ArchiveApril 2020

Cooking from the Pantry

Four weeks on, we’re still self isolating….everyone is reacting differently, some are hating every moment, others are enjoying the excuse to slow down and the opportunity to spend more leisurely time in the kitchen or just pottering around the garden. How fortunate that the Covid 19 pandemic coincided with the onset of Spring so those of us who have been harbouring fantasies about starting a veg patch or a raised bed can indulge their dreams of snipping their own herbs and growing their own greens and crunchy radishes….even on the windowsill…

There’s been an unprecedented rise in requests for recipes. More of us than ever are baking for comfort, enjoyment and to engage the kids.

On a similar note, last week I had several requests for store cupboard recipes – now that we have more time on our hands we’ve been digging deeper, ransacking our cupboards and finding some long forgotten, weird and wonderful stuff…. What to do with those neglected packets, jars and aged spices?  

Not to speak of what we discover lurking in the depths of the freezer when we decide to tackle an inventory that has been on our ‘to do’ list for years.

I’ve had some hilarious conversations with people this week who are determined to make best use of the Covid 19 crisis – to straighten out their domestic arrangements and can’t we all associate with that…. “Brings out the 1950’s housewife in all of us” was a friends witty quip .How bizarre that history is at last repeating itself and skills are once again being passed from one generation to the next. Not just baking and gardening but also sewing, knitting and don’t we just love the way TikTok has engaged the youngsters.

Then there is the more recent dilemma of what to do with all the random stuff that we panic bought a few weeks ago. At least the cans and pulses will keep for some time while we sort out the bits and pieces of hitherto unfamiliar ingredients that we bought for an Ottolenghi recipe a couple of years ago. Many will be past their sell by date, so now is the time to start relearning the forgotten skill of judging whether something is safe to eat by using our senses, sight, smell, taste….Unless its fermenting, it shouldn’t be bubbling….

Most sell by dates are very conservative. Manufacturers like to err on the side of caution and cynics might say the less we use our common sense, the more we chuck out the better they like it….  Well time to take back control, consciously work towards Zero Waste and relearn the skill of reworking leftovers into the next meal. I’m a sardine aficionado, and have boxes of them piled up in my cupboard from various trips  – just to cheer you up I recently enjoyed a tin that was months over its sell by date and they were truly delicious – just open the can, smell and as ever a bulging can is never a good sign, don’t open, just discard.

Of course, beautiful fresh produce in season is wonderful, but tins and cans are not to be scoffed at, they are a terrific standby, canned pulses for example are the bases for soups, stews, salads and dips – you’ll have hummus in minutes from a can of chickpeas or white beans. Add some sausage or chorizo even to a can of baked beans in tomato sauce and hey presto you have a bean stew.

Finally in answer to another nostalgic request, a recipe for ox tongue which I too love but is not on the top of everyone’s wish list. However, there is a definite increase in requests for recipes for home cooked food from childhood. Order a pickled tongue ahead from your butcher. I love it with a warm potato salad or this avocado and hazelnut salsa.

Keep safe and continue to boost you immune systems with nourishing, wholesome food.

Check out www.fromballymaleowithlove.com where we post new recipes every day. Also, check out Rachel and Rory on their Instagram account for lots of recipe tips…

Hummus

Hummus has quickly become a staple in the last few years loved by children and adults alike, see how you can make your own in minutes….

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

½ -1 teaspoon of freshly roasted and ground cumin

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.

Ox Tongue with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

Put the pickled ox tongue into a deep saucepan. Cover it completely with cold water. Bring to the boil, cover the saucepan and simmer gently for 3–4 1/2 hours, or until the skin will easily peel off the tip of the tongue. Remove the tongue from the pot and set aside the liquid. As soon as the tongue is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard. Remove all the little bones at the neck end. Sometimes I use a skewer to prod the meat to ensure no bones are left behind. Curl the tongue and press it into a small, plastic bowl. Pour a little of the cooking liquid over, put a side plate or saucer on top and weigh down the tongue. Tongue will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Traditionally, cold tongue is thinly sliced horizontally into rounds. Use a very sharp knife with a long blade. Thinly slice the tongue and serve it with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa.

Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

1 ripe avocado, halved, stone removed, peeled and diced into neat scant 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

3 tablespoons of hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons of hazelnut or olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients for the avocado and hazelnut garnish. Taste and correct seasoning. This mixture will sit quite happily in your fridge for an hour as the oil coating the avocado will prevent it from discolouring.

Potato and Spring Onion Salad

The secret of a good potato salad is to use freshly cooked potatoes and then season and toss in French dressing while they are still warm. This simple trick makes a phenomenal difference to the flavour of the finished salad. I’ve had delicious results with both waxy (Pink Fir Apple or Sharpe’s Express) and floury (Golden Wonders) potatoes, though waxy are definitely easier to handle.

