For many of us with busy lives Monday to Friday whizzes past in a buzz of activity â€“ home from work in the evening. What will we have for supper?
It is so tempting to flop in a comfy chair, put up the feet and nibble a ready meal â€“ Michelle Darmody has lots of exciting suggestions for easy week day meals but how about an extra special meal at the weekend when there is a bit more time for shopping, chopping and cooking with family and friends around the dining table.
Yummy food is all about good ingredients, they donâ€™t have to be expensive but they do need to be fresh and in season. Local seasonal food can be difficult to find in large supermarkets and affiliated shops, so part of the fun can be grabbing a shopping bag and heading for your local farmersâ€™ market. Why not set yourself a challenge â€“ that the main ingredients should all come from within a twenty five mile radius of your home â€“ obviously salt, pepper and spices will need to be imported but it should be possible to find a good free range or better still organic chicken locally. Choose a fine plump one with giblets so you can make a nice pot of chicken broth with the carcass and that can be the basis of a delicious soup, stew or chicken pie. The hens are all laying well at the moment so there are lots of lovely free range eggs at the market or you could go one better and bring home a few lively hens from Mahon, Midleton or Douglas Farmers Market and have the pleasure of collecting freshly laid eggs every day (almost!) There are gorgeous crinkly Savoy cabbages around at present â€“ they only cost a couple of euros and make a delicious salad as well as Buttered Cabbage.
The pudding has to be new seasons rhubarb I donâ€™t know anyone who doesnâ€™t love a rhubarb pie, tart or crumble or cake. Iâ€™ve got lots and lots of recipes but Iâ€™ve chosen a rhubarb crumble cake that everyone loved when they tasted it recently. Happy cooking.
Swede Turnip Soup with Pancetta and Parsley Oil
12 ozs (350g) Swede turnips, diced
1 tablespoon sunflower or arachide oil
5 ozs (150g) rindless streaky bacon cut in 1/2 inch (1cm) dice
4 ozs (110) onions, chopped
5 ozs (150g) potatoes, diced
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pints (900ml) homemade chicken stock
cream or creamy milk to taste
8 slices pancetta
50ml (2fl ozs) extra virgin olive oil
50g (2ozs) parsley, chopped
First make the parsley oil.
Whiz the parsley with the olive oil until smooth and green.
Next, make the soup.
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.
Spread the slices of pancetta on a wire rack over a baking tray. Cook under a grill for 1 â€“ 2 minutes or until crisp.
Serve in bowls, drizzle each with parsley oil and lay a slice of crispy pancetta on top.
08/12/09 (SH) (12011)
Smoked Egg, Chorizo and Rocket Salad
Hard-boiled eggs with softish centres are also delicious in this recipe.
6 freshly smoked, hard-boiled organic eggs
6 tiny or 3 medium beetroots, cooked
sugar and salt
extra virgin olive oil
200g (7oz) chorizo, sliced
a mixture of salad leaves, such as cos, little gem, purslane and rocket
a piece of aged Coolea, Desmond or Gabriel cheese
For the Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
a little Dijon mustard
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Prepare the eggs either by smoking them or hard-boiling them.
To prepare the beetroots, leave 5cm (2 inches) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beets. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you donâ€™t damage the skin; otherwise the beetroots will bleed during cooking. Put into a saucepan, cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer for 1â€“2 hours, depending on size. Beetroots are usually cooked when the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger. If in doubt, also test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.
Meanwhile, whisk the ingredients for the vinaigrette together in a bowl. Just before serving, heat a little olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and cook the slices of chorizo for a minute or two until they warm through and the oil begins to run. Toss the salad leaves in a little vinaigrette and arrange on the base of a serving plate. Cut the eggs lengthways â€“ the centres should still be slightly soft and will be best if still warm. Arrange haphazardly on top of the leaves. Tuck beetroot quarters in between the leaves and sprinkle the slices of chorizo over the salad. Grate some hard cheese over the top. Drizzle the salad with the chorizo oil from the pan and serve immediately with lots of crusty sourdough bread and some homemade mayonnaise.
Cabbage, Sultana and Fennel Salad
Serves 4 â€“ 6
450g (1lb) cabbage, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, diced
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) fennel or dill leaves chopped
75g â€“ 110g (3 â€“ 4 oz) yellow sultanas
110ml (4oz/1/2 cup) yoghurt
110ml (4oz/1/2 cup) mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons runny honey
freshly squeezed lime juice of 1-2 limes
salt and freshly ground salt and pepper
Put the thinly sliced cabbage into a bowl, add the chopped fennel and fennel herb and sultanas. Mix the yoghurt/mayonnaise with the honey and lime juice. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle over the cabbage, toss well. Taste and correct the seasoning.
