For many it’s the most expensive time of the year, the following weeks feel a bit like January where everyone tightens the belt for a while to recover from the extra expense. As soon as the younger ones have settled in, it’s time to concentrate on getting the older ones off to college, scramble for places, and scramble for digs – how will they survive on their students’ budget? Will they feed themselves properly or will it all go on beer? Worse still, have they any idea how to shop or to knock a meal together with a few inexpensive ingredients? It would be worth buying a copy book to start a survival kit to record recipes and a few basic shopping tips.
Teach the kids how to judge when food is safe to eat by using their eyes, nose and sense of taste, rather than relying merely on use-by dates. Add a list of what’s in season – it’ll be better and cheaper then and far more wholesome and nutritious. Teach them how to make a big bowl of porridge, and maybe a scrambled egg, basic muesli and a smoothie to kick start the day.
In Britain many students and others have also got very clever about collecting out of date – but still perfectly good – supermarket produce, before it is dumped. They even have a name – freegans. It’s very enterprising and at least it reduces waste and benefits those in need. Students about to embark on the new adventure of housekeeping and cooking for themselves need a basic kit, so family presents could include a grater, whisk, chopping board, a wok, a decent saucepan or two, a non-stick frying pan, vegetable peeler, a few knives, Bamix and a simple, reliable cookbook. There are several but I have just come across a new publication, From Pasta to Pancakes – The Ultimate Student Cookbook. Coincidentally it’s been written by a vivacious past student of Ballymaloe, Tiffany Goodall, but proud as I am my of “babies” that is not reason enough for me to wax lyrical about something unless I reckon it’s really worthwhile.
Even when Tiffany was in her early teens, she knew she wanted to cook. She landed a job at her local fish and chip shop, Fishers in Fulham. Life at university was fast and furious and she soon discovered that being able to cook was one the easiest ways to win friends and influence people. Breakfast with Tiffany and Tiff’s Tuesday and Tiff’s Weekends became legendary.
Since graduating from the Ballymaloe Cookery School, Tiffany has combined writing with guest appearances on BBC’s Market Kitchen and demonstrations for Marks and Spencer, the Home and Garden Show and Channel 4’s Taste Festival in London and Bath. Plus her first cookbook is written by a student who is realistic about what it’s like to be leaving home and facing up to the prospect of cooking for yourself for the first time. No need to panic, this book really will show you how to cook the basics and prove that you don’t have to resort to a diet of expensive takeaways or anything on toast.
It’s very cleverly designed so not only does it tell you how to cook, but there are witty step-by-step processes for every recipe. There are loads of tips for storing or using up leftovers and giving meals a funky twist. Start off by learning a few basic skills, how to cook pasta, bake a potato then move on to stir fries, soups, salads, roasts and even curries. Here are a few recipes to whet your appetite. The book – published by Quadrille – has been in the shops since mid-September.
A hot, warming chilli con carne is an ultimate favourite and perfect for a house party when feeding the masses. I love a good bit of spice, so chillies and chilli flakes are brilliant in this.
4 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, chopped finely
4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 red chillies, de-seeded and chopped finely
2 tsp chilli flakes
1.5kg/3lb lean beef mince
3 x 400g/14oz cans chopped tomatoes
2 glasses of red wine (optional)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
800g/11/2lb red kidney beans
150ml/5fl oz soured cream
Finely chop the onions, garlic and chillies. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the red onions, garlic and fresh chillies.
Add the chilli flakes. Cook gently for 3–4 minutes. You should be hit with the smells of the garlic and spice.
Turn the heat right up and add the beef mince. Season well and cook until brown. Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes, red wine, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce. Stir well and then add the kidney beans.
Simmer for as long as time allows. I like this to simmer for at least an hour, as all the flavours really intensify. Taste it after an hour and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
Serve hot with a dollop of soured cream.
Don’t add the Tabasco sauce if you don’t like it too hot, but it does give it a real kick. Chopped parsley or coriander would be brilliant at the end, sprinkled over.
I like this with rice and some soured cream, Guacamole, and maybe a side salad. It’s so easy to do for large numbers.
If you go to a Chinese restaurant, you’ll doubtless find a selection of chow mein dishes on the menu. It is the generic term used for a Chinese dish of stir-fried noodles. You could use chicken, vegetables or even small prawns, instead of the beef, in this recipe.
225g/8oz rice noodles or egg noodles
2 tbsp olive oil
2 red chillies, de-seeded and chopped
2 tbsp chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green pepper, de-seeded and chopped finely
3 sirloin or rump steaks, sliced
Juice of 2 limes
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp honey
Cook the rice noodles. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan, and then add the chillies, ginger, garlic and green pepper. Stir-fry for four minutes. Add the beef, lime juice and soy sauce.
Fry for a couple of minutes. Add the cooked rice noodles. Mix well and add the honey.
Have a taste and add some more soy sauce, if you think it needs it.
How brave are you? This curry is punchy and spicy, perfect for a lads’ night in with a few beers. It is very spicy, so if you want to tone it down leave out the chilli flakes and use a couple of fresh green chillies instead.
