ArchiveDecember 2004


We may all flirt with the idea of doing something different for Christmas and occasionally we do, but inevitably, despite the deliciousness of the maverick choice there are always whimsical remarks tinged with nostalgia about the traditional roast turkey or goose with all the trimmings.

So this year let’s have ‘the works’, but in the interest of self-preservation in this season of peace and goodwill, make a detailed plan.

Countdown to Christmas – A week or two before the big day snatch a few quiet moments, make yourself a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, put your feet up and make a few detailed lists. I love to set up the crib first, to remind me of the raison d’être for the whole celebration and to get me into the true spirit of Christmas. Our grandchildren gather round to help, wide-eyed with wonder as they hear the story of Joseph and Mary and then place the little baby Jesus in his tiny crib. They love to help to bring in the holly and of course to decorate the Christmas tree. There’s nothing co-ordinated about our decorations, all the jingles and baubles collected over the past three decades, each with its own little story, hang in a haphazard way. Its fun to include some edible decorations on the tree, even tiny children can help to make popcorn garlands with a darning needle and thread, Dolly mixtures or little jellies also work well and can alternate with the glittering tinsel on the tree.

Older children can help to make little star-shaped biscuits. We thread a narrow ribbon through the top and they can be dangled from the branches. Finally the little candle holders are clipped onto the branches and the tiny wax candles are lit. Memories of my childhood come flooding back, for me this moment has always been one of the most magical parts of Christmas. We play Christmas carols and the grandchildren sing Jingle Bells and Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer with gusto and delight – Christmas is truly here.

Back to the kitchen, if you haven’t made the cake and pudding don’t worry, there’s still time. When the children were small I once made the cake on 23rd December, iced it on Christmas Eve and it was one of the nicest cakes we ever had, crumbly and delicious. Plum puddings too can be made close to the time. This year we’ve made lots of tiny pud bowls, just enough for 2-4 not very hungry people. We’ve even more individual ones in espresso cups, which worked really well and looked adorable. They’ll only take 20-30 minutes to cook through on Christmas Day.

One week or so ahead – make mincemeat and leave to mature. Make Cranberry Sauce. Order the goose or turkey if you prefer.

Weigh up mulled wine spices and wrap in twists of cling film or greaseproof paper.

Herb and bread stuffing can be made ahead and frozen. Extra bread crumbs can be stored for the bread sauce.

Several days ahead – make pastry and mince pies and freeze.

1-2 days ahead make smoked mackerel pate and refrigerate. Remember to buy some delicious crusty bread and pop a loaf or two into the freezer as a standby.

Made the trifle, some homemade mayonnaise, cover and refrigerate. Make the yule log, cover but don’t roll up.

The day before you plan to eat – lay the table and decorate – lots of holly, party poppers and Christmas crackers. Prepare the celery and sprouts and potatoes. Toss the latter in extra virgin olive oil, put into a plastic bag, twist the end tightly and pop it in the fridge. The potatoes will keep perfectly and taste delicious. Just cover the vegetables with damp kitchen paper – no vegetables benefit either flavour wise or nutritionally from being soaked in water overnight. In fact if the celery is cooked it will reheat perfectly.

If using the prawns, cook in the shell, cool and refrigerate, they would make a delicious light supper if you decide to have the pate for the main meal. Wash and dry the salad and make the dressing, (you’ll need it to aid the digestion).

On Christmas Day – decide on the time of the meal. Weigh the turkey or goose, calculate the cooking time. Pop into the oven and relax. Roll up and decorate the Yule log. Decorate the trifle and put on the sideboard.

Forty five minutes to one hour before the end of cooking time, put the potatoes on to roast. Put on the bread sauce (this can also be made ahead if you’d prefer). Make a little toast or a few crostini, top with smoked mackerel pate and dill, arrange on a plate. Chill wine or bubbly.

Just before serving, make the gravy, cook or reheat the vegetables. Pop the bird on your poshest serving dish and keep warm. Open a bottle of bubbly or prosecco, relax and pass around the crostini, have a toast.

Make your way to the table, tuck in and enjoy and all the rest of you don’t forget a hug for the cook and do all the washing up.

Merry Christmas to all our readers and may all your dreams come true in 2005.

Ballycotton Prawns with Homemade Mayonnaise

We get the most wonderful juicy prawns straight from the boats in Ballycotton.We eat them in several ways but they are best freshly cooked and served with homemade Mayonnaise and some crusty bread.
Serves 4

24 large very fresh prawns

4 pints (2.3 L) water
2 tablespoons salt

4-8 tablespoons home-made Citrus Mayonnaise (see recipe)

Wild watercress leaves
4 segments lemon

First Cook the Prawns
Bring the water to the boil and add the salt. Put the prawns into the boiling salted water and as soon as the water returns to the boil, test a prawn to see if it is cooked. It should be firm and white, not opaque or mushy. If cooked, remove prawns immediately. Very large ones may take ½ to 1 minute more. Allow to cool in a single layer.

Note: Do not cook too many prawns together, otherwise they may overcook before the water even comes back to the boil.

Put 5 or 6 cooked whole prawns on each plate. Spoon a tablespoon or two of homemade Citrus Mayonnaise into a little bowl or oyster shell on the side of the plate. Pop a segment of lemon on the plate. Garnish with some fresh wild watercress. Serve with fresh crusty brown soda bread and Irish butter.

Citrus Mayonnaise

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.
2 egg yolks, preferably free range
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard or pinch of English mustard
1 dessertspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
250ml(8 fl oz) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) - We use 175ml (6 fl oz) arachide oil and 50ml (2 fl oz) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1
grated rind of 1 unwaxed lemon

Put the egg yolks into a medium size pyrex bowl with the mustard, salt and the lemon juice (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don't get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and lemon juice if necessary. Add the grated lemon rind.
If the mayonnaise curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. Should this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled mayonnaise, a half teaspoon at a time until it re-emulsifies.

