Fun & Food: The family that cooks together...

Fun & Food: The family that cooks together...
Darina Allen with grandchildren Jasper, Amelia and Scarlett, and their friend Jasmine Foley (second from right) cooking at home in East Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins

Seeking inspiration for all that extra time at home? Use it to discover the art of cooking and baking with your children.

COVID-19 continues to throw our lives into disarray. Children are now in their fourth week out of the classroom and, aside from people in essential services, most of us who are still working are adjusting to our new office space in the kitchen. It’s a massive adjustment; no soccer training, drama classes, playdates or even taking the kids to the supermarket. It may feel a little stifling being cooped up indoors, day in, day out. Why not take advantage of that extra time and energy and get cooking as a family? You can involve children of all ages, give each age appropriate tasks. Make it fun, ask them to come up for ideas, choose recipes and ingredients and to sample new dishes and flavours. Focus on healthy, nutritious meals (although sweet treats are okay too).

Renowned chefs including Darina Allen, Michelle Darmody and the Currabinny Cooks (James Kavanagh and William Murray), have published extensive family friendly recipes in the Irish Examiner Weekend supplement over the years, some of which we are republishing here.

Bring the fun back into food ... for all the family.

Darina Allen's Macaroni and Cheese

Fun & Food: The family that cooks together...

Serves 6

Macaroni cheese is one of my children’s favourite supper dishes. We often add some cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni. It also incorporates several techniques: how to grate cheese, make roux and a basic béchamel white sauce which can be used as a basis for many other recipes.

Ingredients:

225g macaroni

3.4 litres water

2 tsp salt

50g butter

50g white flour, preferably unbleached

850ml boiling milk

Quarter tsp Dijon or English mustard

1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley,

(optional)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

50g grated mature cheddar, 25g grated cheddar for sprinkling on top

Method

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook until just soft, 10 to 15 minutes, and then drain well.

Meanwhile, melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time.

Add mustard, parsley if using, and cheese. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately. Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place.

Turn into a pie dish, sprinkle grated cheese over the top. Reheat in a heated moderate oven: 180C/ gas mark 4 for 15 to 20 minutes.

Michelle Darmody's Meatballs with Mash

Fun & Food: The family that cooks together...

You can also use minced turkey or pork for this.

Ingredients

750g of minced lamb

1 small onion, very finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 egg, lightly beaten

a small bunch of parsley, chopped

a jar of tomato passata sauce

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tsp of honey if necessary

a handful of green olives, stoned and chopped, optional

8 small potatoes, peeled

Method

Put your potatoes on to boil

Mix the lamb, one finely chopped onion, crushed garlic, the egg and parsley in a bowl and season. Roll the mixture into balls, the size you would like and set them aside.

Fry your onion in a pan and when it is translucent add your garlic. Now add the passata and leave to bubble away for about 10 minutes. Taste and see if it needs honey and also season it, you can add some basil if you have some or oregano works well too. Stir through the olives.

Leave the sauce to bubble on a low heat as you start to fry your meatballs. Once they are cooked through add them to the sauce. Pull one of the meatballs apart to make sure it is cooked in the centre.

Mash your potato. Add cream or milk if you wish to make the mash richer.

Season and you are ready to serve.

The Currabinny Cooks' Smoked Rainbow Trout with Fennel, Goats Cheese, Pink Peppercorns and Dill

Fun & Food: The family that cooks together...

Fish doesn’t have to be complicated and rainbow trout is a delicately flavoured variety that children tend to like. Delicious ribbons of pink trout and the creamy luxury of soft goats cheese make for surprisingly hearty eating. Whenever I make this I like to use the very best Irish trout from Goatsbridge along with the distinctive and deliciously smooth goats cheese from Galway Goat Farm, who sell in specialist stores around Ireland, like our favourite Dublin cheese shop Loose Canon or if you’re in Cork pick it up in Iago.

Ingredients

300g smoked rainbow trout

2 medium sized fennel

½ lemon

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

165g soft goats cheese (we use ‘Conc Dubh’ from Galway Goat Farm)

2 tsp of pink peppercorns

1 tbsp of chopped dill

1 tbsp of pickled samphire (optional)

Method

Slice the fennel as thinly as possible into thin wafers and arrange on a large plate. Squeeze the lemon juice over the slices of fennel, sprinkle with salt, pepper, chopped dill, and drizzle it with rapeseed oil.

Cover the plate with wax paper or parchment and leave to marinate in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

The fennel should soften slightly as the acidic lemon juice effectively cooks it. When the fennel has marinated, flake the smoked rainbow trout over the slices of fennel, add the goats cheese in dollops all around the plate, and sprinkle with the pink peppercorns and pickled samphire if using.

Simple, fresh, and delicious.

Fish doesn’t have to be complicated and rainbow trout is a delicately flavoured variety that children tend to like. Delicious ribbons of pink trout and the creamy luxury of soft goats cheese make for surprisingly hearty eating. Whenever I make this I like to use the very best Irish trout from Goatsbridge along with the distinctive and deliciously smooth goats cheese from Galway Goat Farm, who sell in specialist stores around Ireland, like our favourite Dublin cheese shop Loose Canon or if you’re in Cork pick it up in Iago.

