Eat Well on a Budget

Just now the credit card receipts are beginning to come in thick and fast toremind us of the retail therapy we indulged in with such gay abandon aroundChristmas.  We can feel virtuous in the fact that we’ve done our bit for the
Irish economy, but its time to tighten our belts in every sense of the word.There are of course all sorts of savings that can be made in household itemsand little luxuries that one can live without for the moment.   No matterwhat savings one makes its vital to keep the food on the table, as our wiseold GP Dr Derry McCarthy was fond of saying, “if you don’t put the petrol in
the tank the car won’t go” – unquestionably true – if we scrimp onnutritious food we’ll end up paying more to the chemist and the doctor – andif the latest surveys are to be believed, they can scarcely cope with theirworkload at present.
So what we need to do is put lots of time and energy into sourcing as muchtop quality fresh locally produced food in season as possible.   This willcut your food bills in half and provide you with live food bursting withvitamins, minerals and trace elements.
Nowadays, when so much shopping is done in supermarkets, its difficultparticularly for younger people, to work out what’s in season when so muchis available from January to December, and there are so few clues toindicate when something is in season.  I long for at least one chain ofsupermarkets to celebrate the seasons and highlight local produce in theirshops – this would be a tremendous help to concerned consumers and wouldgive a much-needed boost to local farmers and food producers.So what’s in season at present?  All the root vegetables are fantastic justnow, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, swede turnips.  Thelatter are now sweet and nutty, having had several nights of frost whichconcentrates the natural fructose.   Brussels sprouts are still in seasonfor another few weeks and there’s lots of yummy crunchy Savoy cabbage to
cook on its own, or to add to a big bowl of mashed Golden Wonder potatoes,to make a bowl of comforting, delicious and inexpensive colcannon.Look out for kale also and my favourite sprouting broccoli, green, purple orwhite – I adore all those greens, in Winter my body seems to crave thoseclean fresh flavours.  Somehow I’m convinced that its what we need to
supplement our iron, vitamins and minerals at this time of the year.  Kale,by the way is the most nutritious of all the brassicas, a family renownedfor its vitamin A, B & C content, it is a good source of iron and of allvegetables it is one of the richest sources of calcium, in a form which caneasily be absorbed by the body.Leeks, a good source of potassium and folate, are also excellent at presentand we’ve been enjoying and feasting on the first of the herrings and spratsfilled with minerals, calcium and valuable Omega 3 fatty acids, for the pastfew weeks.  If you’re someone who reckons they haven’t eaten at all unlessyou’ve had meat, then in lean times take the opportunity to experiment withthe many inexpensive cuts of meat that are succulent.   Next time you go toyour local butcher or market, seek out pork spare ribs, bacon ribs, chickenwings, lamb shanks, shin of beef.  All inexpensive, succulent and delicious,cooked in a myriad of ways – here are a few suggestions to get you started!

Pangrilled Herrings with Grainy Mustard Butter

Serves 6 as a starter
6 fresh herrings, gutted, scaled and washed
Seasoned flour
Grainy Mustard Butter
1 teaspoon grainy mustard eg. Moutarde de Meaux
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
3 ozs (85g) melted butter
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Leek and Cheddar Cheese Tart
Serves 10-12
½ lb (225g) shortcrust pastry
1 lb (450g) white part of leeks
2 ozs (55g) butter
4 ozs (110g) white Cheddar cheese
or
2 ozs (55g) grated cheese and
2 ozs (55g) cooked ham, chopped1 tablesp. finely chopped parsley
8 fl ozs (225ml) cream or rich milk
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
2 x 7 inch (18cm) flan rings

Clean the leeks and cut into 3 inch (2cm) slices. Melt the butter in a heavybottomed saucepan. Add the leeks, season and stir well to coat. Add 1-2tablespoons of water. Cover with a butter wrapper and a tight fitting lid.Reduce the heat and continue cooking for about 10 minutes or until soft andthe water has been absorbed. Do not let the leeks colour.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.

Roll out the pastry to about 3 inch (2cm) thick and line two 7 inch (18cm)flan rings. Line the pastry shell with a kitchen paper and fill up to thetop with dried beans. Bake for 10-15 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove the peas and kitchen paper and keep the flan aside.Stir the cheese or cheese and ham with the parsley into the leek mixture.Whisk the eggs with the cream and stir this in also. Check seasoning. Pour this mixture into the flan ring and put it back into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until just set. Serve with a green salad.
Curly Kale
Serves 4 approx.
450g (1lb) Curly kale, destalked (290g /10oz approx.) without stalks)
6 pints  (3.4 L) water
3 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper and a little grated nutmeg
55g (2oz) butter
125ml (4fl oz) cream
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, (6 pints (3.4L) to 3 teaspoons salt). Add the curly kale and boil uncovered on a high heat until

Deh-Ta-Hsiung Pork Spareribs

Deh-ta Hsiung who was our guest chef here at the school some years ago gaveme this delicious recipe for cooking spare ribs.  Ideally, chop each individual rib into 2 or 3 bite-size pieces before cooking, which is less messy than chopping them after they are cooked.
1kg (2lbs) pork spareribs

Trim off excess fat and any gristle from the ribs and cut each rib into 2 or 3 small pieces.  Marinate with the rest of the ingredients for at least 2-3 hours if possible, turning occasionally.Barbecue under a hot grill for 15-20 minutes, turning and basting frequently
with the marinade.  Alternatively, roast the ribs in a baking dish in a preheated hot oven (230C/450F/Gas 8 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200C/400F/Gas 6 for 25-30 minutes more, turning once or twice.  Serve hot or cold on a bed of lettuce leaves with the sauce poured over them. Careful not to overcook or the meat will be dry and tough, instead of tender and succulent.
Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup 

Serves 6-8

12 ozs (340g) swede turnips, diced
1 tablesp. sunflower or arachide oil
5 ozs (140g) rindless streaky bacon cut in ½ inch (1cm) dice
4 ozs (110g) onions, chopped
5 ozs (140g) potatoes, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1½ pints (900ml) homemade chicken stock
Cream or creamy milk to taste

Garnish

Fried diced bacon
Tiny croutons
Chopped parsley
Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the bacon fat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock,
bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked. Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary.  Serve with a mixture of crispy bacon, tiny croutons and chopped parsley sprinkled on top.