Smoked Mackerel and Dill Pate with Cucumber Pickle

Serves 4

175g/6oz un-dyed smoked mackerel, de-skinned and boned
50g/2oz softened unsalted butter
25g/2oz soft full fat cream cheese
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

To serve
dill fronds
clarified butter
dressed watercress leaves

Cucumber Pickle – see recipe

Place the mackerel, butter, cream cheese and lemon into a liquidiser. Blitz to form a smooth consistency. Tip into a bowl and fold in the herbs. 

Season to taste and then divide between four ramekins. Place dill fond on top and our over a little clarified butter. Chill for at least and hour.

Serve with Melba toast and watercress salad and cucumber pickle.

If you are not going to use this within 48 hours, cover the tops with a layer of clarified butter and they will keep for up to one week. To make clarified butter, simply heat butter gently in a small pan until melted. Remove from the heat and allow to settle for a minute or so, then carefully pour the clear liquid butter into a jug leaving all the milk solids behind.

Cucumber Pickle

Serves 10-12
1 kg (2 lb 4 ozs) thinly sliced unpeeled cucumber
3 small onions thinly sliced
340 g (12 ozs) sugar
2 level tablespoons salt
250 ml (8 fl ozs) cider vinegar

Combine the cucumber and onion sliced in a large bowl. Mix the sugar, salt and vinegar together and pour over cucumbers. Place in a tightly covered container in refrigerator and leave for at least 4-5 hours or overnight before using.
Keeps well for up to a week in the refrigerator.

How to Prepare a Duck or Goose for the Oven

1. First gut the bird if necessary and clean well.
2. Singe carefully over a gas jet.
3. Remove the wish bone from the neck end.
4. Goose - Tuck the wings in close to the body
Duck - use a sharp chopper to trim the wings just above the first joint nearest the
5. Goose legs leave intact.
Duck - chop off the knuckle just above the 'knee'
6. Season the cavity. Stuff with cold stuffing just before the bird goes into the oven.
7. Truss loosely with cotton string.

NB* It is not absolutely essential to chop the wings and legs of a duck unless you want a more formal restaurant presentation.

Old fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce

Serves 10-12
This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. You may think the stuffing seems dull because it doesn’t include exotic-sounding ingredients like chestnuts and spiced sausage meat, but in fact it is moist and full of the flavour of fresh herbs and the turkey juices. Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.

(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, turkey with neck and giblets, free-range and organic

Fresh Herb Stuffing
170g (6oz) butter
340g (12oz) chopped onions
400-500g (14-16oz) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non GM)
55g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm
salt and freshly ground pepper

neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey
2 sliced carrots
2 sliced onions
1 stick celery
Bouquet garni
3 or 4 peppercorns

For basting the turkey
225g (8oz) butter
large square of muslin (optional)

Cranberry Sauce (see recipe)
Bread Sauce (see recipe)
large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress

Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate). Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.

To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold. If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing. Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end.

Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt 2 dessertspoons of butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 3-3½ hours. There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin. The turkey browns beautifully, but if you like it even browner, remove the muslin 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with tin foil. However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word.

The turkey is cooked when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices: they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy. Cover loosely with greaseproof paper and roast in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 1-1½ hours.

The turkey is done when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.
To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De glaze the pan juices with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast
potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.
Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce

Bread Sauce

I love Bread Sauce but if I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it – the recipe sounds so dull!


1 pint (600ml) milk
3-4 ozs (85-100g) soft white breadcrumbs
2 onions, each stuck with 6 cloves
2 ozs (55g) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
3-4 fl ozs (75-100ml) thick cream
2 good pinches of ground cloves or quatre epices

Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and simmer gently on a very low heat or cook in a low oven 160C/325F/regulo 3, for 30 minutes. Remove the onion and add the cream just before serving. Correct the seasoning and add a little more milk if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot.

Quatre Epices is a French spice product made of equal amounts of ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

Cranberry Sauce

Serves 6 approx.
Cranberry Sauce is also delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. 

170g (6oz) fresh cranberries
4 tablespoons water
85g (3oz) granulated sugar

Put the fresh cranberries in a heavy-based stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan with the water - don=t add the sugar yet as it tends to toughen the skins. Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries >pop= and soften, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.
Serve warm or cold.
Note: Cranberry Sauce will keep in your fridge for a week to 10 days.
Creamed Celery
Serves 4 - 6
1 head of celery
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4-6 fl ozs (120-175ml) cream or creamy milk

Garnish: chopped parsley

Pull the stalks off the head of celery. If the outer stalks seems a bit tough, peel the strings off with a swivel top peeler or else use these tougher stalks in the stockpot. Cut the stalks into 2 inch (1cm) chunks.
Bring 3 pint of water to the boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the chopped celery, cook for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until a knife will go through with ease. Remove celery to a serving dish with a slotted spoon. Thicken the remaining liquid with the roux, add the enough cream to make sufficient sauce to coat the celery. Allow to bubble for a few minutes, pour over celery, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Note: Can be reheated successfully

Roast Potatoes

Everybody loves roast potatoes, yet people ask over and over again for the secret of golden crispy roast potatoes.

Duck or goose fat gives a delicious flavour to roast potatoes. Good quality pork fat or lard from free range pigs is also worth saving carefully for roast or saute potatoes. All three fats will keep for months in a cold larder or fridge.

Well, first and foremost buy good quality ‘old’ potatoes eg. Golden Wonders, Kerrs Pinks, Rooster or British Queens. New potatoes are not suitable for roasting.
For perfection peel them just before roasting. Do not leave them soaking in water or they will be soggy inside because of the water they absorb. This always applies, no matter how you cook potatoes. Unfortunately, many people have got into the habit of peeling and soaking potatoes even if they are just going to boil and mash them.
Dry potatoes carefully, otherwise they will stick to the roasting tin, and when you turn them over you will lose the crispy bit underneath. If you have a fan oven it is necessary to blanch and refresh the potatoes first, then proceed as below.
Heat the olive oil or fat in a roasting pan, toss the potatoes to make sure they are well coated in olive oil or fat. Roast in a hot oven, basting occasionally, for 30-60 minutes depending on size.
For perfection, potatoes should be similar in size and shape.

