Quick and easy meals for autumn

It’s September again and we’re all looking for midweek dinner inspiration. So Joe McNamee asked some top chefs for some quick, nutritious dishes that kids will happily eat

IT MAY have lacked a certain something, namely sunshine and actual heat, but it was summer nonetheless and nothing marks its passing like the arrival of the ‘back-to-school’ season. For many working parents, summertime is simply a different form of headache, trying to manage children on holidays from school, but at least you get to decide your own schedule and after a few weeks it can become deceptively laid back.

But when autumn comes once more, that all changes and for the first few weeks, it seems every one is a slave to the summons of the school bell. On top of that, there’s all the running around after last minute books and uniforms and getting the hang of a whole new raft of after-school activity times.

By the time you get home and supervise all the homework, the thought of then having to rustle up food for the hungry hordes can near enough break the sturdiest of souls.

What’s more, that food has to be wholesome, nutritious and very tasty or else you can top off all that stress with the knowledge you are also a ‘bad parent’. Luckily, some of Ireland’s best-known food professionals have the answer and, better still, as parents themselves, they’re skipping the ‘cheffy’ stuff and providing recipes for quick and easy-to-cook dishes that their own kids love — and cooking can take less time again if you get your own kids involved.


Neven Maguire Chef/Proprietor of MacNean House, Co Cavan
Neven Maguire Chef/Proprietor of MacNean House, Co Cavan

“This is a healthy “takeaway, my way” and you can get the kids involved, cutting the potatoes, crumbing the fish.”

Serves 4

-4 x 150g (5oz) hake fillets, pin-boned and skin removed

-Finely grated rind/zest and juice of 1 lemon 900g (2lb)

-Maris Piper potatoes 2 tbsp rapeseed oil 25g (1oz) plain flour

-1 egg

-25g (1oz) panko (toasted dried breadcrumbs)

-1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

-1 tsp sesame seeds

-About 1 tsp olive oil spray

-Lemon wedges, to garnish

-Lightly dressed green salad, to serve Tartare Sauce

-2 gherkins finely chopped

-3 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise

-3 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt

-1 tbsp chopped rinsed capers

-1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

-1 tsp lemon juice

- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place hake in shallow dish, sprinkle over lemon juice, cover with clingfilm, marinate in fridge for 30 mins. Preheat oven 200°C (400°F/ gas mark 6). Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Make tartare sauce: combine ingredients in small bowl, season with salt and pepper.

Cover with cling film, chill until needed.Cut potatoes into thick chips. Blanch for 5 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain, dry well on kitchen paper. Toss in rapeseed oil, arrange in single layer on second baking sheet, season lightly with salt.

Season flour with salt and pepper, put on plate. Lightly beat egg in shallow dish. Mix breadcrumbs, lemon zest, parsley, sesame seeds in another dish. Dip each hake fillet into flour mix, shake off excess, dip in egg, then coat evenly in breadcrumb mix, place on lined baking sheet. Spray lightly with olive oil. Bake chips in oven for 10 minutes. Then add fish to oven and bake fish and chips for another 15-25 minutes until fish is golden brown and cooked through and chips are golden. Serve with lemon wedges, tartare sauce and green salad.

Nevin’s latest book is ‘The Nation’s Favourite Healthy Food’ (Gill & MacMillan). He is currently filming ‘Healthy Home Chef’ for RTÉ 1.


Paul Flynn, chef and proprietor of The Tannery Restaurant, Townhouse and Cookery School, Dungarvan.

“This is a big favourite with my girls, perfect after a long hard day at school! It’s also an ideal way of using leftover chicken from the Sunday roast.”

Serves 4

-250g approx cooked chicken, chopped

-300g penne pasta

-I tin of sweetcorn (300g)

-I tub of sour cream (200ml)

-80g grated Parmesan

-finely chopped Spring onions

-salt and pepper

Cook the pasta as per instructions on packet. While it’s cooking, put sour cream, sweetcorn and Spring onions in large pot. Add chopped chicken and warm through on low heat.

When pasta is cooked, drain but retain 2-3 tablespoons of pasta water to add to sauce. Add pasta to chicken and sweetcorn, season and serve with the Parmesan.

Paul Flynn’s book with Lidl, ‘Family Food is out now and his latest TV show, ‘Lords & Ladles’ is on RTE on Sunday evenings.


Trish Deseine is an Irish food/cookbook writer based in France, where she has sold over 1m books
Trish Deseine is an Irish food/cookbook writer based in France, where she has sold over 1m books

“Amazingly rich and hearty and ready in no time, my children love this sweet/spicy combination of chestnuts and chorizo, two ingredients I always have in my cupboard in France. You could always throw in some green beans or broccoli if you absolutely want to add a bit of green to the soup and of course trusty potatoes or sweet potatoes can stand in for more expensive and not always easy to find chestnuts. With salad leaves as a side, and plenty of good bread on hand, it ticks all the boxes for growing teenagers.”

