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Rolling Emerald Isle-Style

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Written by Peggy Fallon   
Thursday, 16 September 2010
List of viewable recipes from "Favorite Food at Home" by Rachel Allen

ImageHold on to your Guinness: there's a new cook on television, and this one is Irish. 

If you've been watching the Cooking Channel, you'll probably agree that Rachel Allen stands out from the rest. Her gentle manner, relaxed attitude, and obvious talent in the kitchen make her a pleasure to behold. Now she's written a book called Favorite Food at Home: Delicious Comfort Food from Ireland's Most Famous Chef. (In fact, this is the American edition of a book first published in the UK in 2006.)

Allen is part of the family that operates the acclaimed Ballymaloe cookery school on the southern coast of Ireland; but this is no dreary textbook. This is a compilation of everyday recipes the author prepares with her husband and young children, graciously delivered with the insight of a veteran cooking instructor. Don't look for 20 variations on corned beef and cabbage here—Ms. Allen has embraced the newer, lighter cooking of Ireland, with an honest respect for the integrity of ingredients, and an occasional foray into the flavors of other nations, including India and Southeast Asia.

Like Nigella and Ina before her, Allen's recipes are surprisingly uncomplicated, yet packed with plenty of flavor. No convenience foods clutter the ingredient lists; and simplicity reigns supreme. All this nutritious home cooking is served up with effortless style and an underlying current of sensuality. (Minus the cleavage and push-up bra, I might add.)

ImageThe book begins with Easy Family Food, with recipes like Pasta with Spinach, Bacon, and Parmesan and an Upside-down Rhubarb and Ginger Cake baked in a skillet. Her love of baking continues in the Sweet Celebrations chapter, with recipes like Little Almond Brittles and Porter Cake, a spicy riff on the boozy Irish classic, dotted with raisins and candied citrus peel.

From there, Allen provides substantial Picnic Options like Potato, Chorizo and Feta Frittata, and Banana & Peanut Butter Muffins to make along with your children. There's an exotic Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Lemon and Pomegranate Couscous and a Chocolate and Hazelnut Toffee Tart ideal for entertaining friends and extended family. There are simple treats to nibble on Home Cinema nights, and Edible Gifts like Dark Chocolate and Stem Ginger Cookies that will turn the housebound-mom into a superhero. The book concludes with a selection of nostalgic favorites Just Like Mum Used to Make, such as Oven-baked Risotto with Mushrooms and Thyme, and Bill Granger's Banana Butterscotch Pudding.

The publisher's conversion of metric measurements sometimes leans toward the lazy, e.g., providing a cup-measurement would have been helpful, instead of expecting the reader to weigh out 5 ounces of hazelnuts to uncover the secret. Likewise, a clue as to approximately how many amaretti cookies it takes to reach the 4 ounces needed would certainly make life a little simpler. But these minor annoyances can be easily overlooked—providing you own a kitchen scale. This selection of truly simple, inspirational recipes, paired with lush photos by Peter Cassidy and Cristian Barnett, make this book a worthwhile addition to any library.

Chicken, Ginger and Cashew Stir-fry with Coconut Noodles

From Favorite Food at Home: Delicious Comfort Food from Ireland's Most Famous Chef by Rachel Allen (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2010)

SERVES 4-6

This delicious and easy stir-fry is very quick to prepare for both friends and family; it is a favorite of ours andmakes a yummy and healthy supper. If you do not have a wok, use a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan.

FOR THE NOODLES:

  • 4 1/4 c vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • One 13 1/2-oz can coconutmilk
  • 1lb thin egg noodles

FOR THE STIR-FRY:

  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 1 lb chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
  • 1 carrot, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and very thinly sliced at an angle
  • 5 oz snowpeas, cut in half at an angle
  • 9 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 5 oz unsalted cashew nuts or peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, prepare the coconut noodles. Place the stock and coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the noodles and cook according to the instructions on the package. When cooked, drain. To prevent them from sticking together, add a couple of tablespoonfuls of the cooking liquid to the noodles. Cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat a wok until almost smoking, add the sesame and sunflower oils and the garlic and ginger. Cook for a few seconds, then add the chicken and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until the outside is just golden. Add the carrots, snow peas and mushrooms, then toss and stir for another few minutes until the vegetables are just cooked but still slightly crunchy. Toss in the nuts and chopped cilantro and season. Serve on top of the noodles.

Baked Meringue with Peaches

From Favorite Food at Home: Delicious Comfort Food from Ireland's Most Famous Chef by Rachel Allen (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2010)

SERVES 6 / VEGETARIAN

A past student at the cookery school, Jo Jessop, who comes from South Highlands, Australia, gave me this recipe. It's wonderful served with vanilla ice cream; the hot baked meringue with the frozen ice cream works very well in that "baked Alaska" kind of way. It is just as easy to make this for 26 as it is for six, provided you have a large enough baking dish!

  • 4 peaches or nectarines
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp Marsala, sweet sherry or lemon juice
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 c (9 oz) light brown sugar or superfine sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Cut the peaches in half (there's no need to peel them) and remove the pits. Slice the peaches about 1/4 inch thick and lay in a 9-inch deep dish pie pan. Sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and drizzle with the Marsala, sherry or lemon juice. If the peaches are not very ripe and juicy (although they should be ripe enough to eat), pop them into the oven for 5 minutes to cook while you make the meringue. If they are very ripe and juicy there is no need to do this.

To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a bowl with an electric beater until stiff. Still beating, gradually add the light brown sugar and continue to beat until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Spoon the meringue on top of the peaches and cook in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the meringue feels slightly firm in the center and is a deep golden color on top.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 12 September 2010 )
Verna (Unregistered) 2011-09-16 08:41:39

Thanks for sharing the recipes. I will be sure to these out. Mayweather vs Ortiz
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