Children of any age still love a ‘roast dinner’

At 8 o’clock in the morning and again at 10.00am there’s a queue at virtually every filling station in Ireland, not for petrol, but for the infamous ‘breakfast roll’ Pat Shortt’s song did little to discourage the devotees, if anything it gave it cult status and changed it into a sought-after macho meal.
Even casual observers can’t help noticing that our national girth is expanding at an unprecedented rate. Most alarming is the incredible number of overweight children and teenagers – is it more girls than boys , or is that just my perception because of the visible rolls of puppy fat over the low cut jeans? There is unquestionably a nutritional crisis. Many parents are in despair, its not easy, even for those who are deeply committed to feeding their children healthy food, to persuade their offspring to resist the barrage of advertising and the strategically placed sweets, sugary temptations and fizzy drinks. Many of these foods, including crisps and crispy snacks are virtually addictive, so despite the constant emphasis on sylph-like appearance, we appear unable to resist the lure of sugar and monosodium glutamate.

The schools who have taken a firm line on ‘sweets and sodas’ have helped parents immeasurably and are to be congratulated. Shops and supermarkets need to follow suit.

So what can we do to entice our children to eat healthy food.

The vital first step- Start by making a firm resolution to clean the cupboards and fridge of all processed food -. The reality is that if there is no junk in the house the children can’t eat it. 
If family meals have become disjointed make a huge effort to re-establish the tradition of sitting down around the kitchen table with family. More and more, meals are being eaten on the run or standing up by the fridge. So much so that an increasing number of children no longer know how to use a knife or fork properly.
Try to visit a farmers’ market every week, include the children in this convivial shopping experience. Encourage them to try the tastes that are offered. There is an urgent need for some evening farmers markets, particularly in suburbs of cities and towns, many busy people simply cannot get to a farmers market during their working week. 
Start to grow some food – it is a well-proven fact that if children are involved in planting seeds, they are much more likely to be adventurous and try a whole range of vegetables, both raw and cooked. 
Join an organic box scheme and have a box of home-grown vegetables delivered every week. 
Talk occasionally about food and food issues, food miles, sustainability, importance of good animal welfare. Children are very idealistic and if you are passionate about these issues they will absorb the ethos. Don’t overdo it or you may put them off. 
Bake a simple bread like soda bread or spotted dog every day and show the kids how to do it, they get such a buzz. 
Involve the children in the menu planning, cooking and meal preparation. 
Ask yourself am I cooking or just reheating? Remember food is the ‘petrol’ we put in the tank to keep the ‘car’ going. If we shovel any kind of old rubbish into ourselves and our children we are definitely looking for trouble.

Children of any age still love a ‘roast dinner’ particularly roast chicken with all the trimmings – stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes, carrots. 

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

This is a huge favourite with all our family and friends – its such a good recipe to know about because its made in minutes and so good. We vary the fruit through the seasons – strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blueberries and grated apples.
Serves 8

6 heaped tablespoons rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)
8 tablespoons water
110g (8oz) fresh strawberries
2 teaspoons honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the strawberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a couple of teaspoons are usually enough but it depends on how sweet the strawberries are.
Serve with pouring cream and soft brown sugar.

Fruit Kebabs
Fruit kebabs are delicious for breakfast or for a snack at any time of the day. Just thread cubes of fresh fruit onto satay sticks, eg cubes of melon, apple, pear, kiwi fruit, thick slices of banana, maybe a cherry – divine and bursting with flavour.

Wraps were inspired by the Mexican burrito – originally invented as a convenient way for cowboys and farmers to carry a packed lunch! They are the perfect easy casual food for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Have fun with the fillings!

To make a wrap:
Heat a wide frying pan on a medium heat, lay a tortilla on the pan, warm on one side for about 15-30 seconds then turn over to warm the other side. This makes it soft and pliable. Lay the warm tortilla on a chopping board and arrange the filling in an approximately 5 x 12.5cm (2 x 5 inch) rectangle on the bottom half of the tortilla. Fold in the right and left edges, then fold the bottom edges over the filling and gently but firmly roll the tortilla over until the filling is completely enclosed.

