Sunday morning, he took two of the lads to football training and I jumped out of bed knowing that food had to be got for their return and a decent dinner made as the twin girls had a football match later in the afternoon. No ordinary football match – a Senior County Final and a replay at that – so woe betide me if there were no food. (October 2018). Off I went, fitting in a yoga class and then a flit through the supermarket. On my return however they were back and my hero of a husband was already cleaning the kitchen with Niall having cooked for them all. They had polished off scrambled eggs and black pudding and there was no panic for me to cook. I didn’t mention that I had stopped off for a scone and a cappuccino in between the yoga and the shopping did I? It’s an official habit of mine now, a scone with Irish butter and a cappuccino. It’s usually accompanied by a catch up on my Instagram Feed and those stories can be very distracting!
This lack of time pressure made my foray into the kitchen so much more enjoyable. It is so much nicer to cook when you yourself are not starving and the masses are not persistently inquiring as to the nature of the dish and ‘when will it be ready?’
I had intended on a quick cook dish though and proceeded with my plan. Oven was preheated, vegetables quickly chopped and then tipped in a large baking dish with some berbere dusted chicken mini fillets.
Is Berbere new to you? It is to me. A recently discovered (by me!) Ethiopian origin spice blend similar to Ras El Hanout but with a really gentle warmth. I found it on the shelves of my local Dunnes Stores and have been using it for the past week or so and it’s going down well with everyone.
The Berbere baked chicken was accompanied by harissa spiced couscous with a little coriander mixed through and a good dollop of natural yoghurt spiked with lemon juice and topped with a sprinkling of Berbere for colour.
Baked Berbere Chicken:
You will need:
A few baby potatoes
1 red pepper
1 red onion
Olive oil or rapeseed oil
Mini chicken fillets 400-700g (judge by how many you want to feed!)
Berbere spice blend
Serve with couscous made with tsp harissa paste and some coriander
Natural yoghurt spiked with lemon juice and dusted with berbere.
Preheat the fan oven to 200C
Microwave the baby potatoes for 5 to 10 mins until easy to cut through
Cube the aubergine and courgette
Deseed and slice the red pepper
Peel and slice the red onion
Scatter the vegetables in the base of a large baking dish
Slice the par-cooked baby potatoes and scatter on top
Drizzle some oil over the vegetables and then mix them around
Place the chicken mini fillets on top of the chopped vegetables, drizzle with some oil and dust with berbere.
Cook in the hot oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through – turning the chicken over midway through cooking and dusting with a little more berbere.
I have to share today’s triumph with you and YOU have to make it. I’m not commanding you, I’m simply imploring, I’m pleading because it is so simple and so tasty that I don’t want to be the only person in the world who has made this. Share this with me. Please.
You will know how many people you are cooking for so use your judgement in the amount of the following ingredients you will need. I’m giving quantities that cook for 5.
You will need:
10 baby potatoes
5 pieces of fish (I used hake)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato pesto
1 tbsp mixed herbs
3 large spring onion
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
3 tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes
Lemon to serve – optional
Heat a fan oven to 200C and follow the method in the following words and pictures. You will need a large baking dish and tin foil.
Note : test your fish is cooked through to the centre before serving. Smaller / thinner fish pieces will take less cooking time.
Note 2 : my previous microwave would have cooked baby potatoes in 5 mins, my current one takes 8 mins so that time will vary. (You could boil if you prefer)
Lots of pluses for this dish. Simple, tasty, healthy & minimal washing up. I do hope you get to give it a try.
Lemon & Parmesan Chicken
Here’s a really easy way to get some vegetables into you and perhaps coax them into a cranky child. I’ve taken to blitzing greens lately, in particular kale and broccoli and I just blanch them with hot water for speedy cooking.
You might notice that I’m using a glass baking dish in the pictures here and that’s a change that I’ve made lately too. I was fed up of going at my rusting baking trays with ‘steel wool’ in efforts to scrape the burned on bits off and they just never felt really clean after the first use, whereas the glass ones clean beautifully in the dishwasher.
I’ve also pulled out my spaghetti measure in an effort to not end up with a mountain of left-over pasta.
There’s a video that accompanies this recipe over on my instagram and facebook pages if you’d like to see as well as read.
Lemon & Parmesan Chicken
You will need:
4 chicken breasts
3 fat garlic cloves
250g cherry tomatoes
300ml chicken stock
tub creme fraiche – 200ml or 250g approx
1 lemon (using zest & juice)
150g washed and roughly chopped/shredded kale
Small handful pinenuts
Small handful grated parmesan
(Note: Boil the kettle and have the food processor out for blitzing kale. You also need a colander set over a large saucepan)
Heat the fan oven to 200
Peel and slice the fat garlic cloves in half
Slice the chicken breasts in half
Place the cut garlic, chicken and the whole cherry tomatoes into a baking dish / tray and drizzle with some oil, mix well to coat everything and place in oven to partially cook for 10 mins.
Meanwhile get on with some of the prep. : blitz the kale using a food processor and add in the zest of a lemon and set aside.
Juice the lemon and set aside.
Grate the parmesan and set aside.
Once the chicken has had 10 minutes of cooking time add in the chicken stock and return to cook in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
Finish off the rest of the prep while the chicken finishes cooking :
Dry fry the pine-nuts until golden brown and set aside.
