Darina Allen: Exclusive recipes from my brand new book

A vegetarian one-pot, the best burgers and a pie that my mother taught me how to make 
Darina Allen: Exclusive recipes from my brand new book

Recipes from How to Cook: The 100 Essential Recipes Everyone Should Know by Darina Allen (Kyle)

My latest book written during the Pandemic is called How to Cook, but the working title has always been ‘Recipes No Kids Should Leave School Without Being Able to Cook’. However, my publishers were adamant that ‘kid’ is not PC so here we are with a title that doesn’t get the same spontaneous response that the original title engendered when I announced what was in the pipeline.

However, it’s all in there, 100 recipes and lots more variations on the originals to get everyone excited about how easy it is to cook simple and delicious dishes and do lots of contemporary riffs on time-honoured favourites.

How crazy is it that only a tiny percentage of our children learn how to cook at home or in our schools. What are we like to have now let at least two generations out of our houses and schools without equipping them with the basic life skills to feed themselves properly or, for that matter, letting them experience the magic of sowing a seed and watching it grow into something delicious and super nutritious to eat.

Since the 1950s, the main focus in education has been acquiring academic skills — mastering the STEM subjects. The subliminal message to all students has been that practical skills such as cooking or growing are of much lesser value — unnecessary in today’s world where one can pop into the local supermarket and choose from an endless variety of ready-made and ultra-processed goods to save time and the ‘drudgery’ of cooking it yourself.

So why is it important to be able to cook — a fundamental question that sometimes stumps people. Well, at the very least it's important to feed oneself nutritiously and deliciously and to take control of one’s own health. With a few basic cooking skills, one can whip up a spontaneous meal with a few inexpensive ingredients at a moment’s notice and bring joy to those around you. It’s one of the easiest ways to win friends and influence people plus one can travel anywhere in the world and get a job. Chefs and cooks are welcomed with open arms everywhere; but in the end, home cooking is the most important skill of all.

When you teach someone how to cook, you give them a gift that will forever enhance their lives, it becomes increasingly evident that our food choices affect our energy, vitality, ability to concentrate, and both our mental and physical health. So this book that I was determined to write before I hang up my apron has 100 basic recipes for you to cook your way through. For virtually every recipe, I suggest variations on the original. For example, when you make a basic Irish soda bread, one of the simplest and most delicious breads of all, it can be white or brown, seedy or plain, flecked with seaweed or fresh herbs. Baked in a loaf tin or in a traditional round, marked with a cross — the traditional blessing and pricked in the four quadrants to 'let the fairies out of the bread'.

Scones or teeny weenies made from the same dough can be dipped in grated cheese or toasted nuts, they can be sweet or savoury — 'spotted dog' or 'stripy cat'. Gently, roll the dough into a rectangle, slather with chocolate spread. Roll up, cut, and dip the twirls into coarsely chopped hazelnuts. Change tack: place a rectangle of dough into a well-oiled ‘Swiss roll’ tin. Top with tomato sauce, slivers of pepperoni, a scattering of chopped spring onion and grated Cheddar — now you have a deep-pan pizza and on and on it goes.

Same with an omelette: the quintessential fast-food made in minutes. So many delicious fillings to add — slip it into a crusty baguette for an omelette sambo; cut in strips to add to a salad or soup; or cook the well-flavoured mixture in muffin tins to make mini frittatas.

This book is not just for kids, teenagers, and college grads, it’s for anyone and everyone who wants to whip up something delicious for themselves or for family and friends.

So back to our educational system which many rightly believe has failed in our duty of care to fully educate our young people. So let’s raise our voices and pick up our pens to demand that our Government and Department of Education re-embed practical cooking and growing in our national curriculum for the future health and happiness of the nation.

* Special thanks to my daughter Lydia Hugh Jones whose drawings greatly enhance How to Cook.

Sweet potato, black bean and quinoa chilli

recipe by:Darina Allen

Quinoa is a super nutritious grain that originally comes from the Andean region of South America. It is full of protein and has more vitamins and minerals than virtually any other grain, so it’s a brilliant option for vegetarians and vegans.

Sweet potato, black bean and quinoa chilli



Preparation Time

10 mins

Cooking Time

30 mins

Total Time

40 mins




  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 225g (8oz) onion, chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon chilli flakes

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 750g (1lb 10oz) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) dice

  • 450g (1lb) ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 400g (14oz) can chopped tomatoes

  • 100g (3 1/2oz) quinoa

  • 500ml (18fl oz) vegetable or chicken stock

  • 200g (7oz) black beans, soaked overnight and cooked for 1 – 1 ½ hours (depending on the age of the beans) until just tender or 400g (14oz) can

  • black beans, drained and rinsed

  • a pinch of brown sugar (optional)

  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

  • sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

  • To serve:

  • Natural yoghurt or labneh


  1. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and chilli flakes and toss together. Reduce the heat, cover and sweat for 5–6 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the cumin and coriander and season well with salt and pepper.

  2. Add the sweet potatoes, tomatoes, quinoa and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the black beans and continue to simmer for 20–30 minutes or until the sweet potato and quinoa are tender. Season to taste, you may need to add a little brown sugar if using canned tomatoes.

