1. Dining Al Fresco
“There’s something very pleasurable about eating outside, either lunch on a sunny weekend, or dinner on a lovely, balmy evening. Food for eating outside needs to be prepared easily and relatively quickly, so that when the weather is good, you can take advantage of it, and it doesn’t need to be served piping hot.” In this programme, Rachel prepares two salads (avocado, orange and watercress and fennel, blue cheese and pine nut), a south American beef steak with chimichurri salsa, a Sicilian pasta dish and two deserts: a no-pastry pear and almond tart and a summer fruit tiramisu.
2. Easy Family Meals
“I’m often asked what I cook for my family and in this programme I’m cooking some of my family’s favourite things. This sort of food has to appeal to all ages, be nutritious as well as tasty, and it must be stress-free to prepare.” Rachel cooks broccoli soup with Parmesan toasts, an oven-baked risotto verde and an upside-down rhubarb and ginger cake.
3. Picnic Food
“I always like to make good, hearty food to bring with me on a picnic and having this sort of food extends the picnic season – you can enjoy a picnic in the Spring and Autumn, as well as the summer. Picnics, for me, bring back happy memories of childhood and so some of the food in this programme has a slightly retro feel: ham and egg pie and jam tarts. But there’s also more sophisticated food, such as a duck, lentil and red cabbage salad, a Spanish frittata with feta cheese and chorizo and an amazing Italian sandwich – a muffelletta – made by scooping out a loaf of bread.”
4. Food for A Crowd
“Sometimes you will have to cook for a large number of people and this food is ideal for an event such as a Christening or a house-warming party where there will be people of all ages present. The food here needs to be prepared, although not necessarily cooked, in advance and these are some of my regular favourites: chicken pilaff with a green salad, south east Asian salmon, beef stir fry, and baked meringue with fruit.”
5. Food For Children
“Cooking for children can be a challenge – what you would like to feed them and what they want to eat are not always the same thing! It’s important that the children like the taste, and enjoy eating, the food that you make for them. These recipes are particularly popular in our household: meatballs and tomato fondu, chicken goujons with homemade tomato ketchup, cheese quesadillas, chewy seedy bars and drop scones.”
6. Home Cinema
“Sometimes I like nothing more than flopping down in front of a good movie or an edition of Footballers’ Wives – what could be more relaxing?! But having good food to eat at the same time just makes the experience even better, so here are some of my favourite things to eat in front of the telly: stuffed baked potatoes; lamb samosas with coriander and lime rayta; spicy popcorn; suasages with a honey mustard dressing; a very special toasted sandwich and amaretti ice cream with a hot mocha sauce. Yum.”
7. Dinner Party
“Giving a dinner party is not something I do very often, usually if I’m entertaining it’s more informal and last minute, but just occassionally it’s great to dress up, make an effort and create more of an event. The trick when cooking for a dinner party is to make food which is special, even impressive, without it requiring you to be in the kitchen while your guests are enjoying themselves.” In this programme, Rachel prepares asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, green leaf and pea soup, lamb tagine and pomegranate couscous and a chocolate, hazelnut and caramel tart.
8. Hearty Breakfast
“We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but the temptation is often to rush it, or to miss it altogether, and a rushed cup of coffee with a slice of toast really isn’t much use at all. These recipes of some of my favourites for giving me a really good start to the day.” In this programme, Rachel makes delicious granola, banana and peanut butter muffins, white soda bread scones, the perfect scrambled eggs, pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and tropical fruits with honey and lime juice.
9. Sweet Celebrations
“Almost everyone I know loves cakes and biscuits, even if they don’t always admit to it. Personally, I think that there can be nothing nicer than a slice of really good cake with a cup of coffee and these are some of my favourite recipes, guaranteed to be popular with anyone who has a sweet tooth.” Porter cake, made with Guinness, chocolate and almond cake with rhubarb cream, lemon biscuits, cardomom buns and almond brittles.
10. Fish Dishes
“Here in Ireland we are very fortunate to be surrounded by clean water and an abundance of good fish – it’s just a pity that most of us don’t take advantage of what we have and that we don’t eat enough fish – so much of what is caught here is exported. The recipes in this programme all have an Asian feel to them, but the ingredients, and in particular the fish, can all be sourced easily here: light coconut broth with Dublin Bay prawns, spicy salmon fishcakes with a Thai dipping sauce, Vietnamese crab salad with noodles and a lemon and ginger ice cream, made with crème fraiche and yoghurt.
11. Comfort Food
“This could be my favourite food of all – food that is best eaten curled up on a sofa, warming, comforting, nourishing - maybe even a little nostalgic. This programme contains some of my favourite comfort food recipes: chunky Mediterranean pasta soup with basil pesto, cheese fondue, home-made sausages with apple sauce and concannon and my friend Bill Grainger’s banana butterscotch pudding. Heaven.”
12. Edible Gifts
“I like to give food that I have made away as presents – it’s always popular, and people really appreciate the effort put into anything home-made. But in fact making jams, chutneys and sweets isn’t difficult, and of course you don’t have to give it away! If you are lucky enough to have an apple tree, or to grow your own tomatoes, then knowing how preserve the fruit is very useful. These edible gifts are amongst my favourites: spicy tomato and apple chutney, onion jam, vanilla melting moments, fudge, dark chocolate and stem ginger biscuits and summer fruit jam.”
13. Big Family Get-Together
“If you entertain a lot, or if your family always seems to gravitate to your house (maybe because they know they’ll always be well fed) then you cannot have enough recipes to fall back on which are suitable for large numbers of people, and a wide range of different ages. These recipes are great favourites with my extended family: chicken pie with ham, peas and puff pastry, winter broth with haricot beans and chorizo, gratin of fish and toffee, apple and almond crumble.”
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