Traditional Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing and Bramley Apple Sauce

Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing is almost my favourite winter meal. However, a word of warning. A goose looks enormous because it has a large carcass. Many people have been caught out by imagining that it will serve more people than it does. Allow 450g (1 lb) in cooked weight per person. This stuffing is also delicious with duck but use one quarter of the quantity given below.

Serves 8-10

4.5g (1 x 10 lbs) approx. goose

Neck, giblets and wishbone of goose
1 sliced onion
1 sliced carrot

Bouquet garni
A sprig of thyme
3 or 4 parsley stalks
A stick of celery
6 or 7 peppercorns
Cold water to cover

Potato Stuffing
30g (1 oz) butter
450g (1 lb) chopped onions
450g (1 lb) cooking apples e.g. Bramley Seedling, peeled and chopped
1 fl oz (2-3 tablespoons) fresh orange juice
900g (2 lbs) potatoes
1 teaspoon each thyme and lemon balm
3 teaspoon finely grated orange rind
Salt and freshly ground pepper

To make the stuffing: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes; add the apples, herbs and orange juice. Cook covered until the apples are soft and fluffy. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in their jackets until cooked, peel, mash and add to the fruit and onion mixture. Add the orange rind and seasoning. Allow it to get quite cold before stuffing the goose.

To prepare the goose: Gut the goose and singe off the pin feathers and down if necessary. Remove the wishbone from the neck end. Combine the stock ingredients in a saucepan, cover with cold water and simmer for 12-2 hours. Season the cavity of the goose with salt and freshly ground pepper; rub a little salt into the skin also. Stuff the goose loosely and roast for 2 hours approx. in a preheated moderate oven, 180 C/350 F/regulo 4.
Prick the thigh at the thickest part; the juices which run out should be clear. If they are still pink, the goose needs a little longer. When cooked, remove the goose to a serving dish and put it in a very low oven while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting tin (save for sauteeing or roasting potatoes – it keeps for months in a fridge). Add about 1 pint (568 ml) of the strained giblet stock to the roasting tin and bring to the boil. Using a small whisk, scrape the tin well to dissolve the meaty deposits which are full of flavour. Taste for seasoning and thicken with a little roux if you like a thickened gravy. If the gravy is weak, boil it for a few minutes to concentrate the flavour; if it=s too strong, add a little water or stock. Strain and serve in a hot gravy boat.
Carve the goose and serve the Bramley Apple Sauce and Gravy separately.

Roast Duck with Traditional Potato Stuffing

Use ¼ or 1/3 of the Potato Stuffing recipe depending on the size of the duck. Serve with Bramley Apple Sauce.

Bramley Apple Sauce

The trick with Apple Sauce is to cook it covered on a low heat with very little water.

Serves 10 approx.

1 lb (450g) cooking apples, e.g. Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
1-2 dessertsp. water
2 ozs (55g) sugar, depending on how tart the apples are

Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut the pieces into two and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan with sugar and water. Cover and put over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, beat into a puree, stir and taste for sweetness. Serve warm.
Note: Apple Sauce freezes perfectly, so make more than you need and freeze in tiny, plastic cartons. It is also a good way to use up windfalls.


Ballymaloe Mince Pies with Irish Whiskey Cream

Makes 20-24 mince pies

225g (8oz) plain flour
170g (6oz) butter
a pinch of salt
1 dessertspoon icing sugar
a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind
egg wash

450g (1lb)Ballymaloe Mincemeat, see recipe below

Ballymaloe Mincemeat
Makes (3.1kg)

2 cooking apples, eg. Bramley Seedling
2 lemons
450g (1lb) minced beef suet or Kerrygold butter, grated
110g (4oz) mixed peel (preferably home made)
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
225g (8oz) currants
450g (1lb) raisins
225g (8oz) sultanas
900g (2lb) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark brown sugar)
62ml (2½ fl.oz) Irish whiskey

Core and bake the whole apples in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4 for 45 minutes approx. When they are soft, remove the skin and mash the flesh into pulp. Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of a stainless steel grater and squeeze out the juice. Add the other ingredients one by one, and as they are added, mix everything thoroughly together. Put into jars, cover with jam covers and leave to mature for 1 week before using.

Next make the shortcrust pastry.
Sieve the flour into a bowl, cut the butter into ½ inch (1cm) approx. cubes, toss into the four and rub in with the finger tips. Add the icing sugar. Mix with a fork as you gradually add in the beaten egg (do this bit by bit because you may not need all the egg), then use your hand to bring the pastry together into a ball: it should not be wet or sticky. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Roll out the pastry until quite thin – about of an inch, stamp out into rounds 3 inches (7.5cm) diameter and line shallow bun tins, put a good teaspoonful of mincemeat into each tin, damp the edges with water and put another round on top. Egg wash and decorate with pastry leaves in the shape of holly berries etc.
Bake the mince pies in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 20 minutes approx. Allow them to cool slightly, then dredge with icing or castor sugar.
Serve with a blob of whiskey flavoured cream.

Irish Whiskey Cream

225ml (8fl.oz) whipped cream

1 teaspoon icing sugar
12-3 tablespoons Irish whiskey

Fold the sugar and whiskey into the cream.

Traditional Irish Sherry Trifle – Elizabeth O’Connell

Sherry Trifle

The pudding to be avoided at all costs on most restaurant menus, can be a revelation when it=s made as it should be, with good home-made ingredients and lots of best-quality sweet sherry.

