Darina Allen: The best way to start your day

It’s not the same lockdown for everyone.
Darina Allen: The best way to start your day

I’ve just seen the most hilarious little video on the internet, a tearful ‘glamour girl’ in despair is talking straight to camera.

She’s suddenly realised that: “Men are no longer going to be interested in the women with the fake nails because we don’t have them anymore, the eye lash extensions — we can’t get them. I’m gonna run out of make-up soon. Men are going to want a woman who can catch a chicken and take the feathers off of it, or gut a fish or churn some butter or bake a loaf of bread. Can’t do any of it.

Farm Girls, 2020 is for you. Don’t know what I’m going to do…

I’m not sure if it’s for real or a clever send-up — it certainly has a ring of truth to it.

Hasn’t this Covid-19 pandemic been quite the leveller. You’ve got to figure out how to work the hoover yourself and somehow produce 21 meals a week, a nightmare for many. Academic skills alone aren’t much use in this situation and — unfortunately, this is unlikely to be a once-off.

So let’s not waste the lessons we’ve learned, it’s vitally important to look at how we educate our young people. Hopefully, we’ll see practical cooking embedded in the national curriculum, when we reach the ‘new’ normal.

Meanwhile, it’s a question of survival. The penny has certainly dropped with many people that nourishing ourselves and our families must be a priority to boost our immune system and help to keep us strong and healthy. How fortunate that this hugely challenging pandemic is happening in spring when some at least can get out into the fresh air, sunlight and start to sow seeds to grow some of our own organic food.

A few tips

Start the day with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (preferably organic, OK it’s more expensive but so are meds), it only takes a minute to make and is loaded with Vitamin C.

Porridge is unquestionably the best breakfast cereal, there’s no need to buy any of those sugary options. Below are a couple of simple recipes for you to make big jars of your own breakfast cereal. Everyone seems to go on about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day but apparently that ‘fact’ was dreamed up by Kellogg’s when they first launched Corn Flakes in 1906.

Many of us only feel like a cup of tea or coffee in the morning, particularly if one eats supper late in the evening.

Unless we are working physically, we seem to need far less food when we are on ‘lockdown’. If at all possible, it’s good to eat early so one can get a little walk in before bed and hopefully sleep well. Comforting, one-pot dishes served family-style are easy to make and save on the washing up — often a contentious issue. It’s good to eliminate as many potential squabble points as possible.

Meanwhile, a couple of little thoughts that have a feelgood factor during Covid-19:

  • Get out of the house for a 30-minute walk, it’s a mood changer.
  • Dress your bed.
  • Put flowers on your kitchen table and beside your bed.
  • Count your blessings.
  • Light a candle.
  • It’s not the same lockdown for everyone.

 

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

 

Serves 6 - 8

The new season Irish strawberries are now available. This is a huge favourite with all our family and friends — it’s such a good recipe to know about because it’s made in minutes and so good. We vary the fruit through the seasons — strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blueberries and grated Cox’s Orange Pippin apples or Ergemont Russet in the Autumn. The nutrients are more bio available to the body if the oats are soaked overnight.

Ingredients:

6 tbsp rolled oatmeal

8 tbsp water

250g (8oz) fresh strawberries 2-4 tsp honey

Method:

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 8-10 minutes or better still on the previous evening.

Meanwhile, mash the strawberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal.

Sweeten to taste with honey, a couple of teaspoons are usually enough but it depends on how sweet the strawberries are.

Serve with pouring cream and soft brown sugar.

The new season Irish strawberries are now available.

This is a huge favourite with all our family and friends — it’s such a good recipe to know about because it’s made in minutes and so good.

We vary the fruit through the seasons — strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blueberries and grated Cox’s Orange Pippin apples or Ergemont Russet in the Autumn.

The nutrients are more bio available to the body if the oats are soaked overnight.

 

Granola

 

Serves 20

Granola is a toasted breakfast cereal, it’s super easy to make in a large batch and will keep fresh for several weeks in a Kilner jar. You can add all types of dried fruit and nuts to the basic recipeg. Try to use organic, chemical-free grains, dried fruit and nuts.

Ingredients:

12oz (350g) honey or golden syrup

8fl oz (225g) oil, eg, sunflower

1lb 1oz (470g) oat flakes

7oz (200g) barley flakes

7oz (200g) wheat flakes 3½oz (100g) rye flakes

5oz (150g) seedless raisins or sultanas

5oz (150g) peanuts/hazelnuts, or cashew nuts split and roasted

2¾oz (70g) wheatgerm and /or millet flakes

2oz (50g) chopped apricots, ½ cup chopped dates, etc, are nice too

Toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds are also delicious

Method:

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

Mix oil and honey together in a saucepan, heat just enough to melt the honey. Mix well into the mixed flakes. Spread thinly on two baking sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, turning frequently, making sure the edges don’t burn. It should be just golden and toasted, not roasted.

Allow to get cold. Mix in the raisins or sultanas, roasted nuts, toasted seeds, chopped dates, apricots and wheatgerm. Store in a screw top jar or a plastic box, keeps for 1-2 weeks.

Serve with sliced banana, milk or yoghurt.

Granola is a toasted breakfast cereal, it’s super easy to make in a large batch and will keep fresh for several weeks in a Kilner jar.

You can add all types of dried fruit and nuts to the basic recipe.