Michelle Darmody's Chicken Roasted with Tomatoes

Fun & Food: The family that cooks together...

Ingredients

Four pieces of chicken on the bone

1 tin of tomatoes

4 cloves of garlic

1 small onion, roughly chopped

A small bunch of rosemary

1 tbs of honey

2 tsp of paprika

2 cups of rice

Method

Put your rice on to boil. Place all of the other ingredients into an oven proof dish and place into a medium oven. Cook for about 35 to 40 minutes or until your chicken is completely cooked through. Serve with your rice.

Darina Allen's Chargrilled Pizza Margherita on the BBQ

Fun & Food: The family that cooks together...

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

150g (5oz) pizza dough

175g (6oz) grated Mozzarella cheese

3 tbsp olive oil

10fl oz tomato fondue

2 tbsp freshly chopped annual marjoram

1 tbsp parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano is best), grated

6ozs thinly sliced pepperoni (optional)

For the dough

680g (1½lbs) strong white flour or 600g (1¼lb) strong white flour and 110g (4oz) rye flour

50g (2oz) butter

1 packet fast-acting yeast

2 level tsp salt

15g (½oz) sugar

2-4 tbsp olive oil

450–500ml (16-18 floz) lukewarm water — more if needed

Method

Sprinkle the grated Mozzarella with extra virgin olive oil.

Heat a Weber-style barbeque to medium hot.

Roll the pizza dough into a 30cm (12-16 inch) rectangle, about 5mm (¼ inch) thick.

Lay the rectangle of dough on the hot rack. Cover and cook for 4–5 minutes until nicely cooked and marked on the underside. Flip over. Spread an even layer of warm tomato fondue on the cooked surface. Sprinkle with chopped annual marjoram and a few slices of pepperoni (optional). Sprinkle generously with a mix of grated Mozzarella and Parmesan. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and some cracked pepper, drizzle with olive oil. Cover the barbeque and continue to cook for 5-6 minutes or until the topping is bubbling and the pizza base is fully cooked.

Transfer to a chopping board, sprinkle with fresh basil leaves, drizzle with a little more olive oil, cut into squares and serve immediately.

To make the Garden Café Pizza Dough

This recipe is so quick and easy, using this fast-acting yeast does away with the first rising. By the time your tomato sauce is bubbling in the oven your pizza base will be ready for its topping. (Makes 8 x 25cm 10-inch pizzas.)

In a large wide mixing bowl sieve the flour and add in the salt, sugar, rub in the butter and fast-acting yeast, mix all the ingredients thoroughly.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the oil and most of the lukewarm water. Mix to a loose dough. You can add more water or flour if needed.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work top, cover and leave to relax for about five minutes. Then knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until smooth and springy (if kneading in a food mixer with a dough hook, 5 minutes is usually long enough).

Leave the dough to relax again for about 10 minutes. Shape and measure into eight equal balls of dough each weighing approximately 150g (5oz). Lightly brush the balls of dough with olive oil.

If you have time, put the oiled balls of dough into a plastic bag and chill. The dough is easier to handle when cold but it can be used immediately.

On a well floured work surface, roll each ball in to about 25cm (10inch) disk.

I find it convenient to pop a few rolled out uncooked pizza bases into the freezer. You can take one out, put the topping on and slide it straight into the oven. What could be easier.

This dough also makes delicious white yeast bread which we shape into rolls, loaves and plaits.

Darina Allen's Great Grandmother’s Victoria Sponge

Fun & Food: The family that cooks together...

A buttery sponge cake was standard fare to serve with afternoon tea in my grandmother’s house at Donoghmore.

When it was taken out of the oven of the Aga it was cooled on a wire rack by the window in the back kitchens.

Thick yellow cream spooned off the top of the milk in the dairy was whipped and as soon as the cake was cool it was sandwiched together with homemade jam from the raspberries picked at the top of the haggard.

Ingredients

170g flour

170g caster sugar

3 eggs

125g butter

1 tbsp milk

1 tsp baking powder

Filling:

225g raspberry jam (preferably homemade)

285g whipped cream

Caster sugar to sprinkle

Method

You will need 2in x 7in (18cm) sponge cake tins. Heat the oven to 180C/ gas mark 4. Grease and flour the tins and line the base of each with a round of greaseproof paper.

Cream the butter and gradually add the caster sugar, beat until soft and light and quite pale in colour. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well between each addition (if the butter and sugar are not creamed properly and if you add the eggs too fast, the mixture will curdle, resulting in a cake with a heavier texture).

Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in gradually. Mix all together lightly and add 1 tablespoon of milk. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins, hollowing it slightly in the centre. bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked. Turn out onto a wire tray and allow to cool.

Sandwich together with raspberry jam and whipped cream. Sprinkle with sieved caster sugar. Serve on an old fashioned plate with a doyley.

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