The recipes Darina Allen cooks for her family

The recipes Darina Allen cooks for her family

When Darina cooks for her family, she focuses on simple recipes made with minimal effort

“Much depends on dinner! Our health,vitality, ability to concentrate, all depend to a great extent on the food we eat.

Consequently it’s well worth putting as much effort as possible into sourcing good, fresh naturally produced food in season. After all as our much-loved GP, the late Dr Derry McCarthy was fond of saying ‘if you don’t put the petrol in the tank, the car won’t go’. Food is, after all, the fuel to nourish our bodies.

Nowadays many of us spend our time racing from one thing to the next,always in a mad hurry —in many ways it’s just a habit – easy to acquire but so difficult to kick. When life takes on this frenetic quality, cooking or even stopping to eat meals properly is one of the first things to be sidelined.

Easy to get into the mindset that there are more important things to do than stopping to cook or even to eat a meal properly. A great mistake, apart from the obvious importance of the food we eat, one misses out on the relaxation and satisfaction of doing something different and dare I say creative.

Allow yourself the time to relax and have fun in the kitchen. One of the greatest pleasures in life and the one that so many memories are made of is sitting down together with family and friends around the kitchen table. When we share a meal a bond is formed, doesn’t have to be an elaborate feast, could just be a boiled egg and soldiers or a bowl of saucy pasta.

It’s particularly important to keep the tradition of family meals, this takes tremendous effort nowadays when family members are involved in so many activities, sports, classes, work commitments, are all reasons why family meals have to be eaten at different times, often on the run,but it’s worth making an effort to have a family meal where everyone sits down together, at least couple of times a week — even if everyone just argues occasionally it keeps the lines of communication open and it may turn into a fun time.

A quick message for those of you who are being cooked for — don’t forget to at least offer to help with the washing up and remember a big hug for the cook — it makes the world of difference!”

Saturday, 28th June, 2003

Risotto alla Parmigiana

Serves 6

Risotto is a brilliant standby, made in just 30 minutes, it can be basic with some freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino, and it can include peas, broad beans, rocket leaves, roast tomatoes, shrimps,courgettes, mushrooms, smoked salmon, and much more besides can be added to enhance or embellish the risotto.

  • 1-1.3L (1¾ - 2¼ pints) broth or light chicken stock
  • 30g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 400g Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 50g freshly grated Parmesan(Parmigiano Reggiano is best)
  • sea salt

The recipes Darina Allen cooks for her family

First bring the broth or stock to the boil, turn down the heat and keep it simmering. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until soft but not coloured.

Add the rice and stir until well coated (so far the technique is the same as for a pilaff and this is where people become confused). Cook for a minute or so and then add 150ml (¼pint) of the simmering broth, stir continuously and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 150ml (¼pint) broth. Continue to cook, stirring continuously.

The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if it’s too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside. If it’s too slow, the rice will be gluey. It’s difficult to know which is worse so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously. The risotto should take about 25-30 minutes to cook.

When it is cooking for about 20 minutes, add the broth about 4 tablespoons at a time. I use a small ladle. Watch it very carefully from there on.

The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly ‘al dente’. It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick. The moment you are happy with the texture, stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan cheese, taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve immediately. Risotto does not benefit from hanging around.

Ballymaloe Irish Stew

Serves 4-6

The recipe varies from region to region. In Cork, carrots are a quintessential addition, not so in parts of Ulster.

  • 1.35kg lamb chops (gigot or rack chops) not less than 2.5cm thick
  • 8 medium or 12 baby carrots
  • 8 medium or 12 baby onions
  • 8-12 potatoes, or more if you like
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1.5 to 1.75 pints stock (lamb stock if possible) or water
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 tbsp roux, optional — see recipe
  • Garnish
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped chives

The recipes Darina Allen cooks for her family

Heat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4. Cut the chops in half and trim off some of the excess fat. Set aside. Render down the fat on a gentle heat in a heavy pan (discard the rendered down pieces).

