Home cook, blogger and author Nessa Robins rustles up some delicious family recipes straight from the garden to the table.
In recent times the harsh coldness we’d expect with the winter months has somehow routed itself into the season of Spring. Once that coldness has lifted we’re more than ready to embrace a little more heat in our days.
The greatest advantage to the Summer sneaking in is the abundance of foods which are now in season. Rhubarb is generally first to peep its head from the soil in my garden, and after a winter long fruit-free season the rhubarb is rightfully met with a wonderous welcome.
Rhubarb is perfectly suited to Irish soil and it’s terribly easy to grow, so I’d urge you to plant a few stalks. You won’t get to use it this year, but you will reap the benefits from these few stalks for many years to come.
Not long after the rhubarb, the fragrant leaves of wild garlic make an appearance. Neither rhubarb or wild garlic seem like the most child-friendly ingredients, however both can be used as the basis of very delicious family dishes.
Our poly tunnel also begins to come alive at this time of year, giving us plenty to feast on. The children love to help out in the garden and, in turn, seem to be more keen to try whatever is made from the produce.
I love easy-to-make puddings, such as this one, as the children can always give a helping hand. In this recipe I’m using fresh, young rhubarb, but it could easily be replaced with apples, pears or summer berries, simply lessen the sugar added to the fruit. Plenty of sugar is needed to sweeten the tart rhubarb, yet I don’t over-sweeten it, as its tartness very much compliments the sweet cake topping. This pudding is best served hot from the oven with a good dollop of freshly whipped cream.
- 500g rhubarb, chopped into chunks
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp water Cake Batter
- 110g butter
- 110g caster sugar
- 175g self-raising flour
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp milk
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C /gas mark 5. Grease a medium sized casserole dish, with a little butter.
2. Add the rhubarb, sugar and water to a small saucepan. Gently bring to the boil, then simmer for five minutes. Line the bottom of the casserole dish with the stewed rhubarb.
3. In a food processor, or mixer, add all of the batter ingredients and mix for a few minutes, until well combined.
4. Spoon the cake batter evenly over the rhubarb and smooth over with a knife.
5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes until the pudding has risen and is golden in colour. Serve hot or cold with custard, cream or vanilla ice-cream.
Avocado & banana gelato
This gelato can be made in minutes, but you must allow the few hours for freezing, pre and post making it. Avocados are an absolute favourite of mine. They’re impressively nutritious and can easily be added to smoothies and milkshakes without fussy little ones even noticing. My children love this gelato and enjoy it best when it’s scooped into an ice-cream cone, but I simply enjoy it by the bowlful, as a quick breakfast treat or a tasty dessert.
- 2 ripe bananas, peeled and chopped
- 1 small mango, peeled and chopped
- 1 small avocado
- 200g Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp honey
1. Place the chopped banana and mango into a sealed container and freeze for two to three hours.
2. Once frozen, add them with the avocado, yogurt and honey to a food processor and blend until smooth. This is delicious eaten straight away but to serve it as more of an ‘ice-cream’ place it into a freezer-proof dish and pop in the freezer for a couple of hours. Allow to thaw slightly before serving.
Wild garlic potato cakes topped with smoked salmon
Whenever I’ve a sizable bowl of leftover mashed potato in the fridge, I like to make a batch of potato cakes. My children have always loved them. Wild garlic makes a great addition to the potato cakes, but when it’s not in season I usually add some fresh chives in its place. When topped with a little smoked salmon and served with some salad leaves this is the makings of a very tasty lunch.
- 450g cooled mashed potatoes
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 75g plain flour, plus extra for work surface
- 2tbsp wild garlic, finely chopped
- 1-2tbsp olive oil
- 100g crème fraiche
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
- 150g smoked Irish salmon
- 125g salad leaves
1. Place the mashed potato in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and add the egg. Stir in the flour and wild garlic. Combine well to form a dough.
2. Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and lightly knead. Roll out the dough, about 3cm thick.
3. Cut into circles using a pastry cutter making approximately 8 potato cakes.
4. Place the oil into a pan and place over a medium heat. Add the potato cakes and cook for about three minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove to a warmed plate.
5. In a bowl combine the crème fraiche with the lemon zest.
6. Next, make the salad dressing. In a separate bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and wholegrain mustard. Season with a little salt and pepper.
7. Place two hot potato cakes on each plate. Divide the smoked salmon between each and top with a spoonful of the lemon scented crème fraiche. Serve with a handful of salad leaves, drizzled with a little of the salad dressing. Enjoy.
Oats & strawberry smoothie
In our back garden we have a poly tunnel. The first of our strawberries normally appear in late May. It’s only ever a small crop to begin with so what the children collect they normally eat straight from the plant or, if a few strawberries make it back into the kitchen, they’re normally popped into a smoothie, like this one.
- 100g strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp oats
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 ripe banana, cut into chunks
- 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
- 150ml milk
- Few ice cubes
Add the strawberries, oats, honey, banana, yogurt, milk and ice cubes into a tall plastic jug and blend until smooth, using a hand blender. Otherwise put all the ingredients into a liquidiser and blend until smooth. Enjoy straight away!
Find more from Nessa at Nessa’s Family Kitchen
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