Quick and easy winter warmers

Tasting

VERSATILE Penne pasta and fried courgette can be served with a variety of sauces.

Tasting

Redmond Cabot

This week I’m going to focus on two easy-to-make dinners. When the dark, early evenings close in, I sometimes come home cold and feel like producing some warm food quicker than normal to get people sitting down around the table as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s just about getting fairly decent warm food on the table as quick as possible, the less pots the better! Here are two go-to quick recipe ideas.

Rice, carrot and cod
I always buy fish when it is a good price, but only ever buy FRESH fish! It is simply not worth it if smelly or dull, even if it is free.

What you need

  • 300g of your favourite rice
  • 1 fillet fresh cod or hake
  • 2 carrots (we love the local Ryder or Bracken carrots in Westport)
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • ½ tsp veg bouillon or stock
  • Seasoning
  • Pinch of turmeric (optional)

What you do
Wash and rinse your rice in a saucepan. Add the veg bouillon and cook the rice as per instructions. Add your turmeric here of you like. Wash or peel carrots and cut into circle slices, half moons or thin sticks (which do you prefer?). With 12 minutes to go to the end of the rice cooking, add the carrots to the top of the rice.
To remove the skin from the fish, use a sharp knife and start at the tail end to cut down to skin, slice along between the skin and the fillet, the knife blade at an angle, lifting tail end as you go. With five minutes to go, cut chucks of fish and gently push them by hand into the top surface of the cooking rice. Ensure there is enough moisture in the pot to cook/steam for another five minutes without burning. Scatter in the peas on top, cover with a lid, and cook for another five minutes.
The key to serving a nice-looking dish is to use a flat ladle and lift each spoonful out so it carries a mound of rice and some perfectly cooked puffy fresh fish on top. Use the carrots for decoration. Do not make a mess of the plate; don’t under-estimate how much we eat with our eyes!

Pasta with fried courgette
This pasta dish works well for fussy eaters. Maybe one child wants the pasta with only butter and cheese, and another wants a tomato sauce? Well, you can alter it as you serve up for individual tastes. Handy!

What you need

  • 300g penne pasta
  • 2 courgettes, washed and topped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped into rough chunks
  • Olive or rape seed oil
  • Seasoning

What you do
Begin cooking penne pasta in well-salted boiling water, as per instructions. Slice your courgettes into the rings the width of a regular knife handle. Heat some oil in a medium-hot pan and add the rings.
Wait until the undersides show a brown colour, five mins or so, and then use a fork to turn them over.
Add in your chopped garlic and another dash of oil, and cook for another four minutes or so, until browned. You can mix your drained pasta in directly when cooked or let the courgettes rest, as they go softer and sweeter, and then combine.
Add touches of butter and cheese, cream, or a pesto or tomato sauce to the final stages of courgette cooking, depending on special preferences! If you want more veg, adding a good handful of peas works well.
Season as desired and serve in warmed bowl plates.

Red Cabot has had a lifelong interest in food. In 2010 he began selling fresh food sauces at Westport Country Market, open every Thursday at the Old Railway Hotel, North Mall, Westport, 8.30am-1pm.