ArchiveSeptember 2019

A Great Day Out in the Boyne Valley

 A great day out. . .

The Irish Food Writers Guild which I’m proud to be a member of, meet occasionally to do reconnaissance trips around the country. We visit artisan producers to see their process and hear their stories. Our most recent Summer outing was to the Boyne Valley and wow, what an action packed day we had….!

First stop, Drummond House, where Marita and Peter Collier welcomed us warmly onto their farm outside Drogheda, they grow 5 varieties of garlic and several acres of green asparagus on their rich sandy soil. This enterprise like Ballymakenny Farm in Baltray was born out of desperation to find a different way to earn a living on the land and the family farms they all love. Marita and Peter told us the story of the roller coaster,  voyage of trial and error they embarked on to source varieties of garlic to suit their land and the Irish climate.  6 years later, through sheer hard work and help from Marita’s friends at the Termonfeckin NS gate who initially volunteered  to help with packing the garlic in their spare time. They now have a thriving business and have introduced the Irish market to a wide variety of garlic types and garlic scapes (tender shoots) which I’ve hitherto only seen in my own garden or in the Union Square Market in Manhattan.

Marita and Peter, like Maria and David Flynn of Ballymakenny Farm had high praise for the chefs who encouraged and supported them initially and continue to do so. 

Drummond House Garlic is now widely available around the country, www.drummondhouse.ie

Ballymakenny Farm also needed to add value to their produce, so Maria who has a business background decided to trial some unusual potato varieties, much to the amusement and scepticism of their neighbours and friends. They now grow 6 heirloom varieties, Violetta, Red Emmalie, Mayan Rose, Mayan Twilight, Mayan Gold and waxy Pink Fir Apple plus beautiful crops of long stem broccoli. The chefs go crazy for the deep purple Violetta, the mottled pink varieties and the fingerling potatoes, Ballymakenny can scarcely keep up with the demand. It was a extra special treat to meet David’s parents who were commercial potato growers in the past… 

Our next stop was Listoke Gin Distillery and School.  Bronagh Conlan gave us a spirited talk on gin production and the wide range of botanicals that can be added to the raw spirit to give it a unique flavour. Visitors can make their own unique blend at the gin school in the individual copper stills around the edge of the room. At the end of their visit, they take home their very own bespoke bottle of gin, a unique and hugely sought after visitor experience for corporate events too. Loved the psychedelic owl street art which has become the Listoke Distillery logo created by Dean Kane of visual waste.

Just a few miles to Tankardstown House where the young Romanian head chef Janos Sarkosi cooked us a seven course feast to showcase his considerable skills… Such a lovely place, no wonder it is also a favourite venue for weddings…

No time to dawdle, still lots more to see….. Next stop, The Cider Mill at Stackallan, near  Slane in Co. Meath www.cockagee.ie/

I’ve been a fan of Mark Jenkinson for several years now; he is a complete purist, grows a variety of cider apples in his own orchards, gently presses them in small batches in the time honored, traditional way between timber slabs. He makes 5 different styles of cider including his famous Cockagee name after an ancient cider apple variety that was thought to be extinct for over 125 years. . . .  .Mark managed to trace it to an old orchard in Gloucestershire and has now recovered and saved it for posterity. Cider is the wine of our land and there has been a rich tradition of cider making in the Boyne Valley for hundreds of years.

Mark is the only Irish cider producer to make keeved cider, a slow natural, painstaking process which results in a superb cider. His tasting room which also houses his eclectic collection of vernacular chairs , hardening stands and artefacts is worth the trip alone.

Carina Mount Charles brought along her organic eggs and salad leaves and nearby farmhouse cheese maker Michael Finnegan from Mullagh Farm delivered over his Boyne Valley Bán and Blue goat cheeses for us to taste…. a new find for me.

And there was still more, a whistle-stop tour of Slane Castle distillery where Henry Mount Charles and his son Alex have converted the stable yard into a highly impressive distillery in partnerships with Brown Forman (makers of Jack Daniels)

After an excellent tour and tasting we sped down the road to Boann Distillery where Peter Cooney had cans of several versions of Gin in a tin for us to taste. This super exciting innovative company in the heart of the Boyne Valley brews beer, non-alcoholic drinks, whiskey and cider from apples grown in their own orchards in Tara. The Boann Distillery, named for Boann the Irish Godess of the Boyne is housed in an amazing building repurposed from a car showroom. Book a tour and tasting if you are in the area.

Finally we had supper at the Eastern Seaboard Bar and Grill Jeni and Reuvans Diaz’s award winning restaurant in Bryanstown. Seek out this place in the suburbs of Drogheda, super innovative food made with many of the superb local ingredients.

Who knew the magic that awaits in an area that has been hitherto been regarded as a mere corridor between Dublin and Belfast. . . It was an eye opener to discover so many artisan food and drink producers flourishing in this historic area… Well, take my advice and take time out to explore this intriguing part of Ireland’s Ancient East….