Serves 4–6

1.6kg (31⁄2lb) raw potatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons chopped chives or spring onions

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

150ml (1⁄4 pint) French Dressing

150ml (1⁄4 pint) homemade Mayonnaise, thinned with a little water

Boil the potatoes in their jackets in a large amount of well-salted water. Peel and dice the potatoes while they are still hot and put into a large, wide dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle immediately with the chives or spring onions and the parsley. Drizzle over the French dressing and mix well. Leave to cool and then add the mayonnaise. Taste and correct seasoning.

Hot Potato Salad with Hard Boiled Egg and Gerkins

Make as above, but omit the mayonnaise. Fold in 2 diced hard-boiled eggs and 2 tablespoons of chopped gherkins. Serve warm with pickled ox tongue, sausages, boiled bacon, warm terrine, hot spiced beef or Danish Pâté

One-Pot Pasta with Tomato and Chorizo (taken from One Pot Feeds All published by Kyle Books)

For those of you who are conditioned to cook pasta in a huge pot of boiling salted water, the idea of cooking pasta in the sauce in just one pot may be quite a stretch to consider attempting, but do try it. The starch from the pasta thickens the sauce and the pasta absorbs the flavours deliciously, it’s a revelation and you’ll have such fun experimenting. For some reason I still feel slightly guilty, but less washing up helps to salve my conscience. You’ll need considerably more liquid than in normal pasta sauce because the pasta will absorb much of the liquid.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2–1 red chilli, chopped

900g (2lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled, in summer or 2 1/2 x 400g (14oz) tins of tomatoes in winter

zest of 1 organic lemon

1–2 teaspoons chopped rosemary, depending on the strength of flavour

225g (8oz) chorizo, peeled and diced

850ml (1 1/2 pints) homemade chicken or vegetable stock

175ml (6fl oz) double cream

300–350g (10 – 12oz) fettuccine or spaghetti

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

30g (1 1/2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a generous pinch of sugar, to taste

Heat the oil in a 6-litre (10 pint) stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic, toss until coated, cover and sweat over a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. Add the chilli. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely
soft before the tomatoes are added.

Slice the fresh or tinned tomatoes and add to the onions with all the juices and the lemon zest. Season with salt, pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity). Add the rosemary. Cook, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes, or until the tomato softens. Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. 

Add the chorizo, stock and cream. Bring back to the boil, add the pasta, stir gently to separate the strands and prevent sticking. Return to the boil, cover and simmer for 4 minutes and leave to sit in the tightly covered saucepan for a further 4–5 minutes, or until just al dente. When you add the dried pasta, it will seem too much but hold your nerve, it will soften within a minute or two and cook deliciously in the sauce.

Season to taste, sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley and grated Parmesan. Serve.

Sausage, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary

Taken from One Pot Feeds All by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books

A gorgeous pot of bean stew, so warm and comforting for an autumn or winter supper. Use your favourite juicy heritage pork sausages

Serves 4-6

225g (8oz) dried haricot, cannellini or flageolet beans (or 2 x 400g/14oz tins of cooked beans)

bouquet garni

1 carrot, peeled

1 onion, peeled

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying

450g (1lb) fennel and chilli pork sausages

175g (6oz) chopped onion

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of plum tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar

flat-leaf parsley or chervil, to serve

Soak the beans overnight in a large pan with plenty of cold water. Next day, strain the beans, discarding the soaking liquid, and return them to the pan. Cover with fresh cold water and add the bouquet garni, carrot and onion. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes–1 hour until the beans are soft, but not mushy. Just before the end of cooking, season with salt. Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables from the pan and discard. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.

Fry the sausages in a few drops of oil over a medium heat until nicely coloured and remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil over a lowish heat in the same saucepan and cook the chopped onion for 7–8 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or two before adding the chopped tomatoes and their juice, the cooked beans and the rosemary. Add the sausages and simmer for 5–6 minutes, adding some of the bean liquid if the sauce starts to dry out. Season well with salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar. Cook for a further 5–6 minutes or until the sausages are heated through. The mixture should be juicy, but not swimming in liquid – if it starts to dry out, add more of the bean liquid.

To serve, scatter with plenty of parsley and accompany with a salad of organic leaves or crusty bread, if you wish.

Variations

Cheesy Sausage, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary

Spoon the finished stew into a shallow ovenproof dish and scatter over 50g (2oz) breadcrumbs mixed with 25g (1oz) butter and 50g (2oz) grated Cheddar cheese. Flash under the grill until crisp and golden on top.

Chorizo, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary with Chorizo or ‘Nduja

Omit the sausages and add 125g (4 1/2oz) sliced chorizo or pieces of ‘nduja to the tomato base with the beans and rosemary.

