Rachel Allen’s Lamb and Pearl Barley Broth

RACHEL’S Everyday Kitchen — Simple, Delicious Family Food has just been published by Harper Collins.

For me this is her best so far, her 11th book in 10 years. During the years, she has tried and tested hundreds of family-friendly hassle free recipes on her children who are just as able to say ‘yuk’ if they don’t like something as anyone else’s brood.

Feeding children is always a challenge but Rachel feels that cooking for yourself and your family is such an important thing to be able to do.

Eating good food has a profound impact on your health, energy and outlook. It may take a little longer than heating up a ready-meal or ordering a take-away, but it is the only way of ensuring you know where all the ingredients come from. Cooking ensures meals are nutritious and delicious but can also be creative and fun.

This time, Rachel is focusing on clever everyday cooking: simple short cuts, advice on weekly planning and shopping, wasting less, freezing more, preparing ahead and using leftovers, recipes that can serve more and those that can be adjusted to a tasty meal for one or two.

With a bit of forward thinking, you can turn one meal into several different dishes, keeping waste to a minimum, If you’re going to buy the best ingredients you can afford, then it’s vital than nothing is wasted. Cooked potatoes left over from lunch could be made into a delicious and comforting tartiflette for supper on another day, for instance, while roasted butternut squash enjoyed hot at the table could be transformed into a tasty salad for a packed lunch.

Buying fresh ingredients in season will ensure you get maximum value and flavour from what you eat. Cooking in bulk can save time and money.

In Everyday Kitchen, Rachel has lots of recipes that are just as easy to make in a slightly larger quantity and then freeze the extra portion. So rather than resorting to a ready meal, you can defrost something homemade instead.

Nowadays most people seem to be crazily busy, particularly when children are younger, school runs, extra curricular activities, but one could see how with just a few small adjustments to the weekly routine one could reap big rewards for yourself and your family and even have more time for the most precious of all family activities, sitting down around the kitchen table.

Rachel Allen’s Thai Butternut Squash Soup

The squash gives real body to this soup, making it a meal in a bowl. It’s sweet taste provides the perfect foil for the dish’s strong Southeast Asian flavours.

This recipe can be made in advance, but don’t add the basil until just before serving.

Serves 6

500ml (18 fl oz) chicken stock

1 stick of Iemongrass, crushed with a rolling pin

50ml (2 fl oz) sunflower oil

1 large onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or finely grated

1 fresh red chilli pepper, deseeded (optional) and diced

5cm (2in) piece of root ginger, peeled and grated

1 large butternut squash (about 1kg/2lb 3oz), peeled, deseeded and cut into roughly 3cm (1¼in) chunks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1x 400ml tin of coconut milk

1-2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

Small bunch of basil, shredded (about 2 tbsp), to serve

Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and add the Iemongrass. Place on a medium heat and bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and allow to infuse for at least 10 minutes.

Place a large saucepan on a high heat and add the sunflower oil. Add the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and raw squash (if using), and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low, then cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender. Pour in the coconut milk and the hot chicken stock, including the lemongrass. Bring to the boil and cook, uncovered, for five minutes.

If using roasted butternut squash, add this with the coconut milk and stock and cook for five minutes.

Remove from the heat, then transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the finished soup to the pan to heat through gently, then season with fish sauce to taste and serve sprinkled with the basil.

The soup will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to three days; simply reheat to serve. It can also be frozen for up to three months.

Rachel Allen’s Lamb and Pearl Barley Broth

A simple yet soothing soup that I find hugely restorative on cold and rainy evenings, this is a delicious way to make roast lamb go that little bit further.

It uses pearl barley, which has long been added to soups and stews to bulk them up when meat was scarce. Pearl barley provides more than just bulk; however, it’s soft, yielding texture as welcome here as it’s delightfully nutty taste.

Serves 6

25g (1oz) butter

2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or finely grated

2 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of rosemary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

200g (7oz) cooked lamb sliced or shredded into roughly bite-sized pieces

1 parsnip, peeled and finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

100g (3½oz) pearl barley or pearled spell

1.25litres (2 pints) chicken stock

2 tbsp chopped parsley

Place the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Once the butter is melted and foaming, add the onions, garlic, celery, bay leaf and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper, then turn the heat to low, cover with a lid and sweat gently for 5-8 minutes or until the onions are softened but not browned.

Add the lamb, parsnip, carrots, pearl barley or pearled spelt and the stock. Turn the heat up and simmer, with the lid on, for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables and barley are tender. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary and stir in the chopped parsley, then season with more salt and pepper to taste and serve.

* The soup can be made up to two days in advance, covered and stored in the fridge; reheat on the hob to serve. It can also be frozen for up to three months.

* The quantities in this recipe can be halved or multiplied.

Rachel Allen’s Butterscotch Apple Pudding

Serves 4-6

2 large cooking apples (about 45og/ 1lb total weight), peeled, cored and cut into roughly 2cm (¾ in) dice

125g (4½ oz) self-raising flour

¼ tsp salt

200g (7oz) brown sugar, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling

100g (3½ oz) butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

200ml (7fl oz) milk

2 tbsp golden syrup

150ml (5fl oz) boiling water

Equipment:

20 x 30cm (8 x 12in) ovenproof dish

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Place the apple pieces in the bottom of the ovenproof dish, spreading them out to form an even layer.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix in half the sugar. In another bowl, mix together the melted butter, vanilla extract, egg and milk.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones, then whisk briefly to bring everything together. Pour the mixture into the dish, distributing it evenly over the apples.

Next, place the golden syrup in a saucepan with the boiling water and remaining sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then pour this evenly over the mixture in the dish. Most of it will sink through the pudding mixture to the bottom of the dish, but don’t be alarmed — this creates a beautiful butterscotch sauce underneath the sponge when baked.

To finish, sprinkle over the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, then place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top of the pudding has a very light spring when you press it with your finger. This is best served warm with softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

* Any leftover pudding will keep well in the fridge for up to three days; simply reheat in a moderate oven (preheated to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4) for just a few minutes to warm through

Hot tips

Look out for Irish Craft Ciders there are now almost 20 of them. I tasted several delicious examples at Applefest the Slow Food Apple and Craft Cider Festival at the Apple Farm in Moorstown, Cahir, Co Tipperary. Kilmegan, Orpens, Craigies, MacIvors, Highbank Proper Cider and Cockagee Pure Irish Keeved Cider, Llewellyns — Longueville House and Stonewell are even closer to home. http://www.slowfoodireland.com/applefest/craft-cider

The 12th edition of Georgina Campbell’s Ireland Guide – The Best of Irish Food and Hospitality has just been published and is a must have to keep in the car so you can swing by the best hotels, restaurants, cafes, pubs, country houses, guest houses and farmhouses both north and south.

The entries are concise and there are also county maps and lots more detailed information on Ireland – www.ireland-guide.com A perfect small gift for a treasured friend.

It’s a fantastic year for apples as well as blackberries, I came across a Crispy Apple Crumble Mix from the Cookie Jar Company based at Poulmucka Clonmel Co. Tipperary – use it to make a delicious bubbly crumble with home-grown apples.

Lots of mountain ash or rowan berries on hillsides at present, added to some crab apples or windfall cookers, they make a fantastic rowan and crab apple jelly, delicious to serve with game or lamb. See cookingisfun.ie and follow link to Darina’s Saturday letter for the recipe.


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