My daughter-in-law Rachel knows more than most what is like to try and juggle work, family and friends. I donâ€™t know how she does it but she is certainly not alone, all over the country there are mums and dads who dash home from work often stopping off to collect the kids from the crÃ¨che on the way. There may be time to shop on the way home but often you just need to get dinner on the table fast with whatever you have in the cupboard.
Other times you just want to throw it all in one pot and let it bubble away while you get on with other things and sometimes you donâ€™t want to turn the oven on at all.
A well stocked fridge, freezer and store cupboard makes it all possible and even fun. A few jars of fresh spices, a couple of chilli and a few pots of fresh herbs close to the kitchen door can tart up even the simplest omelette, salad, pasta or potato dish.
Iâ€™ve been leafing through Rachelâ€™s latest book â€˜ Easy Mealsâ€™ which she wrote to share her great standbys for those hectic days when you want to cook a great meal with no fuss.
Rachel has several recipes for hearty one pot dishes that are comforting and filling. I loved the sound of lamb and chicken tagine, sausage and lentil stew, the Spanish pork stew and the beef pie but in this piece Iâ€™ve chosen recipes that can be put together really quickly – Carrot and Coconut Soup, Tagliatelle with Bacon, Peas and Mint, Stir Fried Steak with Kale, Hot Buttered Plum Pudding,
I had a really difficult time trying to choose between 6 or 8 really quick and yummy desserts.
Banoffi Pancakes look completely irresistible as are Quick Blueberry Trifles, Quick Fruit BrÃ»lÃ©e and Coconut Macaroon Meringue. In the end I settled for Chocolate Marscapone Mousse which takes only 5 minutes cooking time.
There are tons of great ideas in this book which I plan to steal from my lovely daughter-in-law.
Carrot, Ginger and Coconut Soup
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 15â€“20 minutes
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
800g (1Â¾lb) carrots, peeled and grated
2 tbsp peeled and finely chopped root ginger
(1 pint 9fl oz) chicken or vegetable stock
1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped coriander, to serve
* Pour the sunflower oil into a large saucepan on a medium heat and, when hot, add the onions and garlic. Cover with a lid and sweat for 6â€“8 minutes or until softened but not browned.
* Stir in the grated carrots with the ginger, then cover again with the lid and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8â€“10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened.
* Pour in the stock and coconut milk, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2â€“3 minutes.
* Remove from the heat and liquidise the soup in a blender, or use a hand-held blender, then place back on the hob and heat through again. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkling of fresh coriander.
Tagliatelle with Bacon, Peas and Mint
Preparation time 5 minutes
Cooking time 10â€“12 minutes
salt and freshly ground
350g (12oz) dried tagliatelle or other pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine
2 tbsp olive oil
200g (7oz) streaky bacon (about 8 rashers), rind removed and cut into 2cm (Â¾in) dice
300ml (Â½ pint) single or regular cream
200g (7oz) frozen peas
2 tbsp chopped mint
50g (2oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
* Fill a large saucepan with water, add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. Add the tagliatelle and cook for 10â€“12 minutes or according to the instructions on the
packet, until al dente.
* While the pasta is cooking, pour the olive oil into a large saucepan on a mediumâ€“high heat and, when hot, add the bacon. (The pan should be large enough to hold the tagliatelle when it is cooked.) Fry for about 5 minutes or until the fat has rendered and the bacon is golden and crispy.
* Stir in the cream and allow to bubble for a couple of minutes, then stir in the peas and keep cooking for a minute or two more or until they are just tender. Remove
from the heat, then drain the tagliatelle and add to the sauce, stirring it in along with the chopped mint.
* Taste for seasoning and serve with the Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.
Stir-fried Steak with Kale
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 10 minutes
1 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
500g (1lb 2oz) trimmed rump steak, cut into thin strips
2 tbsp groundnut oil
150ml (5fl oz) chicken or vegetable stock
100g (3Â½oz) (prepared weight) kale leaves, stalks and centre ribs, removed and leaves shredded
6 spring onions, trimmed and sliced at an angle
25g (1oz) salted peanuts, roughly chopped, to serve
* In a bowl, mix together the cornflour with 2 tablespoons each of the oyster and soy sauces, then stir in the steak.
* Pour the groundnut oil into a wok or frying pan on a high heat and allow it to get very hot. Tip in the beef slices and stir-fry for 2â€“3 minutes or until the meat is cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.
