Back to school with bangers

Blackberries and green beans from our own garden

September is closer to New Year in my mind. I have been invigorated by the summer sunshine or certainly the summer light but there is a change in the air. A few tiny leaves waft to the ground. It’s not warm in the morning. There is a tinge of golden appearing on the trees. The smells are damper, edged with decay.

I freaking LOVE Autumn. I am full of the joys of Autumn. I love the excessively bright days where skies seem crazy blue when contrasted to the oranges, yellows and browns of the trees. I love blackberry picking.

With all this joy I feel I should channel some energy back into my blog. Kicking it off with an easy one but I hope it will help you get organised for the first full week back at school. This week’s menu includes lots of comfort meals and also freezer meals. Hopefully it will make the transition easier while we get used to the new old routine. 

A couple of the recipes this week are doubled (or sometimes even tripled!) so I can put extra dinners in the freezer. I immediately add these to dates in our AnyList app so I don’t forget about them. They are always scaled to feed 6: the sixth dinner usually being lunch for Himself the next day.

As a reminder we have three children aged 14, 12 and 8. Two in primary and one just started Junior Cert year. 

Continue reading “Back to school with bangers”

A menu that should have been on holidays :(

Camping was fun.

I haven’t written up a weekly menu in ages. I got bored doing it and wondered if you all got bored reading them? (Comments below!) However I also started using a new app to write my weekly menus which made it difficult to copy and paste as I previously did. I am totally in love with this app, AnyList, and it has saved time and trouble a-plenty in our gaff. I have tried numerous grocery/ meal planning apps and this is the only one that has worked well for this household. The app is called AnyList and I’m sorry to report Androids that it is only available for iOS.

These are the reasons I love it:

  1. Both of the adults in our household can see shared lists, add to them and striking things off. Fingers crossed they will bring out an Android app soon so we can include younger family members in the listmaking fun.
  2. Also works beautifully on the iPad. And importantly for my battered old iPad, works really well without Wifi.
  3. In a recent-ish update the ability to import or add recipes and organise them into a weekly calendar was added. This has made this app indispensable to me.
  4. You can then scroll through the ingredients, marking which ones you want to add to your grocery list.
  5. It then goes out and does the shopping for you.

Guess which of those reasons is total wishful thinking? Sigh.

Camping was fun.

So just over a week ago I posted my recipe for Campfire Cones. They didn’t get much of a look in on our holiday which we should still be enjoying. Thanks to the torrential rain in the North West of Ireland, we gave up and came home last Friday. We have one nice day on Keem Beach in Achill which is truly one of the most lovely beaches in Ireland. There are many lovely beaches in Ireland; it’s only a pity there aren’t as many lovely days…

So we are home and trying to maintain the holiday vibe. We’ve had family staying with us for the last couple of days which helped keep up the pretence and the fun factor. A trip to the market in Bushy Park on a fine sunny afternoon helped a lot. I would recommend a wander up there some Saturday: I had a most excellent coffee from the Saltpeter Coffee Truck, I shared a pizza with Nipper 2.0 and 3.0 and Nipper 1.0 and cousins had delicious burgers. There was also a Twink sighting but we were all too shy to talk to her. My sister in law also bought some Brie from the Little Milk Company which I am looking forward to trying out.

One meal taken care of, then I shopped for the following with the much appreciated help of my sister in law – I wish I could have a sister in law along to relieve the boredom of every shop.

I suppose one advantage to being at home is that we could go all out on recipes for holidays, no more one-pot wonders on the Trangia! However we knew we were going to get out and about so we needed some dishes that would be easy to put together. The only new one on the menu is the Chipotle Bean Chilli and it went down a treat with all.

  • Baked Sausages in a Spicy Tomato Sauce from Nessa’s Family Kitchen by Nessa Robbins. This is a great recipe when having a family  with small kids to visit: there is something for everyone in it. Keep your eyes peeled for Nessa’s book – it’s a good family all rounder with some added home nurse tips.
  • Chicken Tikka from, spices by Green Saffron (highly recommended). Chicken curry when our French family are visiting has become a bit of a running joke. We accidentally served it to them two visits in a row, only realising when we got a strong sense of deja vu when someone objected to a particular aspect of the meal. As we had them for two meals this time we served this up for old time’s sake.
  • Chipotle Bean Chilli with Baked Eggs. This was added to the menu so I could have a go of my new chipotle paste which I picked up from Picado Mexican on South Richmond St. here in Dublin. I’ve been eyeing this shop up for some time, but always from the bus or car so I snatched a moment to pop in (when I was buying Tilda Basmati rice in bulk in a nearby Asian market!) I have since been adding the paste to lots of different sauces – it is delicious. I also picked up a pack of these corn tortillas which had a great flavour and the novelty of their smallness was appreciated by the kids.
  • 25 Minute Cod with Lentils This looks a little disconcerting but tastes AMAZING because, well, bacon.
  • Spaghetti Bolognese by Rachel Allen. I have started making this half and half beef and pork mince as per an option in her recipe. Not only is it more cost effective it adds an extra dimension to the flavour.
  • Pizza Friday!

