purple sprouting broccoli

This week a variety that takes us out of  winter eating and towards lighter summer fare – purple sprouting broccoli. It’s a variety that says yes, the seasons are changing you will not have to think about new ways to deal with root vegetables forever. Yay!  Summer is on the way.

So what is it? Well, it’s broccoli but better. More delicate and refined plus it’s a gorgeous purpley-green colour. Actually you also have the regular kind in your bag this week too. I only got the call about the sprouting kind at the last minute. Usually I have to stalk suppliers for weeks on end for it so I couldn’t say no.

As always with this type of thing simplicity is the way forward. Going fancy just misses the point. Steamed and tossed in butter or olive oil with maybe a spritz of lemon is a great place to start. With a bowl of quinoa this makes a beautifully simple lunch.

A little sautéed garlic, chilli maybe some tangy Parmesan or Pecorino are also good foils. Add some pasta and you’ve got one of those gorgeously understated dishes which, baby Lee permitting I’ll be making (or bullying someone else into doing it for me) this evening. Orecchiette (literally babies ears) from Puglia would be my pasta of choice for this kind of dish but it’s up to you. Unless you stop to feed a baby about 10 times this will be ready in ten…..

purple sprouting broccoli with orechetti

Purple sprouting broccoli with garlic and chilli (for 2 or 3 at a push)

You’ll need:

About 250gr purple sprouting broccoli

5 cloves garlic chopped

1  fresh red chilli with or without the seeds, finely chopped

Pecorino cheese or Parmesan if you don’t have Pecorino

Orecchiette pasta

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

trimmed purple sprouting broccoli

Put the kettle on for the pasta and sort through the broccoli trimming the tougher stalks. You don’t need to cut it unless stems are really big. Place in a steamer until tender but not soft then remove and set aside.

While the broccoli is steaming put on the pasta. Heat a generous glug of olive oil on a pan and gently sweat the garlic and chilli until soft. Add the broccoli and toss everything together.

chilli and garlic in the pan

When the pasta is done, drain and add to the pan mixing everything together. Add salt, lots of black pepper, some grated cheese and a generous drizzle of your best olive oil. Serve with more cheese and eat immediately

Early broad beans are another sign of summer. They are another variety that cry out for a simple approach. The recipe above can easily be made with them but they are also great in salads. Check out my recipes for a warm salad with Serrano ham or with star-anise infused cous cous with blood orange (they’ll be gone soon so look smart!) and feta.

In case you were wondering…….

The gnarly beast in your bag is celariac. Like all roots it can be boiled, mashed and roasted. It also makes great soup. I’ll be having it crushed with potatoes topped with crispy onions and fresh green chili – yum!

Rhubarb is now in season!!!

We’ll be getting some in from Wicklow next week.If you’d like a bunch give us a shout.It’ll be €2.75 a bunch. Get ready to crumble!

Have a great Sunday,



The best ragù ever!!!!

March 14, 2012

Pasta ragu

As someone who eats mainly vegetarian (chorizo’s not meat right?) I’m rarely completely confident about cooking meat. Give me a filet steak and yes of course I’ll get a result but when it comes to those tougher cuts things get a lot more hit and miss. Flavour might be good but I always seem to have toughness issues despite all the “slow cooking”. Recently, I think I’ve cracked it and what I’ve realised is that  3 hours, despite what books will tell, you is not slow cooking. For slow cooking to really work its magic you need at least 6 and ideally 8. Really. It’s then that you get that meat that falls off the bone and a sauce that wows.

For this kind of dish the holy trinity of celery, onion and carrot really come into its own conferring that wonderful depth of flavour. Wine is also essential. The acidity helps break down the meat fibres  and of course it makes things even tastier.

This week’s recipe is for a  ragù of beef cheeks and apart from the aforementioned celery, onion, carrot and wine the only other ingredients are a tin of tomatoes and some thyme. That’s all. Sounds way too dull was what I thought the first time I started preparing this dish…….. surely things need spicing up? I was so wrong.  What followed was quite simply the best ragù we’d ever made. Some kind of magic happens when you cook simple ingredients for such a long time. The flavours mingle and become so much more than the sum of their individual parts. After a while it’s not even clear what’s in the sauce it just tastes AMAZING.

I love this sauce with those enormous pasta tubes or  large flat noodles.  Lasagna is on the menu this week and I know for a fact this would be amazing with a bowl of polenta or creamy mash. All you need is some decent Parmesan to serve on top. I strongly advise making double quantities……….

