Georgina Campbell Cookery Feature - Simply Delicious the Classic Collection

Anyone who remembers Darina Allen’s first RTÉ Simply Delicious programmes when they hit our TV screens in 1989 (on Monday 13th March to be precise) will recall what a breath of fresh air her message was.

It was all about the Ballymaloe philosophy - which was already becoming an internationally recognised beacon of wholesome common sense in the food world at the time - and Darina’s aptly-named cookery programmes sent that message into millions of Irish homes: deliciously nutritious food is easy to make - and the secret ingredient is our wonderful seasonal local produce.

It was a huge success and the first Simply Delicious book made Irish publishing history, topping the bestseller list for many months and selling more copies than any previously published cookbook in Ireland. Darina went on to write a further six Simply Delicious books to accompany the series and has since written many others including the comprehensive Ballymaloe Cookery Course and also Forgotten Skills of Cooking - which celebrates many of the techniques which have since seen renewed interest, especially in professional kitchens.

Coming up to the 30th anniversary of Simply Delicious, it’s great to see a special collection of 100 recipes from Simply Delicious 1 and 2 and Simply Delicious Vegetables published in a handsome hardback cookbook.
Some recipes have been tweaked a bit to update them, but Darina’s message is unchanged and has never been more relevant - and who could resist classic starters like Warm Salad with Cashel Blue Cheese or Ballymaloe Chicken Liver Pâté; comforting mains such as Ballymaloe Irish Stew and Ballycotton Fish Pie; and timeless desserts such a Chocolate Meringue Gateau? And Darina’s voice is there in every recipe, reminding us of the good foods that we have on our doorstep and the wonderful people who produce them.

Simply Delicious the Classic Collection by Darina Allen is published by Kyle Books with photography by Peter Cassidy. Hardback; €27

A Warm Salad with Irish Blue Cheese

Some ripe, crumbly Cashel Blue cheese now made by Jane and Louis Grubb’s daughter Sarah would be wonderful for this salad. A few little cubes of ripe pear are delicious here too. We also love their Crozier Blue cheese.
Serves 4

a selection of organic salad leaves, such as watercress, radicchio, endive, rocket, oakleaf and butterhead
12 round croutons, 5mm thick, cut from a thin sourdough baguette
45g salted butter, softened
1 garlic clove, peeled
140g smoked streaky bacon, cut into 5mm lardons
extra virgin olive oil, for frying
50g Irish farmhouse blue cheese
1 heaped tablespoon of chervil sprigs or freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

For the vinaigrette dressing:
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly chopped chervil and 2 teaspoons freshly chopped tarragon or 4 teaspoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Farmhouse Chicken
A whole meal in a dish, this was, and still is, a favourite family supper in our house. I often serve it in the big black roasting tin, on the table, family style.
Serves 8
1.575 kg organic, free-range chicken
560g fat streaky bacon in one piece
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
seasoned plain flour
400g onions, finely sliced or chopped
340g carrots, cut into 1cm slices
approx. 2.3kg large ‘old’ potatoes, such as Golden Wonders or Kerr's Pinks
1.1 litres homemade chicken stock, boiling
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 230°C/gas mark 8.
Joint the chicken into 8 pieces; separate the wing joints so they will cook evenly. Cut the rind off the bacon and cut 225g into lardons and the remainder into 5mm-thick slices. If salty, blanch, refresh and dry on kitchen paper. Set the slices aside.

Heat the oil in a wide frying pan and cook the lardons until the fat begins to run and they are pale golden; transfer to a plate. Toss the chicken joints in the seasoned flour, sauté in the bacon fat and oil until golden on both sides, remove from the pan and put with the bacon. Finally toss the onions and carrots in the bacon fat for 1–2 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and slice a little less than half into 5mm rounds. Arrange a layer of potato slices on the bottom of a deep 38cm square roasting tin. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Top with a layer of seasoned chicken joints. Cut the remaining potatoes into 4cm-thick slices lengthways and arrange cut-side up on top of the chicken (the whole top of the dish should be covered with potato slices). Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour the boiling chicken stock into the roasting tin.

Bake for about 1 hour. After 30 minutes of cooking, top with the slices of bacon so they get deliciously crisp with the potatoes. Test after 1 hour – it may take a little longer. Cover loosely with parchment paper near the end of cooking if the top is getting too brown. The vegetables will have absorbed much of the stock, but the dish should still be moist and juicy underneath the crisp potatoes and bacon slices on top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Chocolate Meringue Gateau
This recipe makes two layers of meringue but you can double the ingredients for a celebration cake or to make individual little meringues
Serves 6

2 organic, free-range egg whites
125g icing sugar
2 rounded teaspoons cocoa powder (I use Valrhona)

For the chocolate & rum cream:
30g best-quality dark chocolate
15g unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon Jamaican rum
1 tablespoon double cream
300ml softly whipped cream
For the chocolate wafers: 55g best-quality dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2.

Mark 2 x 19cm circles on parchment paper. Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease.

Put the egg whites into the bowl and add 110g sieved icing sugar all at once; whisk for about 10 minutes until the mixture forms stiff, dry peaks. Sift together the cocoa and the remaining 15g sieved icing sugar and fold in very gently. Spread into circles with a palette knife and bake immediately in the oven for 45 minutes or until just crisp. Leave to cool completely then peel off the paper.

Meanwhile, very gently melt the chocolate with the rum and 1 tablespoon of cream, or in a bowl over simmering water. Cool and add 2 tablespoons of whipped cream into the chocolate. Mix well, then fold that into the remaining softly whipped cream; don’t stir too much or it may curdle.

To make the chocolate wafers, melt the chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water. Stir until quite smooth. Spread on a non-stick baking mat or heavy baking tray. Put into a cold place until stiff enough to cut into square or diamond shapes.

Sandwich the two meringue discs together with most of the chocolate and rum cream and add rosettes on top. Decorate with the chocolate wafers and a sprinkling of cocoa.

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