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Food Heroes

Goodbye January by Trish Deseine

Trish Deseine - Food Writer, TV Presenter and Ardkeen Guest Blogger.
Trish Deseine - Food Writer, TV Presenter and Ardkeen Guest Blogger.

Goodbye January and good riddance. It was a month which took too many of our childhood idols from us, a month with too many scary storms and a month which left us all in food overload. 

An actual, physical overload of course, in the form of a few extra kilos from our end of year festivities, but also from the massive tide of dietary and lifestyle advice and counter advice. Healthy has become the new buzzword, and that can only be a good thing as long as we don’t start considering all food as medicine, or as either “clean” or “dirty” with nothing in between and consider what we are buy, cook and eat solely through those filters.

The Women’s Podcast featuring Darina Allen, Domini Kemp, Catherine Cleary & Jane Russell
The Women’s Podcast featuring Darina Allen, Domini Kemp, Catherine Cleary & Jane Russell

In a recent Irish Times Women’s Podcast, Darina Allen remarked that we had all become “terrified” of our food and it does seem that, in an attempt to highlight all sorts of healing properties in our food, most of which are unproven scientifically, we have gone way past nerdism and are swiftly moving towards neurosis.

I am not going to (literally) weigh in with my regime or advice here, (mostly because I think that my own current embonpoint would reduce its credibility and I do think you should practice what you preach, wherever possible) and I will not use the four lean and fit children I have reared as examples of my good mantra. For what will their habits and lifestyles be when they are my age? Who knows what they will have absorbed from their years growing up in one of the world’s greatest food cultures, being fed by an Irish mother? And above all, what will the food on offer to them be like? Will they really be eating insects and lab-made meat? We are living in a time of such change and turmoil that no science fiction scenario seems too outlandish.

With another storm roaring outside my window, but with a cosy wood fire inside, I prefer not to think about the future and ease myself slowly back into normal kitchen life after the polarized cooking months of December and January.  This month’s recipes are wholesome, forgiving, meat-free and, above all, require very little actual cooking. 

Ballycross Apple Tart with Mairead Finnegan’s Sweet Shortcrust Pastry. Photography by Marta Miklinska. Food Styling by Trish Deseine.
Ballycross Apple Tart with Mairead Finnegan’s Sweet Shortcrust Pastry. Photography by Marta Miklinska. Food Styling by Trish Deseine.

Delicious convenience from the best producers is something Ardkeen does very well indeed and allows all sorts of experimentation and invention.  My freezer is always stocked now with Mairead Finnegan’s shortcrust pastries, one sweet, one plain. They’re made in Co. Meath with no additives, colourings or preservatives and are a godsend when space and time are in short supply.  If you have a small kitchen, and you’re in a rush, it’s not always an attractive proposition to clear the day’s debris from your worktop and then cover it with flour and butter at the same time as your hands. You really need to chill your pastry for a good result - otherwise what is the point of making your own? - and if you are not having a relaxed afternoon’s baking with your favourite music in the background, but rather need to get dinner on the table within the next hour, home made pastry can be a bit of a palaver. Seriously, when the ready-made stuff tastes this good (way better than any I have used in France, see also Da Piero pizza bases below), let yourself off the hook from time to time. 

The same goes for the ingredients in the other recipes. There’s Mrs. Mullally's Pavlova bases with a mix of fresh berries, frozen blackcurrants and the gorgeous Mr Jeffares blackcurrant cordial, now a permanent fixture in my kitchen. The pure taste of blackcurrant, slightly sweetened by all-natural Stevia, is out of this world. I use a dash of it on my morning granola and yoghurt when I have no berries to hand, or as diluted in water when I want to rehydrate fast.

When my three boys were at home, it would have been the easiest thing in the world to stock the freezer with “gourmet frozen pizza and leave them alone with the oven! But I got them into the way of making their own pizzas from un-fancy but good quality kit ingredients (tomatoes, good mozzarella and other cheeses, nice hams and fresh mushrooms…) I would always keep in the kitchen. This way they got to choose their own toppings and lend a hand in the kitchen. The only sub-par part of these home made creations was the base. Ready made and frankly, not wonderful. I wish my local Monoprix had stocked a product like Dublin made Da Piero pizza bases.  Now they are also a permanent fixture in my Irish freezer, and alongside all the other groovy and delicious semi-homemade treasures I keep finding in Ardkeen, well, the world is my pizza. 

 
I’ve made a little extra effort on the décor here, as it’s a great way to use up the extra pastry and also to vary the textures in each slice. The apples under the pastry will poach slightly more than those left exposed. Drizzle with honey and serve with yoghurt. (see image above)
Photography by Marta Miklinska. Food Styling by Trish Deseine.
Photography by Marta Miklinska. Food Styling by Trish Deseine.

Pizza in a jiffy

I’ve kept these down to a glorious 5 ingredients which give a mix of creamy, crispy, salty, juicy and aromatic. All you could ever want on your pizza, really. But of course you are free to play around and add to your heart’s content

Photography by Marta Miklinska. Food Styling by Trish Deseine.
Photography by Marta Miklinska. Food Styling by Trish Deseine.
The dense fruity tartness of Jeffares blackcurrants are simply perfect with the sweet crunch of pavlova and the cooling smoothness of fresh cream. The way their juice pops from the fruit as you bite in is divine and I think they have now dethroned mango and passionfruit as my favourite pav fruit. I’ve added blackberries here to keep the colours simple and vary the texture even more, but you can of course mix in other tart fruits and berries. 
Photography by Naomi Kamat. Food Styling by Trish Deseine.
Photography by Naomi Kamat. Food Styling by Trish Deseine.

Spicy Mango Yoghurt Dip with Seeds

This is the best little cheat’s trick to have up your sleeve. It’s great for impromptu drinks and a good addition to the kids’ weekday supper – especially if you have not-so-fresh bread which you need to use up. The dipping can also be done with oatcakes, raw celery, cauliflower and tomatoes.

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