Posts Tagged ‘What Irish Catholics Eat During Lent’

Irish Vegetable Soup

Soup Unblended…

Autumn is upon us and with the change in temperature outdoors we need warm, wholesome, foods to keep us energized and satisfied.

This soup will do nicely. It is vegetarian, but so flavourful you’ll hardly miss the meat! The parsnip gives the soup a hint of sweetness, but only slightly, and if you’re not a fan of parsnips you can omit them altogether and substitute in another vegetable. In fact, the beauty of this soup is you can throw nearly any combination of veggies into the pot and come out with a dish that is simply delicious.

And Soup Blended!

And Soup Blended!

I follow Darina Allen’s method for vegetable soup making, which is 1:1:3:5. That is one cup of onion (could be onions, leeks, shallots or a combination of the three): one cup of potatoes: three cups of vegetables: and five cups of stock. This is foolproof soup making. Warm and wholesome, this is perfect when served with a slice of Irish Brown Bread. Enjoy!

Autumn Vegetable Soup

Serves 6-8


2 tablespoon of butter
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup potatoes, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
1/2 cup cauliflower, chopped
5 cups of vegetable (or chicken) stock
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Place the butter in a large pot and place over a medium high heat.

2. When butter is melted and foamy, add the onion and potato.

3. Sauté for 2 minutes, then cover and sweat for 8 minutes.

4. Add the stock, carrots, parsnip, celery, and cauliflower, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender when you insert a fork.

5. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste and then either serve as a chunky vegetable broth or blitz with a hand blender to form a silky smooth soup.

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Some see Lent as an opportunity to give something up. Others see Lent as an opportunity to take something on: something that is “good”. I see Lent as an opportunity to do both. Which is why, in our Irish home, each of us is giving something up for Lent and, Saturday to Thursday, I am taking on the task of finding delicious meat-free meals for my family {and for you and yours) to enjoy each Friday during this holy season.

Last week, the first Friday in Lent 2014, we had Irish Black Bean, Kale and Quinoa Salad: a very tasty meal indeed. This week, we’re trying a recipe from Rachel Allen, an Irish chef whose bubbly personality and common sense approach to cooking have made her a household name in these parts.

Rachel Allen Photo Credit: Kerrygold USA

Rachel Allen
Photo Credit: Kerrygold USA

If you do a Google search on Rachel Allen, you will discover that she was originally from Dublin and left home at eighteen to study at the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland. You will also learn that Rachel is now a busy TV chef, author, journalist and mother of three, who still teaches at Ballymaloe. She is the author of six bestselling cookbooks, and has sold in excess of one million books worldwide. Her popular television series for RTE (Ireland’s national television station) and the BBC have been broadcast internationally in 33 different countries and she frequently appears on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. Attracting two million viewers on the BBC, her TV series is also the highest ever rated show on The Good Food Channel in the UK. Rachel is also a main presenter of the BBC’s Good Food Channel flagship program, Market Kitchen.

That’s some C.V. (resume)!

While I’ve never had the opportunity to meet Rachel, I do remember her from a time when she was a trainee at Ballymaloe Cookery School and I was a student. I was in a hands-on cooking class, being taught by Darina Allen (now Rachel’s mother-in-law), when a young Rachel scurried past the back of the demo table and out the patio door. Someone in the class inquired about the very pretty blonde that had just slipped by and Darina replied, “Oh, her…she’s my son’s girlfriend”. I remember the looks passing between the student chefs…ones that said, “Lucky him!”. Fast forward some fourteen years later and the “girlfriend” is now the “wife” and a part of the Allen “magic” that began with Myrtle Allen, grew with Darina, and has now been passed to Rachel.

Rachel, Myrtle and Darina Allen: Photo Credit: Ballymaloe Cookery School

Rachel, Myrtle and Darina Allen
Photo Credit: Ballymaloe Cookery School

By all accounts Rachel is a lovely woman, which makes it all the nicer to follow her recipes. Tomorrow {Friday}, I’ll be making her Broccoli Soup with Parmesan Toast. It’s one of those thick and hearty Irish soups, that’s easy to make and looks positively delicious.

If you prefer a fish dish, you may want to try Rachel’s Roast Haddock with Lemon Basil Potato Salad…which looks really fresh and spring-like.

If, however, you want something a wee bit heavier but oh so “more-ish”, you may want to have a go at making Rachel’s Kale and Purple Sprouting Broccoli Bake. Click on the link to the left to watch the video.

