For a change, rather than blathering about telly, I was on it!
Serendipity. Sometimes the little things bring it. Rocking up to my local Supervalu to restock after two weeks holidays and finding a new line of Batchelors tinned beans* give me a little blasht of serendipity. You take it where you can get it, right?
I’m all for change but, gosh darn it, I want to be the one making the changes! When my local Superquinn switched to Supervalu I saw a few of my favourite products disappear off the shelves. Admittedly there are some new or expanded ranges but I can no more buy Doves Farm Yeast, for example. I have to schlep all the way to The Hopsack in Rathmines to pick it up. I use this nearly everyday. The range of De Cecco pastas has shrunk to insignificant – no more fusilli or lasagne sheets – but thankfully The Best of Italy in Dunville Avenue, close to the ancestral home, seems to be the importer for this brand and so stocks a dazzling range of my favourite pasta. I’m easily dazzled, folks.
Back to the beans. We were just back from our holidays. I was still in my one pot cooking mode after 2 weeks of Trangia creativity and rooting around my “Get into my mouth” Pinterest board when I came across a link to this beautiful photograph by Rachel Hathaway with accompanying instructions which fitted my mood: comforting, warm (it’s gotten colder), and easy to prepare ahead. I’ve made it three times since and I think I have it now. This is also a hit with the Nippers.
Cannelini Bean and Bacon Soup
- Heat the oil in your favourite soup pot and, once hot, add the bacon.
- Once it’s beginning to render a little add the onion and cook until soft.
- Add the garlic and soften but don’t burn and lastly add the carrots and cook for about 3 minutes.
- Add the drained and rinsed beans, tomato puree and the herbs.
- Cook, stirring, until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.
- Lastly add the stock (home made or sure, feck it, from a good quality cube. I like Kallo Just Bouillon Stock Cubes which are low in sodium.)
- If you are using the Parmesan rind, add now.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Remove Parmesan rind and discard
- You can if you like blend some of the soup but I didn’t think it needed it. Some of the cannelini beans will soften into a lovely mush.
- Serve with delicious crusty bread (both the aformentioned Hopsack and Best of Italy stock lovely sourdoughs.)
A couple of notes:
I first read about apple leather on the Fox’s Lane blog a while ago (Northern vs Southern Hemisphere) and I just thought I have to try that. We have a very fruity apple tree but the apples get a bit spotty and aren’t all that appealing. Once peeled they are grand and we larrup them into crumbles with blackberries from the bottom-of-the-garden wilderness. We slosh them stewed onto delicious Irish pork chops and joints. We stir them semi-stewed into yoghurt. The apple leather has proven to be another hit and if I had an Aga or Stanley range I would make fruit leather 2 weekly. Apparently you can make it with any fruit that stews or purées to a thick consistency. As things stand it’s a bit of an indulgence that takes up the oven for a large chunk of time. The resulting leather is perfect for lunchboxes in a school where no sugar is allowed.
What you need:
- Apples – the sweeter the better, it’ll save having to add honey or sugar
- A large tray
- Silicone baking paper (I’ve bought this in Lidl)
- A day/ evening in
- Preheat oven to 75C/ 170F
- Line a large oven tray with your silicone paper. One recipe I read suggested using cling film as the oven doesn’t get that hot but I baulked at that idea. If you have a silicone mat now is it’s time to shine!
- Stew your apples with a few tablespoons of water or juice of a lemon
- Sugar or honey can be added to taste at this point. You could also add a spoonful of cinnamon
- Either transfer cooled apples to your blender or use your handheld blender to get a really smooth sauce.
- Spread the apple sauce as evenly as possible over the tray trying to avoid thinning edges as these will dehydrate too fast.
- Stick it in the oven for 6 – 8 hours. I switched mine off and went to bed and took it out the next day while we used the grill so it’s not a fussy process. You are drying it out, not baking it.
- When it is done it will no longer dent if you stick your finger in the middle.
- Peel silicone paper off and, using a scissors or sharp, cut into strips or any agape you like.
Lunch: We’re expecting a family of guests this week so want to make something that has been tested on kids (hence the skewers) and something new that reminds of our holidays (hence the tapas from a new book from my friend who was visiting from Barcelona.)
Chicken and cherry tomato skewers with couscous and Broccoli and Avocado salad and Chickpea & black pudding tapa.
All going to plan I will rustle up some Wellington Squares for the sweet toothed among us. Apparently we currently have so much condensed milk in the cupboard at the moment that Himself tells me “It’s like the war.” I’ll post this winner of a recipe which I found years ago online but can no longer find. If I have time I might make a crumble for the grown ups to use up the blackberries I picked in the wild, brambly part of our garden.