Cook the spaghetti.
Place the blitzed kale and zested lemon in a colander placed over a large saucepan and pour over a kettle full of boiling water pressing the water through the colander with a spatula so that the kale is blanched but not soggy.
Remove the chicken from the oven, take out the chicken pieces and set aside. Add the creme fraiche and lemon zest into the chicken stock and mix with a whisk to form a sauce. Add in the cooked spaghetti and the blanched kale and mix well.
Place the chicken back on top. Grate parmesan all over and top with toasted pine-nuts.
‘Til next time, Sheila
Melt in the mouth. That’s the description my daughter Éimear gave as she tucked in heartily to a mammoth portion of this vegetarian lasagne yesterday. When I cook I often ask myself what can I do to make something easier and for this recipe it was the white sauce. For a classic white sauce there would be infusing of flavours into milk, the making of a roux and at least 15 to 20 minutes cooking to the end result. Mine takes probably 3 minutes at most.
Stash this recipe for one of those “i need something other than turkey” days of the holidays because it’s now only 5 more weeks (recipes) until Christmas!! The lights went on in Cork City this evening so let the shopping begin.
You will need:
250g green speckled or puy lentils (see the note below)
4 garlic cloves
2 medium onions
3 tbsp rapeseed oil, plus a little extra
2 tsp oregano
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato purée
3 tbsp water
250g ricotta cheese
75g grated Parmesan, plus a little extra
150ml crème fraîche (approx. 6 tbsps
2 tbsp basil pesto
Fresh lasagne pasta sheets
Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Add a peeled clove of garlic and bring to the boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer for a further 15–20 minutes, then drain, removing and discarding the garlic clove.
Meanwhile, roughly chop the onions. Heat 2 tablespoons of the rapeseed oil in a large pan over a low heat, then add the onions and let them soften for 5 minutes. Peel and crush the three remaining garlic cloves. Add to the softened onion, stir through and cook for 1 minute.
Chop the mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Turn the heat up add them to the pan of onions along with the oregano and another tablespoon of oil. Stir through and cook for a couple of minutes, until the mushrooms start to colour.
Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and the cooked, drained lentils. Stir well, then add the tomato purée and water. Reduce to a simmer for a couple of minutes while you prepare the cheesy sauce.
Preheat a fan oven to 180°C.
Mix the ricotta, grated Parmesan, crème fraîche and basil pesto together in a bowl to a thick sauce consistency. If you need to loosen it up a little, add some oil.
Layer up the lasagne in a large ovenproof baking dish – spread half of the lentil mix on the base of the dish and top with a layer of lasagne sheets, then the remaining lentil mix, half of the cheese sauce, a layer of lasagne sheets, then the remaining cheese sauce. Top with a little grated Parmesan and cook in the oven for 30 minutes, until the cheese is turning golden brown.
Note: Follow the directions on your packet of lentils for cooking – the ones I buy don’t require pre-soaking, but some do. Feel free to substitute a drained tin of pre-cooked lentils if you prefer.
‘Til next time, Sheila.
In 12 weeks time we shall all be gearing down for Christmas with some of us coming to a stuttering halt as we just about get there intact. Yes it’s the first of October today so I am allowed to mention the festivities. Looking forward to and enjoying the build-up to Christmas will get us through the darkening days and over the hump of what can be a depressing time as nights close in on top of us. In my countdown I will be marking the 12 remaining weeks with a recipe from my cookbook Enjoy!
The first that I am sharing is my Spiced Vegetarian Burger. I love a little bit of heat in my cooking and chilli often features as it does here in the form of chilli powder. In this recipe I use a lot of store-cupboard ingredients so if you stock up you can be sure of something tasty during the hibernation period.
Spiced Vegetarian Burger
Too often, vegetarian burgers are lightweight and unsatisfying. What I like about these is that they look meaty and are robust and filling. The patties can be prepared ahead of time and left in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.
You will need:
3 slices of multigrain whole-wheat bread (approx. 170g)
1 medium onion
2 tbsp rapeseed or coconut oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp regular paprika
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 x 400g tin of lentils
1 x 400g tin of kidney beans
1 egg, beaten
Cornflour, for dusting
Baps, buns or bread rolls, to serve
Blitz the bread in a food processor or mini-chopper to create breadcrumbs and set aside.
Finely chop the onion and soften in 1 tablespoon of oil heated in a large frying pan over a low heat for 5 minutes. Finely chop the mushrooms and crush the garlic, then add them to the softened onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add the paprika and chilli powder and mix well.
Drain the lentils in a sieve and press to squeeze away any excess moisture, then stir them into the onion and mushrooms. Take the pan off the heat.
Roughly pulse the well-drained kidney beans in a food processor – you want them bitey, not pulpy. Put these in a large bowl, then mix in the breadcrumbs, the lentil mixture and the beaten egg to combine. Use your hands to shape into six even-sized patties. Lightly dust the tops of the burgers with cornflour.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in large frying pan over a medium to high heat. Cook as many burgers as will fit in the pan for 5 minutes, floured side down. Lightly dust the other side with cornflour before turning the burgers over and cooking for a further 5 minutes.
Serve in lightly toasted buns or baps. I suggest serving them with coleslaw, lettuce and ketchup too.
‘Til next time, Sheila.