Serves 4-5

-150g chorizo, skin removed

-sliced 300g turnip or carrots (or a mix of both), sliced

-1 celery stalk, chopped

-1 onion, chopped

-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

-Can of whole peeled tomatoes

-(470gm) 300g peeled chestnuts, raw or cooked. (chestnuts are harder to find in Ireland so diced sweet potatoes or potatoes can make a good substitute.)

-1lt boiling water

-8 stalks of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

-Good pinch of smoked paprika and/or chili (optional)

-salt, pepper, olive oil

Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan. Add garlic, onion, chorizo, turnip/carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 15 mins over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until vegetables are softened and slightly caramelised. Add tomatoes, juice and all. Crush whole tomatoes roughly with wooden spoon.

If chestnuts are raw (or using potatoes/sweet potatoes), add now. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add boiling water. If using cooked chestnuts, add now. Cover and simmer for 15 mins.

Stir half of parsley into soup, puree with hand blender or food processor to desired consistency (chunky suits this soup!). Add more water if needed, season to taste. Ladle into warm bowls, sprinkle with remaining parsley. Serve with warm crusty bread.

‘Trish Deseine’s Doorstep Food’ will be broadcast on BBC in November. Her book ‘Home: Recipes from Ireland’ (Hachette Cuisine) will be published next month.


Cliodhna Prendergast Formerly Executive Chef at Delphi Lodge, now runs Breaking Eggs, an online cooking website for parents and children, www.breakingeggs.com

“This is a handy mid-week crowdpleaser and the kids can get involved in little ways so there is plenty of time for homework.”

Serves 6

-600g rump of beef cut into three steaks

-3 Spring onions sliced thinly

-335g basmati rice

-540mls of water

-½ tsp salt

-2 eggs

-2 tbsp soy sauce

-300g broccoli ( aprox1 head)

-150g green beans, topped and tailed, sliced into 1cm lengths

-1-2 tbsp sunflower oil

-1 tbsp sesame oil

Rinse rice in cold water. Strain. Put in large saucepan, add water, salt. Bring to boil & reduce to gentle simmer.

Cover with tight-fitting lid, simmer 20-25 mins. Remove from heat, leave lid on. Add broccoli florets to large pot of boiling salted water for 2 mins, remove with slotted spoon.

Add green beans, reduce to simmer, cook for 2 mins, remove with slotted spoon. Cook steaks on hot pan to taste (rare, medium or well-done), remove, leave to rest on plate.

Heat a wok, add sunflower oil. Quickly stir-fry spring onion for 30 secs, then add rice.

Expose centre of wok with wooden spoon, add eggs, scramble briefly on wok surface then mix vigorously into rice with cutting motion, moving and breaking up egg. Add beans, mix well and remove to serving dish. Return wok to heat, add sesame oil. Add ginger, then broccoli. Toss for 1-2 minutes, add soy sauce.

Remove with slotted spoon, leave “juice” in wok. Slice cooked beef into strips, pour wok “juice” over and serve with rice.


Gary O’Hanlon Head Chef, VM at Viewmount House, Co Longford and TV Chef on TV3’s The Restaurant
Gary O’Hanlon Head Chef, VM at Viewmount House, Co Longford and TV Chef on TV3’s The Restaurant

“When I was a child, My Granny Josie cooked the most perfect sausages. An hour before Glenroe began, she’d start cooking them on the edge of the range and we’d eat them as we watched. They were always so tender, with charred edges. Now I’m older and life has become more hectic, I rarely spend more than ten minutes cooking sausages the way Josie did but here’s my take on a classic way to enjoy good sausages.”

Serves 2 adults, 2 children

-10 pork sausages

-3 tsp olive oil

-2 large onions sliced

-3 tsp wholegrain mustard

-4 tsp Worcester sauce

-2 tsp Tabasco

-100ml red wine vinegar

-500ml water

-3tbsp Bisto chicken granules

-10 medium potatoes

-50gm butter

-90ml milk

-salt & pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in salted water Strain, add milk, butter and pinch of salt. Mash and set aside.

When potatoes are half way there, begin cooking sausages. Heat heavy based frying pan, add olive oil and cook sausages on low heat until slightly golden. Add sliced onion and cook until soft and translucent.

Add Tabasco, wholegrain mustard, Worcester sauce and red wine vinegar. Simmer until vinegar reduces by half, add water.

Turn up heat, when simmering, turn down and whisk in Bisto chicken granules. Simmer until sauce thickens, season to taste. Serve over mash with sprinkling of fresh parsley.


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