Friday 9 December 2016

Recipes: Anne Kennedy on turning basic ingredients into a real culinary delight

It's easy to turn basic ingredients into a real culinary delight, says Anne Kennedy

Anne Kennedy

Published 23/07/2011 | 05:00

SPICY CHICKEN AND
SWEET RED PEPPER PAELLA
SPICY CHICKEN AND SWEET RED PEPPER PAELLA
OLIVE OIL CAKE WITH STRAWBERRIES, BASIL-AND-LEMON SYRUP AND MASCARPONE
SPINACH, ROAST TOMATO, AVOCADO AND PINE NUT SALAD WITH SHERRY VINEGAR DRESSING

When I began writing my food website, Greatfood.ie, more than five years ago, it was a labour of love. I really wanted to share with people how easy it is to turn good ingredients into a decent plate of food, no matter what kind of family heritage you have.

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At that time, every food writer I read seemed to have had a mother at the table making scones or dishes tossed with exotic ingredients as if they were available to everyone. What if you didn't have that heritage of cooking, just a sheer hunger for good ingredients with colour and texture and flavour?

What I didn't know then is how far our helping hand would stretch across the world. It's the simple things that people want to know -- our readers want us to bridge the gap between the cookery book and celebrity chef programme and their own knowledge.

Every year I receive more than a quarter of a million enquiries from Irish people, and many more worldwide, seeking advice on how to boil and bake a ham, how to make a béchamel sauce, where to find a recipe for bread and butter pudding or how to roast a sweet potato.

When the celebrity chefs write a recipe, it often comes with an instruction that seems simple enough on the surface -- say, to wilt spinach or toast a pine nut. But what seems obvious to them may not be obvious to our readers. Do you use oil? Should the pan be dry and how hot? When is a pine nut toasted?

More than 10,000 people visited the Greatfood.ie site to solve the conundrum of wilting spinach last year alone and 20,000 needed to know how to toast pine nuts.

The recipes below are good examples of how you can take simple ingredients -- rice, a chicken thigh, eggs, butter, olive oil -- and turn them into something you would want to eat and share.

The seasonings and aromatics -- saffron for the paella, sherry vinegar for the salad -- are proof of just how cosmopolitan we are as a country. Throw a stone and you can find most of them, and the techniques to cook them are easy.

A word of advice: just make sure that you use a teaspoon or a tablespoon to measure ingredients, as instructed, and not just any ol' one you happen to find in the kitchen drawer. You need to measure using a proper cook's teaspoon -- a 5ml teaspoon and a 15ml tablespoon. Otherwise, the balance of the recipe will be off.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. You'll find more, and techniques, at Greatfood.ie.

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