Open Wraps:
Proceed as above but only fold in one side initially, continue to roll until the filling is wrapped.
Wraps can be made ahead covered in plastic wrap or tin foil and refrigerated. Depending on the filling they can be reheated.

Suggested fillings:
1. Pieces of cooked chicken breast, iceberg lettuce, grated cabbage and carrot, and mayonnaise.
2. Crispy bacon, tomatoes, grated cheddar cheese and lettuce.
Let the children choose their favourite fillings and combinations and roll them up themselves, here are some ideas for more ‘grown up’ fillings.
3. Crunchy lettuce, goat cheese, roast red peppers, pesto and crispy bacon or prosciutto.
4. Crunchy lettuce, smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill, cucumber strips, freshly cracked pepper and a few crispy capers.
5. Crunchy lettuce and rocket leaves, rare roast beef, garlic mayonnaise and crispy French fried onions.
6. Crunchy lettuce, roast chicken, fresh herb stuffing, tarragon mayonnaise and sundried tomatoes.
7. Crunchy lettuce, spicy chicken, crème fraiche, cucumber pickle and coriander leaves.
8. Crunchy lettuce, strips of cheddar cheese, cucumber pickle, Ballymaloe Country Relish and spring onion.

Baked Potatoes

Baked potatoes are wonderfully versatile, cheap and cheerful
8 x 8 ozs (225g) old potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
Sea salt and butter

Scrub the skins of the potatoes very well. Prick each potato 3 or 4 times and bake in a preheated hot oven 2001C/4001F/regulo 6 for 1 hour approx. depending on the size. When cooked, serve immediately while skins are still crisp and make sure to eat the skins with lots of butter and sea salt, Simply Delicious!

Suggested Stuffing for Baked Potatoes 

1. Garlic mayonnaise with tuna fish
2. Fromage Blanc (Jockey) with smoked salmon and chives
3. Garlic butter with crispy rasher.
4. Tuna fish with sweetcorn.

Traditional Roast Stuffed Chicken

Serves 4-6
1 x 3½ - 5 lbs (1.5 - 2.3kg) free range chicken, preferably organic
Giblets (keep the liver for a chicken liver pate), and wish bone
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 stick celery
A few parsley stalks and a sprig of thyme

1¾ ozs (45g) butter
3 ozs (85g) chopped onion
3-3½ ozs (85-100g) soft white breadcrumbs
2 tablesp. finely chopped fresh herbs eg. parsley, lemon thyme, chives and annual marjoram
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A little soft butter
Sprigs of flat parsley

First remove the wish bone from the neck end of the chicken, this isn't at all essential but it does make carving much easier later on. Tuck the wing tips underneath the chicken to make a neat shape. Put the wish bone, giblets, carrot, onions, celery and herbs into a saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, skin and simmer gently while the chicken is roasting.

Next make the stuffing, sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, 10 minutes approx. then stir in the crumbs, herbs, a little salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold. If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half fill with 

cold stuffing. Season the breast and legs, smear with a little soft butter.Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo4. Weigh the chicken and allow about 20 minutes to the lb and 20 

minutes over. Baste a couple of times during the cooking with the buttery juices. The chicken is done when the juices are running clear. To test prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices: they should be clear. Remove the chicken to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow to to rest while you make the gravy. To make the gravy, spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De glaze the pan juices with the fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelized meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible serve the chicken on a nice carving dish surrounded by crispy roast potatoes and some sprigs of flat parsley then arm yourself with a sharp knife and bring it to the table. Carve so that each person gets some brown and some white meat. Serve with gravy and bread sauce and roast potatoes.

