Category: Cook


What’s in your lunchbox? Pumpkin and feta tortilla!

My mum’s sultana scones, leftover bacon & kidney pie, made-by-me sticky orange and cinnamon scrolls; I’d be the first to admit that the things I took to school for lunch weren’t necessarily a) the best examples of a healthy diet and b) acceptable to the other kids (“kidneys? Errugh!”). Still, I survived. Now, with my eldest daughter about to head into senior infants this September, I’ve one year of making school lunches under my belt. Most days it was a triumph of hope over experience as I made wraps from leftover roasts, or cheese sandwiches (challenging, when she keeps switching allegiances between supermarket cheddar and Gubbeen – only available at markets 30km away) and shoehorned a pot of granola, a tangerine or handful of carrot sticks into her lunch bag. At least the food that made the round trip tasted good as I repurposed it for my own lunch. But I’m starting the new school year with a clean slate. Plus, the six-year-old’s palate is so much more developed than her junior infant one so it’s all going to be So Much Better. Honestly. We’ll survive. Simple building blocks for a better lunch Fruit: fresh and dried Vegetables: raw or...

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Read: Salad dressings & homemade whole egg mayonnaise in Irish Country Living

While there may not have been very much sunshine lately, it’s always salad weather around at the cottage. I’m talking big platters of roasted vegetables tossed with grains like buckwheat and barley, bowls of lentils flecked with salty feta, toasted, still-warm nuts strewed across dishes of crunchy broccoli slaw (try this recipe from Smitten Kitchen – ou won’t regret it). Substantial salads, salads that lift an entire meal and tip the balance of what’s on the table away from meat and towards vegetables, are how I want to eat now. To be properly interesting, though, salads need dressings. Heck, with the right dressing – ie one that they’ve measured and mixed themselves – I can even persuade Little Missy and the Small Girl to eat raw cabbage and salad greens (as long as the stars are in their correct alignment, that is.) The basics are easy. Classic French vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part vinegar, plus some seasoning: 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon vinegar – red/white wine, balsamic or cider vinegars are all good a pinch of salt, some freshly ground black pepper Mix those together – using a jar is particularly good if your own smallies...

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Sunday lunch: Slow Cooked Beef with Irish Cider

You know that sinking feeling when you realise you’ve had something in your freezer for, ooh, way too long? We all have them. Large blocks of unidentifiable meat, sitting ominously in the corner. Ours was a gift from a cousin; she came for Sunday lunch and left far more than she ate. Now, it was a while ago (I’m not going to tell you how long) and every time I ventured near that particular corner of the freezer I though “I need to do something with that meat.” That something happened one Sunday when most of the family decided to turn up for lunch. They were invited, of course, it’s just that I didn’t expect them all – both parents, sister, brother, brother’s girlfriend – to gather. It was time to dig out the corner of the freezer. By that stage, the label was long gone but it looked sort of like a round roast of indeterminate age. I decided to cook it low and slow, using some Irish craft cider as the braising liquid, until we could pull it apart with a fork and pile it, together a good dollop of the gorgeous gravy, on top of some buttery mashed...

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Read: a cheesy Valentine’s Day in Irish Country Living and Baked Brie with Caramelised Maple Pecans

You might have realised, over the years, that I’m a fan of cheesy Valentines: 2012 Something cheesy for Valentine’s Day 2008 The easiest Valentine’s Day dinner: Baked Vacherin Mont d’Or 2007 Valentine’s Night – delayed: Simple Irish Cheese Fondue To read all about this year’s variation – a Baked Brie with Caramelised Maple Pecans – head over to the Irish Country Living blog. Link: Food Friday: Valentine’s special This is a treat that’s not difficult to source – the small inexpensive Cooleeney brie that I use can be picked up in any supermarket, or substitute a similarly sized camembert – so you’ll be able to go to town seeking out some of the gorgeous chocolate from Irish bean-to-bar producers – Wilkie’s Organic Chocolate, Burren Chocolatier or Clonakilty Chocolate are all worth searching for. Never a fan of going out for a Valentine’s Day dinner – I’ve heard too many stories of silences, arguments and tears from the restaurant manager sister! – I loved the McKenna’s Guide focus on the night through the voices of different restaurateurs. The Shell’s Café take of the dreaded event, complete with a description of a The Lady and The Tramp-style spaghetti situation, was nearly enough to tempt me. I said nearly....

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Read: Reinventing coleslaw in Irish Country Living

At this time of the year I crave salads – light and fresh, with lots of crunchy textures. The colder it gets, the more I want a serving of something that’s going to fill me up without weighing me down. Cue coleslaw or, rather, a mayo-free, veg-tastic ‘slaw. You’ll find the piece I wrote about it over on the Irish Country Living website: Reinventing coleslaw I constantly make variations of this recipe, depending on what’s in the house to play with. Try it with all white or, alternatively, red cabbage. Pop in some shredded Brussels sprouts, substitute toasted hazel nuts for the pecans. Leave out the chilli or live dangerously and use double the amount. And, it turns out, small people like ‘slaw too. My girls have started to demand their turn at putting the salad dressing together and like to toss it with their own customised versions of winter ‘slaw, which can include shreds of cabbage, carrot sticks, pomegranate seeds and slices of pepper. It’s not a bad deal when you have two extra sets of hands for salad tossing, and it does my heart good to see them eating it up afterwards. Don’t worry, though – this new willingness will soon lapse;...

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Sunshine salad: Roast Vegetable, Blood Orange, Pomegranate, Bulgur

Everybody needs a little sunshine in their lives, especially at the thin end of January, facing into the dreary bleakness that is February. It’s damp and cold and wet outside; I need a little cheering up. And some deep, dark red blood oranges. We eat an inordinate amount of citrus fruit at the cottage – regular sweet oranges and tangy pink grapefruit peeled at the table after dinner, lemons and limes to brighten everything from lentil Harira to chicken, December boxes of clementines for eating by the fire as an antidote to Christmas richness. Sevilles – once – for marmalade. But these bloody beauties are extra special. Sweet and tart all at once, with a tantalising hint of summer berries to come, they’re irresistible. They will only be in season for a short while so gorge while you can. And then, having eaten your fill, try this colourful Sunshine Salad, loaded with super bright, super tasty, superfoods like those oranges, pomegranate seeds and spinach. To make it into more of a main course, add cubes of feta, some soft goats’ cheese or serve with a warming bowl of soup on the side. Bulgur wheat (or bulgar or bulghar), made by precooking and coarsely...

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Christmas stuffings: Apricot, Lemon and Herb Stuffing | Sausage, Potato and Mushroom Stuffing

Very important to have Lots of Stuffing.

As a result of developing and testing these recipes for my recent Christmas cookery demonstration at Bulgaden, the Husband came home from the brewery on more than a few days to be faced with a dinner of assorted stuffings. You know what I discovered? Pile a plate high with stuffing, add some hearty salad on the side – something like this Crunchy Apple ‘Slaw or Broccoli, Tomato and Avocado Salad would be good – fry an egg in chilli oil, slide it on top and, hey presto!, you’ve got a real meal.

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