Peel the onions and scrape or thinly peel the carrots(if they are young you could leave some of the green stalk on the onion and carrot). Cut the carrots into large chunks, or if they are small leave them whole. If the onions are large, cut them into quarters through the root, if they are small they are best left whole.

Toss the meat in the hot fat on the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat.

Build the meat, carrots and onions up in layers in the casserole, carefully season each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt.

De-glaze the pan with lamb stock and pour into he casserole. Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme, bring to the boil on top of the stove, cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan.

Transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, 1 to 1.5 hours approx, depending on whether the stew is being made with lamb or hogget.

When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid, degrease and reheat in another saucepan. Slightly thicken by whisking in a little roux if you like. Check seasoning, then add chopped parsley and chives. Pour over the meat and vegetables.

Bring the stew back up to boiling point and serve from the pot or in a large pottery dish.


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. Back to Top

Irish Stew with Pearl Barley

Add 1-2 tablespoons pearl barley with the vegetables. Increase the stock to 1.2 litres as the pearl barley soaks up lots of liquid.

Stuffed Roast chicken

Serves 4-6

Children of any age still love a ‘roast dinner’ particularly roast chicken with all the trimmings — stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes, carrots.

  • 1.5kg to 2.3kg free-range chicken,preferably organic
  • Stock
  • Giblets (keep the liver for a chicken liver pate), and wish bone
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • A few parsley stalks and a sprig of thyme
  • Stuffing
  • 45g butter
  • 85g chopped onion
  • 85g to 100g soft white breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp˚ finely chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, lemon thyme, chives and annual marjoram
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • A little soft butter
  • Garnish
  • Sprigs of flat parsley

First remove the wishbone from the neck end of the chicken, this isn’t at all essential but it does make carving much easier later on.

Tuck the wing tips underneath the chicken to make a neat shape. Put the wish-bone, giblets, carrot, onions, celery and herbs into a saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, skin and simmer gently while the chicken is roasting.

Next make the stuffing, sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, about 10 minutes, then stir in the crumbs, herbs, a little salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold. If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half fill with cold stuffing.

Season the breast and legs, smear with a little soft butter. Heat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4. Weigh the chicken and allow about 20 minutes to the pound and 20 minutes over. Baste a couple of times during the cooking with the buttery juices.

The chicken is done when the juices are running clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices: they should be clear.

Remove the chicken to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow to rest while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy, spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. Deglaze the pan juices with the fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelized meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible, serve the chicken on a nice carving dish surrounded by crispy roast potatoes and some sprigs of flat parsley then arm yourself with a sharp knife and bring it to the table.

Carve so that each person gets some brown and some white meat. Serve with gravy and bread sauce and roast potatoes.

Elizabeth O'Connell's apple pie

Serves 8-12

For years Mummy cooked delicious pub food in our family pub The Sportsmans Inn in Cullohill, Co Laois. Many letters mention calling on the way to or from Dublin for her apple tart or scones with apple jelly, so I’m delighted to share the recipe to bring back happy memories. The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.

  • Pastry
  • 225g butter
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, preferably free-range
  • 340g white flour, preferably unbleached
  • Filling
  • 675g Bramley seedling cooking apples
  • 140g sugar
  • 2-3 cloves
  • Egg wash — made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk
  • Caster sugar for sprinkling
  • To serve
  • Softly-whipped cream
  • Barbados sugar

Tin: 18cm x 30.5cm x 2.5cm deep

The recipes Darina Allen cooks for her family

Heat oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4. First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer. Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour.

Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

To make the tart

Roll out the pastry 3mm thick and use about two thirds of it to line a suitable tin. Peel, quarter and dice the apples into the tart, sprinkle with sugar and add the cloves.

Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the heated oven until the apples are tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

When cooked, cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

Rhubarb Tart

Make in the same way but use (900g) sliced red rhubarb (about 1cm inch thick) and 370g to 400g sugar.

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