Serves 8-10

1 lb (450g) approx. home-made sponge cake or trifle sponges
(trifle sponges are lighter so you will need less)
1 pint (600ml) custard made with:
13 pints (750ml) rich milk
5 eggs, free range if possible
13 tablespoon castor sugar
: teaspoon pure vanilla essence
8 ozs (225g) home-made Raspberry jam
5-6 fl ozs (150-175ml) best quality sweet or medium sherry
– don’t spare the sherry and don’t waste your time with cooking sherry.

1 pint (600ml) whipped cream
8 cherries or crystallised violets
8 diamonds of angelica

1 x 3 pint (1.7 L/72 cups) capacity glass bowl

Sandwich the rounds of sponge cake together with home-made raspberry jam. If you use trifle sponges, sandwich them in pairs. Next make the egg custard. Whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla essence. Heat the milk to the ‘shivery’ stage and add it to the egg whisking all the time. Put into a heavy saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the custard coats the back of the wooden spoon lightly. Don’t let it boil or it will curdle.
Cut the sponge into : inch (2cm) slices and use these to line the bottom of a 3 pint (1.7 litre) glass bowl, sprinkling generously with sherry as you go along. Pour in some home-made egg custard and then add another layer of sponge. Sprinkle with the remainder of the sherry. Spread the rest of the custard over the top. Cover and leave for 5 or 6 hours, or preferably overnight, to mature.
Before serving, spread whipped cream over the top, pipe rosettes if you like and decorate with cherries or crystallised violets and diamonds of angelica.

Sponge Cake – Whisked Method

Serves 8

5 eggs
5 ozs (140g) castor sugar
5 ozs (140g) flour

a of a pot approx. home-made raspberry jam
Castor sugar for sprinkling on top
2 x 9 inches (23cm) tins

Grease the tins carefully with melted butter, dust with flour, cut out a circle of greaseproof paper and fit it neatly onto the base of each tin. Put the eggs and sugar into a bowl and whisk until it is a pale and fluffy mousse. When you lift the whisk, make a figure of 8 on top: it should hold its shape for several seconds. Put the flour into a sieve and sift about one-third gently over the mousse; fold in the flour with a spatula or a long-handled metal spoon (not a wooden spoon) and then sieve in some more; repeat until all the flour is lightly folded in. Turn gently in the prepared tins and bake in a preheated oven, 190°C/375°F/regulo 5, for 20 minutes approx., until cooked. Turn out on a wire tray, peel off the greaseproof paper and allow to cool.
This sponge would also be delicious filled with fresh fruit and cream.

Swiss Roll

Serves 8
4 ozs (110g) plain flour
4 eggs
4 ozs (110g) castor sugar
2 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoon vanilla essence
6 tablespoons warmed home-made raspberry jam

1 x 10 inches (25.5cm) x 15 inches (38cm) Swiss Roll tin

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/regulo 5.

Line a large Swiss Roll tin with greaseproof paper cut to fit the bottom of the tin exactly. Brush the paper and sides of the tin with melted butter, dust with flour and castor sugar.
Sieve the flour. Put the eggs and castor sugar into a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Take it off the heat and continue to whisk until the mixture is cool again. (If using an electric mixer, no heat is required.) Add the water and vanilla essence. Sieve in about one-third of the flour at a time and fold it into the mousse using a large metal spoon.
Pour the mixture gently into the tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. It is cooked when it feels firm to the touch in the centre. The edges will have shrunk in slightly from the sides of the tin. Lay a piece of greaseproof paper on the work top and sprinkle it evenly with castor sugar. Turn the Swiss Roll tin onto the sugared greaseproof paper. Remove the tin and greaseproof paper from the bottom of the cake. While the cake is still warm, spread it sparingly with home-made raspberry jam. Catch the edge of the paper nearest you and roll up the Swiss Roll away from you.

Suggestions for other fillings: If you are not using the Swiss Roll as a basis for Trifle there are many other fillings you might like to try, but roll the greaseproof paper into the Swiss Roll while warm and unroll it later when cold to fill if you are using whipped cream.
1 Mashed banana with lemon juice and whipped cream
2 Melted chocolate and whipped cream
3 Fresh strawberries or raspberries mashed with a little sugar and whipped cream
4 Other home-made jam and whipped cream.

Chocolate Yule Log

Chocolate Yule Log is usually made with a chocolate sponge Swiss roll but I prefer this sinfully rich version. There’s no need for any icing, it’s rich enough as it is!
Serves 10 approx.

6 ozs (170 g) best-quality dark chocolate
5 free range eggs
6 ozs (170 g) castor sugar
3 tablespoons water

½ pint (300 ml) double cream
1-2 tablespoons rum
icing sugar

1 x shallow Swiss roll tin
12 inches (30.5 cm) x 8 inches (20.5 cm)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4.

Line a Swiss roll tin with oiled tin foil or bakewell paper. Separate the eggs. Put the yolks into a bowl, gradually add the castor sugar and whisk until the mixture is thick and pale lemon coloured. Melt the chocolate with the water in a saucepan over a very gentle heat, then draw aside while you whisk the egg whites to a firm snow. Add the melted chocolate to the egg yolk mixture. Stir a little of the egg white into the mixture, cut and fold the remainder of the egg whites into the mixture and turn it into the prepared tin. Cook in a preheated oven, bake for 15-18 minutes or until firm to the touch around the edge but still slightly soft in the centre. Wring out a tea-towel in cold water. Take out the roulade, cool it slightly, then cover with the cloth. (This is to prevent any sugary crust forming.) Leave it in a cool place. Provided the cloth is kept damp, it will keep for 2 days like this.

To Serve
Whip the cream and flavour with the rum. Put a sheet of greaseproof paper onto a table and dust it well with sieved icing sugar. Remove the damp cloth from the roulade and turn the tin upside down onto the prepared paper. Remove the tin and peel the tin foil off the roulade carefully. Spread with the rum-flavoured cream and roll it up like a Swiss roll. Cut about one-third off the roll at an angle. Lift the roll onto a serving plate, arrange the smaller piece so it looks like a branch and dust well with icing sugar. Decorate with Christmas cake decorations, e.g. holly leaves, Santas, robins etc., sprinkle again with a little extra icing sugar and serve.

