Lamb Shanks

The last few days (okay, years) have been freezing here in the west of Ireland and yesterday, with the wind howling outside and rain pelting at the windows, I felt like we were still stuck in the depths of winter.  When the weather is like that it I always seek comfort in something hearty for dinner – there is nothing like knowing you have a big pot of stew on the hob or casserole in the oven to make you feel a little bit more cosy.  I tend to cook stews the day before for three reasons – firstly because they generally taste better when all of the ingredients have spent the night mingling together; secondly stews take hours of cooking and after a days work you don’t need to wait that long for dinner; and lastly letting the stew cool down allows any fat to solidify on the surface which makes it much easier to remove before heating up – greasy stew is not nice.   I had 4 rather large shanks – a bit bigger than I prefer but I won’t grumble about the butchers generosity – and they just about fit in my 28cm casserole.  I don’t ever flour the meat before browning – meat has to be browned on a high heat quickly (and without overloading the pan to avoid it steaming) and I find the flour burns and leaves a bitter black residue in the oil, so I tend to add it after the onions have been cooked and flavoured by all of the meaty bits left in the bottom of the pot. [Read more…]

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Tonight for dinner we had one of my sons’ favourite meals – meatballs in tomato sauce.  All kids seem to love meatballs.   I have to say I am quite partial to them too as they are unbelievably quick, very tasty and cheap to make, especially if, like me, you keep breadcrumbs in the freezer and use the dregs of any wine you have knocking about in the fridge.  I know many chefs say you shouldn’t use wine for cooking that you wouldn’t drink but I really think this is a bit OTT.   For drinking I prefer a nice NZ Sauvignon but for cooking I think most bottles on ‘special’ for €5.99 in the local offie are perfectly fine for slugging into a sauce or casserole.  Provided you are not a regular meths drinker or buy stuff that would strip the enamel off your teeth then I think it is fine to use a cheapie bottle of wine for cooking. You can of course leave the wine out entirely if you prefer but I think it does give a richer sauce.  The quantities below serve 3 (if you are feeding my boys) or 4 normal people. [Read more…]

Basic French Dressing

I have always found it hard to find a ready-made dressing that I really liked (the closest I have come to that is the fresh M&S Reduced Fat French Dressing found in the chilled cabinet).  So after reading many recipes I have come up with a very simple dressing that is easy to make and can be adapted depending on your taste.  Despite the fact that olive oil is a very popular choice for dressings in many of the recipes I have read I have to say that I am not a fan – I think it is too strong a taste and tends to overpower.  I much prefer to use Groundnut oil or Grapeseed oil, both of which have little taste and act as a perfect carrier for the other flavours.  Below is my basic recipe, the ingredients for which will live happily in your cupboard for some time, however I do occasionally add fresh extras like lemon juice, chives, fresh chopped herbs, crushed garlic or finely minced shallot depending on my mood, what is to hand and what I am using the dressing on. [Read more…]

Apple, Celery and Cheddar Salad

I love this salad. I love its simplicity, quickness, crunchiness, zestiness and green-ness. Sometimes I crave crunchy raw food and I always think that it is probably my body telling me I need to be a little bit more considerate. I first tried this salad in Avoca (Rathcoole) as part of my 3 salad accompaniment to a rather delicious lasagne and I have since made it at home to enjoy with Moussaka but more often on its own for lunch. [Read more…]

Steak and Creamy Pepper Sauce

Okay, so for my first foray in to recipe blogging I thought I would start with a very simple oldie but goodie.  It took me a long time to actually cook a steak to my liking and after years spent poking and prodding and literally butchering the poor steaks to see if they were done enough, I happened across the marvelous Tamsin Day Lewis who suggests the 10 minute method, which goes something like: [Read more…]