Family suppers have got a whole lot more complicated in recent times, particularly during term with a variety of extracurricular activities at random times. However few things are more comforting than knowing that there will be a kitchen supper waiting when you come home. The smell of roast chicken with gravy and lots of roast spuds and juicy apple tart makes your heart skip… Don’t forget to give the cook a big hug and a hand with the washing up.
Many households now have a couple of vegetarian or vegan teens, then throw in the extra challenge of allergies and intolerances… and what used to be a relatively simple and fun exercise can turn into a ‘nightmare’ not to mention the many children who are picky and finicky.
One devastated Mum told me recently that she’d almost lost the ‘will to live’ because of the hassle. One can see how people give up the battle and just give in to readymade pizzas and burgers.
Let’s try to think of a few multipurpose ingredients and recipes that will be welcomed by virtually everyone.
So here are a few simple recipes that my children and grandchildren love.
Potatoes, super nutritious and Boy, can you cook them in a million different ways, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, a meal in themselves, a side or filler to bulk out a stew.
Mac & Cheese is another family favourite, neither gluten free or dairy free but can be vegetarian. Equally, I like to add cubes of bacon or chorizo, maybe smoked mackerel or a bit of smoked salmon and lots of dill or parsley, the remains of a cooked chicken or roast and lots of fresh herbs…
Here’s a recipe for dahl, kids seem to love spices nowadays so stock up your pantry – start with coriander and cumin, turmeric, chili flakes then cardamom and you’ll probably have cloves anyhow for apple tarts.
Frozen Chicken in a Pot, this delicious recipe was born out of desperation….
We’d invited all the family to Saturday for kitchen supper, we were running late so telephoned home to ask someone to slather the chicken with butter and chopped rosemary and pop it into the oven only to discover that they were still in the freezer….we’re now mid-afternoon – what to do!
I gave instructions to unwrap the bird, pop it into a deep saucepan with lots of chunks of onion and carrots, a few outside stalks of celery and a few sprigs of thyme and tarragon and a sprinkling of black peppercorns. Add a couple of inches of stock or failing that water. Cover the pot, put it on a medium heat, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 1.5 – 2 hours or until the meat is tender and delicious and will virtually lift off the bones – the broth will be packed with flavour, continue on with the recipe and finish as you choose.
Pilaff rice – gorgeous with that chicken in a pot, is a doddle to make – It cooks itself and is much easier than risotto. Make it with vegetable or chicken broth and add whatever tasty bits you have to hand. Mind you the best pilaff is made with butter and has lots of grated cheese.
Faux Deep Pan Pizza is another gem and I’ll be amazed if it doesn’t become a go to recipe in your home too, always greeted with whoops of delight.
You’ll love Clafoutis, another easy pudding, comforting and delicious… We make it year-round with whatever fruit is in season. This recipe from my One Pot Feeds All book is made with plums or damsons but I recently enjoyed a delicious version with blackcurrants at Inis Meáin Suites on Inis Meáin, cooked by one of my favourite chefs, Ruari de Blacam. Omit the cinnamon and add a tablespoon of Cassis or a scant teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead…
Remember the way to everyone’s heart is through their tummy and sitting down around the kitchen table, tucking into a yummy supper together is what memories are made of … so worth the effort…
Frozen Chicken in a Pot
A brilliant recipe born out of desperation! You’ll need a really flavourful chicken, use the very best organic bird you can find. We love to serve it with Tomato Fondue. Not just for an emergency, it can be prepared ahead and reheats well but do not add the liaison until just before serving. Two tablespoons of chopped tarragon and or a pan of sautéed mushrooms added to the sauce will make it even more special..
1 good free-range and organic chicken, can be frozen solid…. 2 kg (4 1/2lbs) approx.
2-3 carrots, sliced into chunks
2-3 onions, quartered
a couple of sticks of celery
6 black peppercorns
a sprig of thyme, a few parsley stalks, a tiny bay leaf, and a sprig of tarragon if available..
