I don't think I can remember a day my mother didn't cook a pot of potatoes for dinner. Even on the warmest of summer days, if a dinner of cold meats and salads was on the cards, potatoes would still be there, simmering away on the stove. Potatoes were part and parcel of our daily dinners, and to this day I still cherish their deliciousness, but as a mother, I especially appreciate their versatility. Soups, salads, omelettes or casseroles; there are so many meal options to consider once I've potatoes in my kitchen. 



There is something most delicious about new season, Irish potatoes. They're bursting with flavour, and little is needed to boost their profile in any dish. I'd happily eat a plateful of new potatoes, simply sprinkled with sea salt and coated with a little glaze of good, Irish butter. In this recipe I created for the 'Potatoes More Than A Bit On The Side' campaign, the Irish potato is the star ingredient. Potatoes are the traditional 'superfood'. They're 100% natural and they're rich in minerals, especially potassium, as well as being a great source of fibre. At this time of year Irish potatoes can be picked up in every shop and market around the country. When we purchase Irish potatoes we're supporting our local growers who passionately produce delicious potatoes for our consumption. 



Patatas Bravas with Chorizo & Eggs

Patatas Bravas is a dish many of us will associate with holidaying abroad, but it's an ever so easy dish to recreate at home. Little cubes of fried potatoes, coated in a slightly spicy tomato sauce, makes this dish flavoursome enough to enjoy on its own, but the combination of flavours makes for a wonderful base for many dishes. Any grilled meat or roasted vegetables would work deliciously well served alongside the tomato drenched potatoes. Patatas bravas may be most associated as a snack to enjoy with a nice glass of red, however as an everyday dish it may be best suited to the family breakfast or brunch menu, especially when an egg is popped on top. Chorizo, with its pungent flavours, pairs perfectly alongside any tomato based dish, it also adds to the smoky tones of the paprika. However, it can easily be omitted if you'd prefer this dish as a vegetarian option.




Patatas Bravas with Chorizo & Eggs

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients

For the potatoes
500g new potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

For the sauce
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Pinch of chilli flakes
400g tin of cherry tomatoes
1/2 tsp sugar
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
80g chorizo, roughly diced

For the eggs
1tsp olive oil
4 free-range eggs

For the garnish
Fresh chives

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/ fan 200°C/gas mark 7.
2. Chop the potatoes into small cubes and dry with some kitchen paper. Drizzle the olive oil on a large baking tray and place in the hot oven for two minutes. Take from the oven and add the potato cubes. Carefully, toss the potato cubes in the hot oil. Season with a little salt and pepper. Return to the oven and roast for about 25-30 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes, until brown and crispy. Take from the oven half way through cooking to turn the potato pieces. 
3. For the sauce, add the olive oil to a medium-sized frying pan and place over a medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, until soft. Stir in the garlic, smoked paprika and chilli flakes, and continue to cook for one minute.
4. Add the tin of cherry tomatoes and sugar. Season with a little salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. After this time, add the chorizo and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes.
5. Next, cook the eggs by adding a drizzle of olive oil to a hot frying pan. Crack in the eggs and fry to your liking.
6. Once cooked and crispy, take the potatoes from the oven. Take the tomato sauce from the heat, add the potato pieces and stir to combine.
7. Divide between four plates, top each with a fried egg and garnish with some chopped chives. Serve with a slice of soda bread to mop up all the juices. Enjoy!


If you are looking for a little potato-based recipe inspiration head over to www.potato.ie where you will find many delicious and interesting recipes.

To keep up to date with the Potatoes: More than a Bit on the Side campaign, follow their Facebook page Potatoes: More than a Bit on the Side, on Instagram at potatoes_morethanabitontheside and over on Twitter at TastyPotatoes using the #TastyPotatoes hashtag.

Disclosure:  I'm always happy to come on board with this campaign, as in our home we're huge fans of the humble spud. All views are my own, but I was commissioned by the people behind the Potatoes: More Than a Bit on the Side campaign to create and share this delicious potato-based recipe with you.

It can be rather difficult to plan for a picnic with the unpredictable weather we've come to associate with an Irish summer. Once the summer holidays are upon us, hail, rain or shine, my little lady, Millie, will throw a blanket onto the grass and declare it to be an appropriate day for her, and her teddies, to eat al-fresco. The rest us, however, prefer to have the heat of the sun on our backs before we're lured into lunch in the outdoors. As we're never too sure from one day to the next if the sun will shine, picnics of the impromptu kind are most common in my house. Therefore, normally, whatever is served at the picnic must be conjured up from whatever is in the fridge or press at that time. A few easy to create dishes, along with some fruit and something to drink has often been turned into a portable feast fit for a king or queen, as any meal is special when surrounded by loved ones.


Peanut Butter & Banana Wraps

Peanut butter and banana make a super combination. It's one I love on brown bread, but these made-in-minutes wraps have a great appeal to little ones. So easy to put together, they'll be able to make these wraps all by themselves.


