Friday, July 19, 2013



This was a challenge put to me by the Marian Finucane Radio programme on RTE Radio 1.

All of the shopping was done in either Lidl or Aldi. Including a bottle of Baron St Jean Rosé (€3.99 from Lidl; a perfectly decent wine, especially when well chilled) the total cost came to €19.74, which leaves a whopping 26 cent left over. I didn’t include store cupboard ingredients like flour and sugar but everything else has been costed. The bad news is that if you must have spuds (and so many Irish people do) it’s going to push the expenditure over the limit – but only just.

Starter: Sopa cuatro de hora (by Elisabeth Luard)

Main course:Chicken, mushroom, mustard gratin

Side: Green salad, shallot, vinaigrette

Pudding: Whole lemon tart, crème fraiche (based on a recipe by Adrian Bailey)

The order in which you prepare it all, is up to you but I'd be inclined to start with the chicken which can be done the day before.

What you get here is (a) sensational stock and (b) exceptionally moist chicken which is going be luscious.

Start with the chicken and the stock. You will need

1 x 1.4kg free range chicken
1 large onion, with its skin, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm lengths
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
stalks cut from 1 bunch of parsley

Put the chicken into a large saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients and 2 litres of water. Cover, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the saucepan cool (if you have time). When its contents are warm, but not scalding, remove the chicken and let it drain in a colander over a bowl. Put the chicken aside and pour the rest of the saucepan contents through the colander into a bowl. This liquid is now a superb chicken stock.

Now, get the chicken gratin organised....


The gratin is rich and savoury but the mustard cuts it, so to speak. Lovely contrast between crusty, cheesy top and moist, creamy main part.

You will need...

The chicken, skinned, meat removed from bones, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces…

And the sauce, which goes like this. (If you don’t like mustard, try a sprig of tarragon very finely chopped or half a teaspoon of dried tarragon instead)

a knob of butter
2 onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, firmly squashed
250g button mushrooms, sliced
500ml double cream
1 tsp to 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard (according to taste)
110g breadcrumbs
50g Grano Padano or other hard cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 190ºC, gas mark 5.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the onions and garlic; turn the heat down and  cook gently until soft but not browning. Now add the mushrooms, turn up the heat and toss for 2 – 3 minutes.

Add the cream and cook for 3 minutes or until the cream slightly thickens. Now add the mustard and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken, and allow to heat through. Season with salt and pepper, then pour into a shallow ovenproof dish. If the mixture is too thick or too dry, just add more cream or stock.

Mix the breadcrumbs and cheese together and sprinkle evenly over the top.

When you’re ready, pop it into the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.


200g plain flour
115g butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg

1 egg
2 unwaxed lemons
300ml water
2 eggs
225g sugar

Make the pastry. Put the flour into a mixing bowl and add the butter, cut into little cubes. With your fingers, mix the two together until it resembles sand. Stir in the caster sugar followed by the egg. Mix together and roll into a ball. If the mixture is too dry, add a teaspoon or two of water.  Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for an hour or, ideally, overnight.

To make the filling, slice the lemons thinly, remove the pips and put into a saucepan with the water. Simmer, covered, for 30 – 40 minutes or until very tender. Uncover and, when cool, blitz in a food processor until quite smooth. Add the eggs and the sugar and pulse until thoroughly mixed.

Take the pastry from the fridge, roll it out and line a 24 cm tart tin (ideally one with a removable bottom), cover with greaseproof paper, fill with baking beans or rice and bake for 10 minutes. (The pastry has a tendency to break; just work it with your fingers so the base is thin and there are no holes! Think of it as a kind of Plasticene).

Remove the greaseproof paper and the baking beans. Pour the filling into the case, reduce the oven temperature to 160ºC, gas mark 3.

Bake the tart on the middle shelf for 30 – 40 minutes until the filling has risen and is just starting to colour.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Glaze the top with a little sugar syrup, if  you like, or sprinkle with icing sugar. This tart is best served warm rather than hot or stone cold, with, ideally, crème fraiche, or with lightly whipped cream.

This is the simplest salad you will ever make. So easy but the perfect foil for that rich, bubbling gratin.

1 large cos lettuce
I pink shallot, very finely siced
extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
cider vinegar
a little Dijon mustard (optional)

Wash and spin the lettuce, discarding the coarser outer leaves. Put them in a salad bowl and sprinkle over the shallot. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar (I like 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, but it’s up to you…) Shake, pour over the salad and toss.

This is a soup only in a technical sense. It’s really the most delicious broth – light and packed with flavour – enriched with some slightly unexpected things. The name suggests it takes 15 minutes to make; it doesn’t – more like five.

You will need:

 the stock from the chicken
1 egg
50g Serrano ham slices
leaves from the bunch of parsley

Hard-boil the egg. Boil  the stock until reduced to about 1 litre. Meanwhile, shell and finely chop the egg. Chop the parsley finely (if you have a mezzaluna, use it). Cut the Serrano ham into fine ribbons. Now, add all of these ingredients to the stock, check the seasoning and divide between four bowls. Serve right away.


  1. Thank you for this very modest menu, I'm going to try it this week. I remember boiling a chicken for my home economics class many (many) years ago, l'm looking forward to trying it again. And as for the whole lemon tart, brilliant! Nothing worse than leftover naked lemons going mouldy in the friut bowl ;)

  2. Thank you so much for those kind words, Lisa. Hope it all goes down well!