The Circle of Life (Weekly menu)

A rather grand title for a weekly menu blog post but I think anyone who knows me will agree that this week we certainly saw the full cycle of life. As the menu below covers we went to a christening on Saturday afternoon. The first rite of passage for our newest grandniece. No I’m not that old: Himself is the very youngest of seven. We had a delightful time, meeting all the niece’s in-laws and Nipper 3.0 made friends with EVERYONE! We sang, we ate (by jeebus did we eat!), we chatted and we went home happy.
We felt happy that we had represented Himself’s family well. Unfortunately, it was difficult for the others to make the journey and this is a family who’ll party at the drop of a hat. Himself’s mother, who has been unwell for some time, had become gradually worse over the previous few weeks . Bad news arrived in the small hours of the morning and the worst news was shared by one of  his sisters just after 7am. So forgive me if this menu has holes or is less detailed than others.
So farewell Úna Meyler: you will be missed. You have left a wonderful legacy of music, laughter and good financial sense. What more could a woman ask for?
Carrot and thyme and star anise soup – I heard a snippet of an interview on the radio where this recipe was mentioned so I had to try my own version. Glorious.
I also baked these choc chip “cupcakes” but I adapted the recipe to Irish measurements and tastes and will post again. I baked ham and cheese muffins for lunchboxes as well. Boy was I glad I did.
Nipper 1.0’s tortilla feast – I can’t remember what we actually had…
Roast – what’s good value? Or maybe steak? – these were my instructions for the shopping. I bought a cut of pork (I can’t remember which) that I roasted most perfectly. So perfectly I nearly cried that Himself wasn’t there to join us. I was feeling pretty teary to be fair. Oh the crackling was devilish good.
I grabbed a beef stew, bolognese sauce, pear and ginger compote and crumble topping from the freezer before we headed “down Home” as Himself would say. There was, of course, stacks of beautiful food from neighbours and family in the house but it was only later when we landed at Himself’s brother’s place for the night that we felt like eating. This was delicious mixed with slow cooked rice and my sister in law’s signature garlic potatoes. I threw the compote and crumble in a pie dish and left it for dessert the following evening as we were all too whacked for anything else.
A sad day gladdened by one of Úna’s favourite things: warm sunshine. I know we ate when we got back to Dublin but I have no idea what we had.
Delicious sweet and sour pork from our Edmond’s cookery book, a present from a Kiwi friend that is another go-to basic recipe book.
Ham and cheese muffins in the car en route to classes.
Stew – well the stew had gone south so I made mash which I used to top shepherd’s pie filling taken from the freezer the night before which we shared with my Dad who really had eaten already. Who can resist Shepherd’s pie? Big learning for me since school began again is that Thursday’s are freezer day as afterschool classes don’t finish til 5 so it can be 5.30 before we all get home, exhausted, to homework.
To bake:
Ham & cheese muffins
Oaty cookies – these are a revelation which I will share with you shortly when I have converted the recipe to metric. I am now making at least one huge batch a week.

All the trimmings chicken curry (weekly menu)


Lunch: Soup carrot and thyme – this got sidelined until the next week as hungry folk arrived home from their morning music classes demanding any kind of bread with melted cheese. This drives me mad as I feel they have sandwich based lunches at school during the week and I want them to learn how to think beyond sandwiches for lunch. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big sandwich fan. A perfect delivery method. I try to ring the changes during the week with the kids by using pita, wraps, muffins, crackers but it always comes back to ham, chicken or cheese. Well I suppose it’s a darn site better than fussy younger me with my butter sandwiches. My secondary school friends will remember my penchant for cheese and branston pickle. In fact my mother dropped in a lunchbox of these into Holles St for me while I was labouring with Nipper 2.0! This is also the reason I don’t always include lunch in the menus because usually it’s not worth writing about. However

Chicken curry with all the trimmings
Chicken curry with all the trimmings

Dinner: Chicken curry with all the trimmings. This is Himself’s speciality to which my middle brother will avow. Middle brother, his wife, and his kids came home from Paris and we invited them to join us for dinner. Somewhere amidst the mayhem everyone ate. Some kids just ate rice, some just naan, some just curry, some just banana but everyone ate something and we all caught up. A year later or so they were back again and we invited them over for the afternoon and dinner. Somewhere during the meal I got a very strong sense of deja vu and suddenly realised we were serving them chicken curry with all the trimmings again. No-one minded as it is truly delicious. You can get the recipe on Himself’s blog. In fact that is all he has on his blog….


Lunch: We had a big breakfast and an early dinner so lunch was whatever was going. There were no leftovers from the Chicken curry.

Dinner: Macaroni cheese – I was home alone with the kids so made sure to make something simple that I knew they would eat. Plenty of carbs meant they would sleep soundly too.