Easy Baking for All The Family

Just like so many other over 70’s, I’ve been ‘cocooned’ at home for the past couple of weeks and of course it absolutely must be done but I was surprised how challenging I found the transition…

Life as we knew it is certainly on hold. Everyone is grappling with the new reality and each group have their unique set of adjustments to make.

We are all having to dig deep to find our inner resilience and realize that so many others are in infinitely more difficult situations than ourselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to be in a township in Soweto or in an immigrant camp on the Turkish border where physical distancing would be impossible.

Many of the everyday things we were up to ‘high doh’ about a couple of weeks ago now seem embarrassingly unimportant. How Covid-19 has changed our priorities dramatically in a few short weeks…

I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the kindness of people sharing and caring and racking their brains to think of ways to help others whilst keeping within the restrictions. Many families are already scarred by tragedy and many more will be…..

Unemployment, bereavement, home schooling and now there’s the spectre of a deep recession looming.  Carers, health workers, bus drivers, Garda and postmen and women…risking their own health every day for others and the everyday reality for so many of trying to keep children occupied often in a confined space while older children frantically study for exams.

Well certainly, from what I hear many families are also enjoying cooking together – especially baking – that is, when they can find flour…

My little contribution can be a few simple recipe suggestions every week – and do keep your requests coming in: darina@cookingisfun.ie

There can scarcely be a house in the country that hasn’t one or two recipes for cupcakes, but in response to Mary Jane’s request for a ‘fool proof’ recipe,  here is our ‘go to’ recipe for Penny’s cupcakes which all my grandchildren love to make. They have fun outdoing each other with lots of extra embellishments, sprinkles, meringue kisses, chocolate curls, sparkly sugar….

Here’s the recipe for coffee and walnut squares, an irresistible ‘tray bake’ from my latest One Pot Wonders book. It’s been getting a terrific response and I’m ashamed to say was responsible for someone breaking their Lenten fast a few weeks ago….

If you have a food processor, just put all the ingredients into the bowl together and whizz for a few seconds. Alternatively, cream the soft butter, add the castor sugar, beat until light and fluffy, then add one egg at a time and fold the flour in gently. Irel coffee essence has disappeared for some time now but Camp coffee is a brilliant substitute and lasts for years.

Cheddar Cheese Fondue is another gem, the kids can help to grate cheese on a simple box grater, a gadget no kitchen should be without. If you have haven’t got one, ask your Gran to leave it by the gate for you and take all the recommended precautions. Cheese fondue is so quick, easy, full of good protein and other nutrients and fun to eat….. Remember, if you drop the bread into the fondue you must kiss the person on your right so choose your seat carefully!

Hope you got a chance to make that rhubarb pie from last week’s column. Our rhubarb is leaping out of the ground after that rain, so here’s another one of my favourites – Rhubarb Fool. Serve it with these shortbread biscuits which the children can make and shape with their favourite cookie cutters.

Freeze any leftover rhubarb fool in a lined loaf tin (sweeten it a little more because freezing dulls the sweetness) – Hey presto – rhubarb ice-cream – serve with a little sauce of pureed stewed rhubarb and decorate with a sprig of sweet cicely for extra posh. Meanwhile, check out the new From Ballymaloe Cookery School with Love website www.fromballymaloewithlove.com for lots of recipes, tips, thoughts and foraging suggestions and for wild and free food – updated daily. Keep your requests coming in to darina@cookingisfun.ie or 0214646785.

Stay safe – till next weekend…..

Ballymaloe Cheese Fondue

A fondue party is so retro, terrific fun.  Choose your seat carefully because if you drop the bread into the fondue you must kiss the person on our right – this could be your big chance! Myrtle Allen devised this Cheese Fondue recipe made from Irish Cheddar cheese. A huge favourite at Ballymaloe.  Even though it’s a meal in itself it can be made in minutes and is loved by adults and children alike. A fondue set is obviously an advantage but not totally essential.

Serves 2 – perfect for everything from kids tea to a romantic supper.

2 tablespoons dry white wine

2 small cloves of garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons Ballymaloe Tomato Relish or any tomato chutney

2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley

175g grated mature Cheddar cheese

Crusty white bread

Put the white wine and the rest of the ingredients into a fondue pot or small saucepan and stir. Just before serving put over a low heat until the cheese melts and begins to bubble. Put the pot over the fondue stove and serve immediately.  Provide each guest with fresh French bread or cubes of ordinary white bread crisped up in a hot oven.  They will also need a fondue fork and an ordinary fork.

