A few weeks ago I got a letter from a regular reader who hails from County Kerry – a busy ‘working’ Mum, who tells me that she loves many of my simple recipes but complained that of late, the recipes were a bit ‘cheffy’ and not for the average working family with ravenously hungry teenagers returning home from college. “They want plenty of delicious, home cooked meals, not tiny exotic dishes”.
By coincidence, the week before the recipes were from the Guild of Irish Food Writers Awards so were indeed ‘cheffy’ and time consuming. Vera gave me a nice ‘long wish list’ of suggestions – a healthy brown loaf, a nice saucy casserole, a few one pot dishes, a large, easy chocolate cake, a few tray bakes and tasty ways to cook Irish grown vegetables.
How about swede turnips, cabbage and carrots? Good girl yourself, Vera – love to hear people wanting to go out of their way to buy Irish produce.
“How about a savory bread and large quiche, a tasty lasagna and salads?” she asks…..
There were more than enough requests to keep me going for several columns. I love to get letters like this, it stops me in my tracks and reminds me to include more delicious simple recipes in my column – almost back to my Simply Delicious days – Thank you Vera…..
By coincidence, I had just sent the final proofs of a new book, that should be in the shops next September, into my publishers, One Pot Feeds All – I wrote this book especially for all of you super busy people who dash home through the traffic, tired and exhausted from work, pick up a bag of groceries but still want to cook a wholesome meal from scratch or your family.
So there are 130 delicious lunch recipes for one pot, one casserole, one roasting tin, coming your way later this year. Home cooking is by far the most important in the end. Meanwhile I’ll get started on Vera’s list which I hope many other readers will also enjoy….
Brown Soda Bread in a Tin
This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldn’t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well-greased tin. This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted. We use Howard’s One Way flour for this but seek out Macroom and Dunany Organic Flour also, each have their own unique flavour.
Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves
400g (14ozs) stone ground wholemeal flour or a wholemeal flour of your choice
75g (3ozs) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
1 egg, preferably free range
1 tablespoon arachide or sunflower oil, unscented
1 teaspoon honey or treacle
425ml (15fl ozs) buttermilk or sourmilk approx.
sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)
Loaf tin 23×12.5x5cm (9x5x2in) OR 3 small loaf tins 5.75 inches (14.6cm) x 3 inches (7.62cm)
Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6.
Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey and buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin or tins – using a butter knife, draw a slit down the middle. Sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on the top. Bake for 60 minutes approximately (45-50 minutes for small loaf tins), or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup with Parsley Oil
Swedes and turnips are ridiculously cheap and super versatile, this soup is filling, nutritious and super delicious. Drizzle it with parsley or wild garlic oil and you’ve got a chic starter worthy of a posh dinner party.
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
150g (5oz) rindless streaky bacon cut in 1cm (1/2 inch) dice
110g (4oz) onions, chopped
110g (5oz) potatoes, diced
350g (12oz) swede turnips, diced
salt and freshly ground pepper
900ml (1 1/2 pints) homemade chicken stock
cream or creamy milk to taste
50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
50g (2oz) parsley, chopped
fried diced bacon or chorizo
flat parsley sprigs or coarsely chopped parsley
First make the Parsley Oil.
Whizz the parsley with the olive oil until smooth and green.
Next make the soup.
Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked. Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary.
Serve with a mixture of crispy bacon, tiny croutons and chopped parsley sprinkled on top.
Super Quick Buttered Cabbage
This method takes only a few minutes to cook but first the cabbage must be carefully sliced into fine shreds. It should be served the moment it is cooked.
1 lb (450 g) fresh Savoy cabbage
1-2 oz (25-50g/1/4-1/2 stick) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
a knob of butter
Remove the tough outer leaves from the cabbage. Divide into four, cut out the stalks and then cut into fine shreds across the grain. Put 2-3 tablespoons (2-3 American tablespoons + 2-3 teaspoons) of water into a wide saucepan with the butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, add the cabbage and toss constantly over a high heat, then cover for a few minutes. Toss again and add some more salt, freshly ground pepper and a knob of butter. Serve immediately.
