ArchiveDecember 2007

Saturday 29th December

Its always a bit of an anti-climax when Christmas is over again for yet another year.  After a few simple suppers around the telly you may feel like blowing away the post-Yule blues by asking a few friends around for nibbles.  Choose 6 or 7 easy bites. Buy a few bottles of Prosecco to add some fizz and sparkle to the evening.  If you are one of the growing number who find they can longer drink the sulphite and chemical laden plonk, you may want to seek out organic wines which spare one the gnawing headache and hangover.  Not all organic wines are memorable either but there are a growing number of really good ones including some of the premier wines where it doesn’t necessarily say on the label that the grapes are grown organically or biodynamically.

Talk to your local wine merchant or contact Mary Pawle at

Now for the food – it doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious and think tiny portions of your favourite food.    Look into the fridge and see what you can put into a frittata – an 8 egg one will make about 40 squares.  Top each tasty morsel with a half cherry tomato and a fresh mint or basil leaf, filling and delish.

Frank Hederman’s smoked mussels or a fat prawn on little rounds of brown bread with a rosette of mayo and a sprig of flat parsley will also disappear in double quick time.

Cherry tomato lollipops on satay sticks are fun, so easy to make.

Icky sticky chicken wings are cheap and cheerful and moreish.  Provide lots of finger bowls and napkins.   Crispy Yorkshire puds with rare roast beef, horseradish cream and rocket leaves will vaporize off the serving platters.   Prosciutto wrapped grissini are easy as pie and will keep people nibbling.

Slow toasted almonds sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.  Roasted hazelnuts with thyme or chilli nuts are also irresistible.
Its also a terrific idea to serve soup, you’ll need lots of espresso cups that hold two or three mouthfuls, serve the soup early on so it lays down a good foundation.  Virtually anything can be served as a canapé provided you have suitable vehicle to serve it on.  Chinese teaspoons are perfect for mouthfuls of stew, tagine, or other saucy concoctions.

Shot glasses are perfect for oyster shooters or cold soups.  Pacific oyster shells make perfect receptacles for other tasty morsels.

Marks & Spencers have pastry spoons that are fun to use as bases and little tartlets are widely available.  There are a myriad of tasty fillings one can use, both sweet and savoury.  Experiment, taste and when you and your friends go ‘wow’ stick to that.

Variety and balance are essential.  If the situation allows, serve both hot and cold canapés, and balance meat dishes with vegetarian.

Attractive serving platters make serving easy and look good – you can use china, plastic, rushes, baskets, sushi and split cane mats, slate and galvanized tin plates.  Be careful that they are not too heavy or you’ll will be exhausted from carting them around.  Balsa wood circular boxes that large bries are sold in are also terrific. Virginia creeper leaves, vine leaves and even fig leaves are also very effective.  Now that we have a banana tree in the garden, we love to serve finger food on its shiny, green leaves.

Don’t forget to provide cocktail sticks, serviettes and suitable containers for your guests to discreetly deposit their used cocktail sticks, bones and pips into.

At a drinks party, start by serving savoury canapés with your cocktails, wine or champagne.  About two-thirds of the way through the evening, you may want to switch to a good dessert wine and replace your savoury selection with sweet canapés such as petits fours, little lemon tartlets and glazed strawberries.

There are always the delicious if predictable, goat cheese, sundried tomato, olive and basil leaf or pesto, but why not be a little more adventurous, cold scrambled egg with chives and a sliver of smoked eel or smoked mussel with mayonnaise and rocket leaves, Medjool date with cream cheese and pancetta……..

Don’t forget to serve lots of sparkling water and a home made lemonade, apple juice or elderflower cordial with sparkling water.  The bubbles will compensate for the lack of alcohol.   Have fun!

Thai Chicken on Chinese Spoons with a Leaf of Fresh Coriander


Makes 30


Serve on Chinese porcelain spoons


450g (1lb) skinless and boneless chicken breasts

50g (2oz) butter

40g (1 1/2oz) fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 teaspoon green peppercorns

1 stalk of lemon grass, finely chopped

2 red chillies, finely chopped

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

400ml (14fl oz) coconut milk (we use Chaokoh brand)

2 teaspoons freshly chopped coriander leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper


30 Chinese spoons


Cut the chicken in 30 even sized cubes. Heat 25g (1oz) of the butter in a large frying pan and sauté the chicken pieces until lightly browned on all sides.