Medjool Dates with Boyne Valley Bán and Blue Goats Cheese  

This cheese was presented to us by Michael Finnegan of Mullagh Farm and I loved it so much that I bought a wheel to bring home for the Ballymaloe House cheese trolley.

Makes 20

Medjool dates

Boyne Valley Bán and Blue Goats Cheese (or similar blue cheese)

Split the dates lengthways and remove the stone. Arrange on a plate, top each half with a little nugget of cheese. Serve as a canapé or amuse guile

Ana & Laura’s Kitchen Family Borscht

Very Special thanks to Jeni Glasgow of Eastern Seaboard Restaurant for sharing this delicious recipe.

Serves 4

150g (5oz) beef striploin cut into small cubes

70g (3oz) diced onion

100g (3 ½ oz) grated organic carrots

70g (30z) celery diced

150g (5oz) potatoes peeled and cubed small

300g (110z) grated organic long beets

1 litre (1 ¾ pints) good quality homemade chicken stock

500ml 18fl oz) water

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to season

Oil for frying

NOTE: We use long beets for a milder flavour

First sauté sliced beef in a large pot, add the diced onion, grated carrot, diced celery and potato cubes and sauté until just tender. Add the chicken stock, water and bay leaves. Simmer on a low heat for 40 minutes. Taste and check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as required.

To serve ladle into preheated bowls and add a dollop of sour cream, a  handful of elderberry capers and a drizzle of salsa verde.

Clare McQuillan’s Elderberry Capers

Pick & wash green elderberries and pat dry. Cover with sea salt and store in a jar for 3 weeks. After 3 weeks rinse the elderberries, pat dry and place in sterilized kilner jars and top up with good quality apple cider vinegar. These can be stored in the fridge for months and enjoy as you would capers.

Clare McQuillan’s Salsa Verde

Pick a handful of nettles (lightly blanched) sorrel, clover, broadleaf plantain & rosebay willow herb leaves – all foraged edible finds from the garden. 

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1 small handful of wild capers (elderberry or wild garlic is also great)

2 tablespoons of Cider vinegar

Whizz with 3 – 4 tablespoons of rapeseed oil for a tangy, fresh & wild salsa verde.

Violetta Potato and Scallion Salad

The delicious dark purple colour of Violetta potatoes makes this an impressive salad to serve at any table.

Serves 4-6

900g (2lbs) freshly cooked Violetta potatoes, diced, allow about 1.1kg (2 1/2lbs) raw potatoes

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions or 2 teaspoons chopped onion

110ml (4fl oz) French Dressing (available on the Examiner website)

110ml (4fl oz) homemade Mayonnaise (available on the Examiner website)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Toss in the coarsely chopped nasturtium leaves and two thirds of the flowers.  Scatter the remaining nasturtium flowers on top of the salad.

Best served fresh but keeps well for about 2 days.

Note: This potato salad is also delicious without mayonnaise.   Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, eg. add cubes of chorizo, cooked mussels or cockles or even diced cucumber.

Magic Wands with Smoked Oyster Mayo

This recipe was inspired by a menu item at Eastern Seaboard Restaurant in Drogheda, Co Louth. Eastern Seaboard source their smoked oysters from Marine Foods in Aughrim, Co Wicklow. If smoked oysters are difficult to source, make an alternative dip, tuna mayo, tapenade mayo, harissa mayo or just a perky garlic mayo would be delicious.

Save a little dough when you are making bread to make magic wands.

White Yeast Bread Dough

We use Doves Farm organic white bread flour, the water quantity may vary for other brands.  This bread can be baked in loaf tins or made into plaits or rolls.   

Makes 2 loaves

20g yeast

20g organic sugar

390g warm water

700g strong organic white flour

25g butter

16g pure dairy salt

2 x loaf tins 12.5cm (5 inch) x 20cm (8 inch)

Crumble the yeast into a bowl, add the sugar and 390g of warm water (anything above 45C will kill yeast).  Mix and allow to stand for a couple of minutes.  Meanwhile, put the flour into a wide mixing bowl, add the salt, mix then rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. 

Add all the liquid ingredients to the flour and mix to a dough with your hand.  Turn out onto a clean work surface (no flour). Cover with the upturned bowl and allow to rest for 15-30 minutes. 

Uncover, if it feels a little dry and tough, wet your hand, rub over the dough and knead by hand until silky and smooth – 10 minutes approximately.  Return to the bowl and cover with a tea-towel.  Allow to rise until double in size. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8

Turn out onto the work surface, knead for a minute or two and shape as desired.  

For loaves, divide the dough in half, fold over and knead with the heel of your hand into a roll, tuck in the ends and pop into an oiled tin. Cover and allow to rise to the top of the tin.

The bread is ready for baking when a small dent remains if the dough is pressed lightly with you finger. Spray with a water mister and dust with flour for a rustic looking loaf and slash with a blade. 

