away is leave a comment below. All names will be popped into the hat and the winner will be picked at random. Please ensure that I have some way to contact you. Thanks and best of luck! 

To say that I am thrilled about making the front cover of this week's Irish Country Living would certainly be an under-statement. For those outside of Ireland this is the paper within the Irish Farmer's Journal}. Growing up on a farm in rural Ireland the Irish Farmer's Journal was always an essential part of the weekly reading and an ever important referencing tool.  As I grew older the weekly Irish Country Living became a great topic for conversions as my Mother and Father would always find something of interest to share with me, be it about food, education or real-life stories of other country folk. Not a week passed but their Irish Country Living {ICL} was put to one side and saved for me to read.

Over the past few years I have had a few mentions in the Journal. In 2010 I won a recipe competition and got the opportunity to cook with Neven Maguire at The Ploughing Championships. The following year I was a runner-up in their monthly calender photography competition. Any of these mentions were met with huge pride from my father. Then just a few weeks before Christmas last year I was contacted by Aisling Hussey, a journalist with the journal, who was on the search of Christmas memories, which would feature in the Irish Country Living's Christmas edition. Obviously through the blog and my own columns I have featured in a range of magazines and papers for the past few years, but the news that I was interviewed for ICL was met with great excitement by my father. Sadly it was not published until a fortnight after my Dad passing away but I was so happy that he knew all about it. With all these factors to mind you may understand how significant this week's feature is to me. When someone important has passed away that feeling that you want them be happy or proud by your actions or achievements still remains. As I popped into my local shop last Thursday morning and was met by my face on the front cover of the Irish Country Living I truly felt proud. I'm heart-broken that my parents aren't here to see it, but I know in my heart that many copies of the journal would have been bought this week and distributed by them with happiness and pride.

I'm so honoured to be featured in Irish Country Living and even more delirious about being on the front cover. I have to thank the team at ICL, especially Carol Dunne for taking such splendid photos and the very lovely Maria Moynihan for interviewing me and then writing such a beautiful heart-felt feature.
I'm off now to enjoy another sunny Saturday out and about with the children. Have a great weekend!
To have a read of this feature it's now on the Irish Farmers Journal site. Click here to read. 

Sometimes the inspiration behind my recipes can come from the most unusual places. Many times when I am writing a recipe I’m recalling a childhood memory or possibly a dish I have tasted while holidaying abroad. The inspiration for this very beautiful cake creation, pictured above and below, came to me while weeding my herb garden last week, which tends to be a place I go to for tranquillity during the hustle and bustle of my busy days. The summer after we built our home my father planted us the most impressive vegetable, fruit and herb garden. He spent most summer afternoons caring for the vegetables and fruit and always provided me with an abundance of delicious organic produce. Each year the vegetables would need to be re-sown however now six years later the fruit bushes and my lovely herb garden is still growing strong. It is said that some herbs, and especially rosemary, should be planted in memory of a loved one. My garden will forever more be full of happy memories and so very special to me, as it was my dear late father who first turned that soil. For the first time this year, I have bought the seeds and together with Diarmuid and the children we are keeping “Grandad’s Garden” alive.
Even after the hard, cold winters many of the perennial herbs burst into bloom each spring. One such herb is my lemon thyme; similar to the thyme we have come accustomed to in many a savoury dish. The beauty of the lemon thyme is its versatility; both savoury and sweet dishes can benefit from this sweetly scented herb. While weeding between my lemon thyme I noticed one of my little ducks, almost hidden beneath a clump of raspberry canes. She was staring in my direction yet motionless. I thought perhaps she was sick so I bent down to take a closer look, upon which I was met with a gentle yet determined hiss. It turned out that under her were half a dozen eggs and she was very closely guarding them. My hens are often clocking yet this is a rarity for my little ducks.

 As I returned to my weeding the lemon scent that filled the air led my thoughts to cake, well to be fair my thoughts are never too far from cake. My ducks provide me with beautiful fresh eggs which make the most magnificent sponges. Then I thought how wonderful it would be to pair this delicious lemon thyme with one of my sponges. I wasn’t going to disturb my feathered friend for my collection of duck eggs, so hen eggs it would be for this baking plan. Weeding ceased and armed with a large bunch of lemon thyme I was kitchen-bound, hands washed and my cake creation was put into action. This cake recipe is based on my Duck Egg Sponge recipe from my book Apron Strings; however, this one has some additional garden inspiration. I guarantee you that this cake is scrumptious and perfect for enjoying on a sunny summer's day.

Summer Sponge filled with Lemon Curd and topped with Mango, Blueberry & Lemon Thyme

5 fresh free-range hen/duck eggs, approx. 350g, in shells
175g Caster sugar
175g Plain Flour, sieved

250mls cream, whipped
25g icing sugar, sieved
1tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp Lemon Curd
1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced
150g blueberries
5/6 sprigs of lemon thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas mark 6. Butter and flour two 8” sandwich tins then carefully line the base with two circles of parchment paper.
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together for about 7-10 minutes until thick and fluffy.
3. Carefully fold in the sieved flour.
4. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
5. Turn the cakes out carefully onto a wire rack and leave to completely cool.
6. In a bowl combine the whipped cream with the icing sugar and vanilla extract.
7. Place one cake on a serving plate and spread with a layer of lemon curd. Then top with half of the sweet vanilla cream and an even layer of the sliced mango and a few blueberries.
8. Place the second cake on top. Top with the remaining sweet vanilla cream, sliced mangos, and blueberries. Strip the leaves, and if there are any, the flowers too from the lemon thyme and generously sprinkle over the fruit. Leave a few sprigs intact, to decorate. Serve straight-away otherwise the cake with comfortably sit in the fridge for a few hours.