Greatest hits cookbook


Domini Kemp’s new cookbook includes many of the best-loved, most-cooked recipes from her column in this magazine

WHO NEEDS ANOTHER cookbook? I know if the amount I have on my shelves is anything to go by, then I certainly don’t. But yet, I love flicking through cookbooks any chance I get, and even more than that, I love looking at dishes, chatting to all the chefs I work with, and figuring out what new ideas we need to try out. We may never get to The French Laundry, but Thomas Keller’s books give some insight into what they cook and serve, and they are much cheaper than a flight to California.

When chefs write menus, flicking through a beautiful book can help get the creative juices going. Seeing just one element can trigger a chain reaction that can end up on a menu. It’s a process I never tire of and although the recipes that I write here each week are for home-cooking, the same process takes place. I see a dish I want to cook at home, then work on it till it’s simpler, faster and tastier. It’s different to the lengths that professional kitchens go to, but that’s how most of us like to cook at home. Simple, easy and delicious – without too much washing up.

The recipes in Itsa Cookbook are the “greatest hits” of the recipes that have appeared in my column, but before they became part of the book, they were subjected to plenty of recipe-testing by Irish Times readers. Inevitably I would hear about the good, the bad and the indifferent. What made the cut were the recipes that readers liked best and that my family and friends never tire of eating.

Broad bean hummus

Serves eight as a nibble or four if served on toasted sourdough with a light salad

Homemade hummus is great for you, but you should be careful of certain tasty commercial varieties. They’re often super-smooth and creamy in texture because they contain so much vegetable oil. Making hummus with broad beans instead of chickpeas is lovely – you get a soft-textured hummus in a gorgeous colour that’s very quick to make and doesn’t require soaking chickpeas overnight. I used frozen broad beans for this recipe because unless you can buy very young and extra-fresh broad beans, they can sometimes be a bit too pappy in texture. If you are lucky enough to find lovely fresh ones, 1kg of broad beans should yield approximately 500g of shelled broad beans.

500g frozen broad beans

a few cloves of garlic, peeled

200ml water

50ml olive oil

a squeeze of lemon juice

a few sprigs of mint

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Boil some water and cook the broad beans and garlic for a couple of minutes, until the beans have just thawed or cooked. Drain and rinse under cold water. Put the beans and garlic in a blender or food processor. Add half the water, the olive oil, lemon juice and mint. Whizz, adding a bit more water until the blades get going and start mushing the beans to a pulp. I always add too much water and thus end up with a slightly watery hummus, so go slowly. Adjust the seasoning and chill until ready to serve. It will last for a few days in the fridge.

Fig tart

Serves six to eight

Ideally you should make this in a 29cm tart tin, but you can also do this in a baking tray. Whatever suits. I absolutely love this tart.

200g plain flour

100g butter

175g caster sugar

a pinch of salt

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

10 figs, quartered

2 tbsp granulated sugar

150g apricot jam

Make the pastry by pulsing the flour and butter in a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and salt, then pulse again. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and keep processing until the pastry comes together and forms a ball. If it’s a bit dry and won’t form a ball, add a tiny splash of cream or water. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes or overnight. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark four. Roll out the pastry until it will cover the base of the tin only (not the sides). It’s almost like putting focaccia into the tin rather than lining something with pastry, so you can patchwork quilt the pastry rather than trying to roll it out perfectly. Arrange the fig quarters on top, sprinkle with sugar and bake for about 45 minutes, until it is puffed up slightly and golden brown. When the tart is cool, melt the jam with a few teaspoons of water over a gentle heat. Glaze the tart with the jam and leave to cool fully before serving.

Chocolate sorbet

Serves six

Just thinking about chocolate sorbets full of icy shards of bitter darkness makes me clench my teeth in a sensitive teeth kind of way: it just doesn’t seem right. However, we all agreed this was a mighty fine dessert, perfect for when you want a little something sweet but can’t face an entire slice of anything. It’s almost like eating a really rich, frozen, cocoa-dusted truffle. You could serve it with mandarin segments poached in 400ml of water along with two tablespoons of caster sugar and a splash of orange blossom flower water. The only reason I did this was because I have two darned bottles of it in the cupboard, which I’m still trying to get rid of. This is adapted from Skye Gyngell’s cookbook, A Year in My Kitchen.

250g caster sugar

600ml water

300g dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa content, the better)

1 tbsp cocoa powder

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Gently simmer for about five minutes. It should have some body. Roughly chop the chocolate or break into small pieces and put in a bowl with the cocoa powder. Slowly pour in the sugar syrup, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon at first and then a whisk. Keep stirring or gently whisking until the mixture is smooth. Allow it to cool down until good and thick, then transfer to a plastic container and freeze for a few hours.

Itsa Cookbook is published by Gill Macmillan, €19.99