Idle hands can make good food

THERE is no shame in being lazy in the kitchen.

It’s not surprising that a man nicknamed the ‘Lazy Chef’ would hold such a view, but Simon Lamont’s philosophy — “simplify and enjoy” — is designed to get maximum results with minimum effort.

He’ll tell you to cut as many corners as you can: go ahead and use glaze from a squeezy bottle, use Greek yoghurt as a sauce, flake tinned sardines over pasta, or utilise the versatile wonder that is a bag of frozen peas.

Improvise, cheat, do all you can to fast-track the process; just allow yourself the pleasure of making your own food.

It’s time to get back in the kitchen, he says, and he thinks that people are doing just that.

“Cooking is not high-brow and it never should be; it is about sitting down together and breaking bread.”

We lost something in those Celtic Tiger years, he says, when eating out was about paying through the nose and not paying proper attention to what we were eating — or how.

“But we have got humble again and we now know what good food tastes like.”

Lamont has just completed a food tour of Ireland and his passion for Irish ingredients is infectious.

You’ll catch him on TV3, on Thursday nights, showcasing and celebrating all that is good about Irish food.

He will tell you, again and again, how there has never been a better time in Ireland, food-wise.

“There is a great sense of roots and tradition around the country, right now, and there is great produce. We really have the best raw ingredients in Europe; there are fantastic food growers and young entrepreneurs out there,” he says.

He urges everyone to see for themselves. Yet, while Lamont is all for cutting corners when it comes to prep, he says there are some things that you should never skimp on.

Meat is one of them. He says it makes sense to invest in the basic ingredients.

“Get to know your local butcher, your local fishmonger, your greengrocer. Find out what is true and honest and look for the provenance of your food. If your lamb comes from Galway or Connemara, that’s good.

“And it doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Look for good, honest, humble food. Gone are the beef fillet and the turbot. Shin of beef and pollock are in. Food can be tasty and cheap. It’s wonderful to see that we are being creative and inventive again.”

* The Lazy Chef airs Thursday at 8.30pm on TV3.

The Lazy Chef’s ‘little black book’

Frank Hederman’s smoked salmon: Frank Hederman makes the best smoked salmon I have ever tasted. No wussy slices here; you get whole sides of salmon. Serve with potato rosti and pickles.

Lamb from Inishbofin and Achill: Lamb from Inisboffin tastes like no other lamb in the world. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they grow up in such harsh conditions, but the meat is exceptional. I also had the pleasure of spending a day on Achill Island and tasting Achill mountain lamb.

Rapeseed oil: Our rapeseed oil is wonderful. There are so many people in Ireland making rapeseed oil now, it’s fantastic. We’ve done good, kid.

Skelligs Chocolates: These are our unsung food heroes on the Ring of Kerry, making handmade chocolates with amazing flavours, from gin-and-tonic to sea-salt and caramel.

Ouzos Fish Shack, Dun Laoghaire: There is something magical about the east pier in Dun Laoghaire, in Dublin. Ouzos Fish Shack, which has just opened there, is amazing. They have lobsters in tanks, but you can also buy your more basic fish and chips. I love this place.

Read the label

You might read the small print when it comes to business, but how often do you look closely at what you eat? Not very often, it seems: some 44% of Irish people never take the time to see what’s in their food, according to a Safety Authority of Ireland study.

But, says nutritionist Aveen Bannon, pictured, food label education is key to ensuring a healthier and leaner population.

If you want to learn how to decipher labels, register for one of a series of free talks from Motivation Weight Management in association McCambridge breads, which are taking place in Dublin (Nov 4-6), Cork, Kerry and Galway (Nov 11, 12, 13). See www.motivation.ie/labelreading.html

Veggie might

Top marks for the name: The Really Hungry Vegetarian Student Cookbook will appeal to anyone who thinks a diet without meat could never satisfy a full-blooded man or woman.

Better still, this new book from Ryland Peters and Small (€14.40) tells you how to prepare quick, easy and nourishing veggie meals on a budget.

Aimed at students, it’s full of “boosting breakfasts“, “lunchbox heroes” — to stop you snoozing through afternoon lectures — and satisfying evening meals.

Cup that cheers

It’s far from hand-stitched silken tea pillows we were raised, you might say — and you’d be right.

But that’s no reason not to hydrate in style with the new range of speciality teas from Java Republic which, you’ve guessed it, come in hand-stitched silken tea pillows.

They are 18 different 100pc organic blends which, Java says, will “delight tea lovers everywhere”.

It’s quite a claim but this is seriously good tea.

Try the Rooibos and Caramel — a revelation.

Horror bites

Spooked by the amount of sugar in traditional Halloween treats? With a little creativity you can dream up some scarily healthy fare.

How about these tasty and wholesome witches’ fingers: fill a sandwich with mashed banana and cream cheese. Cut into thin vertical strips and put an almond ‘fingernail’ on each one.

The eye of newt and toe of frog are optional!


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