Weekend Food: Darina Allen responds to a reader's request for some simple recipes

A FEW weeks ago I got a letter from a regular reader from County Kerry — a busy ‘working’ mum, who tells me that she loves many of my simple recipes but complained that of late, the recipes were a bit ‘cheffy’ and not for the average working family with ravenously hungry teenagers returning home from college: “They want plenty of delicious, home-cooked meals, not tiny exotic dishes.”

By coincidence, the week before the recipes were from the Guild of Irish Food Writers Awards so were indeed ‘cheffy’ and time-consuming. Vera gave me a nice ‘long wish list’ of suggestions — a healthy brown loaf, a nice sauce casserole, a few one-pot dishes, a large, easy chocolate cake, a few tray bakes and tasty ways to cook Irish grown vegetables.

How about swede turnips, cabbage and carrots? Good girl yourself, Vera — love to hear people wanting to go out of their way to buy Irish produce.

“How about a savory bread and large quiche, a tasty lasagna and salads?” she asks.

There were more than enough requests to keep me going for several columns. I love to get letters like this, it stops me in my tracks and reminds me to include more delicious simple recipes in my column — almost back to my Simply Delicious days. Thank you Vera.

By coincidence, I had just sent the final proofs of a new book, that should be in the shops next September, into my publishers, One Pot Feeds All — I wrote this book especially for all of you super busy people who dash home through the traffic, tired and exhausted from work, pick up a bag of groceries but still want to cook a wholesome meal from scratch for your family.

So there are 130 delicious lunch recipes for one pot, one casserole, one roasting tin, coming your way later this year. Home cooking is by far the most important in the end.

Meanwhile, I’ll get started on Vera’s list which I hope many other readers will also enjoy.

Brown Soda Bread in a Tin

This is a more modern version of soda bread. It couldn’t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well-greased tin. This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted. We use Howard’s One Way flour for this but seek out Macroom and Dunany Organic Flour also, each have their own unique flavour.

Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves

400g (14ozs) stone ground wholemeal flour or a wholemeal flour of your choice

75g (3ozs) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 tsp salt

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

1 egg, preferably free range

1 tbsp arachide or sunflower oil, unscented

1 tsp honey or treacle

425ml (15fl ozs) buttermilk or sourmilk approx.

Sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)

Equipment

Loaf tin 23x12.5x5cm (9x5x2in) OR 3 small loaf tins 5.75 inches (14.6cm) x 3 inches (7.62cm)

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

Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well.

Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey and buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin or tins — using a butter knife, draw a slit down the middle.

Sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on the top. Bake for 60 minutes approximately (45-50 minutes for small loaf tins), or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup with Parsley Oil

Swedes and turnips are ridiculously cheap and super versatile, this soup is filling, nutritious and super delicious. Drizzle it with parsley or wild garlic oil and you’ve got a chic starter worthy of a posh dinner party.

Serves 6-8

1 tbsp sunflower oil

150g (5oz) rindless streaky bacon cut in 1cm (½ inch) dice

110g (4oz) onions, chopped

110g (5oz) potatoes, diced

350g (12oz) swede turnips, diced

salt and freshly ground pepper

900ml (1½ pints) homemade chicken stock

Cream or creamy milk to taste

Parsley Oil

50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

50g (2oz) parsley, chopped

Garnish

Fried diced bacon or chorizo

Tiny croutons

Flat parsley sprigs or coarsely chopped parsley

First make the Parsley Oil:

Whizz the parsley with the olive oil until smooth and green.

Next make the soup:

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked. Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary.

To serve:

Serve with a mixture of crispy bacon, tiny croutons and chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

Super-Quick Buttered Cabbage

This method takes only a few minutes to cook but first the cabbage must be carefully sliced into fine shreds. It should be served the moment it is cooked.

450g fresh Savoy cabbage

25-50g butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper

A knob of butter

Remove the tough outer leaves from the cabbage. Divide into four, cut out the stalks and then cut into fine shreds across the grain.

