College: You're free at last, but you're also on your own

We are a few weeks into the college year now and for many, it’s been a shock to the system, a moment of realisation when the penny drops that you are absolutely on your own — to get up on time, feed yourself, do your washing and the gizillion other little things we’ve become accustomed to others doing for us.

It’s a wonderful adventure but definitely takes a bit of getting used to and adjustment. I’ve had lots of requests for a kit of recipes for college kids cheap, cheerful, nourishing foods that are quick to put together.

So this week, I’m going to keep blurb to the minimum so that I can fit in as many recipes as possible.

Let’s start with breakfast, make a fine pot of porridge, Macroom oatmeal is the best but Kilbeggan and Flahavans rolled oats are also delectable and can be if covered and refrigerated, and reheated next day, if you have some left over. You can add all sorts of toppings – jam, berries, treacle, maple syrup, honeycomb – but my absolute favourite is soft dark brown sugar and cream or at least whole milk – certainly no low fat, you’ll need nourishment to help you concentrate and achieve. It’s nothing fancy but it’s totally delicious and you won’t feel like reaching for a doughnut at 11am. Bircher muesli is another brilliant oat-based cereal made in minutes and super delicious.

Fresh eggs also give so much bang for your buck. A couple of scrambled eggs with a few added bits and pieces from the fridge can make a nutritious and tasty brekkie, brunch, lunch or supper. An omelette is a 30-second job, a frittata takes a bit longer but it’s a brilliant and versatile recipe to feed a crowd of pals.

Once again there are numerous variations but for college kids, I suggest adding diced cooked potato and maybe some leek or pumpkin and a few cubes of chorizo which will add more nourishment and lots of flavour.

A cabbage is also another great buy, go along to Caroline Robinson on the Coal Quay Market on Saturday and buy a fine chemical-free Savoy cabbage. It’ll keep you going for days and is so versatile. Here’s one of the many cabbage salad recipe we enjoy.

I also love dahls, this is a super simple one that we love and can also be made in bigger quantities. It’s really worth investing in a few jars of spices and some chilli flakes, they’ll add zing to even the simplest pasta dish. How about Asian lettuce leaves cups with pork or chicken, easy nibbles that are quick to make and give you a host of proteins.

Many bedsits or student accommodation don’t have an oven so how about pancakes or crepe? There is so much, I almost feel another book coming on!

Bircher Apple Muesli

This is right up there with porridge as the best and most nourishing breakfast ever. It’s also super-delicious, can be made in minutes, even when you are semi-comatose in the morning.

Serves 4

  • 110g grated dessert apple (preferably Worcester Permain or Cox’s Orange Pippin) or fresh strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, tayberries – all are super delicious in this recipe.
  • 3 heaped tablespoons organic rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon or more of honey, depending on the tartness of the fruit
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped almonds (peeled, optional)

Measure out the water into a bowl and sprinkle three tablespoons of oatmeal on top. Let the oatmeal soak up the water while you grate the apple.

A stainless steel grater is best for this job, use the largest side and grate the apple coarsely, skin and all.

I grate through the core, but watch your fingers when you are coming close to the end, pick out the pips and discard.

Stir a tea spoonful of honey into the oatmeal and then stir in the grated apple, and almonds if using.

Taste, if it needs a little more honey add it, this will depend on how much you heaped up the spoon earlier on and how sweet the fruit is.

Serve with cream and soft brown sugar.

Blackberry and Apple Muesli

A few blackberries are delicious added to the apple muesli in autumn.

Martha’s Orange Lentil Dahl

This super quick dahl is enhanced by the tempering of curry leaves and spices drizzled over the top.

Serves 6

  • 225g orange lentils
  • 400ml can of coconut milk plus 300ml water
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • scant 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala

Tempering

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6-8 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder

Garnish

  • 6 slices onion, sautéed until golden
  • fresh coriander or mint leaves

Cook the lentils with the coconut milk and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the turmeric, bring to the boil and simmer for about 8-10 minutes by which time the lentils will be soft, almost mushy.

When cooked turn off the heat, add salt, freshly squeezed lemon juice and garam masala.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan, add the curry leaves followed by the cumin seeds, fry for 2 minutes and turn off the heat.

Add the cayenne and coriander, stir and pour over the cooked lentils.