Mulled Red Wine

One of the easiest ways to entertain some of your friends before Christmas is to serve Mulled Wine and Mince Pies with lots of Whiskey Cream. At that stage they are still a novelty, whereas after Christmas people tend to groan, >Oh no, not Mince Pies again!=

Serves 8 approx.

1 bottle of good red wine
4 ozs (110 g) sugar
Thinly-pared rind of 1 lemon
A small piece of cinnamon bark
A blade of mace
1 clove

Put the sugar into a stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan, pour the wine over, add the lemon rind, cinnamon bark, mace and the clove. Heat slowly, stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved. When it is hot but not scalding serve in glasses with a wedge of lemon in each one if desired.

The thrill of a Pomegranate

When one cuts through the leathery skin of a pomegranate Punica Granatum, for the first time, one can’t help but be thrilled – all those jewel-like seeds, little ‘rubies’ neatly arranged in a star-shaped pattern. When I was at hotel school in Cathal Brugha Street in Dublin in the late 60’s, the street traders in Moore Street called them wine apples. They sounded and looked so exotic with their little crown-like calyx, but I had no idea what to do with them.

They’re a bit strange if you just eat them like a fruit – lots of gritty pips if you decide to chew. Pomegranates are at their best at the moment – it’s the season.

They come from the Middle East and the Mediterranean and nowadays India, China and Saudi Arabia, the Central Valley in California. They flourish where summer temperatures reach 100F. They need a hot, dry climate to ripen which explains why my pomegranate ‘tree’ is not doing so well in Shanagarry!. The seeds vary in colour, sometimes they can be disappointingly pale, but if you have a choice seek out a variety called ‘Wonderful’ which has brilliant red seeds.

Although pomegranates are relatively exotic on our food scene, they have been part of the human diet for millennia, their cultivation pre-dates written history and in many Eastern cultures they are a symbol of fertility.

The seeds not only look, but taste delicious in couscous, sprinkled over salads, both sweet and savoury, and in Winter game casseroles.

Their sweet tart juice tenderises meats, especially lamb. One of my favourite new ingredients, Pomegranate molasses thick, syrupy, concentrated juice produced in the Middle East is now available in Asian shops, delis and some more adventurous supermarkets. The concentrated syrupy liquid is great in salad dressings, splashed into drinks, added to a marinade or just drizzled over cooked food. It keeps for ages so once you have a bottle in your cupboard, experiment, you’ll find lots of opportunities to use it.

Extracting the seeds – this can be, but doesn’t have to be a messy business.

Cut the fruit in half around the equator, some cooks suggest holding the pomegranate cut side down in the palm of the hand or on a plate, then bashing the upturned fruit with the back of a wooden spoon to loosen the seeds. This works pretty well but is certainly messy and a little hazardous when you remember that pomegranate juice leaves a stubborn stain on clothes, so cover up with a dark apron.

It may be a bit slower and more pernickety to cut the fruit in half and then break each half in two, flick out the seeds from each section, avoiding the creamy, yellow, coloured pith. 

Juicing - Some recipes call for pomegranate juice, I find that a citrus juicer works well. Fresh pomegranate juice or indeed just the seeds can have a dramatic effect on reducing the bad cholesterol in our system – another good reason to take advantage of the short season – you’ll find them in the shops from October to February. Unfortunately their appearance gives very little clue as to their ripeness but choose fruit that looks fresh, not dried out. Organic fruit have more seeds and less membrane. Markets and fruit shops sometimes cut one fruit in half to demonstrate the quality and colour of the seeds.

Pomegranate Molasses Salad Dressing

A versatile dressing, delicious with salad leaves, but also with grilled fish, grilled chicken and grilled vegetables.
Pomegranate molasses is made by reducing the juice of sour pomegranates to a thick dark brown syrup with a distinctive sweet-sour flavour, available from Asian shops, Mr Bell’s in Cork’s English Market, or a good delicatessen.

2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp sugar
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp lemon juice
8 tbsp olive oil
salt, black pepper, extra sugar if necessary

Mix the garlic, cumin, sugar, pomegranate molasses and freshly squeezed lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a little extra sugar if you think it’s a bit too sharp.

Pink Grapefruit and Pomegranate Cocktail 
Mix freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice with Grenadine. Sweeten with stock syrup and dilute with still water or sparkling water. 
Serve with pomegranate seeds in ice-cubes and mint leaves 

Ruby Grapefruit and Pomegranate Sorbet

The jewel like seeds of the pomegranate look like glistening rubies and somehow appear very festive. A grapefruit sorbet is particularly versatile it can be served at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a meal and would make a delicious light refreshing starter on Christmas Day.
Serves 4-5

1 litre(1¾ pint) ruby grapefruit juice (10 grapefruit approx.)
225g (8oz) castor sugar approx.
1 egg white (optional)
1-2 pomegranates 

2 pink grapefruit cut into segments
pomegranate seeds
Fresh mint leaves
8 chilled white side plates

Put the freshly squeezed grapefruit into a bowl add the sugar and dissolve by stirring it into the juice. Taste. The juice should taste rather too sweet to drink, it will loose some of its sweetness in the freezing.

Cut the pomegranates in half around the 'equator'. Open out and carefully flick the seeds into a bowl, discard the skin and all the yellow membrane.

Make the sorbet in one of the following ways.

Method 1. Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Fold in the pomegranate seeds. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed. 

Method 2. Pour the juice into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezer. After about 4-5 hours when the sorbet is semi frozen remove and whisk until granular. Return to freezer. Repeat several times. When almost frozen fold in the pomegranate seeds. Keep covered in the freezer until needed.

