Georgina Campbell Cookery Feature - Home Economics for Life

Brilliant title, brilliant concept - Neven Maguire’s latest book is the one. One of Ireland’s greatest ambassadors for good, local food and simply delicious home cooking, Neven and his trusty team have produced dozens of cookery books at this stage - if I heard Marty Whelan correctly at the launch, I think he said there were as many as 79 titles in the Maguire archive now - and all are solidly reliable, but this one is different.

With its confidence inspiring step-by-step images it reminds me of those old staples of good home cooking, the Good Housekeeping series, which turned many a timorous beginner of yesteryear into a happy cook - and the idea that, by mastering just one of the 50 essential recipes each week, you’ll be competent in the kitchen within a year is inspired.

Like his wonderful mother, Vera, before him Neven is a natural teacher and it’s a great thing for the health and happiness of Ireland’s kitchen ingénues that this gifted chef so obviously enjoys passing on his knowledge and enabling others to learn how cook and feed themselves and their families - vital life skills that seem to have been bypassed by so many of the takeaway generation.

So, Neven’s promise is that you too can be a kitchen whiz - and not just have a lot of fun in the kitchen, but be ‘certified in Home Economics for Life’ as well. Go for it!
Neven Maguire’s Home Economics for Life (Gill Books, €22.99) is available from all good bookshops and online.

SAMPLE RECIPES: A Shepherd’s Pie, a Victoria Sponge cake and a (slow but rewarding) Sourdough loaf are just three of the classic dishes that will help to build up a repertoire of essential recipes that will make any beginner cook feel confident and competent in the kitchen.

This has to be the ultimate comfort food that should only need to be eaten with a fork, preferably in a wide shallow bowl. Imagine settling down on the sofa with this, a mug of tea and a slice of thickly buttered bread for mopping up – life can’t get much better! It’s great to have one of these stashed in your freezer to help you to feed a large group at short notice. If you want to cook it from frozen, simply cover with tin foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour.
Serves 6–8

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
675g (1½lb) lean minced lamb
a knob of butter
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
3 celery sticks, diced
100g (4oz) button mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp tomato purée
2 tsp tomato ketchup
300ml (½ pint) white wine
25g (1oz) plain flour
300ml (½ pint) chicken or beef stock (from a cube is fine)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1kg (2¼lb) Rooster potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
75g (3oz) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
50g (2oz) butter, plus a little extra
buttered peas

Put a frying pan over a high heat and add a little of the oil. Season the minced lamb, then add it to the pan to fry in batches. Don’t cover the surface of the pan completely, as adding too much meat will reduce the temperature of the pan and the meat won’t brown. Avoid over-stirring the mince as it fries Leave it alone and allow it to develop a good brown colour before breaking it up with a wooden spoon and turning it over. Drain in a colander to remove any excess fat.
Wipe out the pan, then add the butter and allow it to melt over a medium heat. Add the vegetables and thyme and season with the cinnamon and some salt and pepper. Cook for 5–6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veg are starting to soften.
Tip in the browned lamb mince, stirring to combine, then stir in the Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée and ketchup. Pour in the wine and scrape up all the crusty brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then allow the liquid to reduce by three-quarters.
Sprinkle over the flour and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring. Gradually pour in the stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 1 hour, until meltingly tender. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little more water.
During the last half an hour of cooking time, make the mash. Put the potatoes in a pan of cold salted water. Cover and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15¬–20 minutes, until tender. Drain the potatoes and return to the pan over a low heat for 2–3 minutes to remove as much moisture as possible. Remove the pan from the heat, then mash with a potato masher until smooth. Beat in the cheese and butter and season to taste.
Preheat the grill.
Spoon the mince into a baking dish, then spoon the mash on top. Dot with a little more butter and grill until golden. Alternatively, leave to cool completely and store in the fridge for up to two days, then preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4) and cook on the bottom shelf for 45 minutes, until bubbling and brown. Serve straight to the table with a dish of buttered peas alongside.
To make this recipe into a cottage pie, replace the lamb with beef. There are now different types of mince available in supermarkets and most butchers. As a general rule, the higher the price, the better quality the meat and the lower the fat content. If you’re lucky enough to have some leftover roast lamb or beef, it makes the best pie. Follow the instructions above but add the diced meat once the sauce has been made, as it has already been cooked, and use any leftover gravy instead of stock.

This is a slight twist on a classic Victoria sponge, but if you want to keep it traditional, then omit the lemon rind in the sponge and replace the lemon curd with your favourite strawberry jam.

225g (8oz) butter, softened
200g (7oz) caster sugar
4 eggs
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
seeds of ½ vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp baking powder
200g (7oz) icing sugar, sifted
100g (4oz) butter, softened
seeds of ½ vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract
a drop of milk (if necessary)
7 tbsp shop-bought lemon curd
icing sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4).
Line 2 x 20cm (8in) loose-bottomed cake tins with
non-stick baking paper.

Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and cream together. I find the best way to do this is to use a wooden spoon to push the mixture onto the side of the bowl until it’s mixed together, then beat it hard until the mixture turns from yellow to a paler shade. Alternatively, use a hand-held electric mixer or a freestanding electric mixer, which is
much easier and quicker.

Add two of the eggs to the butter mixture along with half of the flour and beat together until combined. Add the other two eggs and the rest of the flour along with the lemon zest, vanilla and baking powder and beat like mad to get a good amount of air into it.

Divide the batter between the prepared cake tins and bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, until the cakes have shrunk slightly from the sides of the tin, spring back when touched in the centre and a skewer inserted into the centre of each one comes out clean. Once baked, remove from the oven and leave the cakes to cool completely in the tins.

While the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream. Cream together the icing sugar, butter and vanilla in a bowl until light and fluffy, adding a drop of milk to loosen it if necessary.

Once the cakes are completely cool, place one on a cake stand and spread the buttercream on top, followed by the lemon curd. Cover with the other cake and dust with icing sugar to serve.

To make this into a coffee cake, simply add 3 tablespoons of coffee essence to the batter with the vanilla and add another couple of teaspoons to the buttercream. Or try filling
the sponge with a chocolate hazelnut spread instead of the lemon curd.

With a sourdough starter kept handy in the fridge, tasty, chewy bread can be yours on demand. It will take about a week to create, but with care and regular feeding it can last you a lifetime. I use rhubarb to help kick-start the fermentation, as it has plenty of natural yeast and always gives a successful result. On Day 5 of the process you will need to discard the leftover starter or pass it on to someone else to make their own. French bannetons – the woven, cloth-lined baskets traditionally used to prove bread – can be very expensive to buy, but a similar-sized wicker basket (approximately 24cm/9½in) lined with a linen tea towel also works well, as it allows for air circulation.

50g (2oz) wholegrain rye flour
50g (2oz) strong white flour
150ml (¼ pint) warm water
25g (1oz) rhubarb, very thinly sliced (on a mandolin is perfect)
25g (1oz) wholegrain rye flour
25g (1oz) strong white flour
50ml (1½fl oz) warm water
125ml (4¼fl oz) warm water
75g (3oz) strong white flour
40g (1½oz) wholegrain rye flour
30g (1¼oz) wholemeal flour
375g (13oz) strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
250g (9oz) starter
1 tsp fine sea salt
120–175ml (4–6fl oz) warm water
olive oil, for kneading and greasing

To make the starter, mix the flours in a bowl with your hands until combined. Put the water in a large Kilner jar or bowl with the rhubarb and use your hands to mix in the flours until it resembles a thick paste. Wrap this jar or bowl loosely in cling film and leave in a warm place for 24 hours.
At around the same time the following day, mix the first batch of the daily feed, which is simply the flours and water, into your starter and leave somewhere warm, again loosely covered with cling film. If there is a bit of skin on top, just mix it in.
Repeat as per Day 2.
By now you should start seeing active fermentation.
Repeat as per Day 2.
The starter should be bubbling away and smell tangy. Mix it to combine, then put 30g (1¼oz) of the starter into a larger bowl. Pick out any pieces of rhubarb and discard. Whisk in the water and stir in the flours until well combined. Cover loosely with
cling film and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. You don’t need the rest of the starter now, so you could gift it to friends and family if they’d like to have a go at making their own sourdough too or use it to make pancakes, pizzas or scones for a lovely tang.
Repeat as per Day 5, again using only 30g (1 ¼ oz) of the starter.
Now you can finally make your bread. To make the dough, combine the flour, starter and salt in a large bowl. Add the water a little at a time and mix with your hands to make a soft dough – you may not need all of the water.

Coat the work surface with a little olive oil, then tip the dough onto it and knead for 10–15 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Tip into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for 5 hours, until it has at least doubled in size.

Tip the dough back onto the work surface and knead again until smooth, knocking most of the air out. Roll into a ball and dust with flour. Put into a well-floured round banneton or proving basket (see the intro), then cover with a clean tea towel and place in a cool, not cold, place and leave to rise slowly for 8 hours.

Put a roasting tin half-filled with water on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheat to 220°C (425°F/gas mark 7). Dust a baking sheet generously with flour.

Gently tip the risen dough out of the basket onto the baking sheet. Using a small sharp knife, cut a cross into the top of the dough. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6) and bake for another 15–20 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown, the outside crust is crisp and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and leave to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.

If you are using your starter often, you can leave it at room temperature, feeding it at least every three days and whenever you take some to make bread. Simply stir in some strong white flour and enough water to return it to the consistency of very wet dough, bearing in mind that you will need about 375g (13oz) of starter for each loaf of bread. Then leave it, covered, until it achieves that thick, bubbly, jelly-like stage. If you are making sourdough less often – say, once a month – then keep the starter covered in the fridge. This will slow down the activity and preserve it almost indefinitely, but you must let it come back to room temperature before use. If it ever seems inactive, give it a feed of strong white flour – the bacteria within it are living, so they need feeding

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