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I adore seeing the first of the rhubarb leaves and the pretty pinky-red spears bravely pushing their way up out of the ground. It's always a sure sign that the bleakest bit of winter is behind us and that spring is well and truly underway.
 
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A favourite place of mine to go for a walk is in one of the many woods that we have close to us here in east Cork. At this time of the year, the smell of wild garlic is just rampant, as some of the leaves get trampled on at the side of the paths. It's always a reminder for me to make the most of these wonderfully fragrant, flavourful leaves (and flowers) in my cooking - free and foraged food at its best.
 
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There were years, even decades, when Irish people were trying to run away from the world's preconceived notion that we were just a nation of bacon-and-cabbage eaters.
 
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I think my favourite seasonal transition must be that of winter leading into spring. The countryside wakes up out of its long, sleepy slumber. Green shoots and buds begin to appear. Nature yawns and stretches its branches, ready to begin a new year. As everything brightens up, I find myself craving colour and lightness, not just in my clothes, but in my food as well!
 
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Tuesday is pancake time. In all their shapes and forms, they are a real favourite in our household. It isn't just our children who get excited - I adore pancakes and love an excuse to make a real feast of them. There's something so pleasingly simple, so supremely comforting about a perfectly browned pancake, unchallenging and uncomplicated, but always delicious.
 
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I think that people sometimes have an unfounded fear of pastry. They're afraid it is lurking in wait for you and will pounce on any sign of weakness, cracking or shrinking in the oven. I don't think anyone should fear pastry-making. However, I can understand people's hesitations. Puff pastry does take a little effort and shortcrust pastry mustn't be over-worked, while neither should be allowed to get even to room temperature.
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This year, why not warm up your January with colour and spice? Fresh, vibrant recipes from sunny Mexico. Photography by Tony Gavin.
 
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The time before Christmas, for me, really revolves around food. It's my favourite time of year, and I adore all the different treats that we make. I can track the progression towards Christmas by the divine array of aromas that fill our house. There's the sweet and boozy smell of Christmas pudding, as I make sure each family member has a stir and makes a wish. There's the spicy smell of freshly baked stollen, the sweet Christmas bread that is full of fruits and spices - I always make it to my German brother-in-law's recipe.
 
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While in India with Goal, I met Aneesha Baig, a woman who brims with passion and enthusiasm. She presents the TV show Will Travel For Food. Together, we walked the streets of Delhi and she introduced me to their incredible street food.
 
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The sweet, floral notes of basil make it the most summery of herbs. I love to throw the bright-green leaves, whether whole or torn or chopped, into soups, salads and summer stews.
 
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