When I lived in New Zealand, cooking was my way of getting to know the (then Boyfriend, now) Husband’s family and friends. Three of his sisters lived nearby in Christchurch and they, together with a boyfriend and various cousins, were regular visitors to our house. When I look back on the recipes that I gathered in those days, they rarely were for dining à deux; instead I cooked roasting tins full of Chicken with Garlic and Lemon, made overflowing pans of Beef and Chorizo Pie and baked large dishes of Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding.
This is the soup that I cooked at the Glenroe Ladies’ Club demonstration – it is something that I make regularly as it has a great flavour, doesn’t take long and is really good for freezing. The smoked paprika is fabulous with it, giving a real depth to the soup. Perfect for warming your hands while you sip it out of a large mug.
Despite the fact that we only have two hens now, we still end up with a lot of eggs and I’m always looking for something new to do with them. I love making egg-based quiches or tarts but, with Little Missy on hand, recipes that involve a number of steps – making pastry, prebaking it, making filling, baking end result – often fall by the wayside. That’s why I’m in love with this crustless quiche recipe.
When I was small we grew rhubarb in the back garden. Whatever variety it was – we had sourced the crown from some friend or relative so there were no labels – it grew gigantic stems, as thick as a baby’s wrist, topped by enormous leaves that we thought looked like child-sized umbrellas. I was never a fan: it was so stringy that it had to be peeled before cooking and I was always extremely dubious about any fruit or vegetable that did such a good job of shining the inside of the saucepan in which it was cooked.
As a child, autumn was one of my favourite times of year. Going back to school was much eased by the fact that there were blackberries available for eating on nearby hedges, crab apples down the fields to be gathered and plenty of field mushrooms to be picked. This year, Little Missy in her sling for our daily walks, trying to grab any bramble that comes near her, we’ve been keeping an eye out for plump sloes and watching as the elderberries ripen, while eating lots of blackberries.
Last year, on a trip to London, I picked up a spork – a light plastic utensil which features a spoon at one end, fork at the other and serrated knife edge on the fork side – in a kitchenware shop and I’ve rarely been without it since. The last quarter of 2008 was taken up with train trips to Dublin as I worked on the Foodtalk documentary series and, food on the train being what it is – or isn’t – my spork was invaluable.
When we were in college, the Brother’s Housemate came from a catering household. His mother used to make hundreds of superb Christmas cakes and puddings each year, cook for parties and events and, most importantly to us, make the best Caramel Squares known to students.Living on an unbroken biscuit diet of Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers – our habitual study food (oh, the excitement when a white chocolate variety came on the market) – these were manna from heaven. Every time the Brother’s Housemate was able to sneak or was given (we never knew, never asked) a box of them, we would descend on his house like a plague of biscuit-seeking locusts.
When we had the Mallow Farmers’ Market taking place outside Urru last summer, I never missed the chance to pick up a pack of Old Millbank Smokehouse hot smoked trout from Geraldine Bass. Saturday mornings in work were always busy so I had to watch for a gap between customers to make a dive out of the shop before all the good stuff was gone. Geraldine would also have her smoked salmon and, for a real treat, some very fine smoked salmon pâté but I always made a beeline for the trout, a much underrated ingredient and one that I’d pick any day over smoked salmon.