The bread will rise a little further when it goes into the oven – this is called ‘oven-spring’. Bake for 25–35 minutes, depending on size. When baked, the bread should sound hollow if tapped underneath. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Flaky Sea Salt

5 fl oz Homemade Mayonnaise

4 – 6 smoked oysters

Flaky Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly squeezed lemon juice if necessary

First make the dough, allow to rise to double it’s size at least and then knock back. Pull off 45g of dough and roll in 12 – 14 inch bread sticks.

Lay each on a baking tray. Cover and allow to rise for 5 – 10 minutes at an ambient temperature. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7 and bake for 5 – 7 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Whizz the smoked oysters in a food processor with 5 floz mayonnaise, taste and correct the seasoning and add a little lemon juice if necessary.

Serve a magic wand with a dipping bowl of smoked oyster mayonnaise.

One Pot Feeds All….

One Pot Feeds All… my 19th Cookbook has just arrived in shops around the country. There I am, smiling off the front cover. Silver grey hair and a new pair of specs as opposed to my brown locks and red glasses of the Simply Delicious era. . . . . I couldn’t have imagined then that I would be still writing cookbooks and loving it 30 years later. . . I still have so many delicious tips and recipes to share.

 I can’t imagine why it took me so long to write One Pot Feeds All, it’s been bubbling away in my subconscious for years . . . .

It must be over a decade now since we first added a One Pot Wonders course to our schedule at Ballymaloe Cookery School. From the word go it was a big hit and its enduring popularity is a sure sign that this kind of cooking is here to stay as the pace of life continues to ratchet up.

So this book is for all of you who really want to cook delicious wholesome food for yourselves and those you love but find it virtually impossible to keep all the balls in the air, battling home through rush hour traffic, dashing into the shops to grab some ingredients and then doing your best to cook from scratch, in full knowledge that beautiful freshly cooked produce has the best flavour and is super nutritious. For growing numbers of people, it’s simply not possible, yet we know that if we don’t manage to get healthy nourishing wholesome food on the table to keep the family healthy, happy and bouncing with energy, we’ll spend the money on supplements and meds. But what to do?

Well, hopefully this book will provide some solutions. I’ve collected my favourite one-pot dishes, some time-honoured favourites honed over the years, others developed more recently while we were testing recipes specifically for this book. Everything had to be cooked in one pot so, against my better judgement, on my food editors suggestion, I experimented with some one-pot pasta dishes and was amazed at how successful they were. By increasing the liquid in some other dishes, I discovered that I could add rice, pearl barley, orzo and beans to the various pots with delicious results – so you really can get your whole meal from one dish. Of course, you can still cook them separately, if you like, but believe me this one-pot method works brilliantly.

One Pot Feeds All has lots and lots of brilliant recipes for college students, who often have very limited cooking facilities. For this kind of cooking you just need one fine sturdy pot with a tight fitting lid and off you go – What’s not to love about one pot cooking, for a start there’s less washing up…It’s a brilliant option if you don’t have much time and there’s no longer any need to feel guilt ridden.

Not all students will have access to an oven but for those who do, there are so many brilliant ideas for dishes to cook in a roasting tin or gratin dish. An electric slow cooker or crockpot is also worth considering as part of your kitchen kit, perfect for slow cooking and gentle braises and of course from making stock. 

I have many delicious recipes to share with you. I hope you are going to love this book, I loved writing it, every word, originally in long hand – here are a few recipes to give you a flavour of the eclectic recipes inside.

Black-eyed bean, pumpkin & chickpea stew

Serves 6

One of the very best vegetarian one-pot dishes. What’s not to like about black-eyed beans, chickpeas and pumpkin with lots of spices? Delicious on its own, but equally good with a roast chicken or a few lamb chops. Eat with flatbreads or pilaff rice, if you prefer.

– 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

– 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

– 1 x 2.5cm cinnamon stick

– 150g onions, chopped

– 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

– 225g fresh mushrooms, sliced approx. 3mm thick

– 450g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut in 2cm cubes

– 400g fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

– 2 teaspoons ground coriander

– 1 teaspoon ground cumin

– ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

– a pinch of sugar

– ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

– 450g cooked black-eyed beans, strained (reserving the cooking liquid)

– 225g cooked chickpeas, strained (reserving the cooking liquid)

– 1 teaspoon salt

– freshly ground black pepper

– 3 tablespoons chopped coriander

For the mint yogurt

– 300ml natural yogurt

– 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over a medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in the cumin seeds and the cinnamon stick. Let them sizzle for 5–6 seconds, then add the onions and garlic. Stir-fry for 3–4 minutes until the onion is just beginning to colour at the edges. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms wilt, then add the pumpkin or squash, tomatoes, ground coriander, cumin and turmeric, a pinch of sugar and the cayenne. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and tip in the drained beans and chickpeas. Add the salt and pepper, together with 2 tablespoons of coriander. Pour in 150ml of bean cooking liquid and 150ml of the chickpea liquid (or 300ml vegetable stock if you’ve used tinned pulses). Return to the boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans and chickpeas are tender.

