ArchiveSeptember 15, 2012

College Students – time to start ‘A Bottom Drawer’…

For many families around the country, these are frantically busy not to mention expensive weeks. Kids of all ages starting or going back to school or college. Both parents and students excited and apprehensive in equal measure.

Mums of college kids tell me their main worry is “How will they feed themselves?”. This week I’ll dedicate my column to easy nourishing inexpensive dishes. In order to cook one must have some basic equipment so perhaps I’ll include a ‘Student wish list’ – the equivalent of a wedding list that could be circulated to grandparents and aunties and uncles who may want to give a little present but not sure what would be useful. Some items, for example a whisk only cost a few euros others like a good cast iron casserole will cost over €150.00 but will be invaluable for making a fine pot of stew and can also double up as a cake tin and ultimately be part of their ‘bottom drawer’


A Bamix will puree soup, whip cream, make mayonnaise, whizz up a smoothie, it’s a brilliant electrical gadget that makes short work of otherwise laboursome tasks.


A couple of decent knives, a knife sharpener and a good chopping board are also essential and if there is a gas cooker, a wok from an Asian shop is the ultimate multipurpose cooking utensil. Stir fry, boil, steam, poach, scramble, one can even make an omelette in a wok.


Then there is the Store Cupboard List. No one can rustle up a meal if the cupboard is totally bare but some basic foods are so much more nourishing than others. Porridge (cheap and brilliantly satisfying) lentils, chickpeas and haricot beans – (buy them dry and when soaked they double in volume.)  Tinned tomatoes are invaluable for pasta sauces, soups, stews. Potatoes, filling, cheap nourishing. Cabbage, great cooked or in salads. Onions, garlic –  the basis of everything. Pasta is ok – cheap, cheerful and handy but fairly empty calories. What they’ll miss most is home cooking so try to send them off with a little copy book of hand written easy to follow family recipes that can be gradually added to – it will soon become a treasured possession.


Macroom Oatmeal Porridge


Michael Pollan wrote in his Food Rules an Eaters Manual ‘ Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother would not recognise as food’. She certainly would not approve of some of the weird breakfast cereals on offer nowadays, but she’d agree that a bowl of cheap and cheerful porridge is a perfect start to any day.

Serves 4



5 1/2 ozs (155g) Macroom oatmeal

32 fl ozs (950 ml) water

1 level teaspoon salt


Obligatory accompaniment!

Soft brown sugar


Bring 4 cups of water to the boil, sprinkle in the oatmeal, gradually stirring all the time.  Put on a low heat and stir until the water comes to the boil.


Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the salt and stir again.  Serve with single cream or milk and soft brown sugar melting over the top.

Left over porridge can be stored in a covered container in the fridge – it will reheat perfectly the next day.


French Toast with whatever you have.


Great with bacon, maple syrup, bananas, berries…

Serves 1


1 egg, free range if possible

2 tablespoons milk

1 – 2  teaspoons sugar



2 slices decent white bread

A little clarified butter



Whisk the egg in a bowl with the milk.  Add the sugar. Pour onto a plate and dip both sides of the bread in it.  Melt a little clarified butter in the pan; fry the bread on a medium heat, when golden on one side turn over onto the other.  Put on a hot plate, top with sliced banana and a blob of chilled yogurt, drizzle with maple syrup or honey and scatter with a few chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.


Indian ‘French toast’


Omit the sugar and finely chopped onion and add some chopped chilli and coriander season with salt and freshly ground black pepper – perky and delicious. 


Haricot Beans with Tomato and Rosemary


A brilliant multipurpose dish that can be vegetarian but also delicious with cubes of streaky bacon, belly of pork or a few slices of chorizo sausage.


Serves 4-6


1 cup dried haricot beans

bouquet garni

1 onion

1 carrot

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 ozs (170g) chopped onion

4 large cloves garlic, crushed

1 x 14 oz (400g) tin tomatoes

1 large sprig rosemary chopped, approx 1 tablespoon

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar


Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water. Next day, strain the beans and cover with fresh cold water, add a bouquet garni, carrot and onion, cover and simmer until the beans are soft but not mushy – anything from 30-60 minutes. Just before the end of cooking, add salt. Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables and discard.


Meanwhile sweat the chopped onion gently in olive oil in a wide saucepan until soft but not coloured, approx. 7-8 minutes add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, add the chopped tomato and their juice, add the cooked beans, and chopped rosemary. Simmer for 10-15 minutes add some of the bean liquid if necessary and season well with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.


Note: The mixture should be juicy but not swimming in liquid.


Gratin of Haricot Beans with Tomato and Rosemary

Put the mixture into a shallow ovenproof dish.  Scatter a mixture of buttered crumbs and grated cheese over the top and put into a hot oven or flash under a grill until crisp and golden on top.


Haricot Beans with Tomato and Rosemary with Chorizo

Add 1 chorizo, sliced, to the tomato base with the beans and rosemary.



Cabbage Salad with Raisins and Mint


Serves 8 approx.


If you are tiring of the ubiquitous coleslaw, then you might like to try this fresh tasting cabbage salad, bursting with vitamins and minerals.


1/2 white cabbage with a good heart

2-3 large dessert apples, grated – we like Cox’s orange pippin

2 tablespoons raisins

4 tablespoons freshly chopped mint

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives

4 tablespoons pure Irish honey

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar


Cut the cabbage into quarters.   Wash it well and discard the coarse outer leaves.  Cut away the stalks and shred the heart very finely with a very sharp knife.  Put it into a bowl with the grated apple, raisins, freshly chopped mint and chives.  Mix the honey and vinegar together.  Toss the salad in the dressing until well coated.  Taste and correct seasoning and serve soon.


