Two professional chef’s share their tips for switching it up in the kitchen...
At the start of the first lockdown, we were all challenged with the task of cooking every meal at home. There was no more popping to the shop to pick up a €3.50 lunch deal, no more meeting up with the girls on a Saturday morning for brunch, no more evenings spent dining at a swanky restaurant. No, instead you were tasked with preparing five meals every day (three meals and two snacks) for multiple people in your home whilst only getting a grocery shop in every other week.
Sure, it was a great cure for self-isolation boredom. From learning how to bake cinnamon rolls, attending to sourdough starters and whipping up Dalgona coffees, the act of cooking also served as a delicious distraction from the stress and anxiety that was happening around us. Even the dreariest days of lockdown were brightened by a freshly baked loaf of banana bread.
However, as the months have gone by and the lockdown continuing, the motivation to cook has wildered. Not to mention the inevitable meal-based boredom. But because we want the best for you and your stomachs, dear reader, we reached out to the chefs at Howth Castle Cookery School to task them with creating four tasty dinner recipes to make for dinner that won't have you falling asleep at the dinner table.
"Like us all, the weather is a bit up and down at the minute so we have picked a warming Cauliflower soup with a twist and a family and wallet-friendly fritter dish," says Sarah Hughes, chef at Howth Castle Cookery School. "We also chose two lovely, slightly different dishes to break up the mundane of midweek cooking and excite with zingy fresh flavours and new food combinations," explains John Carty, chef at Howth Castle Cookery School.
Keep scrolling for Sarah Hughes and John Carty of Howth Castle Cookery School's easy yet tasty midweek meals.
Cauliflower & potato soup, crispy Gubbeen chorizo Shards & toasted hazelnuts
Makes one a big casserole pot
50g whole hazelnuts, skinned
50g Gubbeen chorizo
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
4 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed smal
3 sticks of celery, chopped
1 cauliflower, broken up into florets
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves pulled
1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock or good quality stock cube
200ml whole milk.
2 tbsp light olive oil
1 tbsp butter
Salt & Pepper
1. Sauté the onions, celery, garlic & thyme leaves in the olive oil and butter for 4-5 mins until they soften.
2. Add in the potatoes, cauliflower and garlic and soften for another 5 mins until soft at the edges.
3. Add the stock and simmer until all the vegetables are cooked through.
4. While the soup is on, thinly slice up the chorizo and fry in a little oil until the fat renders out and the chorizo is crispy. Drain and reserve the brightly coloured fragrant oil.
5. On a medium heat, toast the hazelnuts in a small frying without oil until golden brown. Roughly chop.
6. Blitz the soup, season well and add 150ml or so of milk depending on how thick you like your soup. Add more depending on the texture preferred.
7. Serve in warm bowls, dressed with the chorizo shards, drizzle with oil and top with the crushed hazelnuts and some freshly cracked black pepper.
Grilled mackerel, rhubarb, star anise, chilli and ginger syrup
- 8 mackerel fillets
- 3 stalks of rhubarb, cut into diagonal chunks
- 8 thin slices of peeled ginger, cut into matchsticks
- ½ fresh chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 whole star anise
- 4 cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp pink peppercorns
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1tsp salt
- 120ml water
1. In a small pot, combine the spices, fresh ginger, sugar, salt and water and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and allow the liquid to reduce until syrupy, 5-10 minutes.
2. Add in the rhubarb chunks and poach them in the spiced syrup until just tender, about 3-4 minutes. Test syrup for balance, it should be a little sharp.
3. Preheat your grill to its highest setting. Oil and season a baking tray and pop under the hot grill for a couple of minutes. Slash the skin of the mackerel and sprinkle with sea salt. When the tray is very hot, carefully remove and place the mackerel fillets on it skin side up. Grill until the fillets are cooked through and blistered. You should not need to turn the fish as the radiant heat from the grill & tray should cook it through. Should take 4-5 mins max.
4. Gently warm the rhubarb again before plating the mackerel. Spoon over the poached rhubarb together with some of the syrup and a little of the ginger and the chilli . Sprinkle a little fresh chilli if you like.
*TOP TIP: If mackerel fillets are unavailable, sea trout or thin salmon fillets will also work well here.