Rhubarb Fool

Serves 6 approximately

450g red rhubarb, cut into chunks

175g sugar

2 tablespoons water

225 – 300ml softly whipped cream

Put the rhubarb into a stainless saucepan with the sugar and water, stir, cover, bring to the boil and simmer until soft, 20 minutes approx.  Stir with a wooden spoon until the rhubarb dissolves into a mush. Allow to get quite cold. Fold in the softly whipped cream to taste. Serve chilled with shortbread biscuits.

Jane’s Biscuits – Shortbread Biscuits

This recipe is a ‘keeper’ – loved by children and all ages.  Stick it up on the inside of your kitchen cupboard door for easy access.

Makes 25

175g white flour or Spelt

110g butter (room temperature)

40g castor sugar

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 7mm thick.  Cut into rounds with 6cm cutter or into heart shapes.  Bake in a moderate oven 180°C/350ºF/Gas Mark 4 to pale brown, 8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the biscuits. Remove and cool on a rack.

Serve with fruit fools, compotes and ice creams.

Note: Watch these biscuits really carefully in the oven. Because of the high sugar content they burn easily. They should be a pale golden – darker will be more bitter.

However if they are too pale they will be undercooked and doughy.  Cool on a wire rack.

Penny’s Vanilla Cupcakes

This is our favourite cupcake recipe – they can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion!  Use your favourite icing and embellish them as you fancy.

Makes 9-10 cupcakes or 16-18 ‘wee’ buns

150g soft butter (at room temperature)

150g caster sugar

150g self-raising flour

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk

Icing

225g icing sugar

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cupcake tins lined with bun cases.

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

Put all ingredients except milk into a food processer, whizz until smooth.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, then add milk and whizz again.

Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin. 

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile make the icing.

Put the sieved icing sugar and lemon zest into a bowl.  Add enough lemon juice to mix to a spreadable consistency. 

Ice the cupcakes with lemon icing and garnish with a crystallised flower.  Alternatively, use chocolate icing and decorate with chocolate curls.

Dark Chocolate Icing

175g icing sugar

50g unsweetened cocoa powder

75g butter

4 tablespoons water

110g castor sugar

Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl. Measure the butter, water and sugar into a saucepan. Set over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter is melted. Bring just to the boil, then draw off the heat and pour at once into the sifted ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and glossy. It will thicken as it cools.

For the Chocolate Curls

Melt the 150g (5oz) of the chocolate in a pan over hot water and stir until smooth. Pour the chocolate onto a flat baking sheet, and tap the tin gently to spread.  Allow to cool. Once cool, using a cheese slice, or the blade of a chopping knife, pull the blade across the chocolate creating “curls” as you go.   Rest on parchment paper and use as required.

Sue’s Coffee and Walnut Squares

From One Pot Feeds All by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books

This is a super versatile recipe that comes from Sue Cullinane, one of our senior tutors at Ballymaloe Cookery School. I sometimes just scatter crunchy praline over the top for a quick, but delicious fix. Toasted hazelnuts or pecans are also a delectable combination, instead of the walnuts. 

Makes 20

225g softened butter, plus extra for greasing

100g caster sugar

80g soft brown sugar

300g self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 organic, free-range eggs

2 tablespoons whole milk

1 tablespoon Camp coffee essence

For the coffee buttercream

100g softened butter

300g icing sugar, sifted

1 dessertspoon whole milk

2 teaspoons Camp coffee essence

20 walnut halves, toasted hazelnuts or whole pecans, to decorate

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

Grease a 30cm (length) x 20cm (width) x 5cm (depth) tin with a little butter and line with a sheet of parchment paper that comes up over each side.

Put all the cake ingredients into a food processor. Whizz just long enough to combine. Spread the cake mixture evenly over the lined tin and smooth the top with a palette knife. Bake for 20–25 minutes until well risen. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely in the tin.

To make the buttercream, cream the butter and beat in the icing sugar, followed by the milk and coffee extract.

As soon as the cake has cooled, use a palette knife to spread the coffee buttercream evenly over the top. Cut into squares and decorate each one with a half walnut, toasted hazelnut or whole pecan. Alternatively, pipe a rosette of coffee buttercream on top of each square and top with a toasted nut.

Julia’s Melted Nettles with Pomegranate Syrup

A ‘cocooned’ friend in the UK told me about this delicious flavour combination.

Serves 4

225g young Spring nettles

25g butter or 2-3tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1-2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

Using gloves, remove the leaves from the stalks. Wash the nettles well under cold water. Plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain well.  When cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

To serve.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of butter or extra virgin olive oil in a pan, add the blanched nettles, season well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses, taste and correct seasoning.  Add a little more molasses if necessary. It’s difficult to say how much because different brands vary in intensity.

Note: Young nettles are mild, delicious and super nutritious, I like to blanch a few batches and then freeze for another time – loaded with iron and a brilliant blood cleanser.

