The meals in a few minutes I make until the new year

The meals in a few minutes I make until the new year

Today I think about what I have to rattle off for the unexpected guests who show up from time to time over Christmas – or, these days, people we meet outdoors. A well-stocked pantry is of course the key:

My ingenious standbys are smoked Irish salmon, tuna, sardines, artisanal cheeses, pickles and relishes and frozen and fresh pasta.

Arborio rice for a spontaneous risotto, chicken liver p
you can pour on pan-grilled bread, water biscuits, pistachios, pizza bases, charcuterie, chorizo, nduja, boiled ham, eggs, of course, a large pot of natural jersey yogurt and some raw local honey and cream.

A bag of meringue and a pot “delicious all over” – a mixture of mildly sparkling dried fruit and nuts that stay in your fridge for months, great to sprinkle over ice cream, meringue, crepes, yogurt, rice porridge …

A couple of winter vegetable soups, frozen in two-person containers is another of my ‘go to’ standbys … They thaw in minutes and can be jazzed up with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of seeds and a few fresh herbs .

Freeze a few slices of fresh natural sourdough, great for toasting or grilling, as a base for all sorts of tasty toppings. Who does not love a toastie refreshed with some spicy mustard?

My second best tip is to weigh the dry ingredients for white soda bread, crumpets, pancakes and popovers minus the leavening agent, which can be added to the liquid at a moment’s notice.

Teeny weeny scones take 7 or 8 minutes to cook in a hot oven and you can toss crumpets and pancakes on the pan within minutes. Then chop a few nuts coarsely, whip out a jar of the salted caramel sauce, perhaps cut a banana into slices and place them on top for a small spontaneous feast.

I also wanted a few really quick pasta sauces up my sleeve. Frozen pasta, or for that matter any fettuccini, is cooked in minutes, and who does not love pasta. I’m never without a few pots of fresh or frozen tomato fondue. It’s one of my ‘big convertibles’, a sauce for pasta or chicken breast, a filling for an omelette, topping for pizza …

Small tartlets or vol-au-vents made with puff pastry made entirely of butter also deserve a place in the pantry. I love filling tartlets with a blob of goat cheese, a few rounds of kumquat compote and a peppery arugula leaf – Christmas and delicious. A fatty shrimp and a blob of dill mayo are also delicious. A few retro mushrooms vol-au-vents also disappear in no time, so have a pot of mushrooms’ a la crème in your fridge or freezer. Another great convertible and a delicious sauce to gossip over steak or lamb chops or burgers. Even simpler, but just as delicious, Mushrooms on Toast anyone?

I love sardines on toast or waffles with a big blob of mayo or horseradish cream, but ever since my trip to Portugal I have been making a super quick sardine.
It is
– just whip up the sardines with a little soft butter, a little mustard and a little chopped parsley or dill, if you have it.

All done in minutes: just a few suggestions so you will be relaxed and prepared, no matter who or how many unexpected visitors you have to welcome. Relax, pour yourself a glass of soda. Have fun and enjoy.

David Tanis’ Pasta Cacio e Pepe

This delicious version of Cacio e Pepe, one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes, comes from one of my all-time favorite chefs, David Tanis. Cacio e pepe (literally ‘cheese and pepper’) has recently gained mythical status, which is a bit surprising considering

David Tanis' Pasta Cacio e Pepe


  1. Boil the linguine extra al dente (this is essential) in well-salted water.

  2. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and add black pepper.

  3. Drain the pasta and add to the pan along with 110 ml (4fl oz) of pasta water and a good pinch of salt. Stir constantly, keeping the liquid by simmering quickly; the paste will begin to wither in the sauce and absorb liquid. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until most of the liquid is absorbed.