Minted pea & halloumi fritters with tenderstem broccoli and a lemon yoghurt dressing.
Serves 4 - 6
- 200g frozen peas - defrosted (petit pois work best here)
- 3 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 small clove of garlic, finely crushed
- 150ml of milk
- 3 eggs
- 30g cornflour
- 100g plain flour
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 225g halloumi, cut into 1 cm cubes
- 2 tbsp chopped mint
- Sunflower / Rapeseed oil to fry
- 5 tablespoons thick natural Greek yoghurt
- Zest and juice of half lemon
- Large handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper to season.
- 400g Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Regular Broccoli or Green Beans perfect here too)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil and seasoning to dress the veggies.
- 2 Slices of Smoked Salmon per person (optional)
1. Whisk the eggs, flours, ground coriander and baking powder together until reasonably smooth. Gradually incorporate the milk making sure the lumps are gone. Hold a little of the milk back at the end until you are happy with the thickness – it should be like pouring yoghurt in its consistency.
2. Fold in the chopped halloumi, mint, spring onions, crushed garlic and peas. Add some black pepper to season. The halloumi is quite salty of itself. You may need to add a splash more milk depending on the size of your eggs. Set the batter aside to rest for 20 minutes.
3. For the yoghurt dressing, combine the yoghurt, lemon zest, juice and the chopped coriander. Season to taste and refrigerate till ready to eat.
4.Heat the oil in a large frying pan at a medium heat. Spoon in the mixture in batches, pressing down to flatten slightly. Cook for 3-4 minutes on either side until golden brown. If still a little soft in the centre, pop into a hot oven for few minutes while finishing the rest of the batch.
5. Serve with the lemon yoghurt, lightly steamed broccoli dressed with Extra Virgin, some sea salt and a wedge of lemon. A couple of slices of smoked salmon also works brilliantly.
Lemongrass Sticky Chicken Thighs with Pink Radish, Mint and Rice Noodles
For the sticky chicken:
- 2 lemongrass stalks
- 125ml soy sauce
- 50ml rice wine
- 50g root ginger, peeled and grated
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 4 tbsps palm sugar or soft brown sugar
- 1 bunch coriander
- Juice and zest of 2 limes
- 8 skin-on, boneless chicken thighs
- 150g vermicelli rice noodles
- 175g radishes
- 1 medium Carrot
- ½ cucumber
- 2tbsp sunflower oil
- Bunch of mint, leaves removed from stalks.
For the dressing:
- 1 red chilli, halved, deseeded and chopped
- 2 tbsp palm sugar or soft brown sugar
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 50ml fish sauce & Juice 1 lime
1. For the sticky chicken, remove the coarse outer layer of the lemongrass and chop finely. Mix together with the soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, garlic, palm sugar, finely chopped coriander stalks, half the lime zest and juice. Put the chicken in a bowl and cover with the mixture, cover with cling film and refrigerate for as long as you can.
2. For the dressing & the noodle salad, to make the dressing, mix the chilli, palm sugar and garlic well to a paste. Then add the finely chopped ginger, fish sauce and the lime juice.
3. Put the rice vermicelli noodles into just boiled water and leave it for 4 - 6 minutes until soft. Drain and cool well under running water.
4. Slice the radishes and use a vegetable peeler to ribbon up the cucumber & the carrot.
5. Toss the cold noodles with the cucumber, carrot, radish, mint and the remaining lime juice and oil.
6. Heat a griddle pan and shaking off the excess marinade, cook each piece well on both sides, starting on a medium high heat and reducing to low to cook through. You want lots of colour on the chicken skin and the fat to melt from under the skin. The palm sugar will help to caramelise the skin. After the chicken is cooked through and removed from the pan, add in the remaining marinade liquid to the pan. Bring to a bubble and using a spatula or wooden spoon, scrape all the crispy bits off the pan. Allow the marinade for a couple of minutes to reduce on the heat until it is sticky and glossy.
7. Divide the noodle salad between 4 shallow bowls. Put the chicken on top and scatter with the rest of the mint and the coriander leaves. Spoon on a little dressing and the remaining juices from the pan.
8. Serve with extra lime wedges if desired.
READ MORE: What we're cooking this week