Darina Allen's delicious one-pot wonders
Darina Allen’s latest book is all about cutting down on equipment while not sacrificing deliciousness.
The culinary irony is rich and Darina Allen knows it. She has been running One-Pot Wonder courses at her Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork for years, yet she has only just got around to writing a book on the topic.
Her latest book is her 19th, and One Pot Feeds All has been dedicated to "all the heroic young couples who are trying to keep all the balls in the air".
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"I don't know why it took me so long to get this book done. People have obviously become busier and busier, and I could see it was becoming more and more urgent. People want everything into a pot, pop it into the oven, take it out and put it down in the middle of the table," she tells me.
Now in her seventies, Darina can still hear the wise words of her mother ringing in her ears: "If you don't get wholesome, nourishing delicious food onto the table to keep the family healthy, happy and bouncing with energy, you'll give the money to the doctor or to the chemist."
Founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School back in the 1980s, Darina enjoys the whole process of writing books. "I actually love it, it's almost a way of life," she says. "I travel a lot and everywhere I go, it's like doing research."
In the Ballymaloe canon of recipes, they had many dishes to fit into the 'one pot' category aimed at super-busy people who dash home tired but still want to cook a wholesome meal from scratch for their family.
"A lot of my recipes are, to a certain extent, 'master' recipes - in other words, if you do one version of it, you can kind of do variations of it, like the autumn tart and other fruits. This is a recipe that you can use throughout the year. I like recipes like that - quick and easy, taste great and look good," says Darina.
The pork taco (below) is "one of the easiest ways to entertain," Darina enthuses. "I am very fond of Mexico. I've been backwards and forwards for nearly 30 years so I'm delighted that tacos and taquitos have become almost like a staple over here."
She acknowledges that it is difficult for people with busy lives, eating on the run, but believes it's "so worth hanging on and sitting down and eating at the table at least once a week".
The Allens are fortunate in that their children and 11 grandchildren live within a five-minute radius of their home. "We try to have what we call 'family supper' every Saturday night. It could be several generations with the grandchildren, and a lot of their school friends sometimes come along as well and they all tuck in. It's lovely to have something that you can just put down in the middle of the table, or on the sideboard, and people help themselves and keep going back over and over again.
"A lot of the things in this book are done in one pot, a roasting tin or a gratin dish, so for people starting off, you need very little kitchen kit really, and then there's so much less washing up when you cook in this way."
When she's not cooking or giving classes, Darina listens to podcasts and music and likes to relax in her garden.
"I have the garden here, which is lovely. I walk and, recently, I've bought an electric bike. I'm absolutely over the moon, I actually love cycling but both here and down in west Cork, where I have another tiny place, it's really hilly and you feel so feeble getting down off the bike and having to walk up the hill. But my new bike... you can't imagine how exciting it is. It was my birthday present to myself and I just cruise up the hill but you can pedal as well, it's not just sitting on the bike, it's exercise as well. I'm absolutely delighted with it," she says.
* Ballymaloe Cookery School are running a one-day 'One Pot Wonders' course on November 9 in Shanagarry, Co Cork. The cost is €295pp. For details, ring (021) 4646 785
Roast cauliflower with saffron & bay leaves & crispy chicken
This roast cauliflower is delicious on its own but also pretty irresistible with some spicy chicken drumsticks. Look out for pul biber, not too hot but really aromatic. I fell in love with them on my first trip to Turkey
4-8 organic, free-range chicken thighs or drumsticks, depending on size
Extra virgin olive oil
½-1 tsp rosemary, chopped
2 pinches of saffron strands
1 large or 2 small cauliflowers (approx. 1kg), leaves snapped off*, head broken into small florets, stalk roughly chopped
2 medium onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp pul biber or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes
3 bay leaves
50g sultanas, soaked in hot water to plump up
50g almonds, coarsely chopped
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
2. Slash the chicken drumsticks. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary, toss and arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin.
3. Roast for 30-45 minutes, depending on size, while you prepare the cauliflower.
4. Put the saffron into a little bowl, cover it with a couple of teaspoons of boiling water and leave it to steep. Put the cauliflower, onions, chilli flakes and bay leaves into a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
5. Once the saffron has steeped, add to the cauliflower mixture with the drained sultanas and almonds. Transfer to the roasting tin and cover loosely with parchment paper to protect from burning. Bake for 20 minutes.