In Hungary, Paprikash would be served with nokedli, similar to German spaetzle but pasta or mashed potato works well also.
2 tablespoons lard (traditional) or clarified butter
1.8 Kgs organic, free range chicken thighs and drumsticks (bone in for extra flavour)
250g (9oz) onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed
500g (1 lb) ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
250g (9oz) large red pepper, seeded and diced (approx. ½ inch)
450 mls (16 floz) chicken stock
3 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika or 2 tablespoons sweet paprika and one of smoked paprika
Generous teaspoon of salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper
250g tub sour cream (crème fraiche)
2 floz double cream
60-80g (2 – 3oz) Roux
Flat leaf parsley, coarsely snipped
Melt the lard or clarified butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Brown the chicken pieces in batches on all sides, transfer to a casserole. Add the diced onion, garlic, tomato and pepper to the frying pan, toss for 2 – 3 minutes, add the paprika, salt and freshly ground black pepper ( careful not to burn the paprika or it will be bitter).
Add to the chicken in the casserole. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock. Stir and bring to the boil to dislodge all the flavour from the pan. Pour into the casserole, bring back to the boil and simmer for 40 -50 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.
Strain the liquid off the Paprikash, add the crème fraiche and cream, bring back to the boil thicken with roux to a light coating consistency. Pour over the chicken, return to the boil, taste and correct the seasoning. Scatter with snipped flat leaf parsley and serve with pasta or mashed potato.
Note: this stew becomes even better when made a day or two ahead and reheats brilliantly.
Cynthia’s Buttermilk Chocolate Cake
From the Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen.
In 1945 the young Farmers’ club of America – the ‘4H Clubs’ inaugurated the International Farm Youth Exchange scheme (IFYE). They sent young delegates to stay with farming families in Western European countries and too young European farmers back in exchange. These young people are always well informed and skilled in the crafts of the farm and farm home.
In 1955, a young American girl called Cynthia Recird came to stay with us at Ballymaloe under this scheme.
One day she undertook to cook family lunch and produced her ‘Cocoa Cake’ for sweet which became standard fare in Ballymaloe.
Makes 36 bites/19 squares/12 slices
225g (8ox/1 3/4 cups) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
50g (2oz) cocoa
350g (12oz/1 1/2 cups) sugar
110g (4oz/1 stick) softened butter
225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) sour milk or buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 organic eggs
300g (10oz/2 1/4 cups approx) icing sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa
2 teaspoons melted butter
35ml (1 1/3fl oz/scant 1/4 cup) coffee
cocoa for dusting
300ml (10fl oz softly whipped cream)
Line a 22.5cm (9 inch) square tin or
3 x 17.5cm sandwich tins with parchment paper
Sieve the dry ingredients together into the bowl of a food mixer. Add the soft butter, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Beat for two minutes. Add the eggs one by one. Beat for a further 2 minutes. Fill into the prepared tin or tins. Bake in a moderate oven 180C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Sieve the sugar and cocoa together. Beat in the butter and moisten with coffee to a spreading consistency.
Ice the top and sides of the cake or sandwich the two rounds together with the icing. Cut into squares or slices.
Serve with softly whipped cream.
Lemon Drizzle Squares
Who doesn’t love lemon drizzle – problem here Vera, they’ll snaffle them far too fast!
6oz (175g) really soft butter
5oz (150g) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
6oz (175g) self-raising flour
freshly grated rind of 1 lemon
freshly squeezed juice of 1-2 lemons
4oz (110g) castor sugar
10 x 7 inch (25.5 x 18 cm) swiss roll tin, well-greased or lined with parchment paper
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Put the butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the well buttered tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen. Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the glaze. As soon as the cake is cooked, pour the glaze over the top, leave to cool. Cut into squares.
In Winter when the butter is harder to cream, we add 2-3 tablespoons of milk to lighten the mixture and texture.