ArchiveOctober 5, 2013

Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen – Simple, Delicious Family Food

Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen – Simple, Delicious Family Food has just been published by Harper Collins. For me this is Rachel’s best so far, her eleventh book in ten years so you can imagine how hectic Rachel’s schedule is, trying to balance family life, teaching, writing, plus TV commitments. I really marvel at how she does it.

During the years, she has tried and tested hundreds of family friendly hassle free recipes on her children who are just as able to say ‘yuk’ if they don’t like something as anyone else’s brood. Feeding children is always a challenge but Rachel feels as I know we all do that cooking for yourself and your family is such an important thing to be able to do. Eating good food has a profound impact on your health, energy and outlook. It may take a little longer than heating up a ready-meal or ordering a take-away, but it is the only way of ensuring you know where all the ingredients come from. Cooking ensures your family’s meals are nutritious and delicious but can also be creative and fun.

This time, Rachel is focusing on clever everyday cooking: simple short cuts, advice on weekly planning and shopping, wasting less, freezing more, preparing ahead and using leftovers, recipes that can serve more and those that can be adjusted to a tasty meal for one or two. With a bit of forward thinking, you can turn one meal into several different dishes, keeping waste to a minimum, If you’re going to buy the best ingredients you can afford, then it’s vital than nothing is wasted. Cooked potatoes left over from lunch could be made into a delicious and comforting tartiflette for supper on another day, for instance, while roasted butternut squash enjoyed hot at the table could be transformed into a tasty salad for a packed lunch.

Buying fresh ingredients in season will ensure that you get maximum value and flavour from what you eat. Cooking in bulk can save both time and money as well. In Everyday Kitchen, Rachel has lots of recipes that are just as easy to make in a slightly larger quantity and then freeze the extra portion. Stews, soups, pies, along with many other recipes, can be doubled up and frozen for another day. So rather than resorting to a ready meal, you can defrost something homemade instead – guaranteed to be more nutritious and much tastier.

Nowadays most people seem to be crazily busy particularly when children are younger, dashing in all directions, school runs, extra curricula activities, sleep overs, but one could see how with just a few small adjustments to the weekly routine one could reap big rewards for yourself and your family and even have more time for the most precious of all family activities, sitting down around the kitchen table.


Rachel Allen’s Lamb and Pearl Barley Broth


A simple yet soothing soup that I find hugely restorative on cold and rainy evenings, this is a delicious way to make roast lamb go that little bit further. It uses pearl barley, which has long been added to soups and stews to bulk them up when meat was scarce. Pearl barley provides more than just bulk; however, it’s soft, yielding texture as welcome here as it’s delightfully nutty taste.


Serves 6


25g (1oz) butter

2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or finely grated

2 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of rosemary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

200g (7oz) cooked lamb sliced or shredded into roughly bite-sized pieces

1 parsnip, peeled and finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

100g (3½ oz) pearl barley or pearled spell 1.25litres (2 pints) chicken stock

2 tbsp chopped parsley


Place the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Once the butter is melted and foaming, add the onions, garlic, celery, bay leaf and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper, then turn the heat to low, cover with a lid and sweat gently for 5-8 minutes or until the onions are softened but not browned.

Add the lamb, parsnip, carrots, pearl barley or pearled spelt and the stock. Turn the heat up and simmer, with the lid on, for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables and barley are tender. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary and stir in the chopped parsley, then season with more salt and pepper to taste and serve.

  • The soup can be made up to two days in advance, covered and stored in the fridge; reheat on the hob to serve. It can also be frozen for up to three months.
  • The quantities in this recipe can be halved or multiplied.


Rachel Allen’s Thai Butternut Squash Soup


The squash gives real body to this soup, making it a meal in a bowl.  It’s sweet taste provides the perfect foil for the dish’s strong Southeast Asian flavours. This recipe can be made in advance, but don’t add the basil until just before serving.


Serves 6


500ml (18 fl oz) chicken stock

1 stick of Iemongrass, crushed with a rolling pin 50ml (2 fl oz) sunflower oil

1 large onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or finely grated

1 fresh red chilli pepper, deseeded (optional) and diced

5cm (2in) piece of root ginger, peeled and grated

1 large butternut squash (about 1kg/2lb 3oz), peeled, deseeded and cut into roughly 3cm (1¼in) chunks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1x 400ml tin of coconut milk

1-2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

Small bunch of basil, shredded (about 2 tbsp), to serve


Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and add the Iemongrass. Place on a medium heat and bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and allow to infuse for at least 10 minutes.

Place a large saucepan on a high heat and add the sunflower oil. Add the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and raw squash (if using), and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low, then cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender. Pour in the coconut milk and the hot chicken stock, including the lemongrass. Bring to the boil and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

If using roasted butternut squash, add this with the coconut milk and stock and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat, then transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the finished soup to the pan to heat through gently, then season with fish sauce to taste and serve sprinkled with the basil.

The soup will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to three days; simply reheat to serve. It can also be frozen for up to three months.


Rachel Allen’s Roasted Butternut Squash


Leftover roast vegetables can be equally good served at room temperature, and squash is no exception. With just a few more ingredients, it makes a handsome meal. Packed full of nutrition, it also makes a great lunchbox meal.

Serves 4-6


1 large butternut squash (about 1kg/2lb 3oz), peeled, deseeded and cut into 3cm (1¼in) pieces

3 red onions, peeled and each cut lengthways into about 8 wedges

3 tbsp olive oil

10 small sprigs of thyme (if using raw squash) Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1tbsp balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar

200g (7oz) mozzarella, torn into bite-sized chunks

50g (2oz) rocket leaves

25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated


Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), Gas mark 6.