Ingredients

4 tbsp peanut butter
4 wholemeal flour tortilla wraps
2 small bananas, thinly sliced
2 tbsp honey

Method
  1. Spread a tablespoon of peanut butter evenly over each tortilla wrap. Top with the banana slices and drizzle each one with a little honey.
  2. Roll up the tortillas tight. Cut in half and serve.

Cheese & Apple Lunch Kebabs

Children will love the sight of these lunch kebabs in their picnic hamper. Chunks of cheese along with some apple is a good combination, but cubed cucumber, chicken and grapes work well too.


Ingredients

2 apples, cut into small chunks
Squeeze of lemon
100g cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
Handful of lettuce leaves

Method
  1. Place the chunks of apple into a bowl. Add a squeeze of lemon and stir to combine. This will help to keep the apple from browning.
  2. Using 8 short wooden skewers, layer the apple, cheese and lettuce onto each one.
  3. Serve straight away or wrap with cling film and place in a cooled lunchbox for your picnic.

Fairy Bread Jam Sandwiches

When my children were younger each one of them loved the children's television show Hi-5. It was the Hi-5 crew who introduced my little ones to this colourful treat, Fairy Bread. It's quite sugary, so certainly not for every day, but when an impromptu picnic is on the cards fairy bread jam sandwiches are ideal. They can be rustled up in seconds and make a super cute addition to the picnic feast.


Ingredients
4 slices of white sliced bread
2 tbsp jam of choice
Butter
2 tbsp hundreds & thousands

Method
  1. Cut the crusts from the bread and spread the jam on one side of each slice of bread. Press the slices of bread together. Cut each sandwich into quarters, making eight triangles.
  2. Spread a little butter on the outside of each sandwich, on both sides. Generously sprinkle over the hundreds & thousands and serve.

No Bake Oaty Bites

These scrumptious oaty bites can be prepared in minutes, using everyday store ingredients. I love the flavour of the peanut butter with the oats, but any nut butter, such as cashew or almond would work well in its place.


Ingredients
makes about 15
100g peanut butter
50g honey
2tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g porridge oats
50g Rice Krispies

Method
  1. In a small saucepan over a low heat gently melt the peanut butter, honey, coconut oil and vanilla extract together. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Pour the oats and Rice Krispies into a large bowl. 
  2. Pour over the melted mixture and stir well to combine. Pop into the fridge for 30 minutes. This will set the mixture a little, making it easier to handle. 
  3. Line a freezer-proof tray with parchment paper. Take a spoonful of the mixture at a time. Using your hands, scrunch together to form a ball. Place on the tray. Repeat until all the mixture has been used. 
  4. Place the tray into the freezer for 30 minutes. Once set, they're ready to be served or pop the oaty bites into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to three days.

This 'Impromptu Picnic' is taken from my Easy Parenting column, summer 2016.
My young men have a particular fondness for their Sticky Ribs, and if ribs are ever spotted on a restaurant menu at least one of the boys will order a portion. You'll pick up bacon ribs for a few euros in the butchers, making them a great option for feeding a hungry crowd. The marinade mixture I use isn't too spicy, so it caters favourably for both young and old. Once the ribs have been poached, I normally pop them into the oven, but if the barbeque is lit the smoky flavour will add even more deliciousness to these tasty ribs.


Sweet & Sticky Ribs 

Ingredients
1.5kg baby back bacon ribs
10 black peppercorns
1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1lt apple juice

Marinade
75g tomato ketchup
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp tabasco sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed

1tbsp sesame seeds

Method

1. Add the ribs, peppercorns and onion to a large saucepan. Pour over the apple juice, then add enough water to completely submerge the ribs.
2. Place on a medium heat. Bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for about an hour and a half.
3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/gas mark 6.
4. In a large casserole dish combine all the marinade ingredients. Take the ribs from the pot. To dry, dab with some kitchen paper. Place the ribs into the casserole dish and coat well with the marinade. Gently pour in one cup of water to the bottom of the dish, but don't pour the water oven the ribs. Place in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the ribs are nice and sticky.
5. Take from the oven and sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
6. Enjoy on their own or with some baked potatoes and coleslaw. Alternatively, you could serve with my Nutty Carrot & Red Onion Salad, which goes particularly well with the sticky ribs. 


If you have some leftover Easter egg chocolate hanging around, and fancy making some treats with the children, I guarantee these mini nests will be a great hit. I like to pop little decorations into each one, but if you prefer they can be filled with mini eggs or jelly beans.


Chocolate Coconut Nests

Ingredients
200g white chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g Rice Krispies
25g desiccated coconut

Method
1. Add the chocolate and coconut oil to a microwavable bowl and gently melt together, on a low heat in the microwave, removing the bowl every 20 seconds or so to give the mixture a stir. Once melted, add the vanilla extract and stir well to combine.
2. Place the Rice Krispies and coconut into a large bowl. Add the melted chocolate mixture. Stir to combine.
3. Line cupcake tins with 18 cupcake cases. Add a spoonful of the mixture into each case and carefully make a little indentation in the centre to create a nest shape.
4. Place in the fridge for 1 hour to set. Decorate with mini Easter decorations or eggs, and serve.