6. Remove the parchment and roast for a further 10-15 minutes until the edges are nicely caramelised, the cauliflower is tender and the chicken is cooked. Turn into a shallow serving dish.
7. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and spring onion. Serve.
Pork taco party
A shoulder of pork is the best cut to use for this long, slow cooking method, as the meat is layered with fat which slowly melts away. Try to find a traditional breed, such as Gloucester Old Spot, Saddleback, Black Berkshire, Middle White or Mangalitza. Slow-cooked shoulder of pork can be served in so many ways with so many accompaniments, but I love it as a filler for tacos along with all the toppings.
1 x 2.75-3.25kg whole shoulder of organic, free-range pork, skin on
8 garlic cloves, peeled
25g fennel seeds
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
2 tsp thyme leaves
16-20 soft-corn tortillas - have a few extra on hand depending on how ravenous people are
Guacamole or slices of avocado
6-8 spring onions, cut on the diagonal
8-10 tablespoons coriander leaves
3 organic limes, halved, for squeezing
1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4.
2. Using a small sharp knife or, better still, a Stanley knife, score the rind of the pork with deep cuts about 5mm apart.
3. Crush the garlic with the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar and mix in some salt and pepper and a few chilli flakes (if using). Sprinkle over the pork, rubbing it into the cuts, over the rind and all over the surface of the meat.
4. Place the shoulder of pork on a rack in an approx. 33 x 30cm roasting tin and roast for 30 minutes or until the skin begins to blister and brown. Reduce the temperature to 130ºC/gas mark 1 and continue to roast for 5-6 hours until the meat is completely soft under the crisp skin. By this time, the meat should almost fall off the bone. Pour off the delicious pork fat from time to time and save it in jars for roasting potatoes.
5. Lift the crisp skin off the slow-cooked pork, chop and keep warm. Lift the pork off the bones and shred into a large serving bowl.
6. Strain the pork pan juices into a measuring jug and pour off and discard all the fat from the surface. Add the rich juices to the pork. Season the meat with salt and pepper, a few chilli flakes and some thyme leaves. Keep hot.
7. Lay out the accompaniments on the table: a pile of soft corn tortillas, a bowl of guacamole or sliced avocado, some tomato salsa, a bottle of hot sauce, some slivered spring onions and fresh coriander. Bring the hot meat and crackling to the table and allow everyone to help themselves.
This is definitely my 'go-to' recipe for a super quick and delicious comfort pud. Even though I call this version with plums 'autumn tart', I make it throughout the year with different fruits - including rhubarb, gooseberries, greengages, peaches, nectarines, apples and pears - and add a few juicy fresh berries when I have them. The sponge base is quick to make in a food processor and you can ring the changes by experimenting with different flavours, such as freshly chopped lemon verbena, rose geranium or rosemary.
For the fruit base:
175g granulated sugar
450g plums, halved and stoned, or dessert apples, such as Egremont Russet, Cox's Orange Pippin or Charles Ross, peeled and cut into quarters or eighths, depending on size
For the sponge topping:
150g softened butter
150g granulated sugar
200g self-raising flour
3 organic, free-range eggs
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3.
2. Put the sugar and water into a 25cm ovenproof sauté pan or cast-iron frying pan and stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the sugar caramelises to a rich golden brown (if the caramel is not dark enough, the tart will be too sweet).
3. Once the caramel darkens to a golden brown, remove the pan from the heat and arrange the prepared fruit, cut-side down, in a single layer over the caramel.
4. To make the sponge topping, combine the butter, sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Whizz for a second or two, then add the eggs and stop as soon as the mixture comes together. Spoon the cake mixture over the plums and spread gently to create an even layer.
5. Bake for about 1 hour. The centre should be firm to the touch and the edges slightly shrunk from the sides of the pan.
6. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest in the pan for 4-5 minutes before turning out. Serve with crème fraîche or softly whipped cream.
*The leaves are also delicious roasted, add them a little later