Place the raw squash (if using) and onion wedges in a roasting tin with the thyme sprigs and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until completely tender and slightly caramelised around the edges.

Drizzle the vinegar over the warm vegetables and set aside to cool to room temperature. If using previously roasted squash, add it to the onions once they have cooled down.

When the vegetables have cooled, add the mozzarella and rocket and toss gently together. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, then taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary, and serve.


  • Leftover roasted butternut squash salad makes a great packed lunch or picnic dish (just remember to leave out the rocket leaves if making it in advance, adding them just before serving).


Rachel Allen’s Cheesy Kale Bake


I find a dish like this a good opportunity to use up any ends of cheese lurking in the fridge. Within reason, of course: the better the cheese, the better the dish will be, but a few different types of hard cheese mixed together are perfect. I prefer not to use blue cheese, however.


Serves 4


400g (14oz) curly kale (stalks removed), thickly shredded

25g (1oz) butter

25g (1oz) plain flour

400ml (14fl oz) milk

250g (9oz) Cheddar or Gruyere cheese (or mixed leftover hard cheese), grated

1tsp Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper




20 x 25cm (8 x 10in) ovenproof dish

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), Gas mark 6.

Place a large pan of water on a high heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. Tip in the kale and cook for just a couple of minutes or until almost tender, then drain, squeezing the leaves to remove all the excess water, and place in the ovenproof dish.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the flour and cook for 1 minute or until bubbling. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking it into the flour and butter, and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat, then add half the cheese and the mustard and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the cheese sauce over the kale and sprinkle over the remaining cheese, then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until bubbling and golden on top.


  • This can be prepared in advance right up until assembling in the dish and kept in the fridge for 24 hours, or it can be frozen for up to three months. Defrost fully before halting as above. This dish will keep in the fridge for a couple of days once cooked. It’s best served warm, reheated in the oven (preheated to 180°C/350°F/ Gas mark 4) for about 20 minutes to allow the cheese sauce to melt again.


Rachel Allen’s Butterscotch Apple Pudding


Serves 4-6


2 large cooking apples (about 45og/ 1lb total weight), peeled, cored and cut into roughly 2cm (¾ in) dice

125g (4½ oz) self-raising flour

¼ tsp salt

200g (7oz) brown sugar, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling

100g (3½ oz) butter, melted

1tsp vanilla extract


200ml (7fl oz) milk

2 tbsp golden syrup

150ml (5fl oz) boiling water




20 x 30cm (8 x 12in) ovenproof dish

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4. Place the apple pieces in the bottom of the ovenproof dish, spreading them out to form an even layer.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix in half the sugar. In another bowl, mix together the melted butter, vanilla extract, egg and milk.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones, then whisk briefly to bring everything together. Pour the mixture into the dish, distributing it evenly over the apples.

Next, place the golden syrup in a saucepan with the boiling water and remaining sugar. Bring to the boil, stilling to dissolve the sugar, then pour this evenly over the mixture in the dish. Most of it will sink through the pudding mixture to the bottom of the dish, but don’t be alarmed

-this creates a beautiful butterscotch sauce underneath the sponge when baked.

To finish, sprinkle over the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, then place in the oven and bake for about go minutes or until the top of the pudding has a very light spring when you press it with your finger. This is best served warm with softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


  • Any leftover pudding will keep well in the fridge for up to three days; simply reheat in a moderate oven (preheated to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4) for just a few minutes to warm through


Crab Apple and Rowanberry Jelly

Rowanberries (Sorbus aucuparia) come from the rowan tree (also known as mountain ash) and are in season during the autumn. They grow on acid soil in hills, and their brilliant orangey-red berries were historically much eaten, although few people eat rowanberries any more. We gather ones from the Knockmealdown mountains in West Waterford for our rowanberry jelly.


Crab or Bramley apples


450g (1lb) sugar to every pint of juice


Chop the apples (windfalls are fine) into chunks, barely cover with water, bring to the boil and cook until the apples are soft and pulpy. Strain the juice through a jelly bag.

Crush the rowanberries, add a very little water, cook them in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until they are soft, and strain through a nylon sieve.


Combine all the juices and measure. Allow 450g (1lb) of sugar for every pint of juice Heat the sugar and add to the boiling juice. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved and boil rapidly until the jelly reaches setting point. Jelly should wrinkle when pressed with a finger. Pot into sterilized jars, seal and store in a cool place. Serve with game or a fine leg of mutton if you can find it.


Hot Tips


Look out for Irish Craft Ciders there are now almost 20. I tasted several delicious examples at Applefest the Slow Food Apple and Craft Cider Festival at the Apple Farm in Moorstown, Cahir, Co Tipperary. Kilmegan, Orpens, Craigies, MacIvors, Highbank Proper Cider and Cockagee Pure Irish Keeved Cider, Llewellyns – Longueville House and Stonewell are even closer to home.


The 12th edition of Georgina Campbell’s Ireland Guide – The Best of Irish  Food and Hospitality has just been published and is a must have to keep in the car so you can swing by the best hotels, restaurants, cafes, pubs, country houses, guest houses and farmhouses both north and south. The entries are concise and there are also county maps and lots more detailed information on Ireland – A perfect small gift for a treasured friend.


It’s a fantastic year for apples as well as blackberries, I came across a Crispy Apple Crumble Mix from the Cookie Jar Company based at Poulmucka Clonmel Co. Tipperary – use it to make a delicious bubbly crumble with home-grown apples.


Lots of mountain ash or rowan berries on hillsides at present, added them to some crab apples or windfall cookers, they make a fantastic rowan and crab apple jelly, delicious to serve with game or lamb. See and follow link to Darina’s Saturday letter for the recipe.



Past Letters