Motherâ€™s Day is tomorrow so this weekâ€™s column is for the kids. Lots of ideas for those of you who would like to take over the kitchen for the day or try your hand at cooking a meal. Even one yummy dish to show your super-duper Mum how special she is would be fab.
Canâ€™t tell you how thrilled us Mums are when you surprise us with a little present or an unexpected gesture. Breakfast in bed is always a delight, lay a tray with a pretty cloth or even a gingham napkin, if you can manage a little posy of flowers sheâ€™ll get an even bigger â€˜oops in her tummyâ€™ when you arrive in to her bedroom beaming from ear to ear.
My Mum still speaks fondly of my first attempt to bring her tea in bed. Years later I discovered that apparently the kettle wasnâ€™t even boiling properly, but at the time she never gave me the slightest hint that the tea wasnâ€™t perfect.
Breakfast doesnâ€™t have to be a full Irish â€“ youâ€™ll need a nice pot of tea or coffee for a start. How about some mini muffins â€“ theyâ€™re really easy to make and look adorable â€“ a glass of freshly squeezed orange or pink grapefruit juice is a very easy way to get lots of compliments for a little effort. Just cut the citrus fruit in half around the equator and squeeze out the juice â€“ one of those little plastic juicers works brilliantly (the peel can be dried â€“ makes terrific firelighters).
If you â€˜d rather do a cooked breakfast, why not make some sublime scrambled egg. It may not be an option but if you add a few small cubes of smoked salmon at the end, itâ€™ll be even more luxurious â€“ a real Motherâ€™s Day treat.
Find a pot of lovely Irish honey for her toast or make some jam â€“ how cool would that be! Having said that, its not a great time of the year for jam making, no ripe fruit around. Lemon curd would be a perfect solution â€“ fresh tasting and delicious and made in minutes â€“ a real homemade alternative and a change from the usual jams and marmalades.
If youâ€™d prefer to rustle up something for lunch, how about a cheese fondue â€“ so easy and great fun, all the family can tuck in â€“ itâ€™s a one pot meal so the extra bonus is minimum washing-up!
If however, you would like to treat your Mum to the evening off, then how about a full dinner. Hereâ€™s a suggestion for a nice easy meal that sheâ€™ll love. Try to enlist the help of the rest of the family to lay the table nicely â€“ again a little bunch of flowers, maybe they could be persuaded to do some cards and place names â€“ more the merrier.
Better still run a bath for your Mum to relax in while you are making dinner. Scatter some flower petals into the water, rose petals are best but scarce at this time of year, light some candles and maybe play some soothing music so she can chill out while you cook.
I suggest Carrot and Apple Salad with a sweet â€˜n sour dressing for a starter â€“ quick and tasty to make with inexpensive ingredients and non-fattening just in case sheâ€™s watching her weight.
Penne with Ginger Mushrooms and herbs for main course would be delicious, almond and chocolate meringue â€“ a little touch of indulgence for pudding. The latter can be made several days ahead and filled on the day. The Mushroom Sauce for the pasta can also be cooked ahead if you really want to be super-organised.
You may want to give her a present of some Darina Allen choccies as an extra special treat and then you can remind her that sharing is fun too!
Good luck and donâ€™t forget to drop me a card to let me know how it went.
Serves 2 Perfectly scrambled eggs are rare indeed. For perfection really fresh free range eggs are essential. Really fresh eggs, perfectly scrambled, need no further embellishment, except perhaps a slice of hot thin toast. 4 eggs, preferably free range, organic 2 tablespoons creamy milk a knob of butter salt and freshly ground pepper Break the eggs into a bowl, add the milk and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Whisk well until the whites and yolks are well mixed. Put a blob of butter into a cold saucepan, pour in the egg mixture and stir continuously preferably with a flat bottomed wooden spoon over a low heat until the eggs have scrambled into soft creamy curds. Serve immediately on warm plates with lots of hot buttered toast or fresh soda bread. Tip: If the plates are too hot the scrambled egg will actually over cook between the stove and the table.
Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon
A few seconds before the scrambled egg is fully cooked, add 2-3 tablespoons diced smoked salmon trimmings, stir once or twice, sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Scrambled eggs with tomato A few seconds before the scrambled egg is fully cooked add 1 very ripe chopped tomato which has been seasoned with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar, stir once or twice and serve immediately.