Beef cheek ragù

You’ll need:

Olive oil

2 carrots diced

2 onions diced

1 stick of celery diced

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

5 cloves garlic

750gr beef cheeks cut into large chunks – you might have to hunt a little to track this down. A good butchers should have them or can get them for you. You’ll definitely find them on Moore Street if you’re still having trouble. Cheeks are very tough so cutting and trimming them will take some time so allow for this or, sweet-talk your butcher into doing it for you.

300ml red wine

600ml beef stock

1 tin chopped tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Heat a dash of olive oil in a heavy pot. Add the onion, carrot and celery with the bay leaf and thyme then sauté over a gentle heat for about ten minutes until they have nicely softened. Throw in the garlic and cook for another few minutes until tender. Turn off the heat and remove all the vegetables from the pot.

Reheat the pot with another dash of olive oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper then brown on all sides. Do this in batches if necessary setting aside each batch as it browns.  When all the meat is browned and taken off, turn up the heat a little and deglaze the pot with the wine stirring well to ensure all the juices from the meat get thoroughly mixed with the wine. Reduce the wine by half then return the meat and veg to the pot.

Add the stock and tinned tomatoes then season. Bring things to the boil then turn down the heat. Leave partially covered and simmer for 6-8 hours until the meat is falling apart. If things start to dry out simply add a little more stock or water . You should be able to leave things to their own devices for most of the cooking so make sure the heat is nice and low. When the sauce is ready most of  the meat will have fallen apart  – you can help this along by breaking  down the chunks with a wooden spoon towards the end if needs be.

To serve, simply prepare your pasta of choice. This amount of  ragù will give you enough for 6 decent portions. Enjoy!



This week we have a  special treat – courgette flowers. As you can imagine they’re big in Italy where they like them stuffed with Ricotta or Mozzarella then coated in a light tempura style batter and deep-fried til golden. In Mexico they use them to stuff quesadillas and to make soup. You have 2 in your bag this week so soup is going to be out of the question but not to worry, the classic Italian style (stuffed and deep fried) is hard to beat.  This way they gently steam inside the batter and lose none of their delicate flavour. The batter you make to coat them should be as light as possible. I either use self-raising flower and sparkling water which introduces lots of air or a beer batter which works well too. The flowers sometimes come attached to small super-tender courgettes and I generally leave these attached to the flower although you can detach them and cook them separately or add then chopped finely to the stuffing.  This recipe will work with any summer squash flowers or also with pumpkin flowers. 

 The trick with stuffing them is not to overdo it or the cheese will leak out. I reckon about 1/6 ball of Mozzarella is about right and to that you can add: 

  •  half a sun-dried tomato
  • half  an Anchovy (minced)
  • some Mexican Jalepenos – this is something I tried for the first time during the week and it’s really good

You can of course use other cheeses. Feta and goat’s cheese both work well but maybe not with the anchovies as they are quite salty and the saltiness of the fish is overkill. Another filling to try is soft goat’s cheese (about a teaspoon) and a drizzle of honey over the finished dish just before serving really makes it. 

Tempura of Stuffed Courgette Flowers 

You’ll need: 

1 cup self-raising flower  

Sparkling water  

Pinch of salt  

Courgette flowers  

Vegetable oil 

The beer batter – Just use beer instead of sparkling water 

Wipe the flowers with a dry cloth and carefully open out the petals. Stuff with whatever you fancy from the ideas above (if you have any more please share!!) 

Close up the petals to seal in the filling.       

Make the batter by mixing the flour with the sparkling water. Start by adding a cup then mix adding more water as necessary until you have a batter as thick as buttermilk. Heat the oil in a pan to about 160 degrees. Before you start frying drop a tiny bit of batter into the pan and if it turns golden brown in about a minute you’re ready to go. Any faster and you should turn down the heat a little or the flowers will burn on the outside before the courgette has cooked. So, when the oil is ready coat each flower carefully and gently put them into the pan and fry until golden. This will take about 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper. 

Take it further….. 

 Make a rich gutsy tomato sauce to serve with the tempura flowers – Gently saute chopped onion (1 0r 2 should do it) in olive oil over a low heat until starting to change colour. Add 4 or 5 cloves garlic chopped and cook for a further 5 minutes until very soft. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes, a generous pinch of sugar and some salt  and continue cooking for a further 30 minutes or so until it has reduced by half . Serve with the flowers and  a green salad. 