Melt the remaining butter in the frying pan, sauté the ginger, garlic, peppercorns, lemon grass and chillies. Add the lime juice and ground coriander. Gradually stir in the coconut milk, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Add the chicken pieces, continue to simmer for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the coriander leaves and season to taste. *

Serve on porcelain Chinese spoons with a coriander leaf on top of each one.


* May be prepared ahead to this point.



Tomato and Coconut Milk Soup with Coriander Leaves


Tinned tomatoes and coconut milk are must have store cupboard ingredients. This soup can be made in a few minutes or well ahead and frozen


Serves 6


1 small onion, finely chopped

10g (1/2oz) butter

850ml (1.5 pints) homemade tomato purée or 2 x 400g (14oz) tins of tomatoes, liquidized and sieved

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of coconut milk (we use Chaokah brand)

250ml (9fl oz) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander leaves

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar



crème fraîche

fresh coriander leaves


Sweat the onion in the butter on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured.  Add the tomato purée (or chopped tinned tomatoes plus juice), coconut milk and homemade chicken or vegetable stock.  Add the chopped coriander, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.

Liquidize, taste and dilute further if necessary. Bring back to the boil and correct seasoning.  Garnish with a tiny blob of crème fraîche and some coriander leaves.

*Tinned tomatoes need a surprising amount of sugar to counteract the acidity.

* Fresh milk cannot be added to the soup – the acidity in the tomatoes will cause it to curdle

Note: This soup needs to be tasted carefully as the final result depends on the quality of the homemade purée, stock etc.

For a drinks party serve in espresso cups with tiny bread sticks.



Peppered Beef Yorkshire Puds with Rare Roast Beef and Horseradish Sauce and Rocket Leaves


We use Maldon or Halen mon sea salt


Makes 28 approx.


4oz (110g) plain flour

2 eggs, preferably free-range

½ pint (300ml) milk

½ oz (15g) butter, melted


Horseradish Sauce 


2 x 5 ozs (150g) sirloin steaks


black peppercorns

sea salt

extra virgin olive oil


Rocket or flat parsley leaves

1 tray of 1¾ inch (4.5cm) bun tins


Sunflower oil for greasing tins


Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre of the flour, drop in the eggs.  Using a small whisk or wooden spoon, stir continuously, gradually drawing in flour from the sides, adding the milk in a steady stream at the same time.  When all the flour has been incorporated whisk in the remainder of the milk and cool melted butter.  Allow to stand for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo8.  Heat the patty tins in the oven, grease with sunflower oil and fill a2 full with batter.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until crisp, golden and bubbly. 

Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.


Heat the pan grill.  Crack the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar.  Drizzle the steaks with extra virgin olive oil.  Dip each side in the cracked peppercorns.  Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.  Cook the steaks to medium rare, allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.


To Serve

Warm the Yorkshire puddings if necessary.  Fill each with a tiny blob of Horseradish Sauce.  Top with a thin sliver of rare to medium rare peppered beef. 

Garnish with a sprig of flat parsley or a rocket leaf.  Serve soon – best freshly cooked.





Cherry Tomato Lollipops


Fun, delicious and easy to make


Makes 20


20 sweet cherry tomatoes

Tapenade – about 4 tablespoons


Basil Pesto


Fresh basil leaves

20 bocconcini

Extra Virgin Olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper


20 satay sticks


Cut a slice off the top of each tomato.

Scoop out the seeds with a melon baler.  Turn upside down to drain.

Drain the bocconcini.

Put into a bowl.   Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.   Drizzle sparingly with extra virgin olive oil and add some freshly chopped parsley.


To assemble:

Spoon a little tapenade or pesto into each cherry top.

Top with a drained bocconcini.

Secure the two by sticking a cocktail stick up from the base of the tomato.  They are easy to serve and look great.

Stand in a tall glass or galvanized flower pot.

Provide paper napkins for drips.



Smoked Salmon, Leek and Dill Frittata


Makes 40 servings for nibbles  or will serve 6-8 as a main course.


1 oz butter

2 medium leeks, thinly sliced

8 free range eggs

2-3 tablespoons freshly chopped dill

(25g)1 oz Gruyere cheese, grated

1 teaspoon salt

lots of freshly ground pepper

175-225g (6-8 ozs) smoked salmon, cut into dice


1  x 9” (23cm) non-stick pan


Melt the butter in a sauté pan.  Add the finely sliced leeks, toss.  Cover and cook on a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave to continue cooking while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Whisk the eggs, add the chopped dill and grated cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the cooked leeks.  Melt a little more butter

in the non-stick frying pan.  When it foams, add the egg mixture, reduce the heat to minimum.  Sprinkle the smoked salmon over the top and allow to sink into the egg mixture.  Continue to cook for 8-10 minutes until almost cooked.