Mix well and garnish with crispy onion and coriander of mint leaves.

Serve with Basmati rice or any chutney you fancy, don’t forget Ballymaloe Relish.

Scrambled Eggs with Many Good Things

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 fresh organic eggs
  • 2 tablespoons full-cream 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 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, except perhaps a slice of hot thin toast.

Having said that, here are some great accompaniments:

Good things to serve with scrambled eggs:

  • Chopped watercress or rocket leaves with a little grated cheese.
  • Diced, cooked chorizo – add just at the end with some flat parsley.
  • Crispy smoked bacon or a little cooked ham.

For a Mexican flavour, add a little diced onion and chilli; then add diced tomato and lots of coriander at the end of cooking.

A few cooked wild mushrooms, perfumed with a little tarragon or thyme leaves

Smoked fish such as smoked salmon, mackerel

Cooked shrimps

A Basic Frittata and Tons of Variations

Serves 6-8

A frittata is an Italian omelette. Unlike its soft and creamy French cousin, a frittata is cooked slowly over a very low heat during which time you can be whipping up a delicious salad to accompany it.

It is cooked on both sides and cut into wedges like a piece of cake.

This basic recipe, flavoured with grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of herbs.

Like the omelette, though, you may add almost anything that takes your fancy.

  • 10 large eggs, preferably free range organic
  • 1 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • 75g (3oz) Gruyére cheese, grated
  • 25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
  • 25g (1oz) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) basil or marjoram chopped

To Serve

  • Rocket leaves
  • Tomato and Coriander Salsa , see recipe
  • Non-stick pan – 22.5cm (10 inch) frying pan

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, grated cheese into the eggs. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs.

There are two cooking methods: Turn down the heat, as low as it will go. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 12 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny. Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set but not brown the surface.

Alternatively after an initial 3 or 4 minutes on the stove one can transfer the pan to a preheated oven 170ºC/325ºF/Gas Mark 3 until just set 15-20 minutes. We prefer the latter method.

Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate. Serve cut in wedges, arrange some rocket leaves on top of the frittata and top with a blob of tomato and coriander salsa or alternatively you can serve with a good green salad and perhaps a tomato salad.

Mushroom Frittata

  • 450g (1lb) flat mushrooms - washed and sliced

Heat some olive oil in a hot pan, add the sliced mushrooms. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook over a high heat until just wilted, cool. Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, chopped herbs, mushrooms and grated cheese into the egg mixture.

Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan and continue to cook as in the master recipe.

Frittata Ranchero

Add to the basic egg mixture just before cooking.

  • 25g (1oz) chopped sweated onion
  • 1 small tomato cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chilli or more to taste
  • 1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) chopped coriander (instead of parsley or chives)

Smoked Salmon and Goats Cheese Frittata

Add to the basic egg mixture just before cooking.

  • 3 slices of smoked salmon diced
  • Substitute 1/2 the Gruyere with a mild goats cheese, and crumble into the mixture.
  • Frittata with Pea Shoots and Mint
  • Add to the basic egg mixture just before cooking.
  • 1 – 2 cups of chopped pea shoots
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons (2-3 American tablespoons + 2-3 teaspoons) of chopped fresh mint
  • Garnish with fresh pea shoots

Hot Tips

Irish Orchard Treacle

Another winner from Highbank Orchard’s. Seek out their latest product – a sweet and delicious organic treacle for meat glazes, marinades and baking. www.highbankorchards.com or tel: 056 7729918

Date for the Diary

Savour Kilkenny from October 27-30: A weekend of jam packed activities, including Savour Specials, Sip and Savour, Savour Kids and Savour Market. Check out Pamela Black, Ballymaloe Cookery School teacher and our Cake Queen on Saturday, the 28th at 5pm as she creates truly dramatic cake feasts for the eye.

One Pot Wonders

There is something liberating about cooking in a single pot. It requires much less effort, the meal is complete (or close to complete) and the whole process is simple and uncomplicated. Many one pot wonders are relatively inexpensive to produce and there is the added advantage of having next to no washing up to do afterwards. In a nutshell you’ll learn how to make a dozen or more delicious dishes using only a single pot. Saturday October 14, 2017 at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, www.cookingisfun.ie


 

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