THE three months of lockdown seemed to go on forever, but the 20 years since Feelgood published its first edition have flown by.
For this special edition, there are no marks for guessing what my essentials are, in lockdown or otherwise. Brands matter less than their contents, though I spend on local brands and in small local shops and markets wherever possible.
Now, more than ever, it is essential to support local businesses.
My taste staples here are used on lazy days to elevate dishes, but some are essential in many luxurious creations. Their flavours will turn fresh, canned and frozen foods into feasts.
I’m never without a few lemons, heads of garlic, a bunch of parsley, dried spices, and a chunk of ginger and turmeric — grate into dishes and soups to elevate them.
Relish and sauces such as Green Saffron Jalfrezi added to a stirfry gives them a good lift, and don’t forget the mustard — great added to the pan (maybe with a drizzle of cream) with fish or meat.
As standbys, I always have some Irish farmhouse cheeses, Irish crackers, flour to make focaccia, olives to top it, Highbank Apple Syrup and pomegranate molasses for drizzling. And peas in the freezer are a must.
With the right storecupboard ingredients, delicious, easy food is never far away.
Happy anniversary Feelgood, and all its readers.
It’s hard to beat a few rashers to liven up dishes. Chop a few, brown in oil, add onions, grated carrot, celery, until tender, then add shredded greens – spinach, chard, lettuce and garlic. Serve with noodles topped with a fried egg.
These dry cure rashers have no nasty liquid oozing in the pan, no phosphates and just 1.8% salt. From the dynamic, innovative Avril Allshire and family, Rosscarbery.
Making pesto -especially seasonal parsley- is satisfying and keeps for weeks, or months frozen. Brands like this will keep, unopened, for two years. Made in Liguria, Italy, the home of pesto, with cashew nuts and some traditional pine nuts, this is not as genuine as some more expensive ones. Add to a pot of drained pasta while still warm, with a little of the cooking water to loosen it up.
A piece of decent dark chocolate makes an easy snack. Grated onto ice- cream, cakes, melted for biscuit dipping, it can transform the ordinary. While Shana Wilkie has been bought out by a South African based multinational, the chocolate is still made by her in Mallow from beans from small, organic farmers in Tumbes, Peru. Still deliciously smooth and luscious, with none of the typical bitterness of its high 75% cocoa solids.
While Irish tuna is pricier, this Irish company is producing a range from non- Irish at lower prices too. I prefer fish to be locally caught. Use in sauces with olive oil and chopped tomatoes, but also in traditional salads with olives, chopped red onion, tomatoes and lettuce. One junior family member insists on it mixed with canned corn and grated carrot, with sourdough. Surprisingly satisfying! Good in pitta bread too.
This sauce represents the wide range of cans and jars of whole, chopped, passata and various tomato sauces that make superbly easy pasta dinners and toppings for pizzas. Good over potatoes too and smeared on bread for appetisers or lunch. Heat and add chunks of raw fish to poach gently, lid on.
Add in chopped greens – spinach, chard, lettuce – at the last minute for a nutritious meal.
Most supermarkets have good parmesan which can be grated or pared onto a salad to make it more substantial and give it some umami flavour. Add to minced pork with breadcrumbs for great meatballs. Sprinkle on pasta with warmed olive oil. Serve with honey as a cheese course. Grate onto toasted bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil. Think of it as a condiment.
Many dishes can be improved by mashing some anchovies in olive oil and heating. As they melt they make a delicious, non-fishy tasting base for a can of tomatoes – instant pasta sauce! Or add toasted breadcrumbs to the anchovies and oil and use to top a sauce of canned tomatoes cooked with chopped broccoli. More amazing than expected. Add a couple of fillets to butter to serve with fish or steak.
This is a good example of flavoursome ready-made sauces which require little but the addition of chopped chicken, fish or vegetables. Heat the sauce slowly, and add meat/fish raw, and cook with the lid on. This one has coconut milk, peanut butter, spices, tamarind concentrate, lemon juice, fish sauce, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, galangal, shrimp. Gluten free, the Kiely family produces this in Co Waterford. Keeps chilled for at least three months.