  4. Turn off the heat, add the grated pecorino and stir until the pasta is covered in the creamy sauce. Adapt the spice to taste. Enjoy it right away …

Delicious everywhere

This spicy fruit relish lasts for months and is, as the title says, delicious everywhere. It will even spice up porridge, rice and is beautiful over ice cream, panna cotta, pancakes or crumpets. Try it with cold ham

Delicious everywhere


  • 50 g (2 oz) yellow raisins

  • 50 g (2 oz) muscatel raisins

  • 50 g (2 oz) ribs

  • 50 g (2 oz) dried apricots, cut into pieces

  • 50 ml (2 fl oz) port and 50 ml (2 fl oz) sherry

  • 25 g (1 oz) almonds, peeled and split

  • 150 g (5 oz) sugar

  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) of water

  • 1 Ceylon cinnamon stick

  • 1 star anise

  • 4 cardamom pods

  • 25 g (1 oz) candied peel, chopped


  1. Cover the dried fruit with warm port wine and sherry. Let soak and fill overnight. Add the chopped almonds.

  2. Put sugar and water in a saucepan, add cinnamon, star anise and cracked cardamom. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the syrup thickens. Add the soaked fruit to the syrup with the chopped candied peel. Bubble for 2 or 3 minutes.

  3. Fill sterilized glass jars, cover with a screw cap. Lasts for 6 months or more.

Kumquat Compote

A gem of a recipe, this compote can be served as a dessert or as an accompaniment to roast duck, goose or glazed ham. Also delicious with goat cheese or yogurt

Kumquat Compote

Preparation time

5 min


  • 235 g (8 1/2 oz) kumquats

  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) of water

  • 110 g (4 oz) sugar


  1. Cut the kumquats into thin slices into four or five round slices depending on the size. Remove the seeds.

  2. Put the kumquats in a saucepan with water and sugar and let them cook very gently covered for half an hour or until tender. If they accidentally become overcooked or become too dry, add a little water and bring it to a boil again for a minute – they should be crystallized but slightly juicy.

  3. Serve hot or cold. This compote stays in the fridge for weeks.

Creamy mushroom sauce

This creamy mushroom sauce is a ‘must have’ in your fridge. It’s an ingenious sauce for a juicy steak, chicken breast or a piece of grilled fish or toss it in a vegetable gratin – I especially love it with leek and potato

Creamy mushroom sauce

Preparation time

5 min


  • 15-25 g (1 / 2-1 oz) butter

  • 75 g (3 oz) onion, finely chopped

  • 225 g (8 oz) mushrooms, sliced ​​(surfaces have the best taste)

  • 110 ml (4 fl oz) cream

  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley

  • ½ tablespoons freshly chopped chives (optional)

  • a splash of lemon juice

  • Salt and pepper

  • Roux:

  • 110 g (4 oz) butter

  • 110 g (4 oz) flour


  1. Make roux first. Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as needed. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as needed, or it can be made on site if preferred. It can stay in the fridge for at least fourteen days.

  2. Melt the butter in a thick pan until it foams. Add the chopped onions, put the lid on and sweat over low heat for 5-10 minutes, or until they are quite soft but not colored. Meanwhile, cook the sliced ​​mushrooms in a little butter, in a hot frying pan in batches if necessary.

  3. Season each portion with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little splash of lemon juice. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the pan, then add the cream and let them bubble for a few minutes. Check with a little roux for a light coating consistency. Taste and season the spices and add the parsley and chives if used.

Hot Tips

Just Cook It – January at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Monday, January 24, 2022 from 2.30pm – 7pm

Looking for something to do in January. This half-day course gives you a tempting taste of Ballymaloe Cookery School and provides inspiration to anyone who is eager to cook a variety of dishes with greater confidence.

Limited number that complies with all government and NPHET rules. 215 € per person. Recipes and tastings of all dishes included.

Book of the week:

And to the mains …

The most coveted book will be hard to get your fingers on this Christmas And to the mains An exciting new cookbook from the chef, Gaz Smith and butcher Rick Higgins. Both are feisty and lippy with a passion for food and a wealth of brilliant stories and recipes refined over decades at Michael’s Restaurant in Dublin. A partnership between a butcher and a chef who has made many agreements to toss a coin. In this, their first cookbook, they combine the recipes for meat parties, seafood classics and a few of the basket balls that Gaz is known for, with stories about the food scene in Ireland, from the inside of the scoop on Irish beef to the reality of crab fishing in the Irish Sea. Beautiful pictures of food you will love and recipes you will love to make.


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