Chicken Noodle Salad

Serves 6-8
450g (1lb) fettucini, Chinese, or udon noodles
170g (6oz) peanut butter
120ml (4 fl. oz) peanut oil
63ml (2½ fl.oz) rice wine vinegar
50ml (2 fl oz) dark soy* sauce
47ml (1½ fl. oz) sesame oil
2 cloves garlic crushed
pinch of cayenne pepper
30g (1 oz) toasted sesame seeds
3 - 4 tablespoons chopped scallions cut at an angle
Grated carrot
1 pan-grilled chicken breast, shredded

Bring a large saucepan of water (4.5L/8pints) to the boil, add salt, cook the udon noodles until al dente. Meanwhile make the dressing. Whisk the peanut butter and sesame oil together, add rice vinegar, soy sauce, crushed garlic, cayenne and sesame seeds, stir well. When the noodles are al dente, drain immediately and refresh in cold water, drain again, add scallions, grated carrot and chicken. Toss in just enough dressing to coat lightly. Taste and correct seasoning.

*Mushroom soy sauce is very good in this recipe.
The peanut dressing will keep for at least a week in the fridge.

Strawberry ice-cream

What better to follow the roast chicken than some delicious strawberry ice-cream, you could serve it in little cones if you like or with strawberry sauce.
2lb (900g) very ripe strawberries
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 oranges
8oz (225g) castor sugar
½ pint (300ml) water
5 fl.oz (150ml) whipped cream

Fresh Strawberry Sauce
14oz (400g) strawberries
2oz (55g) icing sugar
Lemon juice

Dissolve the sugar in the water, boil for 7-10 minutes. Leave to cool. Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender, sieve. Add orange and lemon juice to the cold syrup. Stir into the puree, fold in the whipped cream to the puree. Freeze in a sorbetiere according to the manufacturers instructions.

Meanwhile make the strawberry sauce, clean and hull the strawberries, add to the blender with the icing sugar and blend. Strain, add lemon juice if necessary. Store in a fridge.
Serve in ice-cream cones or in a glass bowl with a few sugared strawberries and fresh strawberry sauce. 

Foolproof Food


Smoothies can be enjoyed for breakfast or a delicious, nutritious snack at any time – play around with whatever ingredients you have to hand.
Banana and Yoghurt Smoothie
Serves 1-2

225ml (8 fl oz) natural yoghurt
1 ripe banana
1 teaspoon honey (optional)

Peel the banana, chop coarsely, blend with other ingredients in a liquidizer until smooth.
Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Mango Smoothie
Substitute mango for banana in above recipe. You’ll need about 150g (5oz).

Mango and Banana Smoothie
Serves 2-3

350ml (12 fl oz) freshly squeezed orange juice
1 chopped mango
1 banana
225ml (8fl oz) natural yoghurt

Put all the ingredients in a liquidizer, whizz until smooth. Taste, add a little honey if necessary.

Raspberry and Nectarine Smoothie
Another delicious combination – slice 1 ripe nectarine and add 25-50g (1-2oz) fresh rapberries.

Blueberry Smoothie
Add 110g (4oz) blueberries or more.

Hot Tips 

RedBranch Health Newsletter
Brings health-related information to subscribers on a monthly basis, a not-for-profit organization they are dedicated to positively improving the modern lifestyle, they provide a free service in Irish schools. Find out more information from The RedBranch Team at 01-61713750 or 

Slow Food Cork Summer BBQ at Tom Barry's Pub, Barrack St. Cork City
Tuesday, 4th July at 6.30pm in the garden at Tom Barry’s
Freshly locally caught Mackerel barbecued served with gooseberry chutney, salads (supplied by local growers) and Arbutus bread, followed by local strawberries. There will also be a vegetarian option too using local farmhouse cheese.
€12 for members and €14 for non members

New Regulations on Beef labelling announced by Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan, TD to come into effect on 3rd July 2006

These regulations extend the existing beef labelling regulations to now require hotels, restaurants, pubs serving food, caterers and essentially all those involved in serving beef to consumers to provide them with information on the country of origin of their beef, so they can reassured about the origin and the quality as well as the safety of the products they are purchasing and consuming. 

Congratulations to Randolph Hodgson Proprietor of Neal’s Yard Dairy in London –
On being awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the dairy industry – Randolph has always been extremely supportive and generous to the Irish Farmhouse Cheese Industry and is a member of the Bord Bia Taste Council.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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