Category: Cook

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Squash for soup: Bean, Squash and Cabbage Soup

A few of our Ushiki Kuri squashThe vegetable garden suffered this year. Not only was the weather appalling but the Husband, lulled into a false sense of security by our bunny-killing machine (aka Puddy Cat), took down the rabbit-proof fence – the week before the cat up and died on us. It didn’t take long before the rabbits realised that our newly planted leeks, beans and kale were an all-you-can-eat buffet. The only things that survived were a few plants of perpetual spinach, some Swiss chard – and, thankfully, the squash.

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Warm Chickpea Salad with Parmesan

Warm Chickpea Salad with ParmesanOne of my major perks, on days I work from home, is having the opportunity to make myself something really good for lunch. If those days also happen to feature me making chicken stock or reconstituting a big bag of dried pulses – these things happen in the kitchen without me having to think about them – there’s more of a treat in store. A couple of scoops of chicken stock get siphoned off to make a gutsy noodle broth, infused with slivers of ginger, garlic and chilli and eaten with relish. Freshly cooked butter beans can easily find themselves tossed with a sundried tomato dressing and some of the left-over roast pumpkin from last night’s dinner.

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Summer salads for colder days: Warm Potato and Chorizo Salad with Poached Eggs

Warm Potato and Chorizo Salad with Poached EggsWe didn’t have very many new potatoes this year so those that made it into the pot were treated like gold. We planted them, as normal, on 17 March – the traditional time in Ireland for planting the spuds, as far as I know, especially when they’re earlies – but the weather was nasty after that so I think more than a few simply rotted in the ground. Between that, the terrible summer, the death of our cat and subsequent rise in the bunny population (we must not have been eating enough Rabbit Stew) it hasn’t been an entirely successful summer in the garden. At least we’ve the hens to keep us fed and entertained, although when the weather was absolutely appalling there, last month, they seemed to go through a bit of a depression, egg laying dropping to just one per day. Fortunately they’re now back up to a three-a-day average – making a lovely accompaniment to the few potatoes that we managed to salvage.

Cooking in France 4

Cooking in France

1 saucepan + 1 gas burner + 1 vegetarian + 2 omnivores (1 very much on the carni- side of omnivore) = very simple one-pot cooking in the campsite at night. It’s not difficult to do with a small store of non-perishable picnic basket perennials – olive oil, harissa paste, sherry vinegar, grainy mustard, Maldon salt and the tiniest pepper grinder – and a few purchases from the local market and shops, including garlic and onions, sun-warmed tomatoes, the sweetest of sweet peppers, a selection of cheese, pâté and salami (to keep the meat-lovers happy), les oeufs biologique (organic eggs) and a few tins of haricot beans and lentils.

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Make-ahead Caramel Cake for Saturday barbeques

Working Saturdays means that any weekend entertaining needs to be planned and organised well in advance, especially when it comes to Saturday night barbeques at the cottage. The Naas Cousin was coming to stay so I grabbed the opportunity to get a few of the cousins together. There wasn’t anything complex on offer: free-range chicken drumsticks marinaded for a little while in my thrown together barbeque sauce (mix enough tomato ketchup, wholegrain mustard, cider vinegar, soy sauce and seasonings to coat the chicken. Allow to stand. Throw on barbeque.), some decent meaty sausages, homemade mini-beef burgers and an assortment of roasted vegetables (red and yellow peppers, spring onions, large mushrooms with garlic butter and lemon, sweetcorn with smoked garlic salt). The Husband normally does the cooking outside while I look after the prep in the kitchen as there are always a couple of salads to assemble. This time it was a Pasta and Flageolet Bean Salad with Sundried Tomato Dressing alongside a Green Salad with Blue Cheese, Nectarines and Savoury Seeds, dressed with Sweet Blackberry Vinaigrette. Working Saturdays means that any weekend entertaining needs to be planned and organised well in advance, especially when it comes to Saturday night barbeques at the cottage. The Naas Cousin was coming to stay so I grabbed the opportunity to get a few of the cousins together. There wasn’t anything complex on offer: free-range chicken drumsticks marinaded for a little while in my thrown together barbeque sauce (mix enough tomato ketchup, wholegrain mustard, cider vinegar, soy sauce and seasonings to coat the chicken. Allow to stand. Throw on barbeque.), some decent meaty sausages, homemade mini-beef burgers and an assortment of roasted vegetables (red and yellow peppers, spring onions, large mushrooms with garlic butter and lemon, sweetcorn with smoked garlic salt). The Husband normally does the cooking outside while I look after the prep in the kitchen as there are always a couple of salads to assemble. This time it was a Pasta and Flageolet Bean Salad with Sundried Tomato Dressing alongside a Green Salad with Blue Cheese, Nectarines and Savoury Seeds, dressed with Sweet Blackberry Vinaigrette.

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Rainy days and revisited recipes: Spicy Lentil Soup

Spicy Lentil Soup Although we had at least a week of summertime flip-flop days, May seems to have regressed to the cold and damp of early April. Weather like this – today it rained for the afternoon and just didn’t stop – means a return to cold weather soup recipes, warming comfort food for wintery-feeling evenings. This lentil soup recipe – for I believe that you can never have too many lentil recipes in your repertoire – is from Domini Kemp, of Itsabagel fame (all time favourite bagel? Definitely a Mountaineer), and was published in one of her Irish Times pieces a few weeks ago. I made it that very week and we loved it but then finer weather (and PSB) came on the scene so I put away my soup recipes – but not for too long, as it turned out.

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Chocolate for Easter: Chocolate Hazelnut Mini-Puds

chocolateforeaster.jpg I think my mother has one of her legendary Pavlovas already in the works for the aftermath of the Easter family lunch but, if you’re not going to be as lucky, these Chocolate Hazelnut Mini-Puds, adapted from a Nigella recipe, are well worth trying. This mixture makes eight – serving our family of seven, with one left over to fight for – but it’s a very easy thing to halve the recipe if you are serving less people. You do not want to over cook these mini-puddings so the easiest way to make them is to melt the butter and dark chocolate just before lunch, leave to cool then combine with the rest of the pre-weighed ingredients as everyone relaxes after the lamb (it’s Easter – it has to be lamb!), sticking it into the oven while the table is cleared and the obligatory pot of post-lunch tea is made. And please do serve with the recommended jug of pouring cream – the combination of cold cream, gooey chocolate interior, crunchy hazelnuts (and, in the spirit of keeping this simple, I don’t worry about peeling them) and crusty sponge is truly worth enjoying in concentrated silence.


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