To make the mint yogurt, combine the yogurt with the chopped mint in a bowl.

Remove the cinnamon stick from the pan before serving and sprinkle with the remaining coriander. Spoon into serving bowls and top with a dollop of the mint yogurt. Accompany with a good green salad and rice, if you wish.

Roast cauliflower with saffron
&
bay leaves & crispy chicken

Serves 4

This roast cauliflower is delicious on its own but also pretty irresistible with some spicy chicken drumsticks. Look out for pul biber, not too hot but really aromatic. I fell in love with them on my first trip a Turkey.

– 4–8 organic, free-range chicken thighs or drumsticks, depending on size

– extra virgin olive oil

– ½–1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped

– 2 pinches of saffron strands

– 1 large or 2 small cauliflowers (approx. 1kg), leaves snapped off*, head broken into small florets, stalk roughly chopped

– 2 medium onions, finely sliced

– 1 tablespoon pul biber or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes

– 3 bay leaves

– 50g sultanas, soaked in hot water to plump up

– 50g almonds, coarsely chopped

– flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

TO SERVE

– 2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

– 4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal

*Good to know

    The leaves are also delicious roasted, add them a little later.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Slash the chicken drumsticks. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary, toss and arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin. Roast for 30–45 minutes, depending on size, while you
prepare the cauliflower.

Put the saffron into a little bowl, cover it with a couple of teaspoons of boiling water and leave it to steep. Put the cauliflower, onions, chilli flakes and bay leaves into a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Once the saffron has steeped, add to the cauliflower mixture with the drained sultanas and almonds. Transfer to the roasting tin and cover loosely with parchment paper to protect from burning. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the parchment and roast for a further 10–15 minutes until the edges are nicely caramelised, the cauliflower is tender
and the chicken is cooked. Turn into a shallow serving dish.

Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and spring onion. Serve.

Roman chicken & chips with rosemary & thyme

Serves 8–10

Another dish that family and friends love me to cook for them. A whole roasting tray of crispy chicken and potatoes, perfumed with rosemary and thyme leaves. My lips are smacking just thinking about it.

– 2kg organic, free-range chicken thighs, drumsticks and wings

– 2–3 tablespoons thyme leaves

– 1–2 tablespoons chopped rosemary

– 1.1kg (about 10 large) potatoes

– extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

– 250g onions, sliced

– flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Good to know

One can add a little hot homemade chicken stock at the end if the dish needs a little more juice.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/gas mark 8.

Season the chicken heavily with salt and pepper. Put into a large bowl and scatter with the thyme leaves and chopped rosemary, reserving some for the potatoes. Toss well.

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1cm-thick chips. Dry and season well with salt, freshly ground black pepper and the reserved thyme and chopped rosemary. Add to the bowl with chicken. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss once again.

Scatter the sliced onions over the base of a roasting tin, approx. 37 x 31 x 2cm, or two smaller tins approx. 30 x 20 x 2.5cm. Arrange the chicken and potatoes haphazardly on top, making sure that the potatoes are popping up. Drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Roast for 45 minutes–1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through and the chips are crispy at the edges. (Organic chicken pieces are larger, so cooking time can be up to
1¼ hours.)

Serve from the tin, family style, with a good green salad and several vegetables of your choice, if you wish.

Chocolate fudge pudding with

toasted hazelnuts & Frangelico cream

Serves 6–8

Chocolate puddings run neck and neck with apple tarts as people’s favourite dessert. My version is wickedly rich with a melting texture. It should be moist and gooey in the centre, so don’t overcook it or it will be disappointing and dull. This one is surprisingly good served cold. 

– 150g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

– 150g good-quality chocolate (I use 52% cocoa solids)

– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

– 150ml warm water

– 100g caster sugar

– 4 organic, free-range eggs

– 25g self-raising flour

To serve

– icing sugar, to dust

Р225ml softly whipped cream or cr̬me frąche mixed with 1 tablespoon Frangelico hazelnut liqueur

– a few toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6 and grease a 1.2-litre pie dish with a little butter.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt with the butter in a Pyrex bowl set over a pan of hot, but not simmering, water. As soon as the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Stir in the warm water and sugar and mix until smooth.

Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks into the chocolate mixture. Then fold in the sifted flour, making sure there are
no lumps.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and then gently fold them into the chocolate mixture. Pour the chocolate mixture into the buttered dish.

Put the dish in a bain-marie and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 160°C/gas mark 3 for a further 15–20 minutes or until the pudding is firm on top, but still soft and fudgy underneath and saucy at the base.

Set aside to cool slightly before dusting with icing sugar. Serve warm or cold sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts with Frangelico cream or crème fraîche alongside.

