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Saturday, 16 July 2011

a picnic...

I've always known that cooking by myself is fun. It is only this week that I learned that cooking with other likeminded souls in separate kitchens, miles apart is even more fun! And so, I found myself partaking in my first ever 'Irish Foodies Cookalong' last Friday - the theme was 'Picnics and Parties' and here, members of the jury, are the results.

I'm a big fan of beetroot. It goes so well in salad recipes, served both warm or cold, raw or cooked and with many different ingredients. Orange, apple, chickpea, new potatoes, feta or goat cheese, rocket and walnuts! They all cosy up nicely with beetroot and it also adds a vivid colour to an otherwise dull plate.

Sticky Beetroot Salad

Peel and cut three good sized beetroot into chunks and roast in the oven until tender. Toss with a tablespoon each of thyme leaves, balsamic, olive oil and honey, season well and put back into the oven until sticky and glazed. 

Carrot and Coriander Salad

500g carrots, finely grated
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
Big handful of finely chopped fresh coriander
Outer leaves of one butterhead lettuce to serve

Whisk together the dressing ingredients, mix in the carrot and leave to sit in the fridge for an hour or so to infuse. Spoon a large helping onto a leaf of lettuce and serve.

Chicken Goujons 

Take 2 large chicken breasts and cut into strips or chunks. Coat first in egg, then dip into seasoned flour, finally cover in an mixture of equal parts breadcrumbs and grated parmesan. Bake in the oven until golden. Serve with garlic mayo and tomato relish for dipping.

Quick Sausage Rolls

Sausage rolls are one of those things that's always much better made at home, but they don't have to be hard work to be lovely. For one thing, the meat quality in shop bought ones is somewhat of a gamble, and not a gamble that is likely to pay off. 

Life is just too short to make your own puff pasty. I did once about a hundred years ago with my mother and the endless rolling, folding, chilling and floury mess means that I now mostly use frozen all-butter puff pastry if I can find it. It is so much better than the regular sort of puff and much less work than the labour of love that is homemade puff. 

For the filling it is generally better to use sausages than the rolls of alarmingly pink sausage meat that you find in the shops around Christmas, The meat from sausages is coarser and less salty. James Whealan Butchers, Clonmel, does a lovely bacon and cheese sausage that is perfect for this, but any good butchers sausage will do. Add in some sage and thyme and a little grated lemon zest to enhance the flavour. Add a generous handful of breadcrumbs if you feel it is too dense, as some can be and add a scant spoon of water to the sausage mix if you like, it will make pastry puff up a lot more.

Roll out the ready-made pastry into a rectangle ½ cm thick, and spoon a little cylinder of sausage mix down the centre, egg wash the pastry, roll it up, press it together with a fork, and then cut the long sausage into individual rolls, long or short, it's up to you. I melt together a spoon of butter and a spoon of wholegrain mustard to glaze the top, to make it fancy, then into the oven at about 220C until golden and puffed up, about 20 minutes.

So there you have it! A picnic of homemade chicken goujons, sausage rolls and two colourful salads.

Amounts will serve a nuclear family (2 Adults + 2.4 children). Dessert was the wonderfully portable Whoopie pie - recipe to follow.


  1. What a lot of work for your nuclear family. I love the 'alarmingly pink' sausage meat part. It is alarming. AND I could not agree more with you on the 'life is to short to make puff pastry'. The beetroot sounds divine. Have loads growing so will try this one for sure.

  2. Since it is you Mona, I will tell you a secret - the nuclear family don't like cooked beetroot. I only cook it when I want most of it for myself.


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