Easter Sunday

The past few weeks have been tough on a whole variety of ways – each family has its own set of challenges.

On the food scene, it has been little short of astonishing to see the ingenuity and resourcefulness of farmers and local food producers who have come up with a myriad of solutions to get their perishable products to their local customers.  Many foods are already in short supply.  People are in desperation for flour.

Millers like Donal Creedon at Macroom Mills (026 41800) have been milling virtually around the clock.

Farmers continue to care for their animals, milk cows and sow and plant to ensure future harvests.

They are setting up farm gate sales contactless delivery and payment via Revolut.

Neighbourfood hubs (www.neighbourfood.ie) are springing up around the country much to the appreciation of both food producers and local community.  Just look at how creative we can be, what individuals and communities can organise when they are allowed to get on with it.  Up to 60 years ago, towns and villages were virtually self-sufficient – we could so easily work towards that again, in energy, waste disposal and food production services. 

We are having quite the wake-up call – food for thought – time to think outside the box and give thanks for so many blessings even in these terrifying times.  Let’s concentrate on finding the silver lining that we are told is behind every dark cloud.

Easter is the time of resurrection, take hope this too will pass but meanwhile, let’s have a little celebration tomorrow, Easter Sunday.  Go along to your valiant local butchers who are still supplying us with meat.  Buy a leg or shoulder of lamb, pop it in the oven with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, let it roast it slowly to delicious succulence.

While you are it, don’t forget to buy some fresh lamb liver, loaded with Vitamin A combined with Vitamin D that we need to boost our immune systems to help us resist disease and virus.  While you are there, ask for a big bag of bones to make a fine pot of broth.  Another brilliant food to keep us well, it also freezes brilliantly.

Cod liver oil was the only thing I bulk bought. A bottle for each of my children’s houses and several bottles to spoon into my hard working teachers, who are working flat out to make nourishing wholesome food for the Farm Shop and the heroic team on the farm and gardens who are also crazy busy, sowing, planting to ensure future harvests – reminds me of when I was a child, everyone took cod liver oil in Winter to protect them from colds and flu – it tasted disgusting then…..tastes better and quite appealing now but get an unrefined or fermented one if you can.

A great big roasting tin of Winter vegetables would be delicious with the lamb and of course lots of roast potatoes.

Tender fresh mint leaves are just leaping out of the ground in my herb patch – such joy…I’m making some apple and mint jelly and don’t forget Myrtle’s delicious simple mint sauce to accompany the Easter Sunday Lamb. 

I also have something else wonderful, not many of you will know.  It’s a perennial kale with several names Cut and Come, Hungry Gap and Cottiers Kale.  All those names give you a clue as to its attributes, a tender kale with the texture of spinach and the flavour of kale.  The more you pluck it, the more it grows and it fills the hungry gap between the end of the Winter crops and the beginning of the Summer bounty.  It’s propagated by root cutting rather than seeds so look out for plants – it really merits a space in your plot. Watch out for it at Neighbourfood for the next few weeks and we’ll also have some at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop in Shanagarry.

And then for pudding, our favourite rhubarb tart – I’ve given this recipe in my column several times but here we are again – it’s made with a ‘break all the rules’ pastry, that anyone can make.  Chill it well.  It’ll become your favourite pie pasty for all fruit tarts…gooseberry and elderflower, plums, stone fruit.

Stay resilient and continue to dig deep to find the inner strength you didn’t even know you had – look out for each other and continue the little acts of kindness.

Happy Easter to you and all your family.

Keep safe……

Easter Lamb with Myrtle Allen’s Mint Sauce

Young Spring Lamb is sweet and succulent and needs absolutely no embellishment apart from a dusting of salt and pepper and a little fresh Mint Sauce – made from the first tender sprigs of mint from the cold frame in the Kitchen garden.

For me this is the quintessential taste of Easter.

Serves 6-8

1 leg of spring lamb

salt and freshly ground pepper

Gravy

600ml (1 pint) lamb or chicken stock

a little roux (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish

Sprigs of fresh mint and parsley

Mint Sauce (see recipe)

If possible ask your butcher to remove the aitch bone from the top of the leg of lamb so that it will be easier to carve later, then trim the knuckle end of the leg.  Season the skin with salt and freshly ground pepper.   Put into a roasting tin.

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

Roast for 1-1 1/4 hours approx. for rare, 1 1/4 -1 1/2 hours for medium and 1 1/2-1 3/4 hours for well done, depending on size.  When the lamb is cooked to your taste, remove the joint to a carving dish.  Rest the lamb for 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile make the gravy.   Degrease the juices in the roasting tin, add stock.  Bring to the boil and whisk in a little roux to thicken slightly.   Taste and allow to bubble up until the flavour is concentrated enough.  Correct the seasoning and serve hot with the lamb, roast spring onions and lots of crusty roast potatoes.