3. If you have a food processor, simply freeze the sorbet completely in a covered stainless steel or plastic bowl, then break into large pieces and whizz up in the food processor for a few seconds. Add one slightly beaten egg white, whizz again for another few seconds, then return to the bowl. Fold in the pomegranate seeds. Freeze again until needed.

To Serve:
Chill the plates in a refrigerator or freezer. 

Put 1 or 2 scoops of sorbet on each chilled plate, garnish with a few segments of pink grapefruit. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, spoon a little grapefruit juice over the segments, decorate with fresh mint leaves and serve immediately.

Ruby Grapefruit Sorbet

Proceed as above but omit the pomegranate seeds.
Meringue Roulade with Pomegranate Seeds and Rose Blossom Water
Serves 6 - 8

4 egg whites
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar
½ pint (300ml) whipped cream
2 pomegranates
1-2 teaspoons rose blossom water 

Pomegranate seeds
Rose petals if available (make sure the rose hasn’t been sprayed)
Berried holly

Swiss roll tin 12 x 8 inch (30.5 x 20.5cm)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC\350ºF\regulo 4. 

Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean bowl of a food mixer. Break up with the whisk and then add all the castor sugar together. Whisk at full speed until it holds a stiff peak 4 - 5 minutes approx.

Meanwhile, line a Swiss roll tin with tin foil, brush lightly with a non-scented oil (eg. sunflower or arachide). 

Spread the meringue gently over the tin with a palette knife, it ought to be quite thick and bouncy. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Put a sheet of tin foil on the work top and turn the roulade onto it, remove the base tin foil and allow the meringue to cool.

Meanwhile, cut the pomegranates in half around the equator, open out and flick out the seeds. Sprinkle with a few drops of rose blossom water. 

Keep the seeds from half a pomegranate aside to decorate the roulade. 

To Assemble

Spread the whipped cream and remaining pomegranate seeds over the meringue, roll up from the wide end and carefully ease onto a serving plate. Pipe 6 –8 rosettes of cream along the top of the roulade, decorate with the reserved pomegranate seeds and rose petals if available. Surround with berried holly.

Serve, cut into slices about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick.

Note: This roulade is also very good filled with raspberries, strawberries, loganberries, sliced peaches, nectarines, kiwi fruit, bananas, or mango and passionfruit.

Ardsallagh Goat Cheese Salad with Rocket, Figs and Pomegranates

Serves 8
1 fresh pomegranate
4 small fresh Ardsallagh cheese or a similar fresh goat cheese
8-12 fresh figs or 
8-12 plump dried figs
Enough rocket leaves for eight helpings and perhaps a few leaves of raddichio
32 fresh walnut halves


4 fl.ozs (125ml) extra virgin olive oil
3 tablesp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teasp. honey
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the pomegranate in half around the equator, break each side open, flick out the glistening jewel-like seeds into a bowl, avoiding the bitter yellowy pith.

Next make the dressing – just whisk the oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey together in a bowl. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Toast the walnut halves in a dry pan over a medium heat until they smell sweet and nutty. 

Just before serving, toss the rocket leaves in a deep bowl with a little dressing. Divide between eight large white plates. Cut each cheese into 3 pieces. 

Cut the figs into quarters from the top, keeping each one still attached at the base. Press gently to open out. Divide the cheese between the plates, three pieces on each, place a fig in the centre. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and freshly roasted walnuts. Drizzle with a little extra dressing and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Note: plump dried figs are best cut into slices and scattered over the salad.

Cool Yule Fruit Salad

Serves 10-15
Equal volumes of:

ripe melon, balled
ripe papaya, sliced thinly and cut into squares.
ripe mango, sliced
passion fruit seeds
ripe pineapple, diced
ripe kiwi, sliced and quartered.
ripe banana, sliced
pomegranate seeds 

A glass bowl
Lime Syrup

8 oz (110 g) sugar
8 fl oz (110 ml) water
2 limes

First make the lime syrup. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes; allow to cool. Meanwhile remove the zest from the lime either with a zester or a fine stainless steel grater and add to the syrup with the juice of the lime. 

Prepare all the fruits in individual bowls and cover with lime syrup.

Arrange the fruit in layers in a glass bowl. Cover and allow to chill and marinate for an hour at least.

To Serve
Ladle carefully into serving bowls so each guest gets a mixture of fruit. Serve alone or with softly whipped cream.

Foolproof Food

Mulled Red Wine

One of the easiest ways to entertain some of your friends before Christmas is to serve Mulled Wine and Mince Pies with lots of Whiskey Cream. At that stage they are still a novelty, whereas after Christmas people tend to groan, >Oh no, not Mince Pies again!
Serves 8 approx.

1 bottle of good red wine
4 ozs (110 g) sugar
Thinly-pared rind of 1 lemon
A small piece of cinnamon bark
A blade of mace
1 clove

Put the sugar into a stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan, pour the wine over, add the lemon rind, cinnamon bark, mace and the clove. Heat slowly, stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved. When it is hot but not scalding serve in glasses with a wedge of lemon in each one if desired.

Hot Tips

Some gift ideas:
Intensive Wine Course with Mary Dowey at Ballymaloe House – 11-13th March next – ideal Christmas present for a wine lover – Tel. 021-4652531 to book.

Christmas Presents

Every year I swear I’ll never ever again be wrapping and delivering presents on Christmas Eve, yet despite my endless resolutions I somehow end up doing just that the following year.

On one occasion I was so tired I managed to scrape the side of the car on the gate post on my way home, I was so blind with exhaustion. 

This year I’m determined to start earlier. I make endless lists, get some inspired ideas but then there are a few special people for whom I can’t seem to find something appropriate.

So for this column I’ll focus on pressies for foodie friends. 

