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Dublin: 15 °C Monday 25 June, 2018
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Quick Bites: Three super easy dishes that will work anytime over Christmas

A bit of prep in advance is all that’s required to keep everyone fed and guests impressed, writes Venetia Quick.

WEEKENDS ARE WHEN the cookbooks come out and I get stuck in.

What’s on the menu usually depends on my mood, but I’m a big fan of dishes you can start off in the morning and finish off later, post the GAA, drama and dancing taxi driving service.

At this time of the year when it all starts to get a bit hectic it’s also handy to have something on the go – or something light and picky that you can just throw on the table for visitors.

Cheese and Onion Tart

One of my fave dishes for any occasion (or lack of occasion) is Simon Hopkinson’s Cheese and Onion Tart – it’s also the ultimate comfort food.

There’s also something I find very therapeutic about making pastry. The pastry can be done quickly in the morning, while you’re having your coffee, and popped in the fridge in a freezer bag for later.

I tend to mix up my onions, and use red, white, a shallot or two and a tiny bit of leek, the trick is to soften the onions very slowly. Cheese-wise I like to use a mixture of Dubliner and smoked applewood or Smoked Gubeen, for personal taste. Serve hot or cold.

shutterstock_129749342 Source: Shutterstock/Robyn Mackenzie

Easy Peasy Cheesecake

You can never go wrong with having a desert handy. This is possibly the easiest cheesecake ever to make – however it can also be one of the most divine.

The base needs to be chilled and firm, so again mixing that up when you’re having your morning coffee takes 2 mins. To add much more flavour, I make the base half digestive, half ginger nut.

I also prefer to put the fruit into the mixture rather than just as decoration on the top. Some strawberries mixed into the filling works really well, or my favourite, raspberries with some grated lime zest or blueberries with the juice of one lime…

shutterstock_104623868 Source: Shutterstock/tomfoxall

Family Lasagne

Finally, Lasagne. And this is the easiest lasagne on the planet. Instead of making a bechamel sauce, I replace it with creme fraiche and if you have it handy you could mix in a teeny tiny squeeze of anchovy paste into the creme fraiche, but it’s tasty enough without.

You can also add a drop of red wine to the meat and tomato mixture if you want, but again it’s not a prerequisite. And to be uber healthy before you put the last layer of lasagne sheets on top, I add a sprinkle of spinach and some roasted veg, whatever you have to hand – red peppers, courgette, leek, red onion and some lightly spiced roasted cauliflower.

Recipe

  • 400g of minced beef
  • 3 biggish carrots
  • Large white onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Handful of thyme
  • 2 tsp pimenton dulce
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 buffalo mozzarella
  • Lasagne sheets
  • 1 large tub Creme Fraiche
  • Assorted veg for roasting
  • Handful of baby spinach

Method

Slowly heat a little olive oil in a pot, add the onions and gently soften, before adding the garlic and carrots. Add the pimenton and then the meat. When the meat is browned, throw in the tomatoes, and thyme, and a little splash of wine (optional!).
Bring to the boil and then simmer on a very low heat. In the meantime roast off your veg.

shutterstock_388004815 Source: Shutterstock/dariagarnik

Drizzle Olive Oil in a large oven proof dish, and cover the base with one layer of lasagne sheets. Add a layer of the meat and a layer then of the creme fraiche, and repeat. If you’re adding the roast veg and spiced cauliflower do it now, add a tiny bit more creme fraiche, then the final layer of lasagne sheets. Spread some creme fraiche on top, followed by the sliced mozzarella. This takes about 30 mins in the oven!

Venetia is producer & co-presenter of Drive at 5 on Dublin’s Q102, one sixth of the IFTA Award winning RTE TV Show ‘Connected’ & most importantly mum of 3 amigos! 

Read: ‘This is simply a gift to any burglar’: How to protect yourself this Christmas >

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