Mammy’s Lamb Stew


Great to have an all-purpose recipe for stew. Beef, chicken thighs or shoulder of pork can be substituted for lamb. Ask the butcher for neck of lamb chops, they are cheapest but still sweet and succulent.

The word stew is often associated in these islands with not very exciting mid-week dinners. People tend to say almost apologetically, oh its only stew, no matter how delicious it is.

Well, let me tell you they smack their lips in France at the mere mention of a great big bubbling stew and now these gutsy, comforting pots are appearing on many of the smartest restaurant menus.


Serves 4-6



4 lb (1.8kg) neck or gigot or rack chops from the shoulder of lamb not less than 2.5cm (1 inch thick)

12 ozs (350g) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)

seasoned white flour, preferably unbleached

a little butter or oil for sautéing

1 lb (450g) onions, (baby ones are nicest)

12 ozs (350g) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced

1 3/4 pints (750ml) approx. lamb or chicken stock

8-12 ‘old’ potatoes (optional)

sprig of thyme

roux – optional, Mushroom a la Crème (optional) For this recipe see Darina’s Letter of the Week



1 dessertspoon freshly chopped parsley


Cut the rind off bacon and cut into approx. 1/2 inch (1cm) cubes blanch if salty and dry in kitchen paper. Divide the lamb into 8 pieces and roll in seasoned flour. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sauté the bacon until crisp, remove and put in a casserole. Add the lamb to the pan and sauté until golden then add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn’t burn yet it must be hot enough to sauté the lamb. If it is cool the lamb will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then quickly sauté the onions and carrots, adding a little butter if necessary, and put them into the casserole. Degrease the sauté pan and deglaze with the stock, bring to the boil, pour over the lamb.


Cover the top of the stew with peeled potatoes (if using) and season well. Add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, cover the pot and then put into the oven for 45-60 minutes, 180C/350F/regulo 4. Cooking time depends on how long the lamb was sautéed for.


When the casserole is just cooked, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease and return degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary. Add back in the meat, carrots, onions and potatoes, bring back to the boil.

The casserole is very good served at this point, but it’s even more delicious if some Mushroom a la Crème is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve bubbling hot sprinkled with chopped parsley.


Apple Crumble


Everyone loves a comforting crumble. The fruit can vary with the seasons, plums, blackberries, rhubarb and strawberry, gooseberry.


Serves 6-8


Crumbles are comfort food; vary the fruit according to the season.


1 1/2 lbs (675g) Bramley Seedling cooking apples

1 1/2-2 ozs (45-50g) sugar

1-2 tablespoons water



4 ozs (110g) white flour, preferably unbleached

2 ozs (50g) cold butter

2 ozs (50g) castor sugar

1 oz (25g) chopped almonds or hazelnuts (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)


2 pint (1.1L) capacity pie dish


Peel the apples, cut into quarters, remove the core and cut into large cubes.

Turn into a pie dish. Sprinkle with sugar.


Rub the butter into the flour just until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs, add the sugar and cinnamon and chopped nuts if using. Sprinkle this mixture over the apple in the pie dish. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 30-45 minutes or until the topping is cooked and golden. Serve with whipped cream and soft brown sugar


A Store Cupboard List


Onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, eggs, free range if possible. Flour, e.g. plain, self raising, strong brown, strong white, coarse brown. Oatmeal, pasta/noodles/spaghetti/macaroni/shells/penne etc…grains, couscous, bulgar, long grain Basmati rice.

Tinned tomatoes, mature Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, chicken stock/cube

Butter, extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil

Some whole spices eg. coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, cloves, chilli flakes

Dried Fruit and Apricots, Homemade jam, Irish honey, marmalade

Tortillas – and pitta bread

Soy Sauce, Nam pla – (fish sauce), sweet chilli sauce, salami, chorizo





Discovery of the Week - Luke Murphy’s goat cheese, an Irish chévre log with a furry white coat, ready to eat after three weeks. Luke’s Mammy, Jane Murphy who makes the Ardsallagh goat cheese is very proud of this new addition and so she should be – look out for it – 021 – 4882336


A Date for Your Diary – Slow Food Ireland Apple and Craft Cider Festival, Cahir, Co Tipperary – 22nd– 23rd September - Since 2011 there has been resurgence in interest in craft ciders and this is a rare opportunity to sample many of the new ciders from around Ireland under one roof. You can compare and contrast the various styles and as a rare treat you can try some specially commissioned traditional Irish cider, made to Dick Keating’s recipe and guaranteed to lift the fur off your tongue, at 13 per cent volume it’s not for the faint hearted, and much much more


Waterford Harvest Festival – 10th to 16th September – a week-long festival with an extraordinary variety of options, Slow Food Tours, Artisan Beer, Cookery and Forgotten Skills demonstrations…The fourth annual GIY (Grow it Yourself) gathering is on today Saturday 15th and tomorrow Sunday 16th in the Theatre Royal in Waterford–


Fancy having a few hens – choose form a brilliant selection of chickens and fancy fowl, Marrrans, Blackrock, Light Sussex, Aracuna, Buff Orpington, Bantams…first and third Sunday of everymonth, beside Two Mile Inn between Midelton and Castlemartyr.


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