Meanwhile preheat the grill.  Flash under the grill until the top is puffed and golden.  Turn out onto a warm plate and serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a good green salad.


Foolproof Food


Smoked Mussels with Home-made Mayonnaise


Brown Soda Bread or Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread


Lollo rosso or rocket leaves

Home made mayonnaise


Smoked mussels


Stamp out 1½ inch (4cm) rounds of bread.  Spread with a little butter, put a little Lollo rosso or rocket on top and a blob of home-made Mayonnaise.  Sit one or two smoked mussels on the Mayonnaise and garnish with a sprig of chervil. 



Roasted Almonds

Whole unpeeled almonds


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Put the almonds dry onto a baking sheet, and roast until golden and crisp, 10-15 minutes.  Toss in olive oil and sea salt, cool.  Try not to the eat lot!


Lemon Curd Starlets


Makes 24


Sweet shortcrust pastry


Home-made Lemon Curd  (see recipe)


1-2 shallow non-stick bun trays.

2½ inch round or 3½ inch star-shaped cutter


Make the pastry as directed in the recipe.

Cover and chill for at least one hour, better still make the pastry the day before.

 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.


Roll the pastry out thinly and stamp into rounds or star shapes. Use to line the bun trays.

Put a small teaspoon of lemon curd into the tartlets and bake for 14-18 minutes until the pastry is just lightly golden.

Or alternatively you may bake the empty tartlets (no need to use beans). Allow them to cool. Then put in a spoon of lemon curd.

They are delicious both ways, see which you prefer.


Lemon Curd

Makes 2 jars


Tangy delicious lemon curd can be made in a twinkling, use it to fill tartlets, smear it over a sponge, or onto fresh bread, buttery scones or meringues.


2 ozs (55g) butter

4ozs (110g) caster sugar

Finely grated rind and juice of 2 good lemons, preferably organic

2 free-range 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 the well beaten eggs. Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spoon until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Draw off the heat and pour into a bowl or sterilized jar (it will thicken further as it cools.)

Cover when cold and store in the refrigerator.  Best eaten within a week or a fortnight.


Glazed Strawberries

To be served as a petit four or as a garnish on dessert plates or cakes.



Strawberries  (unhulled) or

you could also any of the following -cherries with their stalks, grapes, segments of tangerine or clementine or physalis  (cape gooseberry)


8 ozs (225g) sugar

4 fl ozs (125 ml) water


This amount of syrup would glaze about 1lb of fruit – eg 8oz (225g) strawberries, 4oz (110g) physalis and 4oz  (110g) grapes.


Dissolve sugar in the water in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Bring to the boil and cook to a light caramel. Carefully dip the fruits into the caramel to glaze them lightly. Put them immediately onto silicone paper or onto an oiled surface where the glaze will set hard. Keep in a dry place and serve in individual petit four cases within an hour.




Hot Tips


Centre for Adult Continuing Education, University College Cork

For full 2008 course programme contact Tel 021-4902301 or email:

One of the courses being offered will be a unique course in Ireland’s food culture –

A Little History of Irish Food – a 10 week course delivered by Regina Sexton, food historian, journalist and lecturer.


Baileys Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year 2007 –

Congratulations to Ian Ussher, chef de partie at Bank Café on Dublin’s Merrion Row – the 21-year old chef from Tallaght beat four other finalists to win Ireland’s toughest and most prestigious culinary competition which took place recently at Dublin’s Four Seasons Hotel.   Now in its 18th Year, the Baileys Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year competition represents the best establishments and emerging chefs in the country, open to chefs under the age of 25.


Good Things Café and Cookery School, Durrus, West Cork

Course programme for 2008 now available –

Tel 027-61426,

Saturday December 22nd

How about a little Christmas Eve supper around the fire, something light and delicious and not too time consuming to make. Just one course of something comforting to soothe frayed nerves. Wouldn’t it be lovely to tuck into a pie – I adore Ballycotton Fish Pie, or a Shepherd’s Pie with a blob of garlic butter melting onto the crispy potato topping, or maybe Babotie, the spicy South African version of Shepherd’s Pie. Easier still, a bubbly Macaroni Cheese with lots of Dan Hegarty’s mature cheddar cheese melting into the sauce.