450-600ml (16fl oz – 1 pint) approx. water or water and white wine mixed or light chicken stock
30g (1 1/4oz) approx. roux
250-300ml (9-10fl oz) light cream or creamy milk
Liaison, an enrichment
1 egg yolk
50ml (2fl oz) cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh watercress sprigs
Put the frozen chicken into a deep saucepan or casserole with the carrot, celery, onion, herbs and peppercorns. Add a teaspoon of salt. Pour in water, water and wine, or stock, (3/4 stock – 1/4 wine). Cover and bring slowly to the boil and simmer either on top of the stove or in the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, When the bird is cooked, remove from the casserole. The meat should lift easily from the bone.
Strain and de-grease the cooking liquid and return to the casserole. Discard the vegetables: they have already given their flavour to the cooking liquid. Reduce the liquid in a wide uncovered casserole for 5-10 minutes until the flavour is concentrated.
Meanwhile make the pilaff rice.
Add cream, return to the boil and reduce again; thicken to a light coating consistency with a little roux. Taste, add salt, correct the seasoning.
Skin the chicken and carve the flesh into bite-sized pieces; add to the sauce and allow to heat through and bubble (the dish may be prepared ahead to this point).
Finally, just before serving mix the egg yolk and cream to make a liaison. Add some of the hot sauce to the liaison then carefully stir into the chicken mixture. Taste, correct the seasoning. Stir well but do not allow to boil further or the sauce will curdle.
Serve with a simple Pilaff Rice. Turn the pilaff into a wide hot serving dish, top with the chicken pilaff. Scatter with flat parsley and serve.
Alternatively serve the pilaff rice separately.
Although a risotto can be made in 20 minutes it really entails 20 minutes of pretty constant stirring which makes it feel rather laboursome. A pilaff on the other hand looks after itself once the initial cooking is underway. Pilaff is super versatile – serve it as a staple or add whatever tasty bits you have to hand.
25g (1oz) butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot
400g (14oz) long-grain rice (preferably Basmati)
975ml (1 litre) well-flavoured homemade chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs e.g. parsley, thyme, chives: optional
Melt the butter in a casserole, add the finely chopped onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and toss for a minute or two, just long enough for the grains to change colour. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the chicken stock, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a minimum and then simmer on top of the stove or in the oven 160˚C/325˚F/Gas Mark 3 for 10 minutes approx. By then the rice should be just cooked and all the water absorbed. Just before serving stir in the fresh herbs if using.
Basmati rice cooks quite quickly; other types of rice may take up to 15 minutes.
110g (4oz/1 stick) butter
110g (4oz/1 cup) flour
Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes
on a low heat, stirring occasionally.
Use as required. Roux can be
stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if
preferred. It will keep at least a
fortnight in a refrigerator.
Everyone’s Favourite Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese is a bit like apple crumble, simple fare but everyone loves it, plus you can add lots of tasty bits to change it up. Macaroni cheese was and still is one of my children’s favourite supper dishes. I often add some cubes of cooked bacon, ham or chorizo to the sauce.
Faux Deep Pan Pizza…
Can’t tell you how many times this soda bread pizza base has come to the rescue when I need to whip up a dish of something filling and delicious in jig time. Could be as simple as this with a topping of grated mature Cheddar cheese with a few spring onions.
450g (1lb) flour
1 level teaspoon bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
1 level teaspoon salt
375 – 400ml (13-14fl oz) buttermilk to mix
extra virgin olive oil
75g (3oz) spring onions – white and green, thinly sliced at an angle
175g (6oz) grated mature Cheddar cheese
12 black Kalamata olives (optional)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt
1 roasting tin 31 x 23cm x 5cm (12 x 9 x 2 inch)
First fully preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 8.
Sieve the dry ingredients into a large wide bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour the milk in all at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board, knead lightly for a few seconds, tidy it up and flip over.