  3. Serve in a warm bowl scattered with lots of fresh coriander and a dollop of yoghurt or labneh.

    Extracted from How to Cook: The 100 Essential Recipes Everyone Should Know by Darina Allen (Kyle)

Basic beef burgers

recipe by:Darina Allen

The secret of really good beef burgers is the quality of the mince, it doesn't need to be an expensive cut but it is essential to use freshly minced beef. A small percentage of fat in the mince will make the burgers sweet and juicy – between 20-25%

Basic beef burgers



Preparation Time

10 mins

Cooking Time

10 mins

Total Time

20 mins




  • 15g (½ oz) butter or extra virgin olive oil

  • 75g (3oz) onion, finely chopped (optional)

  • 450g (1lb) freshly minced beef — flank, chump, or shin would be perfect

  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • olive oil

  • To serve (optional):

  • burger or brioche buns

  • lettuce

  • sliced ripe tomatoes

  • sliced red onion

  • crispy bacon

  • avocado slices or a dollop of guacamole

  • fried onions

  • roast or piquillo peppers

  • kimchi, pickled slaw or pickles

  • spicy mayo, spicy tomato sauce,

  • barbecue sauce, hot sauce, bacon jam or relish of your choice


  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan, toss in the onions, if using, cover and sweat over a low heat for 5-6 minutes until soft but not coloured. Set aside to get cold.

  2. Meanwhile, mix the beef mince with the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Then add the cooled onions and mix well. Fry off a tiny bit of the mixture in the pan to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

  3. With wet hands, shape the mixture into four burgers, or more depending on the size you require. Chill until needed.

  4. Cook to your taste in a little oil in a medium-hot frying or griddle pan, turning once. For rare, cook for 2 minutes on each side; for medium, 3 minutes; and for well done, 4 minutes. If you’re cooking the burgers in batches, make sure to wash and dry the pan between batches. Burgers can plump up in the centre while being cooked; to avoid this, make an indentation in the centre of each raw burger with your thumb. Serve with any of the serving suggestions above, or try one of the variations.

    Extracted from How to Cook: The 100 Essential Recipes Everyone Should Know by Darina Allen (Kyle)

Apple and blackberry pie

Apple pie is virtually everyone’s favourite pudding. My famous break-all-the-rules pastry taught to me by my mum is made by the creaming method, so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter

Apple and blackberry pie



Preparation Time

2 hours 0 mins

Cooking Time

60 mins

Total Time

3 hours 0 mins




  • For the Break-all-the-Rules Pastry:

  • 225g (8oz) butter, softened

  • 40g (1 1/2oz) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

  • 2 organic, free-range eggs

  • 350g (12oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

  • 1 organic, free-range egg, beaten with a dash of milk

  • For the filling:

  • 600g (1lb 5oz) Bramley cooking apples, peeled and cut into large dice

  • 110g (4oz) blackberries

  • 150g granulated sugar

  • To Serve

  • softly whipped cream

  • dark soft brown sugar

  • Equipment:

  • 1 x 18cm x 30.5cm x 2.5cm deep square tin or 1 x 22.5cm round tin


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

  2. To make the pastry, cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food processor. Add the eggs one by one and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour slowly. Turn out onto a piece of floured baking parchment, flatten into a round, then wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least two hours, otherwise it is difficult to handle. Better still, make it the day before.

  3. Roll out the pastry to about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick, then use about two-thirds of it to line an 18 x 30 x 2.5cm (7 x 12 x 1 inch) square tin or a 22.5cm (8 3/4 inch) round tin.

  4. Fill the pie to the top with the apples and blackberries and sprinkle with the sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, press the edges together to seal. Decorate with pastry leaves, brush with the beaten egg mixture and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until the apples are tender. When cooked, sprinkle lightly with caster sugar, cut into pieces and serve with softly whipped cream and sugar.

    Extracted from How to Cook: The 100 Essential Recipes Everyone Should Know by Darina Allen (Kyle)


Ballymaloe Cookery School Live-Stream

One Pot Wonders – Saturday, 16th October (€60)

There is something rather liberating about cooking in a single pot. It requires much less effort, the meal is complete (or close to complete) and the whole process is simple and uncomplicated. You can cook this way for one person or for a hundred — all you have to do is scale up or down the ingredients, making it ideal for single people, families and for parties.

Many one-pot wonders are relatively inexpensive to produce and there is the added advantage of having next to no washing up to do afterwards. What’s more, you don’t have to be a Michelin star chef to cook this way because none of the dishes require complicated techniques. This culinary approach isn’t like trying to get a soufflé to rise or making a complicated sauce.

Gift Tokens are also available for this course.

cookingisfun.ie or telephone 021 4646785

In Kiltumper — A Year in an Irish Garden
35 years ago, when they were in their 20s, Niall Williams and Christine Breen made the impulsive decision to leave their lives in New York City and move to Christine's ancestral home in the town of Kiltumper in rural Ireland. In the decades that followed, the pair dedicated themselves to writing, gardening, and living a life that followed the rhythms of the earth.
In 2019, with Christine in the final stages of recovery from cancer and the land itself threatened by the arrival of turbines just one farm over, Niall and Christine decided to document a year of living in their garden and in their small corner of a rapidly changing world. Proceeding month-by-month through the year, and with beautiful seasonal illustrations, this is the story of a garden in all its many splendours and a couple who have made their life observing its wonders.

Check in with your local bookshop to order a copy

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