Quesadillas are really quick to make, this recipe has a pumpkin filling but you can use whatever you like or have to hand.

A good green salad made up of winter greens like Arctic green lettuce, curly kale, finely shredded Savoy cabbage and watercress, with a honey and mustard dressing would be so welcome. A plate of green salad has the magical effect of making you feel less full so you have room for pudding or a piece of delicious Irish farmhouse cheese.

Membrillo or quince paste is one of my favourite accompaniments with cheese, Medjool dates and those plump Turkish figs on raffia string also make irresistible nibbling. Lots of sweet clementines, a Panforte di Siena, and a Panettone (the light Italian Christmas confection) are worth having as a standby, as is a Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese.

If you just feel like a snack and a glass of wine, this unctuous creamy cheese hidden under the rumpled crust, is heaven on a cracker and totally stress-free.

I had this wonderful light Christmas pudding at a friend’s house the other night, the recipe comes from ‘Delia Smith’s Christmas’, trust Delia to come up trumps again. You may not wish to eat it on Christmas Eve if you are having Plum Pudding again next day, but if you haven’t got around to making a pudding it would fit the bill!

We wish you a peaceful and convivial Christmas.

Hot Tips


Vacherin Mont d’Or – available from Iago and On the Pigs Back in Cork’s English Market, Sheridans Cheesemongers in Dublin and Galway, Peter Ward in Nenagh, Urru in Bandon and Mallow. – new fine food shop opened in every town in Ireland –

Gourmands countrywide now have access to a well stocked, specialist ingredients outlet and gift food online shop which delivers direct to their door anywhere in Ireland.  It explains what each item is like and even suggests how it may be used.  They also do gift vouchers.


Morrin O’Rourke Farm Foods, Kilcock, Co Kildare

Certified organic farm foods – beef, lamb and vegetables.   Delicious meat pies,(nicest bite I’ve had in a long time), breads, jams, chutneys, sauces and other seasonal treats.  Their philosophy is ‘the best life for all involved’ – humans and animals.   Tel 086-3208940 or email


Quesadillas with Pumpkin,Wicklow Blue and Rocket Leaves



Serves 8



16 flour tortillas

750g (1¾lb) pumpkin or butternut squash

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 teasp. fresh thyme leaves

100g (3½oz) mature cheddar, grated

125g (4½oz) soft blue cheese, eg Wicklow Blue, crumbled

125g (4½oz) mozzarella, grated


Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas6




Halve, deseed and peel the pumpkin, dice the flesh.   Transfer to a baking tray, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper and a teaspoon of thyme leaves.

Roast in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

Heat a wide heavy iron or wide non-stick pan on a medium heat, pop a flour tortilla into the pan.  Sprinkle on a little grated cheddar.  Top with a layer of roasted pumpkin and a liberal scattering of crumbled blue cheese and mozzarella.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Top with some fresh rocket leaves.   Press the other tortilla down, the underneath should be lightly browned by now, so turn over and continue to cook for about 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and beginning to ooze.   Slide onto a timber board, cut into quarters or eighths and pass around immediately.  




Serves 8-10


This South African recipe was given to us by Alicia Wilkinson from Silwood Kitchens in Capetown.


generous 30ml (1fl oz) oil

4 tablespoons butter

450g (1lb) lamb, freshly minced

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

110g (4oz) grated carrot


2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2½ teaspoons ground ginger

3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh herbs

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cinnamon

sugar to taste – 1 teaspoon approx.

a piece of red chilli

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

15g (½oz) almonds, chopped

some lemon leaves or 2 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind

generous 15ml (2½fl oz) wine vinegar

2 x 2.5cm (1inch) slices of sandwich loaf, soaked in water, drained and squeezed dry



250ml (9fl oz) buttermilk

2 large eggs, free-range and organic

salt and freshly ground pepper

2½ teaspoons turmeric



Heat the butter and oil, add onion and garlic and cook until soft.  Add mince and stir well, add grated carrot, spices, chilli, seasoning, chopped almonds and lemon rind.     Stir well and continue to cook until the flavours mingle.   Stir in the soaked and squeezed bread, and the wine vinegar.  Mix well, taste and correct seasoning.

Put the meat into a shallow rectangular baking dish and smooth over.  

Whisk all the ingredients together for the topping, check the seasoning and strain over the meat.  Bake at once in a pre-heated oven 180C/350F/gas 4 until topping is set and golden.



