An Irish Chef in France

Martin and Sile Dwyer’s Chambre d’Hôte in the Languedoc will remain closed for the 2021 season. But, as ever in the Dwyrer household, delicious food is always a highlight - including this happy discovery, Martin’s wonderful (and gluten free) Boiled Lemon Cake.

As our quarantine rules start to relax here in France we have slowly started to - very cautiously - socialise again.

We are now allowed to have vaccinated friends visit, but only in the garden. As it is still too cold to eat our dinner on the terrace we decided that to break our isolation we would have to introduce our French friends to the concept of “Afternoon Tea”.

We all know that the one essential part of afternoon tea is cake so this was the perfect moment to brush up my cake making skills in an attempt to impress our French friends.

We invited some of the ladies from Sile’s choir over one afternoon and I decided to make them an old favourite of mine - originally from Claudia Roden - which is her Orange and Almond cake.

Now this cake is a real gift to modern restaurateurs. This cake is both fat- and gluten-free and yet wonderfully moist. It is made by boiling some oranges until totally tender and then mixing them with eggs, sugar and ground almonds making it suitable for nearly all modern dietary demands.

As I set forth to make this I discovered that we were without any oranges but had in fact a plentiful supply of large organic lemons. I guessed that with a bit of luck they might be a good substitute for the oranges so decided to substitute them for the oranges and spare myself a trip to the shops.

Well I am delighted to report that it was a great success. With the risk of being disloyal to Ms Roden I think it surely an equal to her Orange Cake.

Since that first time I have made quite a few of these lemon cakes and discovered that it a great cake for our quiet life as it keeps fresh and moist in a tin for a week, makes an excellent dessert with some summer fruits and Crème Fraiche and is the perfect cake to take on a picnic.

Boiled Lemon Cake
2 untreated lemons
3 large eggs
150g caster sugar
150g ground almonds 1 teaspoon baking powder.

Pre heat your oven to Gas 4, 175º C (165º C for a fan oven) 350º F.

Put the lemons in a small saucepan and cover completely with water.

Bring these up to the boil and then simmer gently, with a lid on, for about 90 minutes,topping up if needed, until they pierce easily with a knife.

Then take them out of the water and let them cool.

Cut the lemons in half and discard the pips and then tip all the rest of the lemon, flesh, skin and juice into a food processor and pulse it to a purée.

Beat up the eggs with the sugar in a large bowl (with an electric beater if possible) until they are pale and thick and then fold in first the pureed lemons then the ground almonds and the baking powder.

Line the base of a 1kg loaf tin with non stick paper and grease the sides.
Pour in the cake batter and bake at the pre-set temperature for one hour. (Test with a skewer after 45 minutes.)
• This cake remains very moist and it needs no icing.
• Also note it contains no flour so it is suitable for gluten free diets.

Martin Dwyer started cooking professionally over 40 years ago in the legendary “Snaffles Restaurant” in Dublin. After a time in a Relais Chateau in Anjou and in “The Wife of Bath” in Kent, he opened his own acclaimed restaurant, “Dwyers”, in Waterford in 1989. In 2004 he sold this and moved south to France where he and his wife Síle bought and restored an old presbytery in a village in the Languedoc. They now run Le Presbytère as a French style Chambre d’Hôte. Martin however is far too passionate about food to give up cooking so they now enjoy serving dinner to their customers on the terrace of Le Presbytère on warm summer evenings. Martin runs occasional cookery courses in Le Presbytère and Síle’s brother Colm does week long Nature Strolls discovering the Flora and Fauna of the Languedoc.

Le Presbytère can be seen at:;


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