 These babies are really really fragile so whatever you decide to do, do it ASAP – this evening or for lunch tomorrow to get them at their best – You won’t regret it! 

You will of course have batter mix leftover and I’d suggest using it to make a tempura with other veg while you’re at it. Peppers, carrots, aubergine and  scallions all work well. 

And for dessert? ……….. cherries of course!!! 

Eating pasta

With summer  kind of back this week’s bag seems perfect – we have cherries, Marc Michel’s lovely baby leaves use asap to get them at their best), spinach which I’ll be wilting then tossing in sauteed Garlic,and of course, broad beans.

I’ll admit they do require a bit of faffing around at the beginning – you have to pop them out of their pods, boil them in unsalted water til tender then pop them out of their skins. Don’t panic. The first step is to pour a glass of wine and sit down, it’ll only take a few minutes and I always find it relaxing. Yesterday evening I enlisted Auggie (2) to do the initial podding and he had a ball.

Auggie shelling beans

Got a kid?? Put them to work!!

You’ll probably be a bit alarmed to find that the end result is a small bowl of green beans that don’t really look like they’ll amount to much but don’t worry the way forward is with pasta (although they are delicious mashed up with some Olive Oil and sea Salt)

Yep, this is all you get………

Cup of shelled broadbeans

I almost always start the broad bean season making a dish with pancetta, cream and parmesan. It’s a firm favourite here. There’s a veggie variation with garlic instead of bacon and it’s fab too.

Pasta with Broad Beans, Pancetta, Cream and Parmesan (for 2)

You’ll need:

400gr Broad Beans (about what you have in this week’s bag)

100gr Pancetta finely diced or 4 streaky rashers finely chopped

Olive Oil

125ml cream


Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

First of all prepare the beans as everything else will take 10 minutes after they’re done. Pod them then steam for about 4-5 minutes until tender. Rinse in cold water so they’re cool enough to pop out of their skin. If this seems tricky, I find that making an incision with my thumbnail to the top of each bean before I pop it works well. When they are done set aside. Put the kettle on for the pasta and heat a frying pan. Gently saute the bacon until it has darkened. Put on the pasta whenever the water is ready. Add the beans to the pancetta and continue to saute for a minute. Turn the heat way down and pour in the cream. Add a generaous pinch of salt and lots of black pepper. You don’t really want the cream to start reducing just to warm through so be careful not to leave it on the hob too long. As you can see from the photo you want things quite liquidy as the heat from the pasta will thicken the sauce for you.Finally add the pasta and mix well. Serve immediately with parmesan.

Pasta with Broad Beans, Garlic, Cream and Parmesan

You’ll need:

400gr Broad Beans (about what you have in this week’s bag)

1 Medium Onion

6 Cloves Garlic

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper


Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

First of all chop your onion and begin cooking  it over a lowish heat in plenty of olive oil. You want it sweet and melt in the mounth so be careful not to cook it too fast. Prepare the beans as above and while they’re  are cooking, put the kettle on for the pasta and chop the garlic. At this stage your onion should be done. Add another  dash of olive oil and throw in the garlic. It’s also time to put on the pasta (told you this was fast) When the garlic has softened and turned translucent, add the beans and toss until they’ve warmed through then add salt (Maldon, as always, would be my preference) and plenty of black pepper. If the pasta’s ready, drain it and toss with the beans in the pan adding another glug of Olive Oil. Toss well so the garlicy oil coats all the pasta. Add some parmesan and serve.

Variations: a handful of roughly chopped walnuts thrown in at the end works well and a couple of finely chopped sundried tomatoes are also good in this dish

This week’s cherries are of course the perfect end to this meal……….


It’s officially summer but the weather says different. This week I’ve got the first of Marc Michel’s gorgeous lettuce and courgettes to cook with and I had thought a salad with the courgettes was going to be on the menu but somehow the oven got switched on…. I baked them with a rich, gutsy tomato sauce and goat’s cheese. As usual I was under pressure timewise so I kept in very simple.The sauce was nothing more than a tin of tomatoes and olive oil (along with a little salt and sugar of course) cooked down for about 25 minutes over a medium heat. I sliced the courgettes quite finely and griddled them  to add more flavour then layered up everything and baked for 25 minutes.  Marc’s  lettuce went alongside tossed with a handful of broken walnuts then dressed in olive oil and balsamic.