1kg/2¼ lb lamb, diced
4 tbsp plain yoghurt, plus extra to serve
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
2cm/1inch piece of root ginger, peeled and chopped finely
6 small green chillies, such as bird’s eye chillies
1–2 tsp chilli flakes
400ml/14fl oz boiling water
2 chicken stock cubes
Large handful of spinach leaves
4 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
Mix the lamb, yoghurt, turmeric and cumin together in a bowl. Put in the fridge for an hour to marinate.
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger. Add the chillies and chilli flakes and mix around.
Add the yoghurt-marinated lamb, stir well, and season with salt and pepper.
Mix up the boiling water and stock cubes, and then pour over the lamb.
Cook over a low heat for 35 minutes, until the lamb is tender.
Add the spinach and cook for another five minutes.
Serve hot, hot, hot with a dollop of yoghurt to cool the flames!
Optional Extras: Feel free to use coconut milk instead of stock. Red chillies would also be great and give the dish some extra colour.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with some buttered basmati rice with coriander, some naan bread and good mango chutney.
TO CONTINUE our count down to Christmas – only 11 weeks to go – how about getting the Christmas puddings made.
This week, I will use Myrtle Allen’s recipe; next week my mother’s plum pudding, so you will have a choice.
Last week, I gave instructions on how to prepare your own suet; this week, I include a tip for making homemade breadcrumbs from left-over stale bread.
Store the puddings in a cool, dry cupboard, so they will gradually ripen and mature in time for Christmas.
making the Christmas puddings (from the ballymaloe cook book, by myrtle allen)
Christmas puddings should be given at least six weeks to mature. they will keep for a year. they become richer and firmer with age, but one loses the lightness of the fruit flavour. we always eat our last plum pudding at easter.
If possible, prepare your own fresh beef suet – it is better than the pre-packed product.
6ozs (175g) shredded beef suet
6 ozs (175g) sugar
7ozs (200g) soft breadcrumbs
8ozs (225g) currants
8 ozs (225g) raisins
4 ozs (110g) candied peel
1-2 teaspoons mixed spice
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 fl ozs (50ml) flesh of a baked apple
2 fl ozs (50ml) irish whiskey
1 x 3 pints (1.75 l) capacity pudding bowl
Mix the ingredients thoroughly. whisk the eggs and add them, with the apple and whiskey. stir very well. fill into the greased pudding bowl.
Cover with a round of greaseproof paper or a butter-wrapper pressed down on top of the pudding. put a large round of greaseproof or brown paper over the top of the bowl, tying it firmly under the rim.
Place in a saucepan one-third full of boiling water and simmer for 10 hours. do not allow it to boil over the top and do not let it boil dry either. store in a cool place until Christmas.
This is a tasty carbonara sauce – creamy, garlicky and delicious. The ingredients are basic: eggs, cream and milk – items I often find lying around in my fridge.
15ml/1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
100g/31/2oz un-smoked bacon lardons or normal bacon, chopped roughly
1 medium egg, whisked
2 tbsp grated Cheddar cheese
125ml/4fl oz double cream
15ml/1 tbsp milk
Cook the pasta. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, and add the garlic and bacon.
Cook over a medium heat for five minutes until the bacon is brown, stirring regularly.
Tip the bacon onto a piece of kitchen paper to drain. Set your dirty frying pan aside for later. Mix up the egg, bacon, cheese, cream and milk, and season with salt and pepper. Stir well. Check your pasta and when it’s ready, drain it and tip it into the large frying pan you used earlier. Add the egg mixture and gently heat it for one minute over a low-medium heat. This is very important, because if the heat is too high you will end up with scrambled eggs. Taste to check the seasoning and then serve.
How to Make Bread Crumbs: I’ve just been to the shops and seen breadcrumbs for sale for more than the price of a loaf of bread, for a 250g (9oz) bag, so let me share the secret of how to make your own.
There are two options. First, save all left-over white bread. For white bread crumbs, cut off the crusts. Tear each slice into three or four pieces, drop into a liquidiser or food processor, whizz for 30 seconds to a minute, hey presto – bread crumbs. Use immediately or freeze.
Secondly, if you include the crusts, the breadcrumbs will be flecked with lots of crust. These are fine for stuffings and any other dish where the crumbs do not need to be white. Use for bread crumbs, stuffings, coating fish, meat, croquettes etc. Use for bread sauce and buttered crumbs for gratins.
- The Coeliac UK gluten-free ‘chef of the year’ competition is being judged by Michelin-starred chef, Raymond Blanc this year. Submit recipes for a three-course, gluten-free menu to email@example.com by November 6, 2009. Get more details about the competition, including the prizes, at www.coeliac.org.uk/glutenfreechefoftheyear.
- The Festival of Flowers is on today and tomorrow. 10am to 5pm at St Anne’s Church, Castlemartyr, Co Cork. There will be floral displays, a harvest market stall and a harvest thanksgiving service at 7pm on Sunday, with St Joseph’s Choir. Everyone welcome.