Easy Meals with Rachel Allen


My daughter-in-law Rachel knows more than most what is like to try and juggle work, family and friends. I don’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 crèche 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 don’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.

I’ve been leafing through Rachel’s latest book ‘ Easy Meals’ 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 I’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 Brûlée 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

Serves 8

Preparation time 10 minutes

Cooking time 15–20 minutes

3 tbsp sunflower oil

2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

800g (1¾lb) 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 6–8 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 8–10 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 2–3 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

Serves 4

Preparation time 5 minutes

Cooking time 10–12 minutes

salt and freshly ground

black pepper

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 (¾in) dice

300ml (½ 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 10–12 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 medium–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

Serves 2–3

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 (3½oz) (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 2–3 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 2–3 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 (¼in) thick slices

75g (3oz) caster sugar

* Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°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.

Banoffee Pancakes

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 – I like to prepare a few tins at a time and then keep them in the cupboard where they’ll store for months.


Makes about 10 pancakes

Preparation time 10 minutes Cooking time 15 minutes

150g (5oz) self-raising flour

1–2 tbsp caster sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

150ml (5fl oz) milk

15g (½oz) butter

To serve

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 medium–low heat and when the butter starts to foam add generous tablespoons of the batter to the

pan to form 3–4 pancakes. (If you’re using a non-stick pan, then it isn’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

Serves 4–6

Preparation time 10 minutes – Cooking time 5 minutes

100g (3½oz) dark chocolate, broken into pieces, or dark chocolate drops

75g (3oz) caster sugar

2–3 tbsp brandy

2 eggs

250g (9oz) mascarpone

4–6 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 – Irish Farmhouse Cheese and Craft Beer Festival –

don’t miss the beer and cheese tastings and a ginger beer making demonstration. 10am to 2pm – 021 4631096 for details.

Self Sufficiency – now is the moment to order fruit trees to plant in a couple of weeks time; apples, pears, plums, blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries…plant something for everyone, the children will love them too.

Richy’s Restaurant in Clonakilty have launched two new ‘sub’ food businesses to beat the recession and have created 26 new jobs in the process. Their new outside catering business, Richy’s at Home offers restaurant quality food at affordable prices, for private events. They have also opened the daytime R Café – The Staunton’s Pork Belly Bagette with Apple and Star Anise Puree sounds really delicious. www.richysbarandbistro.com– 023 8821852


Darina Allen’s Cookery Book of the Week – Macarons – Pierre Hermé

Macarons are definitely the ‘new cupcake’ brightly coloured mini meringues sandwiched together with gooey fillings. Famous Patissier – Pierre Hermé’s recipes have at last been published in English and it would be difficult for any book on macarons to surpass this one – 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 vinegar…Published by Grub Street Press – 2011.


About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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