Put 2-3 tablespoons of water into a wide saucepan with the butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, add the cabbage and toss constantly over a high heat, then cover for a few minutes.

Toss again and add some more salt, freshly ground pepper and a knob of butter. Serve immediately.

Chicken Paprikash

In Hungary, Paprikash would be served with nokedli, similar to German spaetzle but pasta or mashed potato works well also.

Serves 8

2 tbsp lard (traditional) or clarified butter

1.8 Kgs organic, free range chicken thighs and drumsticks (bone in for extra flavour)

250g (9oz) onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed

500g (1 lb) ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped

250g (9oz) large red pepper, seeded and diced (approx ½ inch)

450 mls (16 floz) chicken stock

3 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika or 2 tbsp sweet paprika and one of smoked paprika

Generous tsp of salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper

250g tub sour cream (crème fraiche)

2 floz double cream

60-80g (2 – 3oz) Roux

Flat leaf parsley, coarsely snipped

Melt the lard or clarified butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Brown the chicken pieces in batches on all sides, transfer to a casserole. Add the diced onion, garlic, tomato and pepper to the frying pan, toss for 2 – 3 minutes, add the paprika, salt and freshly ground black pepper (careful not to burn the paprika or it will be bitter).

Add to the chicken in the casserole. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock. Stir and bring to the boil to dislodge all the flavour from the pan. Pour into the casserole, bring back to the boil and simmer for 40 - 50 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.

Strain the liquid off the Paprikash, add the crème fraiche and cream, bring back to the boil thicken with roux to a light coating consistency. Pour over the chicken, return to the boil, taste and correct the seasoning. Scatter with snipped flat leaf parsley and serve with pasta or mashed potato.

Note: This stew becomes even better when made a day or two ahead and reheats brilliantly.

Lemon Drizzle Squares

Who doesn’t love lemon drizzle — the problem here Vera, they’ll snaffle them far too fast!

Makes 24

6oz (175g) really soft butter

5oz (150g) castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

6oz (175g) self-raising flour

Lemon Drizzle

Freshly grated rind of 1 lemon

Freshly squeezed juice of 1-2 lemons

4oz (110g) castor sugar

Equipment

10 x 7 inch (25.5 x 18 cm) swiss roll tin, well-greased or lined with parchment paper

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

Put the butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the well buttered tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen. Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the glaze. As soon as the cake is cooked, pour the glaze over the top, leave to cool. Cut into squares.

Note: In winter when the butter is harder to cream, we add 2-3 tablespoons of milk to lighten the mixture and texture.

Hot Tips

Here in Cork we are super proud of our three new Michelin starred restaurants. Ichigo Ichie on Sheare’s Street in Cork City, Chestnut in Ballydehob and The Mews in Baltimore. ichigoichie.ie; www.mewsrestaurant.ie and www.restaurantchestnutwestcork.ie/

We have just discovered a new farmhouse Goats Cheese called An Cnoc Dubh (The Black Hill) made by Larry and Anne Maguire of Galway Goat Farm in Gurteen. In production since 2016, the milk is selected from a single herd of goats in County Westmeath. They make both, ashed log and flattened pyramid types (Saint Maure type and Valançay type). The cheese has deservedly won the Gold Blás na hÉireann 2017 and achieved Gold in the Artisan Cheese awards in 2018. Contact Larry directly on 086 2531997.

The Post-Graduate Diploma in Irish Food Culture is an exciting and original programme of study at UCC. It is the first university course that takes a transdisciplinary approach to exploring Irish food culture. 

Course modules: Year 1: An Introduction to Irish Food Studies; The Irish Food System and Food Policy; Irish Food and Culinary History; Food and Creative Practice. 

Year 2: Food, Festival and Folklore; Food, the Environment and Sustainability; Introduction to the Principles of Nutrition; Research Methods in Foodways.

https://www.ucc.ie/en/ace-pdifc/ or email r.sexton@ucc.ie

www.cookingisfun.ie 

www.instagram.com/darina_allen 

www.instagram.com/ballymaloecookeryschool

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