ArchiveDecember 26, 2020

Cookbook Recommendations

I love that so many who have never cooked before have discovered the joy of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen during the lockdowns enforced on us during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Several of the ‘born again’ cooks I’ve spoken to are messianic about the therapeutic value of the experience and how amazed they are to find themselves actually feeling excited about getting into the kitchen and the “Oops” they get in their tummy from the reaction of their family to each new home-made dish. This experience has definitely heightened awareness of the importance of passing on each newly learned skill to the next generation.

We surely need all these little highlights to enhance the quality of our lives at any time but even more so during these tumultuous and for many, heart breaking times.

So thought I’d share five titles of new cookbooks to use up those Christmas book tokens. Alternatively order the title that appeals to you on line but I urge you to buy directly from your local book shops or from Kenny’s in Galway ( who have a huge list of titles and are super efficient and are in many cases cheaper than the well known international companies and plus your order will support an Irish firm.

Home Cookery Year from Claire Thompson, published by Quadrille is definitely worth having in your repertoire. You may even want to buy two copies, one to keep and another to gift. I found it incredibly difficult to choose just a couple of recipes. It’s divided into individual seasonal chapters, focusing on

Midweek dishes on a budget,

From the Larder.

Salads as light lunches or

Side dishes,

Treat yourself,

Leisurely Weekend cooking and Celebration feasts – You may not have heard of Claire before but, she writes regularly for The Telegraph, BBC Good Food and Olive Magazines and does quite a bit of media work. Follow her on Instagram @5oclockapron for a daily snapshot of the food she cooks at home. In the Winter chapter alone I picked out about 15 recipes that I would love to cook. I chose Buttermilk Fried Cauliflower with Jalapeno & Lime dressing and

Croque Monsieur Bread & Butter Pudding to share because I thought they could add to your repertoire of delicious ways to use up Christmas leftovers. See next week’s column for more ideas….

As Weekend Examiner readers will know, delicious home cooking has always been the most important focus for me and interestingly this year many of the books published have focussed on comforting dishes to nourish and feed our precious family and friends. Next up Clodagh’s Weeknight Kitchen by Clodagh McKenna has become, and always was, ever since I’ve known her, when she was a student here at Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2000. She then went on to then work alongside Myrtle Allen in Ballymaloe House kitchens, sold paté at the Farmers Markets in Midleton every Saturday, presented several TV series, wrote 8 bestselling cookbooks, while running several restaurants….Wow, all the while oozing energy and passion for food. More recently, her daily pod cast Clodagh’s Midweek Kitchen has almost 100K followers plus can this girl dance! and she keeps hens…..Seek out at your local bookshop or order at for more.

For me one of the most meaningful books of the year is A Taste of Home, 100% of the proceeds from the sales of this really beautiful book go to support the work of The Passage’s, a British charity who for over 40 years have helped thousands of homeless people off the streets for good in the UK, among them many Irish. During 2020 their work was made even more challenging due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The original book concept was created by Kyle Cathie, my long time friend and publisher of many years, now retired. It’s packed with gorgeous recipes donated and mindfully chosen by cooks and chefs from all over the world. So many interesting ideas to try……

Finally Always Home another of my favourite books of the year, an endearing and enchantingly written memoir by Fanny Singer about growing up as the daughter of the renowned chef and founder of Chez Panise, Alice Waters. A story of food, family and the need for beauty in all aspects of life – What could be more appealing during these uncertain times. A charmed childhood for sure, beautifully written and peppered with recipes for many of her beloved childhood foods, published by Orion Publishing.  The recipes in Always Home are written in prose interwoven with stories so I haven’t included them in this article.

Just in, The Happy Health Plan yet another cracker from the two handsome chaps from Greystones, David and Stephen Flynn. Simple and tasty plant-based food to nourish your body inside and out.

Buttermilk Fried Cauliflower with Jalapeno & Lime dressing (From Home Cookery Year by Claire Thompson and published by Quadrille)

1 cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

400ml (14fl oz) buttermilk (or use natural yoghurt)

1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped

1-2 jalapeno chillies, roughly chopped

1 lime (or 2 if your limes aren’t especially juicy), halved

1 small bunch of coriander (cilantro), leaves picked and roughly chopped

½ – 1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground

½ tsp salt, plus more to taste

100g (3 ½ oz) self-raising flour

50g (1 ¾ oz) cornflour (cornstarch)

Bring a large pan of well salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets and boil for 2 minutes, until just tender, then drain well and allow to cool a little.

In the meantime, blend half the buttermilk with the garlic, chilli, salt to taste, juice from half the lime and all the coriander to make a smooth dressing and put to one side.

Mix the remaining buttermilk with the chilli powder, cumin and a ½ teaspoon of salt, then mix the drained cauliflowers florets into the buttermilk mixture until fully coated.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and cornflour (cornstarch) together with a big pinch of salt.

Coat the cauliflower in the flour mixture and place on a baking tray so that the pieces aren’t touching each other. Pour at least 3cm (1 ¼”) of oil into a wide, deep frying pan and heat to 180°C/350°F. The oil is ready for frying when you drop in a piece of cauliflower and it sizzles and floats to the surface immediately.

Working in batches of about 6 – 8 pieces at a time, fry the cauliflower florets for a few minutes, or until golden on all sides. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels while you fry the remainder. Season well with salt.

Serve the fried cauliflower immediately along with the dressing and with the remaining half of the lime cut into wedges for squeezing over.