Ballycotton Fish Pie 

Serves 6-8


Many different types of really fresh fish may be used for a fish pie, so feel free to adapt this recipe a little to suit your needs. Periwinkles would be a good and cheap addition and a little smoked haddock is tasty also.


2½ lbs (1.25kg) fillets of cod, haddock, ling, hake, salmon or pollock or a mixture, skinned


salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pint (600ml) full cream milk and a very little cream (optional)

1-2 slices onion

3 or 4 slices of carrot

1 small bay leaf

a sprig of thyme

3 peppercorns


18 cooked mussels (optional)

roux made with 1 oz (30g) butter and 1 oz (30g) flour


4 hard boiled eggs

½ oz (15g) butter

4oz (120g) onion, chopped

6 ozs (170g) sliced mushrooms, preferably flat

2 tablesp. chopped parsley

2 lbs (900g) fluffy mashed potato or Champ



Parsley and anchovy or Garlic butter (optional)


Cut the fish into 5-6 oz (140-170g) chunks.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the onion, carrot, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns into the milk, bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Strain.  (This step is optional but adds extra flavour to the milk).

Wash the mussels (if using), put into a shallow pan in a single layer, cover and cook over a medium heat just until the shells open – 3 or 4 minutes approx. Cool.

Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes in boiling salted water, cool and shell.

Sweat the onion in a little melted butter on a gently heat until soft but not coloured, remove to a plate.

Increase the heat, sauté the sliced mushrooms in the hot pan, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add to the onions. Put the fish into a wide sauté pan or frying pan, in a single layer, cover with the flavoured or plain milk.

Don’t use more than 4 ozs of smoked haddock unless you want the smoky flavour to predominate. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and simmer gently until the fish is just cooked – no more than 3-4 minutes.

Remove the fish carefully with a slotted spoon, carefully removing any bones or skin.

Bring the liquid to the boil and thicken with roux  (see recipe), add a little cream (optional) and the chopped parsley, roughly chopped hard boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, chunks of fish and the mussels. Stir gently, taste and correct the seasoning.

Spoon into 1 large or 6-8 small dishes and pipe fluffy mashed potato or Scallion Champ on top.    The pie may be prepared ahead to this point.

To reheat, put into a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 10-15 minutes approx. if the filling and potato are warm, or 30 minutes approx. if reheating the dish from the cold. Flash under the grill if necessary to brown the top.

Serve with Garlic butter or Parsley butter.




4 ozs (110 g) butter

4 ozs (110 g) flour


Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally.  Use as required.  Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred.  It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.


Foolproof Food

Parsley Butter


2 ozs (55g) butter

4 teasp. finely chopped parsley

Few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice


Cream the butter, then stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at the time. Roll into butter pats of form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tin foil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.

To serve: Remove the tin foil and cut into 3 inch (5mm) slices.


Garlic Butter


2 ozs (55g) butter

4 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped

2-3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed


Cream the butter, stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at a time.  Add the crushed garlic.  Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tinfoil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker.  Refrigerate to harden.


Winter Green Salad with Honey and Mustard Dressing

For this salad, use a selection of winter lettuces and salad leaves, e.g. Butterhead, Iceberg, Raddichio, Endive, Chicory, Watercress, Buckler leaf, Sorrel, Rocket leaves and Winter Purslane Mysticana.  Tips of purple sprouting broccoli are also delicious and if you feel like something more robust, use some finely-shredded Savoy cabbage and maybe a few shreds of red cabbage also. 



Honey and Mustard Dressing


6 fl ozs (150ml) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils, eg. sunflower and arachide

2 fl ozs (50ml) wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 teasp. honey

2 heaped teasp. wholegrain honey mustard

2 cloves garlic


Mix all the ingredients together and whisk well before use.


Wash and dry the lettuces and other leaves very carefully in a large sink of cold water.  If large tear into bite sized pieces and put into a deep salad bowl.  Cover with cling film and refrigerate if not to be served immediately.  Just before serving toss with a little dressing – just enough to make the leaves glisten.  Serve immediately.


Note:  Green Salad must not be dressed until just before serving, otherwise it will be tired and unappetising.


Macaroni Cheese


Serves 6


Macaroni cheese is one of my children’s favourite supper dishes. We often add some cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni.


8 ozs (225g) macaroni

6 pints (3.4L) water

2 teaspoons salt


2 ozs (55g) butter

2 ozs (55g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1½ pints (850ml) boiling milk

3 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon  freshly chopped parsley, (optional)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

5 ozs (145g) grated mature Cheddar cheese (We use our local Cheddar which is made at Mitchelstown and matured at Imokilly Creamery)


1 x 2 pint (1.1L) capacity pie dish


Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook until just soft, 10-15 minutes approx. drain well.

