Quick, easy suppers and sweet treats were the most popular recipes that appeared on irishtimes.com during 2016. The words “one-pan” and “cake” were what got readers inspired to head for the kitchen and fire up the stove or the oven.
No fewer than 13 of the 30 most-read recipes (and we hope you cooked them, too), were for baked goods, most often luscious sounding cakes. Six of those involved that perennial favourite – chocolate.
But the standout recipe of the year, the one that galloped ahead in the ratings as well as causing a rumpus in Italy, was Donal Skehan's interpretation of the Martha Stewart one-pan pasta recipe that turns conventional pasta cooking on its head and turns out a bowl of self-saucing tomato and basil scented linguine or spaghetti for two, in nine minutes flat.
The recipe first appeared in Martha Stewart Living magazine in June 2013 and in his first column as an Irish Times food writer, in March of this year, Donal Skehan brought us his version of the recipe. It proved to be a hit in print, online, and on his YouTube channel, where the video has clocked up an incredible 1.7 million views.
“While nearly one million Italians might deem this dish as blasphemous, it actually originated from Italy, discovered by Martha Stewart’s team of food editors. It is as easy as it looks and despite the flack I’ve got on my YouTube channel’s comment section (an ever enjoyable read with a glass of wine), it makes a delicious one-pan dinner,” Skehan says.
Tweaking the original slightly, Skehan uses spaghetti instead of linguini, opts for fresh not dried chilli, slightly reduces the amount of garlic, favours Pecorino over Parmesan cheese and suggests the addition of baby spinach leaves.
Continuing a theme, the second most popular recipe on irishtimes.com in 2016 was Skehan's one-pan stove-top lasagne.
Risking incurring the wrath of Italian food lovers everywhere, our correspondent adds chorizo to the ragu (Oh Dio Mio!), and then constructs his lasagne in the same pot, bypassing the oven completely.
“Following on from the success of a one-pan pasta, I investigated further one-pan options this year. Completely untraditional and more fodder for angry Italians – in all honesty it’s less of a lasagne and more of a meat stew,” Skehan admits.
Fresh pasta sheets are a must for this unconventional approach, dried ones won’t work. Ricotta, Cheddar, Parmesan and milk are combined for the cheese sauce layer, and slices of melty mozzarella are the topping.
The other recipe in this one-pot wonders recipe column that ran in June was for Arroz con pollo, and this chicken and rice combo, inspired by Skehan's temporary exile in a variety of Airbnb abodes with varying kitchen equipment, also proved popular, coming in at number seven in the ratings.
The third most popular recipe of 2016 also came from Skehan, and I count myself among the thousands who were sold on the idea of a bowl of hot and spicy peanut butter noodles, made with mainly store cupboard ingredients. Udon noodles, ginger, garlic, chillies, spring onions and sprinkling of Asian condiments conjure up a satisfying umami hit in this bowlful of goodness.
Domini Kemp, from whom Skehan took over The Irish Times Magazine recipe writing reins in March, makes the list in number fourth place with her recipe for fiery roast cod, which was part of her healthy eating plan for January.
Just six ingredients, not counting salt and pepper, are needed for this guilt-free supper that sees roasted peppers and chillies spread on top of fresh cod fillets, with a little thyme, before baking to a meltingly tender consistency.
The magic words, cake, chocolate, coffee and Baileys were enough to summon up legions of support for a recipe by Trish Deseine, which first appeared on irishtimes.com in 2015, and was included in a round-up of chocolate cake recipes again this year, coming in at number five on the most-read scale.
Deseine's luscious Baileys chocolate cake with coffee chocolate ganache, from her book Home: Recipes from Ireland, made a big impression and sent bakers straight to their kitchens.
Caterer and masterful baker Eunice Power endeared herself to brides-to-be (and mothers who found themselves taking on the task of creator of the cake), with her painstakingly detailed instructions for making a three-tier vanilla and chocolate wedding cake. Thousands of fevered brows were soothed by Power's reassuring words as this vanilla sponge, with chocolate mousse filling and Swiss meringue icing, were constructed.
Power's Easter offering, a flourless chocolate cake, also proved popular, finishing just outside the top 10.
Vanessa Greenwood also made it into the top 10, with her recipe for blueberry and lemon loaf cake, which is made with ground almonds rather than flour, and so ticks the free-from box.
The chart toppers are completed by Donal Skehan's wild garlic and Cheddar scones – bookmark that one for when the first green shoots appear next March or April – in sixth place, and the same writer's buttermilk chicken bun, inspired by the free-range chicken burgers at Butchies, said to be the best in London, slotting in as the 10th most read recipe of 2016 at irishtimes.com.
Thanks for reading, and cooking, with us in 2016. We hope you'll join us in the Irish Times kitchen for more must-cook recipes in 2017.
THE LIST: MOST COOKED RECIPES 2016 AT IRISHTIMES.COM