The number of escapees from the city looking for the good life in the country is really gathering momentum. It’s now at last becoming hip to grow one’s own vegetables, have a few hens and a growing number – wait for it – are even keeping a pig. These are the acolytes of Monty Don, Antony Worrall Thompson, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and James Martin. Virtually every magazine lifestyle supplement and Sunday supplement has evocative photos of new age farmers in green or even spotty wellies and Barbour jackets feeding the pigs or collecting the eggs – I’m all for it. Sting was one of the originals, but more recently Zac and Sheherazade Goldsmith and Roger Saul of Mulberry were the subject of colour spreads.

For these born again rural dwellers a pair of rare poultry, Ancona, Buff Orpington, Hebden Black, Speckledys - Will generate some terrific excitement on Christmas Day – a practical present which will provide a few eggs and maybe a clutch of chickens later in the year.

For the aspiring gardener a little hamper of vegetable seeds – say a few early potatoes, a mixture of lettuces and salad leaves, a packet of carrot seed, a few radishes, some beetroot and my favourite broad beans. You may want to add a beginners guide to vegetable gardening to get the whole project kick-started. A selection of little pots of fresh herbs and maybe a window box will also delight a green-fingered cook. You may even want to offer to plant them close to the kitchen door – parsley, thyme, chives, mint, marjoram and tarragon would make a good starter pack.

A cook will always welcome a rosemary bush, plant it for remembrance and remember it will only thrive in the house where the woman wears the pants! The aromatic spears can be plucked in every season to flavour lamb, chicken, pork, roast vegetables and jellies and sorbets. Choose a favourite farmhouse cheese and arrange for one to be sent by mail or courier once every 2-3 months. Alternatively choose a little hamper of Irish Farmhouse Cheese from Iago or On the Pig’s Back in the English Market in Cork, Sheridans in Galway or Dublin, or Peter Ward from Country Choice in Nenagh.

A gift token for the Midleton Farmers Market or tempting food and wine shops like Urru in Bandon or The Butlers Pantry in Dublin, or one of the Avoca Shops is bound to be a hit.

Look out for Richard Graham-Leigh’s delicious buttery cakes and pastries in Urru in Bandon or at Clonakilty and Fermoy Farmers’ Markets, they are quite simply the best ‘bought’ confectionery you are ever likely to find.

A side of smoked wild Irish salmon from Ummera, Belvelly, Dunn’s or Woodcock Smokery will remind your friends of how smoked salmon used to taste. We also love Bill Casey’s smoked salmon from Shanagarry. Native Irish oysters are in their prime at present, only in season when there is an R in the month. A couple of dozen oysters packed in a split timber box are a really special present for shellfish lovers. Its always good to include an oyster knife in case its been lost or mislaid – it’s a nightmare to open oysters without a special knife.

If you want to taste ham like it used to – try Fingal Ferguson’s ham from The Gubbeen Smokehouse – might be too late for Christmas but worth seeking out anytime.

A brace of pheasant, well hung with a little pot of bread sauce and some red currant jelly would be a treat, but imagine how gorgeous it would be to receive a really large joint of beef , a wing rib – dry aged and well hung – wrapped in greaseproof and brown paper and tied with butchers string, instead of a nasty sweaty plastic bag. As an extra treat, why not include some homemade horseradish sauce or some garlic mayo.

An exciting new cookbook is always a bonus for a foodie friend and a food guide eg. Georgina Campbell’s Ireland – The Guide – tried and tested recommendations of the best places to eat, drink and stay throughout Ireland or John and Sally McKenna’s Bridgestone Guides – 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland, 100 Best Places to Stay in Ireland, Bridgestone Dublin Food Guide, Food Lovers Guide to Northern Ireland  These guides should be in the glove compartment of every car, they make terrific stocking fillers. These are just a few suggestions to add to the more predictable, but nonetheless welcome plum pud, mince pies and Christmas cake.

The following sauces as well as making great presents will be a wonderful standby in your own Christmas supplies.

Red Currant Jelly

Red currant jelly is a very delicious and versatile product to have in your larder. It has a myriad of uses. It can be used like a jam on bread or scones, or served as an accompaniment to roast lamb, bacon or ham. It is also good with some rough pâtés and game, and is invaluable as a glaze for red fruit tarts. 

This recipe is a particular favourite of mine, not only because it's fast to make and results in delicious intensely flavoured jelly, but because one can use the left over pulp to make a fruit tart, so one gets double value from the red currants. Unlike most other fruit jelly, no water is needed in this recipe.

We’ve used frozen fruits for this recipe also, stir over the heat until the sugar dissolves, proceeds as below.

Makes 3 x 1 lb (450g) jars

2 lbs (900g/8 cups) red currants
2 lbs (900g/8 cups) granulated sugar

Remove the strings from the red currants either by hand or with a fork. Put the red currants and sugar into a wide stainless steel saucepan and stir continuously until they come to the boil. Boil for exactly 8 minutes, stirring only if they appear to be sticking to the bottom. Skim carefully.

Turn into a nylon sieve and allow to drip through, do not push the pulp through or the jelly will be cloudy. You can stir in gently once or twice just to free the bottom of the sieve of pulp.

Pour the jelly into sterilised pots immediately. Red currants are very high in pectin so the jelly will begin to set just as soon as it begins to cool.

Cumberland Sauce

Serve with cold ham, turkey, chicken, guinea fowl, game or rough pâtés.
Serves 8-12 approx.

1 orange
1 lemon
225g (8oz) red currant jelly
3-4 tablespoons port
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a pinch of ground ginger

With a swivel-top peeler, remove the peel very thinly from the orange and half of the lemon (make sure there is no white pith). Shred into thin julienne strips, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Strain off the water and discard it, then refresh the peel under cold water. Strain and keep it aside.

Squeeze the juice from the fruit and put it into a stainless steel saucepan with the jelly and spices; allow it to melt down. Then add the peel and port to the sauce. Boil it rapidly for 5-10 minutes.

