Fresh Apple Muesli

PHEW! That’s Christmas over again for another year.

We’re all settling back and re-evaluating our life style and plan to plant a few vegetables, maybe an apple tree, this year.

Or perhaps build a little chicken coop, and get a few hens. The leftover household scraps of food can be fed to your hens who will reward you with the most delicious eggs a few days later.

My new year resolution is to learn to type — just as much of a mystery to me as cooking is to many others. What’s your challenging resolution? If you can’t cook, just learn how to cook, somehow, somewhere.

It’s the easiest way to be happy, save money, keep healthy, endear you to your family and friends and cut down on garbage.

Take one step at a time — here’s one practical suggestion to improve the family diet. Ban breakfast cereals, virtually without exception they are full of sugar and salt, empty calories and despite what it says on the packet are far from nourishing.

Much better to follow Michael Pollen’s advice — “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food”. So let’s start with breakfast — the only food your great grandmother might recognise is porridge and it’s every bit as nourishing now as it was then, particularly if you buy Macroom stone-ground oatmeal.

I’m also a big fan of Kilbeggan organic porridge, and of course Flahavans oatmeal is a nutritious and satisfying food. Eat it as porridge with soft dark brown sugar and whole milk or incorporate it into a muesli or granola — so easy to make yourself. The second little decision that can have a major influence on the family diet is to eliminate squishy sliced pan totally from your diet.

Cooking really isn’t rocket science, like so many other skills in life it’s all about confidence and the quality of the raw materials but you do need a basic kitchen kit. You simply can’t cook without a few basic utensils.

Buy them one at a time and the very best you can afford. Happy cooking, may 2013 bring the blessing of many delicious meals around the kitchen table with family and friends.

Shanagarry Soda Bread

This is a more modern version of soda bread. It couldn’t be simpler; just mix and pour into a well-greased tin and it yields about 10 slices.

This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.

Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves

400g (14 oz) stone ground wholemeal flour

55g (3oz) plain white flour, preferably unbleached

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

1 tsp salt

1 tsp honey or soft dark brown sugar

1 egg, preferably free range

1 tbsp of sunflower oil, unscented

425ml (15fl oz) buttermilk or sour milk approx (put all the milk in)

Sunflower or sesame seeds optional

Loaf tin — 9 inches (23cm) x 5 inches (12.5cm) x 2 inches (5cm)

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.

Put all the dry ingredients, including the sieved bread soda, into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil, honey and most of the 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 and bake for approx an hour, or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Fresh Apple Muesli

This fruit muesli is served for breakfast right through the year at Ballymaloe House.

The fruit varies with the season. Serves 4

4 heaped tbsp rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)

8 tbsp water

3-4 grated dessert apples (Worcester Permain, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Gala)

1–3 tsp Irish honey or to taste

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 10 or 15 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the apple on the coarse part of a box grater.

There’s no need to peel, pick out and discard the seeds and mix with the oatmeal.

Sweeten to taste with honey, a scant teaspoon is usually enough, but it depends on how sweet the apples are.

Serve with cream and soft brown sugar.

Toasted Granola with Coconut and Cinnamon

This nourishing breakfast cereal will keep for several weeks in a kilner jar. Serve with sliced banana and whole milk or scatter over a bowl of natural yoghurt.

Serves 10-12

450g (1 lb) organic rolled oats (porridge oats)

110g (4ozs) flaked almonds

55g (2ozs) unsweetened coconut

55g (2ozs) sunflower seeds

30g (1oz) linseed

55g (2oz) bran

½ tsp cinnamon, freshly ground

2fl oz (50ml) sunflower or grape seed oil

110g (4oz) brown sugar

150ml (5fl oz) honey

125g (4ozs) dried apricots, chopped

125g (4 ozs) raisins

2 large baking trays

Preheat oven to 325F/160C /Gas mark 3

Mix the grains, seeds and cinnamon in a large bowl. Put the oil, honey and brown sugar into a saucepan, stir and bring to boil.

Stir the honey mixture into the oat mixture. Mix carefully.

Divide evenly between the baking trays. Bake in the oven for 20 — 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until evenly golden.

Allow to cool. Mix in chopped apricots and raisins. Store in an airtight jar.

Macroom Oatmeal Porridge

Serves 4

Virtually every morning in winter I start my day with a bowl of porridge.

Search out Macroom stoneground oatmeal from the last stone grinding mill in Ireland which has the most delicious toasted nutty flavour.

It comes in a lovely old-fashioned red and yellow pack which I hope they never change.

5½ ozs (155g) Macroom oatmeal

32 fl ozs (950 ml) water

1 level tsp salt

Obligatory accompaniment: Soft brown sugar

Bring 4 cups of water to the boil, sprinkle in the oatmeal, gradually stirring all the time. Put on a low heat and stir until the water comes to the boil.

Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the salt and stir again. Serve with single cream or milk and soft brown sugar melting over the top.

Left over porridge can be stored in a covered container in the fridge — it will reheat perfectly the next day.

Ballymaloe Nut and Grain Muesli

This muesli, bursting with goodness, keeps in a screw top jar for several weeks. Measure the ingredients in cups for speed. Lecithin comes from soya beans, it is rich in phosphatidylcholine — an important nutrient in the control of dietary fat, and it helps the body to convert fats into energy rather than storing them as body fat.

Serves 12

8 Weetabix bars

7 ozs (200g/2 cups) oatmeal (Quaker oats or Speedicook oatflakes)

1½ ozs (45g/½ cup) bran

2¼ ozs (62g/¾ cup) fresh wheat germ

2¼ ozs (62g/½ cup) raisins

2½ ozs (62g/½ cup) sliced hazelnuts or a mixture of cashews and hazelnuts

2½ ozs (62g/½ cup) soft brown sugar — Barbados sugar

2 tbsp Lecithin — optional

Crumble the Weetabix in a bowl, add the other ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container. Keeps for 2-3 weeks in a cool place.

Serve it with a sliced banana and whole milk.

Hot tips

Spanish Point Sea Vegetables: At last we’re waking up to the wealth of sea weeds and sea vegetables — not just carrageen moss and dilisk but kombu, wakame, sea lettuce, kelp and sea spaghetti, all packed with vitamins, minerals and trace elements. www.wildirishseaveg.com

Irish Honey: I was not convinced about rape seed honey until I tasted Ballyvalla Honey from Slieverue in Waterford, 086-8168825, waterfordbees@gmail.com

There’s lots of excitement about the flavour and health benefits of rape seed oil. Only one does it for me, Kitty Colchester’s freshly pressed organic Second Nature Rape Seed oil from Urlingford in Co Kilkenny.

Look out for new flavours, lemon, mandarin, rosemary, chilli and garlic. www.secondnatureoils.com

The Restaurant Association of Ireland chief executive, Adrian Cummins, recently announced that there is a critical shortage of trained chefs.

Our next intensive 12-week certificate course designed to teach students the skills they need starts Monday, Jan 7, 2013. www.cookingisfun.ie


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