Covid Dish

I suspect I am not alone in having latched onto a particular meal choice during the pandemic. It seems to offer certainty and comfort both in its preparation and eating.

It’s a Fish Dish – which consists of a mixture of poached salmon and hake with bay leaves; mashed potato; sweet potato, spinach, tomato, mushroom, garlic, red onion and herbs from the garden.

The mixture goes into one of my late mother’s best bowls and gets about 20 minutes to brown in the oven.

We are a house of vegan, vegetarian and non-fish loving carnivore so I am the only person eating the fish dish.

I’m surprised I haven’t tired of it yet but I am beginning to realise that it is about a lot more than food.

It is definitely about nostalgia, craving to smooth the ongoing jolts and wanting to eat home-cooked healthy food.

Have you found yourself returning over and over to the same food since the pandemic struck?

Star Turns

I’m not a great cook, especially when it comes to catering beyond family.

However, I made it my business years ago to try and develop what I call Star Turns, in other words dishes that I feel confident I could prepare for a load of ‘very important people’ who consider themselves to be a cut about the rest in terms of cuisine. Mind you, I can hardly bear to think of having to entertain such a gathering.

Anyway one of my Star Turns is my late grandmother’s Sherry Trifle and I will humbly say it has never let me down nor failed to impress. Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a go:

Ingredients

Trifle Sponges
Sherry- good tablespoon at least!
Custard
Bananas
Good Raspberry Jam
Cream

Method

Break up the trifle sponges and soak with the sherry. Make a pint or so of custard and pour it over the trifle sponges. Cover the dish with an ordinary plate and leave to cool, ideally overnight.

Spread raspberry jam over the custard. Add sliced bananas and top off with freshly whipped cream.

If possible, refrain from eating the trifle too quickly as it is better on day two when all the ingredients have merged.

I really hope you enjoy this. The covering with the plate while cooling is the key as it keeps it nice and moist.

Now, have you any easy Star Turns to share? I am starving just thinking about the trifle!

The Emotional Ingredients of Bread Sauce ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 350

If I had to pick just one thing to cook and eat at Christmas, it would be bread sauce.  In fact, I think I would manage fine on bread sauce alone and this has nothing to do with ‘austerity’ which has become one of the most used words in Ireland in the last few years.

Bread Sauce is my emotional stabiliser as Christmas fires all the personal and public changes of the year, and indeed life,  into the monstrous pressure cooker. Obviously, change can be both positive and negative but somehow all changes have to be processed and they seem to be at boiling point around Christmas and the New Year.

Bread Sauce has been part of my Christmas since I was a child. It connects me to the female line going way back to my grandmother and sideways to my sister. For me, it’s as constant as Santa and that’s saying it all. Santa never, ever let me down and he has a capacity to keep going, no matter what.

Bread Sauce starts on Christmas Eve with the halving of an onion and that view into the layers of life and what really matters. It may draw tears but these are soothed by the call of cloves begging to be inserted into the fleshy cracks. No matter what the weather, fresh bay leaves have to be picked from the little tree in the garden, itself born from a cutting from the big bay tree that lived outside Mother and Dad’s back door.

There is a need to live in the absolute present as the decorated onion, bay leaves and pepper corns come to the boil in a saucepan of milk. Milk, with all its connotations of motherhood, those calming words so often whispered in a comforting hug: Oh, no use crying over spilled milk …..

Mother and Me Photo: frank Tubridy
Mother and Me
Photo: frank Tubridy

As everyone sleeps on Christmas Eve into Christmas morning, except Santa, the covered saucepan works its own mingling magic which rises to a tantalising aroma when re-heated in readiness for the handfuls of bread crumbs to be absorbed, a moment when you watch the ease with which connections can bring a whole new texture to life.

So often, over the years, the phone has rung as this very point. Big Sis with her cheery ‘Happy Christmas ….. remind me again about the bread sauce …..’  Of course, she hasn’t forgotten how to make it but she never fails to mention it!

Gently dissolving a knob of butter and adding cream ~ thoughts flowing to Granny and her handmade butter and real creamy, cream.

The first taste of the warm bread sauce, licked off the wooden spoon, serves as a main course in re-assurance that fundamental love prevails.