* Pour in the stock, then bring to the boil and stir in the kale. Cook for 2â€“3 minutes or until the kale is tender, then stir in the cooked beef and the spring onions. Season with the remaining oyster and soy sauces to taste, then serve with boiled rice and a scattering of the peanuts
Hot Buttered Plum Pudding
4 slices of white bread
50g (2oz) butter, softened
4 plums, stones removed and flesh cut into 5mm (Â¼in) thick slices
75g (3oz) caster sugar
* Preheat the oven to 220Â°C (425Â°F), Gas mark 7.
* Remove the crusts from the bread and butter generously on one side. Place, butter side down, in an ovenproof dish in which all the bread will fit in one layer. Use the
remaining butter to spread over the bread, then cover with the plum slices and sprinkle with the sugar.
* Place in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until the plums are cooked and slightly caramelised at the edges. Serve immediately with cream or ice cream, if you wish.
It is possible to buy ready-boiled condensed milk, which is sold in jars as Dulce de leche. If you want to make your own, boil unopened tins of condensed milk for 2 hours â€“ I like to prepare a few tins at a time and then keep them in the cupboard where theyâ€™ll store for months.
Makes about 10 pancakes
Preparation time 10 minutes Cooking time 15 minutes
150g (5oz) self-raising flour
1â€“2 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
150ml (5fl oz) milk
15g (Â½oz) butter
3 bananas, peeled and sliced
Ice cream or whipped cream
200ml (7fl oz) toffee sauce or dulce de leche (or boiled condensed milk) – see recipe introduction
* Sift the flour into a bowl, add the sugar and mix together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk, then make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the liquid and mix until just combined. (Be careful not to over-stir or the finished pancakes will taste tough.)
* Melt about a third of the butter (if using) in a small frying pan on a mediumâ€“low heat and when the butter starts to foam add generous tablespoons of the batter to the
pan to form 3â€“4 pancakes. (If youâ€™re using a non-stick pan, then it isnâ€™t necessary to include butter.) Cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes, by which time they should be golden brown underneath.
* Turn the pancakes over and cook until they feel set in the centre and both sides are golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, adding more butter as necessary.
Transfer the finished pancakes to a warmed plate, cover with an upturned bowl or some foil and keep warm in a low oven.
* Serve the pancakes scattered with slices of banana, a few blobs of ice cream or whipped cream and a drizzling of warm toffee sauce or dulce de leche.
Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
Preparation time 10 minutes – Cooking time 5 minutes
100g (3Â½oz) dark chocolate, broken into pieces, or dark chocolate drops
75g (3oz) caster sugar
2â€“3 tbsp brandy
250g (9oz) mascarpone
4â€“6 glasses, cups or bowls
* Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and allow to melt, then remove from the heat.
* Add the sugar, brandy and eggs and, using a hand-held electric beater, whisk for 5 minutes or until the outside of the bowl has cooled down to tepid.
* Whisk in the mascarpone for a few seconds, just until combined. (The mousse will thicken once the mascarpone has been mixed in.) Divide between the glasses, cups or bowls and serve straightaway or chill to use later.
Today at Midleton Farmers Market â€“ Irish Farmhouse Cheese and Craft Beer Festival â€“
donâ€™t miss the beer and cheese tastings and a ginger beer making demonstration. 10am to 2pm – 021 4631096 for details.
Self Sufficiency â€“ now is the moment to order fruit trees to plant in a couple of weeks time; apples, pears, plums, blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberriesâ€¦plant something for everyone, the children will love them too.
Richyâ€™s Restaurant in Clonakilty have launched two new â€˜subâ€™ food businesses to beat the recession and have created 26 new jobs in the process. Their new outside catering business, Richyâ€™s at Home offers restaurant quality food at affordable prices, for private events. They have also opened the daytime R CafÃ© â€“ The Stauntonâ€™s Pork Belly Bagette with Apple and Star Anise Puree sounds really delicious. www.richysbarandbistro.comâ€“ 023 8821852
Darina Allenâ€™s Cookery Book of the Week – Macarons – Pierre HermÃ©
Macarons are definitely the â€˜new cupcakeâ€™ brightly coloured mini meringues sandwiched together with gooey fillings. Famous Patissier â€“ Pierre HermÃ©â€™s recipes have at last been published in English and it would be difficult for any book on macarons to surpass this one â€“ the French edition has been one of the most sought after books in recent years, chocolate, praline, coffee, pistachio, fruit, but lots of others, lychee, rose and raspberry, mandarin and pink pepper, balsamic vinegarâ€¦Published by Grub Street Press â€“ 2011.