School Lunches

Last week I promised to concentrate on school lunches in my next column so here it comes…

By now all our little dotes are back at school. For many parents, it’s a tumultuous mixture of emotions – a huge relief to be back into a routine once again, but also tinged with sadness if your little one is starting school for the first time and a new anxiety – the daily school lunch!

We are all aware that school lunch represents a third of the child’s daily nutrient intake but there are so many challenges. How to fill that box with exciting, yet nourishing wholesome food, that will be acceptable to kids themselves and not be ridiculed by their peers. Such a minefield – how can food have reached this stage?

One ‘catty’ remark from an opinionated friend can banish the raw cauliflower florets or crunchy radishes from the lunch box forever.

A high percentage of kids want sandwiches, easy to pack, easy to eat and I know I am like a broken record but the quality of our daily bread is crucially important. The standard of most shop bought sliced bread, both brown and white is deeply worrying, squishy, doughy, artificially boosted and in some instances undercooked. Often with an interesting list of ingredients that won’t be found in the kitchen cupboard of any home baker.

Last week, I gave a recipe for Little Brown Loaf, so hope you have already discovered how super simple it is to make and experienced a ‘Ooops of delight’ in your tummy when you took that first loaf of bread out of the oven.

I was so thrilled to hear from one proud Mum that her 11 year old, who watched her making the bread has now decided to take over the making of the daily school lunch loaf – how cool is that! Next step a mini bakery, to develop her entrepreneurial skills…

Sandwiches are so easy to ‘grab, gobble and go’, but try to swap out the super easy, old reliable processed ham and cheese. The, universal favourite combination, is not the problem it’s the quality. Slices of good cheddar and home cooked bacon are the option here. Cook a piece of oyster cut bacon (the lean joint between loin and ham) as a ‘go to’ –  keep in the fridge for sandwiches and salads.

Some children go through a phase of not liking crusts but don’t automatically cut them off because they are so tasty and good for children’s chewing mechanism.

Without getting into too much of a knot, one needs to include some protein, carbohydrate, dairy, fruit and vegetables in the daily lunch box.

Hardboiled egg, is a brilliantly easy to eat protein – provide a little pot of mayo, sumac or a mix of flaky sea salt, chili flakes and roasted cumin, depending on how adventurous your kids are. . . .

Let’s not fall into the trap of saying they won’t like that – I’ve found that the question “Who’s brave enough to try the supercool ???” –  tempts many warriors to have a go. Avocado is another brilliant lunchbox option, provide a spoon and a few flakes of sea salt or make a simple guacamole. . .

Hummus and variations, now a lunchbox staple for many is the perfect dip for raw carrot sticks, pepper, cucumber as is Tahina… Add some little super fresh cauliflowers florets or sprouting broccoli , they are crunchy and delicious to munch on or dip. But make sure it’s organic or chemical free, otherwise you are giving your children a fine dose of pesticide and herbicide residues to mess up their gut biome.

Slices of salami, salami sticks or little pieces of smoked fish are also delicious and super nutritious and easy to nibble.

My favourite sandwich of the moment is sourdough toast with almond butter, sliced banana, honey and a few sea salt flakes. Vegetable or cheese croquettes are also a big hit, spicy drumsticks or even plain roasted drumsticks are also good and easy to hold. A little crustless quiche or mini frittata will keep them bouncing with energy.  Cherry tomatoes, cheddar cheese cubes, bocconcini (little mozzarella balls) all easy nibble. Why not thread the cheese, cherry tomato and basil leaves onto a cocktail stick…

Teeny scones are always appealing and delicious too, while a little flask of nourishing soup is just the thing on a chilly day…so many options but here are a few suggestions to get your started….

Little Frittatas with Chorizo

Makes 6

A perfect little school lunch, almost a soufflé, without flour so it is suitable for coeliacs. Lots of fun can be had with this recipe, substitute the chorizo or bacon with a dice of pumpkin, sweet potato, courgette, cherry tomato…

275g (5oz) soft chorizo, peeled and chopped or diced, cooked streaky bacon

3 eggs

250ml (5floz) a mixture of ½ cream and ½ milk

75g (3oz) mature Cheddar, plus extra for sprinkling on the top

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

6 x small ramekins 110mls (4fl oz) or a muffin tin lined with muffin papers.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

First peel and chop the chorizo or bacon and divide between the ramekins – a good tablespoonful in each.

Whisk the eggs, cream and milk; add the grated cheese and parsley and salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.

Just before cooking, stir the batter and pour over the chorizo, sprinkle with grated cheese and pop into the oven for 15 minutes.

They will puff up and be nicely golden on top.

Cool and enjoy! These can be made the night before and popped into the lunchbox.