Myrtle Allen’s Mint Sauce

Traditional Mint Sauce made with tender young shoots of fresh mint takes only minutes to make.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to Spring lamb but for those who are expecting a bright green jelly, the slightly dull colour and watery texture comes as a surprise.  That’s how it ought to be, try it.

Makes 175ml approx.

25g finely chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons sugar

110ml boiling water

25ml white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the sugar and freshly-chopped mint into a sauce boat.  Add the boiling water and vinegar or lemon juice.  Allow to infuse for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Roux

110g butter

110g 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.

Lamb Stock for Gravy or Broth

You could make more if you have a large enough pot, strain – it will freeze perfectly.

3kg lamb bones (or less or more)

2 large carrots

2 large onions

2 stalks of celery

10 peppercorns

A bouquet garni made up of a sprig of thyme, parsley stalks, a small bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 8.

Put the bones into a roasting tin and roast for 20-30 minutes or until the bones are well browned. Add the onions, carrots and celery and return to the oven until the vegetables are also browned. Transfer the bones and vegetables to the stock pot with a metal spoon.  Add the bouquet garni and peppercorns.  De-grease the roasting pan and deglaze with some water, bring to the boil and pour over the bones and vegetables. Add the rest of the water and bring slowly to the boil. Top up the liquid from time to time with water.  Skim the stock and simmer gently, uncovered for 4-5 hours.  Strain the stock, allow it to get cold, and skim off all the fat before use.  This stock will keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.  If you want to keep it for longer, boil it for 10 minutes, and then chill again. It can also be frozen.

Lamb Broth

Return the liquid with water to the pot and cook uncovered to reduce by quarter or half to concentrate the flavour.

Cottier’s Kale, Cut and Come or Hungry Gap

Serves 4

1.3kg cottier’s kale

3 teaspoons salt

salt and freshly ground pepper

50g butter

Remove the stalks from the sprigs of kale.  Wash and drain greens.  Cook with the lid off for about 5 minutes until tender.  Drain off all the water.  Chop well, add a big lump of butter, and plenty of freshly ground pepper and salt.

Note: Cut and Come kale, like spinach, reduces a lot during cooking, so you need to start off with a large potful.

Oven-Roasted Root Vegetables

Keep the pieces nice and chunky.

About equal volumes of:

parsnips, peeled

swede turnips, peeled

celeriac, peeled

carrot, peeled

onions, quartered

pumpkin, optional

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper, whole

a few whole cloves of garlic, optional

2-3 tablespoons herbs (thyme, rosemary, chives and parsley), freshly chopped

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Peel the vegetables and cut into similar sized pieces – 2cm cubes are a good size. Put all the vegetables into a large bowl.   Drizzle generously with olive oil and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Spread them in a single layer on one or several roasting tins.  Roast, uncovered, stirring occasionally until they are fully cooked and just beginning to caramelize. Be careful, a little colour makes them sweeter, but there is a narrow line between caramelizing and burning.  If they become too dark they will be bitter.

Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped herbs, e.g. thyme, rosemary, chives and parsley.

Note

Some freshly roasted and ground cumin or coriander is also a delicious addition just before the end of cooking.

Cullohill Rhubarb Pie

This is a gem of a recipe – a real keeper. The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.

Serves 8-12

Pastry

225g soft butter

50g castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

350g  white flour, preferably unbleached

Filling

900g sliced red rhubarb (about 1cm thick)

370g sugar

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk

castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve

softly whipped cream

Barbados sugar

tin, 18cm x 30.5cm x 2.5cm deep

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs one by one and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour slowly. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.

To make the tart

Roll out the pastry 3mm thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Place the sliced rhubarb into the tart, sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

Recipes in a Crisis

It is at times like this, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, that we need to concentrate on searching for the silver lining behind the black cloud…..

Sean O’Rourke asked me to come on his RTE show recently. Ever since, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing with requests for simple homely comforting dishes to cook with the kids. I was intrigued by the variety of simple fool proof recipes that people were longing for.

I shared my phone number after a conversation with a highly achieving young mother who found herself quarantined with her children and totally unable to cook. She was in desperation and felt helpless, although in her ‘other life’ she could virtually run the country. It is at times like this that we need to concentrate on searching for the silver lining behind this black cloud.

Supermarkets have now put a limit on the number of items people can buy to curb panic buying all kinds of random food. Pasta, tortillas and rice were top of many people’s lists and now some shops are in short supply but don’t forget about potatoes – super easy to cook, incredibly versatile and far more nutritious. Furthermore we are supporting Irish potato growers who like all farmers and food producers of perishable food desperately need our support. Never was it more important to buy locally. Many Farmers Markets are temporarily closed but food producers are scrambling to find other ways to get fresh produce to their customers with whom they have built up warm relationships over the years.