Photo Credit: rachelallen.com

Photo Credit: rachelallen.com

Oh, goodness, with so many fabulous Rachel Allen recipes to choose from, we’re spoilt rotten! I’d love to know which recipe you try tomorrow or any day during Lent. I’ll be sure to let you know whether my little family enjoyed the soup. All the best to you in the kitchen…cheers!

Related Articles:

Discovering the Fresh Face of New Irish Cooking at http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-calcook-discovering-the-fresh-face-of-new-irish-cooking-20140306,0,1148730.story#axzz2vnuCnHj2

March 10, 2014 article in the Irish Examiner about Myrtle Allen turning 90 at http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/matriarch-of-ballymaloe-celebrates-her-90th-birthday-261396.html

Refreshing look at Rachel Allen’s Kitchen at thekitchn.com

Rachel Allen website here

Darina Allen website here

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During the season of Lent many Christians give up meat on Friday. Our little family is no exception. Today’s meat-free meal is a quinoa and kale salad. The inspiration for this delicious salad comes from my new friend Perry, who lives in Utah and runs a blog called Ski Boots in the Kitchen. I met Perry not long ago and love visiting her blog about living high in the snow cap mountains of Park City {home of the Sundance Film Festival}.


Perry’s Black Bean, Kale and Quinoa Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette got me to thinking what an Irish version of the same salad would look like. Carrots and cabbage seemed an obvious addition so they went into the mix first. Perry’s recipe calls for pomegranate. but given we’re not big fans of pomegranate, I substituted that ingredient with cranberries and raisins, instead.

Quinoa and Kale Salad


The result was a healthy, tasty, easy-to-make meal perfect for a meat-free Friday…or any other day of the year! I dare say my Irish version is as good as Perry’s Utah version…but I’ll let you be the judge. Try them both and let us know what you think.

Best wishes for your continued Lenten resolve!

Irish Quinoa and Kale Salad

Serves 10

Salad Ingredients

5oz/1 large bunch of kale, finely chopped with ribs and stems removed

5oz cherry tomatoes, cut in half

3 carrots, shredded

5oz shredded cabbage

1 can/425g black beans, cooked, drained and rinsed

2 cups/13oz cooked quinoa, cooled

½ cup/2oz dried cranberries

½ cup/2oz raisins

½ red onion, finely chopped

1 avocado, sliced

Vinaigrette Ingredients

5 tablespoons red wine vinegar

15-20 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and fresh-ground pepper


1. Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package or box it came in. Allow to cool completely. This step can be done a day ahead and the quinoa may be kept in the fridge, if desired.

2. Chop the kale and put in a large bowl along with the cherry tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, onion, black beans, quinoa, cranberries, raisins and red onion. Toss well.

3. In a separate bowl pour in the red wine vinegar and slowly whisk in the 15 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and taste. Continue to whisk more olive oil until the balance between the olive oil and red wine vinegar seems right. Season with more salt and pepper as desired.

4. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss everything together, making sure to coat all ingredients with the dressing.

5. If put in an air-tight container, this salad will keep very well for up to three days.

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Photo from Giada at Home Cookery BookLast week’s post on what Irish Catholics eat during Lent was a big hit. Seems there are quite a few of you out there who, like me, need a warm meat-free meal at the end of a Lenten week.

With that in mind, I offer you the following recipe for Pasta Ponza. It comes courtesy of the bright and beautiful Giada De Laurentiis and is found in her cookery book Giada at Home. You’ll forgive me for saying so but I turned instinctively to this particular chef after watching Pope Benedict XVI resign yesterday. The news from Rome and the beautiful images of Italy made me think Italian food seemed appropriate for this Friday’s Lenten Dinner Challenge. Giada herself was born in Italy but was then raised in Los Angeles. Stylistically, she reminds me of our own Rachel Allen.

This recipe is molto bene! Enjoy.

Pasta Ponza

Serves 4 to 6


Unsalted butter, for greasing

2 cups/12 oz red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

2 cups/12 oz yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling

½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste

½ cup/1oz Italian-style seasoned dried bread crumbs

1 pound/16oz ziti or other short tube-shaped pasta

1 ½ cups/8oz grated Pecorino Romano cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves


1. Place an oven rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5. Butter an 8×8-inch baking dish. Set aside.

2. Combine the tomatoes, capers, olive oil, salt and pepper in the prepared baking dish. Toss to coat.

3. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the tomato mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture over the pasta. Add the cheese and toss well. If needed, thin out the sauce with a little pasta water. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

* Note: Photo was taken from Giada De Laurentiis’ cookery book Giada at Home.

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