Guacamole

Made in minutes guacamole is super nutritious and makes a delicious dip. The avocado must be really ripe and preferably organic…

1 ripe avocado (Hass if available)

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander or flat parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Scoop out the flesh from the avocado.  Mash with a fork or in a pestle and mortar, add lime juice, olive oil, chopped coriander, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.  Otherwise, cover the surface of the guacamole with a sheet of plastic to exclude the air.  Cover and keep cool until needed.

 A little finely diced chilli or tomato may be added to the guacamole.

Ballymaloe Sausage Rolls

Makes 8 – 16 depending on size

450g (1 lbs) Good Quality Pork Sausages (90% pork meat) or homemade sausage meat – see recipe

450g (1lb) Puff Pastry

Make the homemade sausages or remove the sausages from their casings. Then form into rolls, either regular or jumbo size to fit the pastry.

Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 4mm (1/6 inch) thick.  Lay the sausage along the wider side 5cm (2 inch) from the edge.  Brush with egg wash or water.   Fold over the excess pastry, press to seal and cut along the edge.  Flake the edge with a knife or seal with a fork. Brush the top of pastry with egg wash and prick the surface with a fork at 1” (2cm) intervals.  Cover and chill.  Repeat with the remainder.  Before cooking cut into 8’s or 16’s .

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450F/Gas Mark 8.

Cook for 20-25 minutes depending on size. 

Ballymaloe Homemade Sausages

Sausages made from 100 percent lean meat may sound good, but for sweetness and succulence one needs some fat. The addition of breadcrumbs is not just to add bulk, it greatly improves the texture, too.

Serves 8

(Makes 16 Small or 8 large sausages)

450g (1lb) good, fat streaky pork (rindless), minced

2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, rosemary and sage)

60g (21⁄2oz) soft white breadcrumbs

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

1 organic egg (optional – helps to bind – reduce breadcrumbs to 50g/2oz if omitting egg)

dash of oil for frying

50g (2oz) natural sheep or hog casings (optional)

Chop the herbs finely and mix through the breadcrumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt. Whisk the egg, and then mix into the other ingredients thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the seasoning. Correct if necessary. Fill the mixture into natural sausage casings and tie. Twist into sausages at regular intervals. Alternatively, divide into 16 pieces and roll into lengths to make skinless sausages. Cover and chill.

Homemade sausages are best eaten fresh but will keep refrigerated for 2–3 days.

When ready to eat, fry gently on a barely oiled pan on a medium heat until golden on all sides.

Pop in a little pot of homemade ketchup or bramley apple sauce to dip.

Hummus

A wonderfully nutritious and filling dip to add to lunch boxes, add breadsticks, carrot sticks, celery sticks or chopped peppers to dip.

Serves 4 – 6

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas, drained (or 200g/7oz of dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, then cooked in fresh water till soft – reserve cooking liquid)

juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 good tablespoons of tahini paste

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Check for seasoning.  Thin to required consistency with chickpea cooking water.

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Bites

A yummy bite…

Thread a fresh basil leaf a ripe cherry tomato and a bocconcini or a cube of mozzarella onto a cocktail stick and pop into the lunch box….easy!

Magic Muffins

A little treat but more nutritious than most.

Makes 6 – 8 – gluten free

3 large eggs

125ml (4flozs) coconut oil

2 bananas peeled and mashed

3 dates stoned and chopped

Scant 2flozs of maple syrup

25g (1oz) of coconut flour

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

25g (1oz) of walnuts, chopped

Cupcake tin lined with papers.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350F/gas mark 4. Whisk the eggs with the coconut oil and maple syrup, add the mashed bananas and chopped dates. Stir in the coconut flour, salt, sieved bicarbonate of soda and chopped walnuts. Mix well. Divide the mixture between the cases. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Back to School Fuel – Breakfast

Back to school…our little dotes are busily settling back into school, some making new friends others reacquainting with special pals from last term. It can be an anxious time for both children and parents and now we hear the deeply worrying statistics that anxiety and depression among children, teens and third level students is increasing at a really alarming rate. No doubt there are many contributory factors….the internet is an easy target, ‘helicopter parenting’…is a new one on me….. apparently it refers to parents who ‘hover overhead’, overseeing every aspect of a child’s life, rather than allowing them to acquire basic life skills, usually learned by trial and error.

Whatever the challenge, I am completely convinced that the food children eat is vitally important for both their physical and mental health and their ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life.

So of all our many responsibilities we have as parents and there are many, one of the most important of all is to make sure that our children eat real food. It’s an investment in their future both in health and socio economic terms. No one is saying this is easy in the frantic world we now inhabit, but somehow it must be done.

The morning is crazy busy in most households as parents try to get themselves and kids fed, school lunches made and their kids off to a crèche and/or school all before 8.00am.

So what to do, now I am going to sound unbearably bossy, but take my advice and ditch the cereal packets. I’m a big porridge fan, otherwise oatmeal fruit muesli or granola with a banana or some fresh fruit, All can be ready from the night before…

Children from seven upwards can learn how to make each of these and be proud of their achievements.