Casserole Amandine - potatoes, carrots, peas, ground almonds, turmeric and egg.
Casserole Amandine – potatoes, carrots, peas, ground almonds, turmeric and egg.

Dinner: Casserole amandine – this is an old recipe from my vegetarian teenage years. It’s the ultimate comfort food but to be fair it isn’t the most appealing looking. Occasionally I do a clear out of our recipe books, discarding the really useless ones. However if there’s one or two recipes in them that I have made I will cut out and keep that recipe. This was the fate of Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Cooking from which Casserole Amandine was the only recipe kept.


Salmon Alfredo getting shnarfed by Nipper 2.0
Salmon Alfredo getting shnarfed by Nipper 2.0


Dinner: Pasta salmon Alfredo – the kids love this. I like it for it’s speed but I’m not so keen on the cream. Tuesdays are nearly always a quick pasta dish as Himself is out and eats when he gets in. There was smoked salmon on special offer the previous Friday so I bought three. I ended up giving one away, using one for this and one of my favourite salads and one is in the freezer.



Dinner: Fish pie: mostly a big hit. I think there was some grimacing from Nipper 1.0. I made the Express Fish Pie from The ICA Cookbook (actually from the freebie leaflet that came with the Irish Times a while back but when I get a bigger recipe bookshelf, it might go on it. Maybe I should start loading them onto my Kindle app on the iPad…)


Dinner: Bolognese with rice: Thursday has become freezer dinner night because we usually don’t get home until after 5 due to after school activities. Don’t expect any exciting innovation on Thursdays. About once a month I will cook something another day of the week with the sole intention of making 3 dinners from it. Bolognese is particularly good as it freezes well and can be used for pasta, rice or baked potatoes and at a push it could be used for cottage not shepherds pie.

 Friday Pizza

20 bliain ag fás – apparently.

This week was quiet hectic, kicking off with my 20 year school reunion on Friday. Yes I know I don’t think so either 😉 Although I did stay out until 4am I was sensible with the demon drink and felt fine for the next big do on Saturday. My father in law turned 80 last week so we all got together for food, drink, music and song. It was fabulous! But I really felt all the excesses for the rest of the week. Hmmm maybe it is 20 years since I was in school… Still haven’t learnt a thing about being sensible. Hurrah! Many of my in-laws are amazing musicians. Some of my readers will have heard them at our wedding no doubt. I think between my family, my in-laws and the Outlaws we probably cover the whole gamut of musical styles. So on Saturday, I sang my version of this amazing song, The Book of Love by the Magnetic Fields. It has a strong resonance for me because I first heard it on Valentine’s Day last year. This was an especially difficult time for my in-laws but I knew they would appreciate this song with its down-to-earth romanticism. It’s bitter sweet for me. Here is Peter Gabriel singing it live and lovely.

Music may be the food of love but we’re here to talk actual food so excuse the slight diversion but I like to share many things.


Lunch: Gnocchi with pesto – I needed a good carbie lunch that I knew they would eat as Fridays are shaping up to be a super busy afternoon too. Nipper 1.0 had his first choir practice in the city centre so I had to keep everyone going for that. To keep crankiness at bay I also brought along Babaduck’s Amazing Star bars (kind of swanky rocky road) and Wellington Splats (my squares that had gotten battered on their travels.)

Dinner: Pizza as usual. Well I went out for dinner with my old school chums. I had a delicious but very garlicky broccoli pasta dish in Marios in Ranelagh. I probably hadn’t been there for about 20 years either!


Lunch: Bagels with choice of filling on the hoof before hitting the road.

Dinnner: Pops’ bash with goodies galore.


Lunch: We weren’t 100% sure where we’d end up for lunch but due to certain so-called being incapacitated we left early-ish. We stopped en route to Dublin at The Tap, a place, I’ve been watching develop over the years driving up and down. The drive is too short to justify a stop but I was starving so we stopped off and had a lovely lunch. An unusual spot where the kids found much to amuse themselves. Apart from the too-tall glasses that restaurants seem to always give to kids and which they always then spill they were also very kid-friendly.

Dinner: Bolognese from the freezer. I love my freezer as I was now officially exhausted.


Lunch: Hot dogs which are one of the nippers’ absolute favourite lunch options. Why do I bother…?

Dinner: Chicken and couscous – this title doesn’t really do this amazing dish justice. I absolutely will post this recipe as it is a favourite with the family.


Lunch: Leftover chicken and couscous for some and I honestly can’t remember what the others had.

Dinner: Pasta with roasted brocolli – this was only grand. It was a bit dry so I ended up larruping olive oil on the finished dish thus over-riding any “skinniness”.


Lunch: Whole wheat pasta with oven dried and garlic sauce

Dinner: Candied pork with sweet potato wedges and green beans


Lunch: I had soup from the freezer. PB &J on the hoof for everyone else as we dashed about.

Dinner: Roast trout & little taters with carrots. This fish dish was a hit. I’m getting there!

Friday Pizza