Like most children, my four get more Easter eggs than they need, and as much as I try to somewhat limit how much chocolate is consumed, there always seems to be a few tummy ache sufferers each Easter Sunday night. I suffer from migraines, and one of my triggers is chocolate so, as a rule, I stay clear of it, but my vice would certainly be cake. So much so that I could easily be joining the tummy ache parade from overindulging. During the holidays, if you've had your fill of after-dinner chocolate, try out a batch of my lemony Easter muffins. The cake mixture is spongy and fluffy, while the frosting is luscious, but surprising light, due to the addition of the cream cheese. Also, as these muffins are like mini cakes, and the portion size is in place, the chances of feasting solely on cake is just a tiny bit less likely. Happy Easter!



Lemony Easter Muffins

Ingredients
225g Flora Buttery or butter, softened
225g caster sugar
Zest of one lemon
3 free-range eggs
280g self-raising flour, sieved
1 pot (125g) of lemon flavored yogurt

For the icing
75g full fat cream cheese
75g butter, softened
300g icing sugar, sieved
1 tsp lemon extract
drop of yellow food colouring

To decorate
16 mini chocolate eggs

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C(fan)/gas mark 6.
2. Divide 16 muffin cases between two bun trays.
3. Place the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest into a bowl, and cream together until it is a pale yellow colour, which takes about 5-7 minutes.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a little flour- to prevent the mixture from curdling. Mix well.
5. Add the remaining flour then combine well. Fold in the yogurt.
6. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases.
7. Bake in the oven for about 20 mins, or until golden brown in colour and a skewer comes out dry. Cool on a wire tray.
8. To make the icing; Place the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar into a bowl and beat together until smooth and creamy. Stir in the lemon extract and add a drop of yellow food colouring.
9. When the muffins have completely cooled, either pipe or spread approximately a spoonful of the icing over each bun and decorate with some mini chocolate eggs.
My children love meatballs, and one of their favourite dinners would have to be a mountain of mini meatballs with spaghetti, all smothered in a rich tomato sauce. For a quick dinner option, or supper, meatballs make a great pitta-filler, especially when lots of lovely fresh salad leaves are added and a good dollop of your favourite sauce. I've included an easy to make tzatziki recipe here, which pairs deliciously with the meatballs, but a little mayonnaise or, better still, garlic mayo would be perfect in its place.



Meatball-Stuffed Pittas with Tzatziki

Ingredients

Meatball Mix
450g good-quality minced beef
Few sprigs of fresh chives, finely snipped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 large egg, free-range or organic
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Tzatziki
200g Greek yogurt
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and grated
Squeeze of lemon
1/2 clove garlic, finely grated
1tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

To Serve
4 pittas, lightly toasted
Salad leaves

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°fan/ 180°C/gas mark 6.
  2. Add the minced beef, chives, mustard, tomato ketchup and smoked paprika to a large bowl. Crack in the egg and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. With clean hands, scrunch and mix all the ingredients well.
  3. Using wet hands roll the mixture into about 16 meatballs. Place them in an oven-proof baking dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and place in the preheated oven, for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown and cooked through. Check by cutting one in half to make sure there are no signs of any pink meat.
  4. To make the tzatziki, combine the Greek yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic and mint in a bowl and season with a little salt and pepper.
  5. To assemble, slit open the lightly toasted pittas. Slather a good sized spoonful of the tzatziki inside. Add a handful of salad leaves and stuff in four meatballs to each pitta. Wrap with a napkin and enjoy straight away.



Stuffing greatly benefits from cooking within a turkey or chicken, but the results can be almost as tasty when the stuffing is cooked in a greased casserole dish. Sage, date and pistachio is one of my favourite stuffing combinations; herby, sweet and crunchy. To make a plain herb stuffing simply omit the date and pistachios from the recipe and add an additional 2 tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped parsley, thyme or chives.

Sage, Date & Pistachio Stuffing

Ingredients
75g butter, plus a little for greasing
1 large onion, finely diced
225g white breadcrumbs
2 tbsp freshly chopped sage
8 dates, finely chopped
50g pistachio, shelled & roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C /fan 180°C/gas mark 6. 
  2. Melt the butter in a pan, and add the onions. Reduce the heat to low and cook for five minutes, until the onions are softened but not coloured. 
  3. Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl and add the cooked onions. Combine well and then add the sage, dates and pistachio. 
  4. Mix well to combine and season to taste. 
  5. Grease an oven- proof dish with a little butter and add the stuffing. 
  6. Place in the pre-heated oven for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to get all the stuffing nice and crispy.