Now that we are well and truly back into term-time routine, it's time to revive the Sunday roast. If your house is anything like mine, this tends to fall by the wayside during the summer months. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as we all slip into the trap of repeating easy and popular dishes ad infinitum, until they lose their appeal and elicit a groan rather than a murmur of pleasure as they arrive at the table.
So, if you feel that it's a good time to introduce some variations on the theme of the Sunday roast into your repertoire, consider one of the simple recipes set out below.
Beef is a perennially popular choice for Sunday lunch, but the traditional roast rib of beef on the bone is one of the more expensive cuts, and can get pricy if you're cooking for a large gang. Other cuts of beef pack just as much flavour, and won't put such a dent in your pocket. People have a concern that cheaper cuts of meat are inferior to what are known as the prime cuts, but that is really not the case. In fact, they can be even more tasty - you just have to know how to cook them to get the most out of them.
The recipe for Roast Eye of the Round is taken from The Irish Beef Book (Gill & Macmillan, €22.99), which I wrote with butcher, Pat Whelan. The meat is cooked for a short time at a high temperature and appeals to those who like their meat very lean; the centre will be a pale, rosy pink rather than a rare red at an internal temperature of 50C. (It's well worth buying a meat thermometer if you roast meat on a regular basis.) Be sure to let the meat rest for 15 minutes when it comes out of the oven, as it helps it to tenderise. Buy dry-aged Irish beef if you can - you'll notice a real difference in flavour.
Another roast that doesn't take long to get on the table is spatchcock roast chicken. It's got all the flavour of a whole roast chicken, but because the backbone is removed and the bird flattened out, it cooks far quicker.
Finally, if you're in the mood for a vegetarian Sunday roast, you might think about Sourdough Nut Roast. Nut roasts get a bad rap sometimes, but this one is so tasty that it will go down well with non-vegetarians too.
The shopping list assumes that you have some basics (butter, oil, salt and pepper etc) already, but you may already have other ingredients too, so do check so that you don't end up with duplicates.
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
250g mixed unsalted nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts or whatever you have to hand), ground
125g sourdough breadcrumbs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
75g strongly flavoured hard cheese, such as Parmesan or a vegetarian alternative, grated
125g canned or vacpac peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped
200g can artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
A handful of chopped fresh soft herbs eg flat-leaf parsley, sage, thyme
Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas mark 6. Melt the butter in a pan and cook onion and garlic for 5 minutes over gentle heat until soft. Put into a large bowl. Add the nuts, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and juice, cheese, chestnuts and artichokes. Season with plenty of salt and pepper, and then add in the egg. Stir in the chopped herbs.
Put the mixture into a greased loaf tin, or divide between two depending on the size of your tins. Bake for about 40 minutes, depending on the size of your tin, until nicely golden brown, covering the top with foil if it starts to burn.
1 free-range chicken, spatchcocked (your butcher will do this for you, or grab a good pair of kitchen scissors and do it yourself, following one of the many tutorials that you'll find on YouTube)
a few sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled, and smashed under the blade of a knife
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 220 C/ Fan 200 / gas mark 7. Put the chicken in an oven tray. Cut the lemons in half, squeeze the juice over the bird and throw the lemon halves into the oven tray, add in the rosemary and the garlic cloves.
Add the olive oil, season, and mix everything together with your hands, before arranging the bird skin-side-up with most of the garlic and lemon pieces tucked in under the bird.
Sprinkle the skin with another pinch of sea salt and grinding of black pepper, and place in the pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the bird, basting from time to time until the skin is crisp and golden and it is cooked through.
Remove the chicken from the roasting tin and leave to rest in a warm place while you make gravy from the pan juices by adding a little wine, if you have it to hand, and some chicken stock or hot water from the kettle and placing the oven tray over a medium/high heat and stirring until all the crispy residue on the bottom is scraped up, the garlic cloves and lemon halves are squished into the liquid and the juices are reduced. Strain and discard the lemon and garlic skins.
Carve the chicken and serve with the reduced roasting juices, roast potatoes and a green salad.
Serves 4 -5
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon English mustard
1.1kg piece eye of the round
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or Irish rapeseed oil
Preheat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas mark 7. Mix the tamari or soy sauce with the English mustard and rub over the meat.
Season all over with the salt and black pepper. Heat the oil in a solid roasting tin.
Add the meat to the tin and roast for about 35–40 minutes, until a meat thermometer gives a reading of about 50C.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest in a warm place, covered with foil, for at least 15 minutes before carving.
Warm up any juices and pour over the meat before serving with mustard and horseradish sauce. Good with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and roasted carrots.
By Katy McGuinness
With the first nip in the air, many people will be abandoning their summer juices in favour of a heartier breakfast. Porridge is the obvious choice, and it's one of the cheapest and most filling options there is. But is there any difference between the different kinds, or are they just a bland backdrop for whatever you choose to serve them with?
The Instant Options
These are the options to look at if you're eating at your desk or on the go: just add boiling water, stir and wait a couple of minutes.
Flahavans Quick Oats Original, 44g/€0.99 7/10
This was the least sweet of the four instant porridges that we tried. There are still 7.3g of sugar in a serving, included in 25g of carbohydrate. The consistency is pleasant.
Quaker Oat So Simple Original, 50g/€0.95 (usually €1.29) 6/10
The first thing we saw when we peeled off the lid was a big lump of skimmed milk powder, which we found off-putting. Once we had broken that up and followed the packet instructions, the porridge tasted good and creamy, but sweet with 10.6g of sugar in a serving.
Tesco Instant Oats Porridge Original, 55g/€0.99 5/10
Porridge is bland by definition, and this is no exception. Absolutely fine, but with 9.7g of sugar in a serving, it falls more into a treat category than one would expect of a dull breakfast. And it could be creamier.
Oatilicious Oh So Easy Oats Original (Lidl), 50g/€0.79 4/10
The sweetest of the four, with a whopping 12g of sugar per serving. Really much too sugary and not creamy enough.
The Traditional Options
The best thing about traditional porridge is that if you make it from scratch, you are in control of the amount of sugar or other sweetening agent that you add - and can even choose to add salt, as is traditional in Scotland. They are also much quicker-cooking than we remember, and cheaper than the instant pots, so these are the ones to go for if you have time to eat breakfast at home. We made them all with water.
Kavanagh's Organic Porridge Oats (Aldi), 1kg/€1.69 8/10
Good consistency and a pleasant flavour; made with wholegrain oats which gives a bit of bite. Would be delicious with fresh berries, a drizzle of honey and a little cream.
Deluxe Organic Wafer Oats (Lidl), 750g/€1.29 7/10
These oats are steamed and rolled to give a mild, nutty flavour and creamy texture. They're good and, again, a perfect backdrop to some more interesting flavours.
Simply M&S Traditional British Porridge Oats, 500g/€0.89 7/10
There's little to choose between these and the other traditional oats. Really it's all about what you put with them. These too have a good, creamy consistency.