Baked Courgettes with Tomato and Goat’s cheese

You’ll need:

400gr Courgettes

1 tin chopped tomatoes



100gr Goat’s Cheese crumbled

1 tablespoon breadcrumbs

Begin with the sauce. Empty the tomatoes into a small pan along with a dash of olive oil and a pinch of salt and sugar. Cook over a medium heat for about 25 minutes while you get on with everything else.

Cut the courgettes in half so you have pieces about 7 cm long. Slice each half lengthways so you have long slices about 2 mm thick. Heat a griddle pan. Add the courgettes and cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes or until you get those snazzy black lines. When they are all done set aside.   To put the dish together take a small oven dish and smear the bottom with a little of the tomato sauce. Add a layer of courgettes, a couple of dollops of the sauce and about a quarter of the cheese. Continue layering ending with goat’s cheese. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs then bake at Gas mark 5 for about 25 minutes.


Broccoli and Kiwi

October 9, 2009

While all fruit and vegetables are good for you; in recent years research has shown that some varieties are especially worth including in your diet,  mainly because they have lots of antioxidants; which help to protect against all kinds of cancers, heart disease and other bad stuff. These are  the “superfoods”  I’m sure you’ve all heard about and  include Broccoli, Blueberries, Oranges, Beans, Oats, Pumpkin, Soy, Salmon, Tea, Tomatoes, Walnuts, Yogurt and…… Dark Chocolate! (further proof that God is indeed a woman).Unfortunately, when it comes to the chocolate we only need a little to get all the benefits but at least it means that wolfing a full bar of Green and Blacks on a Friday evening on the sofa isn’t all bad……….. When it comes to the veggies however, as much and as often as possible is the rule and that’s the reason Broccoli is almost always in our bags every week. Vitamins A, B1,B2 B3, B6 and C (just one cup gives you your recommended daily dose), Folic Acid, Iron (which is absorbed easily by the body due to the Vitamin C content), Beta-carotene (an antioxidant that protects against certain cancers), Magnesium, Potassium (both great for nerve function) and Zinc (keeps your immune system in shape) all mean that it’s essential.

Broccoli is so easy to include in your diet  because you can cook it so many ways. It’s fantastic straight up with nothing more than a dressing of  Olive Oil and a tiny pinch of Sea Salt or you can put it with Asian flavors like Ginger and chili in a simple stir-fry or it works really well with Mediterranean flavors like Garlic, Parmesan and Anchovies. Try steaming or boiling florets and serving them with a dipping sauce like Aioli (Garlic Mayonnaise) or Bagna Cruda (Garlic and Anchovy Sauce) for a really simple starter or snack. As a side dish it’s fantastic sauteed with Bread crumbs or Pinenuts. If you’re after a maincourse,  Pasta is a great way to go and it’s a dish that takes about 15 minutes to put together…….

Pasta with Broccoli, Garlic and Pinenuts (for two)

You’ll need:

400gr Broccoli

4 Cloves Garlic

Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons Pinenuts


There are two ways to approach this. If your Broccoli is spanking fresh as it is today you can break it up into bitesized florets, steam it and then add it to the dish. If, however, your Broccoli comes from the back of the fridge, seems a little past it’s bestby date you can  chop it up quite small and throw it on the pan after the Garlic has had about 2 minutes, and cook it down for about 10 minutes adding a drop of water until it starts almost falling apart and you get a slightly different but very tasty version of the dish below.

Begin by steaming the florets of Broccoli. While they are steaming you can boil water for Pasta then get the pasta cooking (any shape bar Spaghetti will do) To make your sauce, roughly chop the Garlic and gently sauté them in a generous dash of Olive Oil over a medium heat. As they start to soften (do not let them burn and if they do you’re better off starting again as they’ll make everything horribly bitter) throw in the Broccoli and toss over a medium heat adding more Olive Oil if necessary. After a couple of minutes add the Pine nuts and continue tossing for another minute or two before seasoning  with Salt and freshlyground Pepper. By this stage your Pasta should be about done. Drain it and add it to the Broccoli and mix everything together adding freshly ground Parmesan Cheese. Serve Immediately.

Variations:There are loads, this is a dish I cook and vary a lot. Try frying some Chili or a couple of pounded Anchovies with the Garlic at the beginning, adding some Lemon Juice at the end, using Feta or Goat’s Cheese instead of the Parmesan, throwing in few Sundried Tomatoes sliced into strips or Black Olive  towards the end.

