Bring excitement to the table

We’ve more choice than ever on supermarket shelves, so think outside the box and spice up your repertoire


If nothing else, the “grand stretch in the evenings” certainly puts a spring in my culinary step. Suddenly those long-forgotten New Year’s resolutions to eat more healthily, more often, seem possible again (likely is a whole different story), and inexpensive, nourishing recipes move a few notches higher on my list of priorities.

And as luck would have it, in recent years Irish food retailers have taken several steps which make cooking this type of food a whole lot easier. Even the so-called discount supermarket chains now carry a decent range of vegetables, fruit, pulses, nuts and other fresh produce, and competition between retailers is fierce, particularly on price, but also on quality, variety and, yes, even customer service. Consumer power has finally arrived, although the farmers don’t necessarily benefit in this bonanza.

The fact that supermarkets have had to change is exciting too; with abundant information about deals, offers, nutrition and prices literally at their fingertips, discerning consumers are demanding more information and better value, and though sometimes it has been slow in coming, it’s definitely happening.

This change is good news for the enthusiastic yet busy home cook, particularly if you’ve a few to cook for and budget and menu planning are things you have to consider on a weekly basis.

All of which brings me, in a roundabout way, to this week’s recipes. Here are two dishes made with inexpensive, fairly humdrum ingredients easily found in most supermarkets. Both are lean, but filling, and full of flavour. And both take less than half an hour to prepare and cook.

First up is an interesting twist on a turkey burger. If you’re cutting down on red meat or just fancy something a bit lighter, then these are for you. Turkey mince, from a supermarket (some butchers also do it), is readily available and very economical. And the accompanying relish, combining smooth yoghurt and a tangy relish, is the perfect companion. It’s very quick and has a lot less fat than commercial mayonnaise.

The second recipe is my version of mejadra, a Middle Eastern dish combining cooked lentils, spiced rice and fried onions. Traditionally a street food, mejadra is tasty on its own – especially the onions, which are very moreish – but the addition of raisins, shelled pistachios and lemon juice makes it something special.

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