Spiced Chicken & Chickpea Curry

(From Clodagh’s Midweek Kitchen by Clodagh McKenna and published by Kyle Books)


2 tablespoons olive oil

6 bone-in chicken legs (thigh and drumstick), skin on

2 large onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1½ tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

400g (14oz) can chickpeas,

drained and rinsed

470ml (17fl oz) chicken


150g (5½oz) baby spinach

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 To Serve

60g (2¼oz) Greek yogurt

60g (2¼oz) flat-leaf parsley, chopped

brown rice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Place an ovenproof casserole dish or a large saucepan over a medium heat and warm for 30 seconds. Pour in the olive oil. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes until they are golden brown on all sides. Then transfer to a plate.

Add the onions to the casserole, adding more olive oil if necessary. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes until the onions are soft and golden brown.

Stir in the garlic, ginger and spices, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant. Add the chickpeas and the chicken stock. Return the chicken pieces and their juices to the casserole. Bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer to the oven to cook for 45–55 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Remove the casserole from the oven and place over a low heat, then stir in the spinach which should only take a minute to wilt. Transfer the curry to a large, deep platter, serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt, some flat-leaf

parsley and rice, if you wish.

Harvest Salad with Kale, Apple, Beetroot & Grilled Halloumi

(From Clodagh’s Midweek Kitchen by Clodagh McKenna and published by Kyle Books)


1 sweet potato, peeled and

cut into chunks

1½ tablespoons olive oil

50g (1¾oz) kale, chopped

100g (3½oz) halloumi, sliced

1 apple, quartered, cored and grated

1 beetroot, cooked, peeled and grated

160g (5¾oz) cooked wild rice

50g (1¾oz) whole almonds,

toasted and chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad Dressing

2 tablespoons balsamic


6 tablespoons extra virgin

olive oil

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Put the sweet potato chunks in a roasting tin, toss with ½ tablespoon of the

olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.

While the potato chunks are roasting, steam the kale for 2 minutes, then drain and roughly chop. Set aside.

Place a griddle or frying pan over a medium heat, add the remaining

tablespoon of the olive oil and fry the halloumi for 2 minutes on each side.

Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together in a small bowl.

Place the apple, beetroot, roast sweet potato chunks, kale and rice in a large serving bowl. Toss with the dressing, season with salt and pepper, top with the grilled halloumi and scatter over the almonds to serve.

Claudia Roden’s Pasta with Minced Lamb and Yoghurt Sauce

(From A Taste of Home compiled by Kyle Cathie)

Serves 4

1 large onion cut in half and sliced

3 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil

400g  minced lamb

1 ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

1 ½ teaspoon pomegranate molasses (optional)

200g pappardelle

25g flat leaf parsley, chopped

400g plain whole-milk yoghurt at room temperature

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Chilli pepper to taste

40g butter, melted

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

This interpretation of manti, a Turkish meat-stuffed pasta (like large tortellini) with a yoghurt sauce, is a deconstruction of one of the most sophisticated and refined of Middle Eastern dishes that was developed in the palaces of Ottoman Sultans in Constantinople – now Istanbul.

In a large frying pan, fry the onion in the oil over a medium-low heat, stirring often for about 15 minutes, until very soft and lightly coloured.

Add the minced lamb, keep crushing it with a fork and turning it over until it changes colour.

Add salt and pepper, the cinnamon and allspice and the pomegranate molasses, and cook for 5 minutes more. Then add about 150ml water and cook for 5 minutes, until much of the liquid is absorbed and the meat is very soft.

At the same time cook the pappardelle in salted boiling water until al dente, drain and pour into a serving dish.

Stir the parsley into the minced meat and mix with the pasta. Beat the yoghurt with the garlic and a little salt and pour over the dish.

Mix the chilli pepper with the melted butter and dribble over the top.

Veggie Pot Noodle with Miso

(From The Happy Healthy Plan by David & Stephen Flynn, Published by Penguin Books)

Serves 1

10g carrot

2 spring onions

¼ fresh red chilli

50g wholemeal noodles or brown rice noodles

½ teaspoon miso

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon fresh ginger

25g frozen peas

25g baby spinach

Zest and juice of ½  a lime

1 teaspoon tamari / soy sauce

To Serve

Toasted sesame seeds

Pickled ginger

Finely grate the carrot and slice the spring onions. Finely dice the red chilli (include the seeds if you like it spicy, or leave them out if you prefer it milder). Peel and grate the fresh ginger. Put the noodles into a large jar, along with the veg stock, miso and the rest of the ingredients.

When you are ready to eat, fill and boil the kettle. Once boiled, pour boiling water into the jar until everything is covered and leave it to sit for 15 minutes.

Serve with toasted sesame seeds and pickled ginger.

Linda Tubby’s Fudgy Chocolate Cake

(From A Taste of Home compiled by Kyle Cathie)

150g 75% plain dark chocolate

85g salted butter

100g ground almonds

3 large eggs

85g golden caster sugar

Large pinch of cream of tartar

Icing sugar or cocoa to dust (optional)

This flourless chocolate cake uses whisked egg whites to create a meringue and provide volume and to give a light texture. You will need a 20cm springform tin, greased and fully lined with baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4.

Break the chocolate into a medium-sized bowl. Cut the butter into chunks and add to the bowl. Sit the bowl over a small pan of just-simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Melt the chocolate and butter together for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir to melt completely. Mix in the almonds and set aside.

Separate the eggs into two large bowls and had half the sugar to the yolks. Add the cream of tartar to the whites and whisk until soft peaks form. Gradually add the rest of the sugar, whisking between each addition to create a stiff meringue.

Without washing the beaters whisk the yolks and sugar together until creamy and the whisk leaves a trail. Fold in the chocolate almond mixture and mix well to combine. Gently fold in the meringue and keep folding until the mixture is even in colour.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform tin and bake for 25 – 30 min until risen. It will still be quite soft in the middle but it firms up as it cools. When cold, if wished, dust with icing sugar or cocoa to serve.


Past Letters