Darina Allen is a true celebrity in Ireland. Her cookery shows have been televised and her books are a staple in
most Irish homes. She is the founder of Ballymaloe,
a successful cookery school in East Cork which she runs with her husband Tim Allen.
Darina has kindly agreed to provide a weekly recipe on the site, so get out that apron and start cooking!
Busy, busy people tend to give their bodies quite a tough time, always on the
run, skip meals, grab a snack, often too busy to stop for a proper meal, occasionally
‘pig out’ on a huge expense account lunch. Social drinking tends to take its
toll and has a habit of increasing. We run on adrenalin, most busy people’s
bodies can survive a little neglect, but if one is careless over a period the
body uses up its store of good health, it takes months of rebuilding the system
to get back on track. Given that our health, energy and vitality to a great
extent goes in through our mouth, it is utterly vital that we devote some thought
to our diet.
Naturally produced food which hasn’t been denatured is becoming more and more
difficult to find, unless you are fortunate enough to have an organic grower
closeby or grow your own. Interestingly, we now spend a smaller percentage of
our income on food, than ever since the beginning of the century. In our mad
rush to achieve we tend to forget the importance of eating well, but as our
wise old family doctor once whispered into my ear - its quite simple Darina,
if you don’t put petrol in the tank, the car won’t go.
Not just any old petrol either, car owners are well aware that if they put poor
quality fuel in the tank the car will chug and splutter. Likewise with our own
bodies, if we forget to eat or shovel any old rubbish into our systems, it won't
be long before our performance suffers, energy levels drop, stress levels increase
and concentration diminishes.
So very busy people who lead hectic lives need a plan of action and a ‘survival
kit’ of fast easy recipes if they are to keep ‘all the balls in the air’ and
still retain their sanity. I’m a compulsive list maker, I simply can’t function
without reams of reminders to myself and everyone else. Lists may not help you
but you may find that if you can manage to sit down and put your feet up for
even a few minutes at the weekend, you can loosely plan your weekly menu. Sounds
very pompous but it will make your life a little easier. Try to remember what’s
in season and as far as possible avoid all that tempting convenience food. Instead
use delicious naturally produced foods that are fresh and wholesome and quite
‘Where would I get the time to cook’ a frequent plea nowadays. Well, you certainly
don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to whip up delicious meals but a well-stocked
‘larder’ is an absolute must if one is short of time. Standbys like pasta, basmati
rice, sardines, anchovies, cous cous, tinned tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil,
Nam pla, chillies, spices and a chunk of cheddar cheese will bale you out no
matter how pressed you are for time. If you have a few fresh herbs in your larder,
all the better.
Once you get into the swing you may just discover that cooking is fun! Many
people who spend their week whizzing around from one commitment to the next,
have discovered that cooking can be enormously relaxing too. They get a terrific
buzz when they take a loaf of crusty bread out of the oven or whip up a yummy
meal for a few friends.
Its certainly not difficult to make something taste delicious when you buy really
tip top quality ingredients. I don’t mean expensive, I mean fresh local ingredients,
so time spent sourcing good quality produce will pay back enormous dividends
in terms of flavour.
Where can you find this kind of food, markets are a tremendous source of real
food, Temple Bar Market in Dublin and Galway Market which operate on Saturdays
are worth making a detour for. The Cork Market open from Monday to Saturday
year round continues to gather momentum and is a jewel in the centre of Cork
City. There are many others scattered around the country and hopefully more
and more will spring up as the Farmers Markets Movement continues to excite
people all over the US and UK.
When you are drawing up your master plan, choose recipes in such a way that you
manage to get several meals out of one cooking process. If you are making a
Provencale Bean Stew for example, cook twice the quantity of beans and freeze
them, so you can whip up a soup or a Bean and Tuna Salad in a few minutes another
time, or just simply add some to a stew or cassoulet with some chorizo sausage.
We frequently make delicious fish cakes with the remains of Cod with Cream and
Bay Leaves. They can be frozen and when they re-emerge days later, we serve
them with garlic and fresh herb butter and perhaps some Piperonata. Left over
garlic butter keeps in the fridge for ages or in the freezer for even longer,
a little blob perks up all sorts of things from Hamburgers to chargrilled squid
which only need to be tossed on a pan grill for just 30 seconds. Tomato Fondue, a delicious juicy tomato stew, sometimes livened up with chilli, freshly chopped mint or coriander, is magical stuff, it makes delicious fillings for omelettes
or pancakes, sauces for pastas, fish or chicken breasts, a topping for pizzas
and so on.
If you get yourself onto this wavelength, you will always have something in
the ‘bank’ for another meal, yet with a little ingenuity there won’t be any
similarity between the meals and there can’t be any accusations that the chef
is in a rut!