A simple fried egg, pretty much a whole protein and a slice of brown bread will set them up for the day. Most 5 or 6 year olds can learn how to fry an egg, Yes they can…. and they have the wit to know the pan is hot!

After all I’m the oldest of 9 kids, so no ‘helicopter parenting’ in our house, everyone had their own little jobs and so we inadvertently learned life skills and were proud of what we could do and anxious to help Mum (a widow at 36).

I’m a big believer in the value of freshly squeezed orange juice to provide a shot of vitamin C and many other good things each morning to protect from winter colds and flus. Buy a small electric juicer, they’re worth every penny and once again a 7 – 8 year old can make juice, pure and delicious with no additives (save and dry the citrus peels for firelighters).

This week I’m going to concentrate on a simple pre-school (or work) breakfast…. I urge you to make or seek out good bread and I’ve become more and more convinced that it needs to be made from organic flour as research clearly shows glyphosate residues in non-organic products. Look on it as an investment in your family’s health – save on supplements and meds and build up healthy gut biomes in all the family.

We can no longer say we don’t know the danger pesticides and herbicide residues are doing to our health, the research is there…

After all glyphosate is registered as an antibiotic and is known to cross the placenta barrier. Austria became the first country to Europe to ban glyphosate in June 2019, others will follow – It’s an extremely problematic subject but back to the kitchen….

Flahavan’s, the famous seventh generation family from Kilmacthomas in Co Waterford, sell organic oat flakes but their non-organic porridge is also glyphosate free because Flahavan’s banned their growers from using glyphosate over 20 years ago. Pat and Lily Lawlor’s creamy Kilbeggan Oatmeal too is organically grown and widely available. We are also big fans of Donal Creedon’s Macroom Oatmeal with its unique toasted flavour and texture.

Flaked oatmeal porridge can be made in minutes. Pinhead oats or Macroom can easily be made the night before and re-heated in just a few minutes the following morning when you are bleary eyed and trying to wake up. I love it with a sprinkling of soft brown sugar and a drop of Jersey cow milk, but I notice that the young people nowadays enjoy porridge with all manner of toppings. Fresh or stewed fruit, compotes, peanut butter, jam, honey, nuts…the more the merrier to give them energy and vitality to power through the day.

This fruit muesli, a Ballymaloe favourite for over 70 years, changes with the seasons. Add crushed berries or grated Irish dessert apples – they are in season now… If you have an apple tree you’ll probably have a glut, don’t waste a single one, they make delicious apple juice to drink fresh, freeze or try your hand at cider, but we are wandering away from breakfast!

Next week I’ll concentrate on and have lots of suggestions for the all

important lunch box, meanwhile a few staples for breakfast….

Kilbeggan Organic Porridge

Serves 2 -4

Mix a large cup of porridge oats with 2 cups of cold water or milk.  In a saucepan, bring slowly bring to the boil and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes stirring all the time.  Reduce cooking time if the oats are soaked overnight.   My grandchildren love porridge with peanut butter – sounds bizarre but it’s nutritious and delicious!

Variation

To further enrich your porridge, you can add your own selection of organic fresh fruits, nuts, honey, cinnamon…….

Macroom Oatmeal Porridge

Serves 4

Virtually every morning in Winter I start my day with a bowl of porridge.  Search out Macroom stoneground oatmeal which has the most delicious toasted nutty flavour.  It comes in a lovely old-fashioned red and yellow pack which I hope they never change.

155g (5 1/2ozs) Macroom oatmeal

1.2 litres (2 pints) water

1 level teaspoon salt

Obligatory accompaniment!

Soft brown sugar

Bring 5 cups of water to the boil, sprinkle in the oatmeal, gradually stirring all the time.  Put on a low heat and stir until the water comes to the boil.

Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the salt and stir again.  Serve with single cream or milk and soft brown sugar melting over the top.

Left over porridge can be stored in a covered container in the fridge – it will reheat perfectly the next day. Add more water if necessary.

Note

If the porridge is waiting, keep covered otherwise it will form a skin which is difficult to dissolve.

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

Serves 8

This is a huge favourite with all our family and friends – its such a good recipe to know about because its made in minutes and so good. We vary the fruit through the seasons – strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blueberries and grated Cox’s Orange Pippin apples or Ergemont Russet in the Autumn.

6 tablespoons rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)

8 tablespoons water

250g (8oz) fresh strawberries

2-4 teaspoons honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 8-10 minutes.  Meanwhile, mash the strawberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal.  Sweeten to taste with honey, a couple of teaspoons are usually enough but it depends on how sweet the strawberries are.

Serve with pouring cream and soft brown sugar.

Granola

Granola is a toasted breakfast cereal, it’s super easy to make in a large batch and will keep fresh for several weeks in a Kilner jar. You can add all types of dried fruit and nuts to the basic recipe and top it with all manner of good things to make it even more nutritious and energy boosting.

