It is the time of year for first Holy Communions and Confirmations. Today’s recipes are ideal to make ahead of time so that the chef can enjoy the special day. The lamb rogan josh only improves with time. Make sure you get some good Bord Bia quality assured lamb – shoulder and neck are two great cuts. This is a meal you could make in a slow cooker (place on low for six to eight hours) and it is also very good if you use chicken thighs instead of lamb. Both are delicious with basmati rice. Wexford Home Preserves, made by the Sinnott family, do a lovely mango chutney.

Sriracha is a hot chilli sauce made from a paste of chilli peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. It goes very well with stir fries or over fried eggs. I like it stirred into yoghurt as a spicy dressing for salads or as a dip.

This cheesecake with the ginger nut biscuit base is gorgeous. Again you can make it ahead but never serve straight from the fridge. Give it a good hour. The lime and vanilla give a lovely flavour. I have strawberries or pineapple in this recipe but I also love it with mango.

Enjoy your big days and happy cooking,


Lamb rogan josh

Lamb Rogan Josh and Pilau rice. \ Philip Doyle

Serves four

4 tbsp rapeseed oil

675g (1½lb) lamb shoulder or neck fillet, well trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces

6 whole cloves

1 small cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

2 large onions, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

5cm (2in) piece of root ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 tbsp bunch of ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp paprika

¼ tsp ground cardamom

15g (½ oz) bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped, reserving enough to garnish

200ml (7fl oz) thick Greek yoghurt, plus extra to serve

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes

100g (4oz) red lentils

300ml (½ pint) chicken stock

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fragrant steamed rice, garnished with toasted sesame seeds, to serve

Poppadoms, to serve

Mango chutney, to serve

1 Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large pan. Add half of the lamb and stir-fry until nicely browned all over. Transfer to a plate and fry the rest of the meat. Set aside.

2 Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil to the pan, then fry the cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaves for a few seconds. Add the onions and stir-fry for six to seven minutes, until nicely browned.

3 Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and fry for two minutes, then add the ground spices with the fresh coriander and fry for another minute, stirring. Add the yoghurt a tablespoon at a time, frying for about 30 seconds between each addition and stirring constantly.

4 Return the lamb to the pan and stir in the tomatoes with the lentils and stock. Season to taste, cover and simmer very gently for about one hour, until the lamb is meltingly tender but still holding its shape and the sauce has reduced and thickened.

5 Spoon the rogan josh on to warmed plates with the rice and add a dollop of ?sriracha yoghurt to each, then garnish with coriander. Hand around poppadoms and mango chutney separately.

Sriracha spiced yogurt

Makes about 300ml (½ pint)

250ml (9fl oz) natural yoghurt

juice of ½ lemon

2 tbsp sriracha sauce

1 tsp smoked paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Place the yoghurt in a bowl and mix together with the lemon juice, sriracha sauce and paprika and then season with salt and pepper. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge until needed.

Mascarpone cheesecake with ginger and lime

Serves six to eight

For the base:

75g (3oz) butter, plus extra for greasing

250g (9oz) gingernut biscuits, crushed

For the filling:

3 x 250g (9oz) tubs of mascarpone cheese, chilled

100g (4oz) caster sugar

Finely grated rind and juice of 2 limes

3 eggs

1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out

2 tsp cornflour

1 tsp finely chopped stem ginger

½ tsp freshly grated root ginger

Strawberries or chunks of fresh pineapple, to serve

Lightly whipped cream, to serve

1 Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F/gas mark 3). Lightly butter a 23cm (9in) loose-bottomed cake tin and line with non-stick baking paper.

2 To make the base, melt the butter in a pan set over a gentle heat or in a bowl in the microwave. Add the crushed gingernut biscuits and mix well. Spread the mixture evenly over the base of the tin, pressing down with the back of a spoon to flatten. Place in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes.

Lime and Ginger Mascarpone Cheesecake. \ Philip Doyle

3 Place a dish of hot water in the oven on the bottom rack – this will stop a skin from forming on the cheesecake. Using the paddle attachment on a food mixer, place the mascarpone cheese, sugar, eggs, lime rind and juice, vanilla seeds and cornflour in the mixing bowl. Switch on the machine and beat until smooth, then add both the fresh and stem ginger and mix well to combine. This can also be done in a large bowl with a wooden spoon and a bit of elbow grease.

4 Pour this mixture into the cake tin and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 35–45 minutes, until lightly golden. The filling should still be a little wobbly at this stage. Turn off the oven, open the door and carefully run a knife around the cake tin – this prevents the cheesecake from splitting in the middle when cooling. Leave to cool completely. The filling will set as it cools.

5 To serve, transfer the cheesecake to a cake stand and cut into wedges in front of your guests. Add some fresh fruit to each plate, such as strawberries or pineapple, and a dollop of lightly whipped cream if you’re feeling indulgent.

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