Brush the tin with olive oil. Roll the dough into a rectangle just large enough to fit the tin. Sprinkle evenly with chopped spring onion and then grated Cheddar. Stud with olives (optional). Season with flaky sea salt. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6 for 20-25 minutes or until just cooked. The cheese should be bubbly and golden on top. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares and served with drinks or with a steaming bowl of soup.
Other tasty toppings
50g (2oz) Parmesan and 4-6 tablespoons of your favourite Pesto – basil, kale, rocket or wild garlic
110 – 150g (4-5oz) Tapenade and 110-150g (4-5oz) soft goat cheese
110 – 150g (4-5oz) Nduja and 18-22 Bocconcini
Martha Rosenthal’s Red Lentil Dahl
Turmeric has major, scientifically-proven, anti-inflammatory properties (similar to anti-inflammatory medications). It also has anti-septic properties.
This is the quickest dahl to cook – it takes only 20 minutes without using a pressure cooker. The orange/red colour of the lentils becomes pale yellow once it is cooked. It keeps well.
225g (8oz) orange/red lentils
400ml (14fl oz) can of coconut milk plus 300ml (10fl oz) water
1 teaspoon turmeric
scant 1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon coriander powder
6 slices onion, sautéed until golden
a few chopped fresh coriander or mint leaves
Put the lentils in a heavy saucepan with the coconut milk and water, add the turmeric, bring to the boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes by which time the lentils will be soft, almost mushy. When cooked turn off the heat, add salt, lemon juice and garam masala. Heat the oil, add cumin seeds, fry for 10 seconds and turn off the heat. Add the cayenne and coriander, stir and pour over the cooked lentils. Mix well and garnish. Serve with Basmati rice and Tamarind Sauce
Martha’s Garam Masala
What adds flavour to this simple recipe is to make your own garam masala.
Punjabi-style Garam Masala
18g (3/4oz) cumin seeds
35g (1 1/2ozs) coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamon seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
15 whole cloves
5cm (2 inch) piece cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Heat a heavy sauté pan over a medium-low heat. Add all of the ingredients, dry roast the spices, stirring occasionally until they darken slightly, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a coffee grinder or blender and grind to a powder. Use while fresh or store in an airtight container for up to a month.
Tamarind is high in the antioxidant vitamin C, B vitamins, flavonoids and vital minerals. It helps preserve vitamin C levels in the body, promotes heart health by lowering cholesterol. Tamarind juice can be used as a gargle to ease a sore throat.
4 teaspoons tamarind
200ml (7fl oz) boiling water
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
35g (1 1/2oz) chopped dates or raisins, or half and half
1/2 teaspoon dry roasted cumin seeds, crushed
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
salt to taste
Mix the tamarind with the boiling water, cover and soak for 30 minutes. Press the tamarind pulp through a fine sieve extracting all the paste, add the ginger, stir and then put the dates and/or raisins. Mix well, then add the freshly ground cumin, cayenne and salt to taste. Keeps for 3-4 weeks.
Tamarind lends a distinctive sour taste, helping to balance out the sweet, salty and hot flavours so often found in Asian cooking. I buy the whole pod, keep it in a sealed container in the fridge and break off little pieces as I need them. To use, the pieces are soaked in hot water to cover for 20 minutes. The water takes on the tamarind flavour and it is this that you use once it has been strained. Press the tamarind pulp in your strainer to extract as much flavour as possible.
Martha sometimes adds 2 quartered ripe tomatoes just before serving.
Soda Bread Deep Pan Pizza
The idea to use Soda Bread as a base for a pizza was born out of desperation one day when I needed to whip up a dish of something filling and delicious in no time at all for a few hungry lads. It can be as simple as a topping of grated mature Cheddar cheese and scallions or well-seasoned cherry tomatoes, a few basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. This recipe is taken from my ‘One Pot Feeds All’ published by Kyle Books.