Many are now selling from the farm gate and taking orders by phone and doing contactless, deliveries straight to the boot of your car.

Let’s concentrate on food that helps to strengthen our immune system. We need lots of Vitamin A and D. Liver from lamb, beef, pork and poultry are all rich sources of both Vitamin A and D which work together to boost our resistance. Cod liver oil, neat or in capsule form, is also a brilliant source. As children in the 1950’s we were given it daily to protect us from Winter colds and flu but it’s popularity waned when antibiotics became more widely available.

Bone broth too – full of collagen, eggs particularly the wonderfully nourishing yolks from hens that are out on the grass. Butter, lard and other good fats. Fatty fish too, I love liver but know it’s certainly not everyone’s favourite, even those who have never tasted it tell me they don’t like it!

There are lots of delicious ways to serve liver rather than serving it unadorned, it can be minced and added to burgers or other delicious dishes. Try it diced in this delicious tomato, fegato and bacon fondue, serve with lots of mashed potato or indeed pasta.

Cook up a nice big pot of stew, cover the whole top with potatoes so you have a whole meal in one pot. Use every single scrap, don’t waste a morsel of anything. If you are unsure of how to use up some leftovers email or telephone me, 021 4646785 darina@cookingisfun.ie

 I’ll do my best to help with suggestions. See Ballymaloe Irish Stew in my recent St Patrick’s Day Article, are  https://letters.cookingisfun.ie/#Ballymaloe+Irish+Stew

but here’s another delicious beef stew and easy chicken casserole that all the family will love.

One of my most requested recipes was for scones, so here they are, my Mum’s recipe, the very best I know.

I also spoke about this delicious little recipe for tortillitas, little fritters, a perfect way to use up leftover boiled potatoes, make them with your kids, they’ll love making these tortillitas.

This is the perfect time to have fun in the kitchen with your kids, teaching them nifty skills – how to use a swivel top peeler, a kitchen knife, how to use the dishwasher, washing machine, dress the beds, hoover, lay the table…. Better still, how about sitting down together to compile a Jobs List, pin it up on the wall – a given when I was a child. There were nine of us so it was essential that everyone realised the importance of playing their part. We learned so many practical skills and a brilliant work ethic.

Please continue to send in your requests. I’ll do my best to include them in my weekly column and in my weekly Saturday Letter on the Ballymaloe Cookery School website.

Keep Safe!

Ballymaloe Beef Stew

A good gutsy stew which can be made in large quantities – it reheats and freezes brilliantly. Cover the top of the stew with large peeled potatoes if you would like a full meal in a pot.

Serves 8 – 10

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.35kg (3 lb) well hung stewing beef or lean flank

4 large carrots cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) slices

2 parsnips cut in ¾ dice

285g (10 ozs) sliced onions

1 heaped tablespoon flour

150ml (5fl oz) red wine (or use all beef stock)

150ml (5fl oz) brown beef stock

250ml (8fl oz) homemade Tomato Purée, otherwise use best quality tinned tomato -pureed and sieved

175g (6 oz) sliced mushrooms

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

Trim the meat of any excess fat, then prepare the vegetables. Cut the meat into 4cm

(1 1/2 inch) cubes. Heat the olive oil in a casserole; sweat the sliced onions carrots and parsnips on a gentle heat with a lid on for 10 minutes. Heat a little more olive oil in a frying pan until almost smoking.  Sear the pieces of meat on all sides, reduce the heat, stir in flour, cook for 1 minutes, mix the wine, stock and tomato puree together and add gradually to the casserole. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook gently. Cook gently for 2 1/2-3 hours in a low oven, depending on the cut of meat, 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3. Meanwhile sauté the mushrooms and add with the parsley to the casserole, 30 minutes approx. before the end of cooking.  Serve with mashed potatoes or noodles and a good green salad.

Note: Cover the surface of the stew with 8 – 10 whole peeled potatoes laid on top and cooked for about an hour before the end of the cooking. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cover with a lid

A very simple chicken casserole

This casserole takes 10 minutes to prepare.

So simple and so nourishing.

Serves 6-8

1 whole organic chicken or 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and 2 breasts

700ml (1 1/4 pints) homemade chicken stock or water

olive oil for frying

4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into thick chunks 

2 onions, peeled and quartered

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roux (optional)

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

Joint the chicken into 8 pieces or use chicken pieces, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Pour the chicken stock or water into a large casserole dish and heat on the hob.

Heat some oil in a frying pan and begin to fry the pieces of chicken until golden brown.