Try to use organic, chemical-free grains, dried fruit and nuts.

 

Mussels with White Wine & Chorizo

 

It recently occurred to us that while we may have largely retreated indoors, the fishing industry has not. The seas are brimming with delicious Irish mussels and inevitably they find themselves in our supermarkets and fishmongers.

Hopefully, people have been supporting our hardworking food producers and fishers by purchasing fish at this time. It sort of felt ridiculous to pick up something as frivolous as mussels a few weeks ago, but really it makes perfect sense. There are few things as good as Irish mussels in a white wine broth infused with spicy chorizo (Irish made of course).

This dish will transport you immediately to some memory of sitting outside of one of those perfect west Cork or even Howth pubs which do mussels and chips like nowhere else in the world.

Ingredients:

3 medium shallots (banana shallots are ideal)

6 cloves of garlic Good handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

350ml of dry white wine

100g butter, cubed 2-3 kg of mussels, cleaned

200g chorizo Slice the shallots thinly, chop the cloves of garlic into a fine dice and do the same with the chorizo.

Method:

Heat a little oil and butter in a large casserole or saucepan and add the shallot, onion and chorizo.

Season very lightly if you wish, move the ingredients around the pan until the onion has softened a little. Add the wine all at once and bring to the boil. Keep simmering until the liquid has reduced by around half and then add the butter.

Add the mussels and cook for around six to 10 minutes, stirring them gently in the liquid.

The mussels are cooked when they have all opened. If any have not opened within 10 minutes of cooking then discard them.

Serve with the chopped parsley scattered all over.

It recently occurred to us that while we may have largely retreated indoors, the fishing industry has not.

The seas are brimming with delicious Irish mussels and inevitably they find themselves in our supermarkets and fishmongers.

 

Coconut Curry Chicken and Rice

 

Serves 6 – 8

A quickie that can be put together in a few minutes using your favourite curry powder. For the purpose of this one-pot book, we experimented by adding the rice to the curry close the end of cooking. It works brilliantly and is super delicious.

Ingredients:

900g organic, free range chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into 1cm cubes

25g your favourite curry powder

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

150g onions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

600ml coconut milk

1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes, diced and their juice

1 tsp granulated sugar

300g basmati rice, soaked for 15 – 30 minutes in cold water and drained Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

1 lime cut into wedges Chopped coriander, to serve

4 – 6 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal to garnish

Method:

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Mix together the curry powder and oil in a small bowl.

Heat a large saucepan, approx 25cm in diameter and 10cm deep, over a medium heat, add the curry oil mixture and stir for a minute or two.

Add the onions and garlic and cook gently for 3 minutes until they start to colour.

Add the chicken chunks and toss lightly to coat them with the curry oil mixture.

Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the coconut milk, add the diced tomatoes and their juice and season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar.

Bring to the boil, stirring, and then cover the pan with a lid and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked.

Chicken breast should take 5 – 6 minutes; thigh meat will take a little longer, about 10 – 15 minutes.

Sprinkle in the rice 6 – 8 minutes before the end of cooking.

Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 7 minutes, tightly covered with the lid, to allow the rice to swell.

To serve, squeeze over some lime juice to taste and sprinkle with fresh coriander and lots of spring onion. Accompany with a bowl of organic salad leaves.

A quickie that can be put together in a few minutes using your favourite curry powder.

For the purpose of this one-pot book, we experimented by adding the rice to the curry close the end of cooking. It works brilliantly and is super delicious.

 

Cod, Hake or Haddockwith Dill and Pangrattato

 

Serves 6 – 8

A brilliantly useful master recipe which we use for almost any round fish, such as cod, pollock, ling, haddock or grey mullet. This perfect one-pot dish can be cooked ahead and reheated — just make sure there’s lots of cheese sauce, otherwise it’ll be dry and uninteresting instead of juicy and unctuous.

Mussels, shrimps, periwinkles or prawns can be added to make for a more elaborate and expensive version. Buttered leeks, piperonata, sautéed mushrooms or tomato fondue are other options — simply put a tablespoon or two either on top of the fish or underneath it in the dish.

Ingredients:

1.1Kg cod, hake, haddock or grey mullet fillets

2 bay leaves

15g butter 600ml whole milk Approx.

50g roux (made by blending 25g softened butter with 25g plain flour in a small bowl)

¼ tsp Dijon mustard

150 - 175g grated Cheddar cheese or 75g grated Parmesan cheese

1 tbsp chopped dill (optional) Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Pangrattato

50 – 75ml extra virgin olive oil 1 garlic clove, finely chopped

50g soft white breadcrumbs

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4

To make the pangrattato, combine all the ingredients in a little bowl and set aside.

Skin the fish and cut it into 6 or 8 portions. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the bay leaves in a lightly buttered sauté pan or gratin dish and lay the pieces of fish on top.

Cover with the milk and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 4 – 5 minutes or until the fish changes from translucent to opaque. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon to a plate and set aside.

Bring the milk back to the boil and whisk in the roux to thicken the sauce to a light coating consistency.

Stir in the mustard and two-thirds of the grated cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the dill, if using.

Return the fish to the pan and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, followed by the pangrattato.

Cook in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until the fish is heated through and the top is golden brown and crisp.

Serve with a salad of organic leaves.

From One Pot Feeds All published by Kyle Publishing

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