450g (1lb) plain white flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 level teaspoon sea salt
375–400ml (13-14fl oz) buttermilk
extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
1/2 – 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
50g (2oz) pepperoni or chorizo, diced into 5mm (1/4 inch)
350g (12oz) Tomato Fondue or chopped fresh or tinned tomatoes mixed with seasoning/spices
8 bocconcini, halved
15g (1/2oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
lots of snipped flat-leaf parsley
Fully preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in 375ml (13fl oz) of the buttermilk and, using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl. Mix to a softish, not too wet and sticky consistency, adding more buttermilk if necessary. When it all comes together, turn out the dough onto a floured board, knead lightly for a few seconds, tidy it up and flip it over.
Brush a roasting tin, approx. 31 x 23 x 5cm (12 x 9 x 2 inch), with olive oil. Roll out the dough lightly to fit the tin and sprinkle with rosemary. Scatter the diced chorizo evenly over the surface. Spread a layer of tomato fondue over the chorizo and arrange some halved bocconcini on top. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.
Transfer the tray to the fully preheated oven on a low rack and bake for an initial 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 20–25 minutes or until the dough is cooked and it’s golden and bubbly on top.
Sprinkle with the parsley sprigs and serve with a good green salad.
Other tasty toppings
’Nduja and Bocconcini
Follow the main recipe, omitting the rosemary and replacing the chorizo with 100g (31/2oz) ‘nduja mixed with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to make it easier to spread. Sprinkle with fresh marjoram to serve.
Follow the main recipe, omitting the rosemary and replacing the chorizo.
Pesto and Parmesan
Follow the main recipe, omit the rosemary and chorizo and replace the tomato fondue with 3 tablespoons of loose basil or wild garlic pesto. Top with 110–150g (4-5oz) grated mozzarella or 110–150g (4-5oz) soft goat’s cheese and 15g (1/2oz) grated Parmesan.
Tapenade and Soft Goat’s Cheese
Follow the main recipe, omitting the rosemary and chorizo and replacing the tomato fondue with 3 tablespoons of tapenade, and the mozzarella with 110–150g (4-5oz) blobs of soft goat’s cheese.
Follow the main recipe, omitting the rosemary and chorizo and replacing with 6-8 tablespoons of Spiced Aubergine.
Cheddar Cheese and Spring Onion
Follow the main recipe, omitting the chorizo and replacing the rosemary with 4 tablespoons of sliced spring onions and the Parmesan with 100g (3 1/2oz) grated mature Cheddar cheese.
Plum or DamsonClafoutis
Clafoutis is a sort of fluffy custard, a base for whatever seasonal fruit you can lay your hands on: rhubarb or gooseberries are delicious, but you need to adjust the sugar. This one is made with stone-in plums or you can use damsons. I often have rose geranium or mint sugar in a jar – this also makes a delicious sprinkle. Use 500g (18oz) of blackcurrants… delicious…
15g (generous 1/2oz) softened butter, for greasing
5 organic, free-range eggs
100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar
75g (3oz) plain white flour
115ml (generous 4fl oz) double cream
420ml (scant 15fl oz) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
750g (1lb 10oz) Mirabelle plums or damsons or cherries, peaches, nectarines
or greengages, in season
25g (1oz) pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped or flaked almonds
icing or caster sugar, to sprinkle
softly whipped cream, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 28cm (11 inch) round baking dish or similar with softened butter.
Whisk the eggs with the caster sugar in a mixing
bowl. Sift in the flour, pour in the cream and milk, and add the cinnamon or
vanilla extract. Whisk together to form a smooth batter
with no lumps.
Pour half the batter into the buttered dish. Scatter the Mirabelle plums or damsons on top. (I leave the stones in, but you could de-stone them if you wish. If using cherries or greengages, you can scatter them over whole, or stone them if you prefer; peaches or nectarines are best halved or quartered, depending on size.) Pour the remaining batter over the fruit.
Bake for 30–40 minutes, and then scatter with the pistachios or flaked almonds and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes until the clafoutis is puffed up and the nuts are golden. Sprinkle with icing or caster sugar and serve with lots of softly whipped cream.