Makes 12 muffins or up to 36 mini muffins
10oz (275g) plain flour 1 level tablespoon baking powder 3oz (75g) caster sugar Â½ teaspoon salt 2 medium eggs 8floz (225ml) milk 4oz (110g) melted butter 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6 Place paper muffin cases in muffin tin. Hand whisk together sugar, eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla. Sieve flour, salt and baking powder. Fold into beaten mixture. It should look like lumpy batter. Add filling of your choice. Divide mixture between 12 cases or put just over 1 teaspoon per mini muffin case. Fill almost to the top. Bake at the top of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Note: Reduce baking time to 15-20 minutes for mini muffins Variations Add 4 tablespoons of cocoa with 6 oz (150g) mixed chocolate chips (white, milk and plain) Add 4 oz (110g) fresh blueberries, roughly chopped Add desired amount of chocolate chips Add 2 cooking apples, peeled and chopped with 1 teaspoon cinnamon Add 2-3oz (50-75g) dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, dates) with Â½ teaspoon mixed spice (optional)
4 ozs (110g) castor sugar
2 ozs (55g) butter
grated rind and juice of 2 good lemons
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk (keep white aside for meringue)
On a very low heat melt the butter, add castor sugar, lemon juice and rind and then stir in the well beaten eggs. Stir carefully over a gentle heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Draw off the heat and pour into a bowl (it will thicken as it cools.)
Carrot and Apple Salad with Sweet â€˜n Sour Dressing
This delicious salad can be made in minutes from ingredients you would probably have easily to hand, but shouldn't be prepared more than half an hour ahead, as the apple will discolour. Serve either as a starter or as an accompanying salad for ham or pork.
Serves 6 8 ozs (225g) grated carrot 10 ozs (285g) grated dessert apple, e.g. Cox's Orange Pippin if available Salt and freshly ground pepper Dressing 2 good teaspoons pure Irish honey 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar Garnish A few leaves of lettuce Sprigs of watercress or parsley Chive flowers if you have them Dissolve the honey in the wine vinegar. Mix the coarsely grated carrot and apple together and toss in the sweet and sour dressing. Taste and add a bit more honey or vinegar as required, depending on the sweetness of the apples. Take 6 large side plates, white are best for this. Arrange a few small lettuce leaves on each plate and divide the salad between the plates. Garnish with sprigs of watercress or flat parsley and sprinkle with chive flowers if you have some. Season to taste.
Penne with Mushroom and Ginger Sauce
Mushroom and ginger sauce keeps in the fridge for 4-5 days and of course freezes perfectly. May also be used as a filling for vol au vents or pancakes or used as a vegetable. 1lb(450g) penne 8pts(4.5L) water 2 tablesp. salt 1-2oz (25-50g) butter 6 ozs (170g) onion, finely chopped 1 lb (450g) mushrooms 8 fl ozs (225ml) cream 2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger freshly chopped parsley 1 tablesp. freshly chopped chives (optional) a squeeze of lemon juice salt and freshly ground pepper 2ozs (50g)(approx.) freshly grated Parmesan To make the Mushroom and ginger sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5-6 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured. Meanwhile slice and cook the mushrooms in a hot frying pan in batches if necessary. Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream, and grated ginger. Allow to bubble for a few minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning, and add parsley and chives if used. To Cook the Penne Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil to a fast rolling boil, add the salt, add the penne, stir well. Bring back to the boil for 4 minutes. Turn off the heat, keep covered and allow to sit in the saucepan for 10 minutes approximately. Drain, reheat the Mushroom and Ginger sauce, toss with the pasta. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan and some flat parsley and serve immediately.
Almond and Chocolate Meringue
12 ozs (45g) almonds 2 egg whites 42 ozs (125g.) icing sugar Filling 12 oz (45g) good quality dark chocolate eg Bournville 2 pint (300ml) whipped cream 1 tablesp. Rum (optional) 1 tablesp. single cream Decoration 5 toasted almonds Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease. Blanch and skin the almonds. Grind or chop them up. They should not be ground to a fine powder but should be left slightly coarse and gritty. Mark two 72 inch (19cm) circles or heart shapes on silicone paper or a prepared baking sheet. Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks. Fold in the almonds. Divide the mixture between the 2 circles or heart shapes and spread evenly with a palette knife. Bake immediately in a cool oven, 150C/300F/regulo 2 for 45 minutes or until crisp they should peel off the paper easily, turn off the oven and allow to cool. To make the filling Melt the chocolate with the rum (if using) and single cream very gently in a very cool oven, or over hot water. Cool and then fold the mixture into the whipped cream. To assemble Sandwich the meringues together with the filling. Decorate with rosettes of chocolate and rum cream stuck with halved toasted almonds.