Test like jam by putting a little blob on a cold saucer. When it cools it should wrinkle slightly.
Cumberland Sauce may be served in a bowl right away or it may be potted up and kept until needed, like jam.

Horseradish Sauce

Horseradish grows wild in many parts of Ireland and looks like giant dock leaves. If you can=t find it near you , plant some in your garden. It is very prolific and the root which you grate can be dug up at any time of the year.
Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel.
Serves 8 - 10

12-3 tablesp. grated horseradish
2 teaspoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 teaspoon mustard
3 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
8 fl ozs (250 ml) softly whipped cream

Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate on a ‘slivery grater’. Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not overmix or the sauce will curdle. It keeps for 2-3 days: cover so that it doesn=t pick up flavours in the fridge.

This is a fairly mild horseradish sauce. If you want to really Aclear the sinuses@, increase the amount of horseradish!

Emmilines Peanut Brittle

Emmiline Weeks is a student on our current 12 week Certificate Course. She demonstrated this delicious peanut brittle for us. At home in Maryland she packs it into little cellophane bags tied with raffia as presents for her friends.
675g (1½lb) castor sugar
350g (12oz) golden syrup or light corn syrup
495g (18oz) peanuts (fresh roasted and salted)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
vegetable oil

2 large baking sheets
candy thermometer
large pot
metal spoon

Oil 2 baking sheets (if they are small you will need 3). In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, golden syrup and 125ml (4floz/½cup) of water. Dissolve the sugar over a high heat. Once the sugar is dissolved reduce the heat to medium, insert the candy thermometer and bring to 120°C/230°F. At this stage, add the peanuts. You must stir constantly with a metal spoon, stir until it reaches 150°C/300°F – this will take around 30 minutes. Once it reaches 150°C/300°F, remove immediately from the heat and add the vanilla, baking soda and butter. Pour into prepared baking sheets and smooth out. Allow to cool for at least an hour. The brittle should lift easily from the pan, break into desired size.
Store in an airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for at least a week if not two.

Ballymaloe Chocolates

¼ lb (110g) chocolate
24-30 sweet paper cases
Chocolate Ganache
¼ lb (110g) best quality dark chocolate
¼ pint (150ml) cream
¼ - ½ tablesp. rum or orange liqueur

Crushed praline or crystallized violets or unsweetened cocoa powder.

First make the chocolate cases. Melt the chocolate until smooth in a very low oven or in a bowl over simmering water. Put 2 paper cases together and spread melted chocolate evenly over the inside of the paper case with the back of a teaspoon. Check that there are no 'see through' patches when you hold them up to the light, if there are, spread a little more chocolate in that area, stand the paper cases in deep bun tins to keep the sides upright. Chill until they set hard, carefully peel the paper off the cases (it is a good idea to do a few extra cases to allow for accidents!).

Put the cream in a heavy-bottomed, preferably stainless steel saucepan and bring it almost to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. With a wooden spoon, stir the chocolate into the cream until it is completely melted. Transfer the chocolate cream to the bowl of a food mixer and allow it to cool to room temperature. Add the liqueur and whisk until it is just stiff enough to pipe.

To Assemble: Using a piping bag and a three-eights inch star nozzle pipe a rosette of the mixture into peeled chocolate cases. Decorate each one with a little crushed praline or a crystallized violet leaf or a dusting of unsweetened coca powder.

Sue’s Hazelnut Whirls
Place one toasted hazelnut in each of the chocolate cases. Pipe a rosette of ganache on top. Dust with unsweetened cocoa powder.

Lemon Curd

110g (4 oz) castor sugar
50g (2oz) butter
finely grated rind and juice of 2 good lemons
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk (keep white aside for meringue)

On a very low heat melt the butter, add castor sugar, lemon juice and rind and then stir in well beaten eggs. Stir carefully over a gentle heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Draw off the heat and pour into a bowl (it will thicken as it cools.) 

Foolproof Food

Homemade Cheese Biscuits

They keep for several weeks in an airtight tin and also freeze well. These biscuits can be cut into squares, diamonds, or even star shapes for Christmas. You could give them with a present of some Irish farmhouse cheese.
Makes 25-30 biscuits

4 ozs (110g) brown wholemeal flour
4 ozs (110g) white flour, preferably unbleached
½ teasp. baking powder
½ teasp. salt
1 oz (30g) butter
1 tablesp. cream
Water as needed, 5 tablesp. approx.

Mix the brown and white flour together and add the salt and baking powder. Rub in the butter and moisten with cream and enough water to make a firm dough.

Roll out very thinly to one-sixteenth inch thick approx. Prick with a fork. Cut with 2½-3 inch (6.5-7.5cm) round cutter. Bake at 150C/300F/regulo 2 for 45 minutes approx. or until lightly browned and quite crisp. Cool on a wire rack.

White Cheese Biscuits

Use 8 ozs (225g) plain white flour instead of the brown and white: adjust liquid as needed.
Top Tips

Good Things in Durrus – will hold an Open Weekend on 11/12 December from 2-6 with stalls selling cakes and other goodies, and some local art. Tel Carmel Somers at 027-62896.

Smoked Salmon – 
Woodcock Smokery, (Sally Barnes) Castletownsend Tel 028-36232
Shanagarry Smokehouse, Tel 021-4646955
Ummera Smoked Products, Timoleague, Tel 023-46644
Dunns of Dublin, 01-8643100
Kinvara Smoked Salmon, 091-637489
Belvelly Smokehouse – 021-4811089

Gubbeen Smokehouse– 028-28231

Irish Society of Poultry Fanciers – tel 045 432325 – the preservation and survival of pure breeds including duck, geese and all fowl.

Hidden Ireland Guide 2005 now available –
A unique collection of historic private houses throughout Ireland which combine stylish accommodation with great hospitality. Ideal for weekend breaks, house parties, workshops or corporate retreats. Full details of locations and rates from brochure or  or Tel 01-6627166


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