Dinner: A cup of French peasant soup (made Saturday) for tea for anyone who is still hungry after lunch. (No actual peasants are hurt (except maybe their feelings) in the making of this soup.) You’ll note from the pic that I have also added potato and carrot to this soup. I love me a bit of potato in a stewy soup like this.
Lunch: Pizza rolls – these are from Rachel Allen’s Home Cooking which I got from my godmother. Not a book I would have picked myself but it has fast become a standby for me. There are some great, realistic family recipes in it.
Dinner: French peasant soup with Superquinn’s lovely brown bread. But really I have to crack this brown bread thing: if millions of Irish peasants could make it in a hovel in the howling wind and rain I should be able to make it! Mine always turns out rock hard on the outside and squishy on the inside 🙁 All advice welcomed in comments below.
Lunch: Tortellini with leftover pizza sauce from yesterday.
Dinner: Salmon Alfredo – I know pasta twice in one day. Hmmm. I love pasta and when I wonder about how much we eat Himself always says, “You’re a grown-up, you can eat as much pasta as you like.” I might switch the tortellini to another day so.
Bean and chorizo stew (make Tuesday) – This is a receipe I found in a newspaper years ago (Saturday June 28 2003 to be precise; no idea which paper!) that we make fairly regularly. It’s absolutely delicious with new potatoes or crusty bread or indeed couscous. It’s a great summer recipe to use up your tomatoes if you are green fingered enough to grow them but also makes a hearty winter dish if you can brave the garden for a spring if the evergreen rosemary.
Gnocchi w/ pesto
Nut roast with cheese and tomato layer – This was requested by Himself this week when I said we have too much meat in this week’s menu. I think he was trying to avoid me trying Aloo Gobi on the children and the fights cauliflower would produce. This recipe is infamous in my own family as I made it as a teenager and vegetarian. I had received the Cranks’ recipe book from my aunt in England as a Christmas present and was encouraged by my mother to prepare something. It wasn’t until my family were desperately trying to be polite and supportive about my efforts that I realised I had put in a tablespoon of yeast extract (read Marmite) instead of a teaspoon. Yech.
Eat out after a trip to Makeshop as it is our last day of summer holidays for all as Nipper 3.0 starts in Naíónra (preschool) on Monday!
[ ]Savoy cabbage
[ ] Strawberries/ raspberries
[ ] Lemon
[ ] Beetroot
[ ] Carrots
[ ] Low fat mature cheddar (Dubliner or Kilmeaden)
[ ] Tomatoes
[ ] Cherry tomatoes x 2
[ ] Bananas
[ ] Apples
[ ] Peaches
[ ] Avocado
[ ] Smoked salmon
[ ] Ham
[ ] Bagels
[ ] Filled pasta
[ ] Milk
[ ]Tinned pineapple
[ ] Tinned beans
[ ] Raisins
[ ] Juice tropicana
[ ] Tinned tomatoes
[ ] Gnocchi
[ ] Brown pasta for macaroni
[X] Garlic mayo
[ ] Cat food
[ ] Cider/ white wine (We recently tried Stonewell Cider from Nohoval, Co. Cork, an area we are very familiar with and we are hooked!)
On Saturday we decided to make a bit of space in our freezer by using up burger buns and lamb mince to make these simple and delicious lamb burgers. I didn’t have any harissa (I don’t think I’ve ever seen any for sale in our local supermarket…!) so we decided to use that Lebanese paste again. Made for a yummy condiment. I felt we needed something fresh to go with this (Himself and the Nippers ALWAYS try to convince me that deep fried gnocchi are the perfect accompaniment to burgers. Shudder. And yet also delicious.) We ended up eating late enough and we were starving so we needed something with a bit more substance.
I love rice with beans. I have often made this Caribbean Rice with Beans recipe but risotto style dishes have become a no-go for one of the nippers. You pick your battles! I like this one because as it’s not actually a risotto you don’t have to stir like a mad thing: you just leave it to cook away.
So I rustled up this salad leaving some of the rice to one side and serving it plain with carrot batons for the kids. I do rather love the combination of the colours in this salad. The rice was slightly warm which is very nice too. There would have been enough left over for our lunch the next day but as I mentioned we were starving.
Rice and Bean Salad (serves 4)
- 2 cups uncooked Basmati rice cooked to your liking
- 1 can of Red Kidney Beans, rinsed
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- A handful of baby spinach, shredded
- 1 quarter large red onion, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons of your favourite vinaigrette (I make a bottle of Ballymaloe Vinagrette and larrup it on to a wide variety of salads but you could use this)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients in a delightful bowl and toss. Eat. Yum.