As they brown pop them into the casserole dish, at this stage you can also add in the chopped carrots and quartered onions. Add another pinch of salt and twist of freshly ground black pepper.

When the liquid comes to the boil, put the lid on, transfer to the preheated oven for 1- 1 1/2 hours.

The chicken will come easily off the bone when cooked and the carrots will be tender.

Pour off the liquid and let the fat rise to the top – spoon this off. (If the chicken is organic, save to sauté cooked potatoes).

Now you can either thicken the liquid with a little Roux if desired or leave the juice as is.

Note

Lots of other ingredients may be added to enhance the flavour – a sprig of thyme, lots of chopped parsley, haricot beans, spices, but this basic version works brilliantly to be shared with little ones.

Tortillitas à la Patata

This is totally brilliant way to use up leftover boiled potatoes.  The tortillitas are made in minutes and can be served as part of every meal from breakfast to supper. 

Makes 26

4 organic eggs

225g (8oz) cooked potatoes, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and chives

extra virgin olive oil, for frying

Maldon sea salt, to serve

Garlic Mayo (see recipe)

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the diced potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add the herbs.

Heat about 5mm (1/4 inch) of oil in a frying pan on a high heat, cook a teaspoonful of mixture and taste for seasoning.  Correct if necessary.  

Continue to cook the mini tortillas as needed, using a scant dessertspoon of the mixture for each. Cook on one side for about 1-2 minutes, flip over and continue to cook on the other side for a similar length of time, or until slightly golden.

Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt.

Serve hot, or at room temperature with a blob of garlic mayo (see recipe below).

Garlic Mayo

10 floz mayo

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

1 – 2 cloves of crushed garlic

Stir the crushed garlic and parsley into the mayonnaise, taste and put into a bowl.

Gary’s Fegato, Bacon and Tomato Fondue

Serves 6 – 10

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) onions, sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes or 2lbs of fresh tomatoes, peeled

Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

2 tablespoons of any combination of the following:

Freshly chopped parsley, thyme, marjoram

350g (¾ lb) nice fat streaky bacon

225g – 450g (½ lb – 1lb) fresh lambs (or chicken) liver (cut into ¾” cubes)

Heat the oil in a casserole or stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and toss until coated. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat until the onions and garlic are soft but not coloured. Slice the tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cook, uncovered, for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until tomatoes soften.

Meanwhile cut the cooked streaky into ¾” dice. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry until slightly crisp at the edges. Add to the tomato base. Toss the diced liver in the bacon fat and add to the pot. 

Bring back to a simmer, taste, correct the seasoning.

To serve, sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley over the top and serve immediately with pasta, orzo or mashed potato.

Note: Cook the piece of bacon in simmering water for 30-45 minutes or until the rind will peel off easily.

Mummy’s Sweet White Scones

My mother gave me this recipe for her scones which delighted and comforted me as a child, I have evocative memories of a big baking tray of golden scones coming out of the Aga, as we raced in from school.   My brothers and I argued over the sugary tops – nothing’s changed – they’re still my favourite.

Makes 18-20 scones, using a 3 inch (7½ cm) cutter

900g plain white flour

170g Kerrygold butter

Pinch of salt

55g castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

3 free-range eggs

425ml approx. full cream milk to mix

For glaze

Egg wash (see below)

For crunchy tops

55g crunchy demerara sugar for top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250ºC/475ºF. regulo 9

Sieve the flour into a big wide bowl, add a pinch of salt, 3 heaped teaspoons of baking powder and the castor sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients with your hands, lift up to incorporate air and mix thoroughly.

Cut the butter into cubes, toss well in the flour and then with the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter until it resembles large flakes.   Make a well in the centre.  Whisk the eggs with the milk, pour all at once into the centre. With the fingers of your ‘best hand’ outstretched and stiff, mix in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl.  This takes just seconds and hey presto, the scone dough is made. 

Sprinkle some flour on the work surface.   Turn out the dough onto the floured board.  Scrape the dough off your fingers and wash and dry your hands at this point.  

Tidy around the edges, flip over and roll or pat gently into a round about 1 inch (2½ cm) thick.   Stamp into scones with a cutter or a knife.  Brush the tops with egg wash (see below) and dip the tops only in granulated sugar.   Put onto a baking sheet.    Gently gather the extra pieces of dough together, flatten and repeat as above.  

Bake in a preheated hot oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Cool on a wire rack.

Serve, split in half with home-made Raspberry jam and a blob of whipped cream.

Scones are best served freshly baked.

Egg Wash: Whisk 1 egg thoroughly with about a dessertspoon of milk.  This is brushed over the scones to help them to brown in the oven.

Practical Tip

Scone mixture may be weighed up ahead – even the day before.  Butter may be rubbed in but do not add raising agent and liquid until just before baking. Scones freeze very well.

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