Recipes to help you make it to the end of the month

Dig into the freezer or use Christmas leftovers to feed the family some delicious dinners

Stolen Cuban Dish. Photograph: Emma Jervis

Stolen Cuban Dish. Photograph: Emma Jervis

 

This is a good week to sort out your fridge and freezer and save yourself some money. It’s time to use up those bits and pieces that you’ve been saving for later, and instead of going shopping, use food you might otherwise throw out.

Today I share with you my standby dishes for when I want to empty my fridge and still impress the family.

I used to pride myself on my ability to not waste food and make a meal out of leftovers until Rebeca came to work with us at my restaurant. Rebeca comes from a small village in the mountains in northern Spain. Her grandmother, who is now 104, lived through the two wars and went without food for days. The value of food had been passed down through the generations and myself and my daughters have been blessed to learn from Rebeca so many simple ways with few ingredients, how valuable a stock is, and how one can make a meal if we take some time. We always have something to eat in our kitchens, we just need to take a moment to be inspired and remember that a meal can fit in a bowl and doesn’t need to be a chore.

It’s one of the leanest times of the year for many, with payday still over a week away, so producing a meal without heading to the shop is a simple joy. 

Lentil and hot smoked ham hock stew

Lentil and hot smoked ham hock stew. Photograph: Emma Jervis
Photograph: Emma Jervis

This is a knock-your-socks-off dish and a great way to introduce lentils to meat lovers. It’s a one-pot wonder with all the health benefits of the lentils. If you have a ham bone in your freezer after Christmas use this here.

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stick of celery, finely chopped
Salt
1 hot smoked ham hock or leftover ham bone with meat
2 to 3 sprigs of thyme
400g puy lentils
2 litres water
1 head of garlic cut in half
Water

Method

1. Gently warm a saucepan and then add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. On a medium heat, add the onion and celery, season with a little salt, and then cook on a medium heat until nice and soft.

2. Add the water, the ham hock or bone and the cut head of garlic and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes (If using a ham bone, simmer for an hour) and then add the lentils and cook until just soft.

3. Remove the ham from the saucepan and when it’s cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bone and cut it into bite size pieces and return it to the pot. Serve.  

Kale, blue cheese, pecan and maple syrup tart

Kale, blue cheese, pecan and maple syrup tart. Photograph: Emma Jervis
Photograph: Emma Jervis

We always have tart on our lunch menu at Good Things and I do them in class to show students how flavours work together. This tart came about when one morning the only vegetable in the fridge was kale. This is a great way to use up that blue cheese lurking in the back of your fridge or freezer.

Pastry for tart base
275g flour
1 tsp salt
1 large pinch of sugar
175g butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
120ml cold water

Filling
32cm baked tart shell
400g kale
3 medium eggs
350ml (12 fl oz) cream
Salt and pepper to taste
150g blue cheese
8 pecan nuts, chopped
Drizzle of maple syrup

Method

1. First, make the pastry by mixing the dry ingredients together, rub in the cold butter and then add in the water to bind it gently together. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes. Take a 32cm tart tin with a removable base, and line it with the shortcrust. Bake blind, and allow to cool.

2. Set the oven to 180C and bring a pot of water to the boil. In the meantime wash the kale well and remove the leaves from the stalks. Roughly chop the leaves and finely chop the stalks.

3. Cook the stalks until tender followed by the leaves. Allow to cool and give it a squeeze to remove excess water.

4. Crumble the cheese and spread it on the baked tart case and scatter the kale on top.

5. Make the custard by beating the eggs and cream together and season lightly.

6. Pour the custard over the kale and even it out all over. Scatter the pecans on top and drizzle with the syrup.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until just set.

Potato cake stuffed with cheese and cured meats

Potato cake stuffed with cheese and cured meats. Photograph: Emma Jervis
Photograph: Emma Jervis

I love potato cake for its simplicity and versatility. I mostly do it with just potato but, when I want to use up what’s in the fridge, I stuff it with whatever I have around: onions, leeks, fennel and any cheeses. Double the recipe and make a big one to keep for the week ahead and cut it as you need it and heat it up in a hot oven. A slice topped with some lightly cooked spinach and a poached egg would be perfect for any meal of the day. This makes an ideal brunch dish.

Ingredients
Potatoes, peeled, you will need roughly 500g for 2 people using a 20cm/8’ pan
Olive oil
Butter
Salt and pepper
100g cheese of your choice
4 to 6 slices of cooked ham, salami or any leftover cured meats
You’ll also need an ovenproof frying pan and a slicer, ideally a mandolin

Method

1. Pre heat the oven to highest possible heat.

2. Heat the frying pan on a medium heat. When warm, add a good splash of oil and a knob of butter. Melt together and coat the base and the sides of the pan with the mixture. Pour off any excess fat and keep in a bowl until later.

3. Keeping the pan on the heat, start slicing the potatoes – they need to be very thin, but not so thin you don’t get a complete slice. Layer the potatoes in the pan going around in a clockwise direction working your way into the middle. Making sure you are spreading them evenly, leaving no gap.

4. Season with salt and pepper every third layer.

5. After a couple of layers add half of the meats, and then after another couple of layers add the cheese, and then again the meats. You want to finish with a nice thick cake, so you will have a contrast of crisp and soft potato.

6. Brush the top with the reserved oil mixture and place in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft through when tested with a knife.

7. If the top of the cake is not nice and brown, flip the cake out on to a plate or chopping board and slide back topside down into the pan and return to the oven or put on a medium flame for a few minutes.

8. Turn out and cut into wedges and serve.

Stolen Cuban Dish

Stolen Cuban Dish. Photograph: Emma Jervis
Stolen Cuban Dish. Photograph: Emma Jervis

I always take a deep breath when I start to talk about this dish. It’s a hard sell but give it a go, and as long as you are using good quality rice (I use organic short grain brown rice), make a chunky, not overcooked tomato sauce (using onion, celery, carrot) the best eggs and ripe banana nicely browned, and add a bit of spice if the day is dull, you can’t go wrong.

Ingredients
Olive oil
2 Ripe bananas
4 to 8 eggs
500g cooked rice
1kg tomato sauce

For the tomato sauce
One onion, diced
4 sticks of celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
Olive oil
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic, chopped

Method

First, make the tomato sauce by softening the onion, celery and carrots in a pot with a glug of olive oil. Season well. When the vegetables are soft, add two tins of tomatoes and the chopped garlic and simmer on a low heat for at least 15 minutes.

While this is cooking, fry the bananas in a little oil until nicely brown, transfer to a warm plate and keep warm.

Heat the rice in a dry pan and cover with a lid as you fry the eggs to your liking. On a large serving plate, spread out the rice and follow with the tomato sauce and top with the eggs and bananas.

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