If you fancy something more Asian in flavor, as I mentioned above Broccoli works really well. Try this recipe instead……

Sautéed  Broccoli with Garlic and Chilli and Sesame Seeds

Wash and break your Broccoli into large bitesized florets. Gently steam for a couple of minutes until al dente (i.e. cooked but still very firm). Heat some Vegetable Oil on a wok or pan and throw in  2 or 3 cloves of chopped Garlic and some red Chilli (the quantity is up to you). Allow the Garlic to soften but don’t let it change colour as it will burn in a very quickly after that, then throw in the Broccoli. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes, remove from the heat and add a splash of toasted Sesame Oil, Soy Sauce and some toasted Sesame Seeds (to toast your Sesame Seeds simply throw 2 Tablespoons on a dry pan and roast over a medium heat until they start to change colour and pop). Serve immediately.

New Season Oranges haven’t quite kicked in yet (we’re getting some but not enough) so we’ve included Kiwis in all our selections with fruit this week. These guys have even more Vitamin C than Oranges so are great for this time of year when the change in temperature means we’re all more susceptible to catching colds and flus.If you fancy using them to make a quick desert this fool recipe couldn’t be easier….

Kiwi Mess with Creme Fraiche and Ginger Nut Biscuits

You’ll need:

4 Kiwis

100gr Creme Fraiche

4 Ginger Nut Biscuits

3-4 teaspoons syrup from a jar of stem Ginger – this is a lovely touch but not essential so if you don’t have it just use some icing sugar.

Peel and cut the fruit into chunks. Stir the syrup or icing sugar into the Creme Fraiche and set aside. Roughly crush the biscuits – rolling pin or bottom of a bottle will work for this. Toss everything together and decant into some nice bowls or old-fashioned low champagne glasses (charity shops always good for this kind of thing). Yum!!

By the way, if you’re wondering what to do with this week’s Butternut there’s a fab soup with Thyme and Parmesan on this blog- perfect for a rainy day (Urghhhhhhhhh!)

Marzella Hazan's  tomato salad

We’re coming to the end of our summer varieties . Courgettes are now officially thin on the ground,  at least in Wicklow,  as are Aubergines.  I had such plans but we just didn’t get enough sun to feature them as often as I’d hoped. Tomatoes are also coming to an end,  so to have them along with Basil is a last blast of  summer (you know, the one we never had). Basil + Tomatoes can mean so many things – a simple salad (just add your best Olive Oil and a little Salt) or a more substantial salad if you add Mozzarella (this is the classic Caprese). One of my first posts on this blog was Marcella Hazan’s simple Tomato salad. It still beats pretty much anything.

For an easy dinner chop up your Tomatoes and briskly fry them in hot Olive Oil with some Garlic and a little of the Chilli that’s packed in the paper bag along with the Tomatoes, then toss with Pasta,  Basil Leaves and maybe some Black Olives. It’s a dish that takes all of 10 minutes to put together.

These days I  favour Pecorino over Parmesan with pasta. I bought a big block on a whim a while back and using it has reminded me of why it works so well. It’s a saltier cheese, with Tomatoes this works well as they tend to be sweet (or should be).It’s all about contrast which sounds a bit cheffy but is true. As there’s Basil in this week’s bag I’ll give a pesto recipe. I know, it’s a bit obvious but properly made it’s really really good and nothing like the stuff you buy in jars (even the fancier brands are muck).  Good pesto has plenty of Garlic, real Pine nuts and ideally, Pecorino Cheese rather than Parmesan but you can use Parmesan if you’re stuck. It might seem a waste but using decent Olive Oil pays dividends as it adds so much to the flavour. Best of all, Pesto takes  all of ,oh, 2 minutes to make, a quality I really rate in a recipe especially when it’s Culture night and the weather is good!

Pesto (for 2)
Peel and roughly chop 2 fat cloves of Garlic and put in your blender along with 8 Tablespoons of Olive Oil (a generous glug), 2 Tablespoons Pine nuts, a generous pinch of Salt, and your Basil Leaves (remove any really thick stems first). Blast until everything is blended. A little chunkiness can be nice but you may prefer a smoother Pesto so you decide when to stop blending. When you’re finished, stir in 2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Cheese. Serve with freshly cooked Pasta and more grated Pecorino (or Parmesan).
This can be made in advance and will keep in your fridge for up to a week  in a jar with a layer of olive poured over.  As Basil goes so well with all kinds of veg (especially roasted) Pesto makes a great dressing – just thin it out with some Olive Oil and a little Lemon Juice to add some zing