Chicken and Bacon Pie
Serves 6 – 8850ml (1Â½ pints) homemade chicken stock or water
2 large carrots, cut into chunks
2 large unpeeled onions, quartered
2 celery sticks, cut into small chunks
6 black peppercorns
1 bouquet garni
1 large free-range, organic chicken or boiling fowl
1 sprig of tarragon (optional)
16 small flat mushrooms
25g (1oz) butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 button onions, peeled
450g (1lb) streaky bacon in a piece, cooked
110g (4oz) peas – frozen are fine (optional)
500g (1lb 2oz) puff pastry
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk)
green salad, to serve
For the sauce:
150ml (1/4 pint) dry white wine
110g (4oz) roux
250ml (9fl oz) single cream)
500g (18oz) puff pastry
1 large or 6-8 small ovenproof pie dishes
Put 5cm (2 inches) of water or chicken stock in a heavy casserole and add the vegetables and bouquet garni. Lay the chicken on top. Add a sprig of tarragon if available and cover with a tight fitting lid. Bring to the boil and then transfer to a moderate oven, 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cook for 1-2 hours, depending on the size of the bird. Watch that it does not boil dry. The water should be deliciously rich and may be a little fatty.
Meanwhile fry the whole or sliced flat mushrooms depending on size in a little butter on a hot pan, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Sweat the onions in butter in a small, covered casserole until soft. Cut the cooked bacon into cubes. When the chicken is cooked remove from the casserole onto a large platter and carve the flesh. De-grease cooking liquid. Arrange the sliced chicken in layers in a deep pie dish, covering each layer with bacon, onions and mushrooms, add peas if using (no need to cook).Next make the sauce. Put 600ml (1pint) of the strained and de-greased cooking liquid and the dry white wine into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Whisk in the roux. Cook until thick and smooth. Add the cream. Bring to the boil again. Taste and correct the seasoning. Allow to cool, put in one large or eight small individual pie dishes cover with puff pastry. Decorate the top with the left over puff pastry â€“ Have fun, we sometimes make funny faces, write messages â€“ yummy, scrummy, yippee, or put a fine pastry cockerel on top if your guests are not to sensitive!
Refrigerate until required. Could be prepared ahead
Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8. Just before cooking, brush the top with egg wash and cook for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for a further 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with a good green salad.
Rhubarb Crumble Cake
Can be served as a pudding or a cake.
Makes a 20cm cake â€“ Serves 10Crumble Topping
75g (3oz) self raising flour
Â½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
75g (3oz) sugar – we used Â½ light muscovado sugar and Â½ castor sugar
50g (2oz) cold butter cut into cubes
70g (2 Â½ oz) flaked almonds
1kg (2Â¼lb) red rhubarb, chopped
125g (4 Â½ oz) light muscovado sugar â€“ plus 2 tablespoons extra
125g (4 Â½ oz) butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
Â½ teaspoon vanilla extract
100g (3 Â½oz) self raising flour, sifted
Â½ teaspoon baking powder
100g (3 Â½oz) ground almonds
2 tablespoons milkicing sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 180Â°C/350Â°F/Mark 4. 1 x 20cm loose-bottomed tin greased and lined with a circle of baking parchment. First make the crumble. Sieve the flour and cinnamon together into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and rub in the chilled butter with your fingertips. It should look like very coarse bread crumbs. Stir in the flaked almonds and keep to a side while you make the cake.
Cut the rhubarb into 5cm lengths, put in a stainless steel saucepan with 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 5 – 6 minutes, until the rhubarb is just beginning soften.
Cream the butter and with 125g sugar until light and fluffy. Mix the eggs with the vanilla, then beat into a butter mixture a splash at a time, making sure each bit is well incorporated before adding the next. Add a tablespoon of the flour if it threatens to curdle. When all the egg has been added, stir in the sieved flour, baking powder and ground almonds until everything is well mixed, add the milk to give a smooth, uniform batter.
Spread the mixture over the base of the cake tin, then add the strained rhubarb, sprinkle the crumble evenly over the top. Bake for 1 hour, covering the top with foil after 45 minutes if thereâ€™s any risk it might burn. It should be set in the centre, although the rhubarb layer makes it a bit squidgy, so it may sink as it cools. Cool in the tin for 20 minutes before removing. Sprinkle with icing sugar and eat warm with lots of softly whipped cream.