Serves 20

12oz (350g) honey or golden syrup

8fl oz (225g) oil e.g. sunflower

1lb 1oz (470g) oat flakes

7oz (200g) barley flakes

7oz (200g) wheat flakes

3 1/2oz (100g) rye flakes

5oz (150g) seedless raisins or sultanas

5oz (150g) peanuts/hazelnuts, or cashew nuts split and roasted

2 3/4oz (70g/1 cup) wheatgerm and /or millet flakes

2oz (50g) chopped apricots, 1/2 cup chopped dates etc. are nice too

toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds are also delicious

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Mix oil and honey together in a saucepan, heat just enough to melt the honey.  Mix well into the mixed flakes. Spread thinly on two baking sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, turning frequently, making sure the edges don’t burn. It should be just golden and toasted, not roasted!

Allow to get cold.  Mix in the raisins or sultanas, roasted nuts, toasted seeds, chopped dates, apricots and wheatgerm.  Store in a screw top jar or a plastic box, keeps for 1-2 weeks.

Serve with sliced banana, milk or yoghurt.

A Fried Egg

Crispy at the edges and soft in the centre, fried eggs are probably the most common way of cooking eggs- even a child can do it…, utterly delicious if one starts with a perfectly fresh-free range egg. 

Keeping a few hens is not for everyone, but if it is a possibility for your family, it’s win-win all the day. The hens eat up household food scraps, mow the lawn as you move the coup around, provide chicken manure for your garden to enhance the fertility of the soil and best of all provide delicious fresh eggs the likes of which are almost impossible to source unless you have your own. What a brilliant food, you could hardly do better than go to school (or work) on an egg!
Heat a little pure bacon fat, butter or olive oil in a frying pan, when its just about sizzling break in the eggs one at a time but don’t overcrowd the pan.  Cook over a low heat if you like the eggs soft underneath or on a higher heat if you like them crispy.  Cook until the white is just set but the yolk soft.  Baste with hot fat if you like the top filmed over or cover the pan with a lid. Flip them over gently with a fish slice if that’s your preference.   Serve immediately on warm but not hot plates.

Scrambled Eggs

Perfectly scrambled eggs are rare indeed, though people’s perception of ‘perfect’ varies wildly. However, for ideal scrambled eggs (in my case, soft and creamy), really fresh organic eggs are essential. Nowadays, it’s become common practice to put the eggs into a hot pan, which gives a tough curd if you’re not careful. I prefer the old-fashioned way that my mother taught me: putting the eggs into a cold saucepan, whereby they scramble gently and slowly, and yield a softer, creamier curd. Scrambled eggs should always be served on warm plates but beware – if the plates are too hot, the scrambled egg can overcook between the stove and the table.

Serves 2

4 organic eggs

2 tablespoons whole milk

a knob of butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Break the eggs into a bowl, add the milk and season with salt and pepper. Whisk well until the whites and yolks are mixed well. Over a low heat, put a blob of butter into a

cold saucepan, pour in the egg mixture and stir continuously, preferably with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon, until the eggs have scrambled into soft creamy curds.

Serve immediately on warm plates with lots of hot buttered toast or fresh soda bread.

Really great scrambled eggs need no further embellishment.

A Little Brown Soda Bread Loaf

The buttermilk in the shops is low fat but if you have access to rich, thick buttermilk, there is no need to add butter or extra cream.

 Bread is a staple in so many of our homes so the quality really matters….

This little loaf of brown soda bread is mixed in minutes and then just poured into a tin.  A few seeds can be sprinkled over the top or added to the dough for extra nourishment.  Why not weigh up x 5 times the amount of flour and salt (but not bread soda).  Mix well and each time just scoop out 450g (16oz), add bread soda and buttermilk – mix and pour into the tin.

Makes 1 loaf

225g (8oz) brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda) sieved

450ml (16fl oz) buttermilk plus 2 tablespoons cream

A selection of sesame, pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds (optional)

1 loaf tin 13x20cm (5x8inch) approx. brushed with sunflower oil

First preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl, (if using cream, add to the buttermilk).  Make a well in the centre and pour all of the buttermilk. Using one hand, stir in a full circle starting in the centre of the bowl working towards the outside of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft. When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it into the oiled tin – slide a knife down the centre of the loaf.  Sprinkle with a mixture of sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and poppy seeds.

Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes approximately.

(In some ovens it is necessary to turn the bread upside down on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before the end of baking) It will sound hollow when tapped.  Cool on a wire rack, wrapped in a clean tea-towel while hot if you prefer a softer crust.

Note:

1.  One could add 12g (1/2oz) fine oatmeal, 1 egg, and rub in 25g (1oz/1/4 stick) butter to the above to make a richer soda bread dough.

Note:  Bread should always be cooked in a fully pre-heated oven, but ovens vary enormously so it is necessary to adjust the temperature accordingly.

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