Meanwhile melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, parsley if using and cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately.

Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place, it is very good served with cold meat particularly ham.


Top Tip: Macaroni soaks up an enormous amount of sauce.  Add more sauce if making ahead to reheat later.

Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Salmon

Add 4 ozs (110 g) of smoked salmon pieces to the macaroni cheese.


Macaroni Cheese with Mushrooms and Courgettes

Add 8 ozs (225 g) sliced sautéed mushrooms and 8 ozs (225 g) sliced courgettes cooked in olive oil with a little garlic and marjoram or basil and add to the Macaroni cheese.  Toss gently, turn into a hot serving dish and scatter with grated cheese – delish.


Light Christmas Pudding


Serves 8


6oz (175g) self-raising flour, sifted

Pinch of salt

4oz (110g) butter, softened

4oz (110g) soft light brown sugar

1 medium cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped small

2 eggs, size 1

3 rounded tablespoons mincemeat

â…“ teaspoon ground mace

1 teaspoon lemon juice

The grated zest of 1 small orange

The grated zest of 1 small lemon

2 pieces whole candied orange peel

2 pieces whole candied lemon peel

1 piece candied citron peel


2 pint (1.2litre) pudding basin – rounded-based sort is best



Prepare the basin by buttering it lightly and arranging the candied peel in the base.  First snip the citron peel into ½ inch (1cm) strips and arrange these in an overlapping circle in the centre of the base of the basin; you need something that resembles a flower.  Then, using a sharp pair of scissors, snip the whole candied peels lengthways into strips, but leaving the end intact.  Imagine five fingers attached to a hand and you’ve got it.  Now arrange these around the ‘flower’, spreading out the strips as much as possible.

Now, for the pudding, simply beat the sugar and butter with an electric hand whisk until the mixture is pale and creamy and drops off a spoon easily with a sharp tap.  Then beat the eggs in a jug and add these a minute amount at a time, whisking well after each addition.  When all the liquid egg is incorporated carefully fold in the sifted flour, mace and salt, followed by the lemon juice, grated lemon and orange zest, chopped apple and finally the mincemeat.

Now spoon the mixture into the basin, being careful to leave your artistic arrangement intact.   Tie a double piece of pleated foil on to the basin, place it in a steamer over boiling water and steam for 2½ hours.

If you are not using it immediately, allow it to get completely cold. Turn it out, wrap it well and freeze till needed.  Take it out of the freezer the night before you want to use it.

Re-steam for 1½ hours and serve with Brandy butter, Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce, softly whipped cream or Hot Punch Sauce as Delia suggests.


Hot Punch Sauce


This sauce can be made well in advance, as long as you re-heat it gently and don’t let it boil.


10fl.oz (275ml) water

2oz (50g) caster sugar

The thinly pared outer rind of ½ medium orange

The thinly pared outer rind of ½ large lemon

The juice of 1 medium orange

The juice of 1 large lemon

6 fl.oz(175ml) dry sherry (or medium would do)

2 tablesp. rum

2 tablesp brandy

1 rounded dessertspoon plain flour and 3oz (75g) unsalted butter worked together into a paste.


Measure the water into a small saucepan, then cut the thinly pared orange and lemon rind into tiny shreds.  Add them to the water along with the sugar, then gently bring the mixture up to simmering point and simmer gently for 20 minutes.   Meanwhile, squeeze the orange and lemon juice into a bowl, and measure out the sherry, rum and brandy to join it.  As soon as the 20 minutes are up, whisk the butter and flour paste into the contents of the saucepan.  Bring back to simmering point, still whisking until the sauce has thickened.

Now, keeping the heat very low, add the alcohol and fruit juices and, stirring gently, allow everything to become very hot without coming to the boil.

Serve some sauce spooned over each portion of pudding and hand the rest around separately.

Christmas Dinner Part 3

I’m all for tradition and have a great respect for the classic recipes that have evolved over the years because they work brilliantly. Nonetheless there’s no reason why you should have to slavishly adhere to the same old routine if you feel stressed and less than thrilled at the prospect. It doesn’t have to be turkey or goose either and you certainly shouldn’t bother unless you can get a really well reared bird. Taste must have precedence over tradition.

Christmas food should be a little luxurious, festive and of course suitably seasonal.

For those feeling like something non traditional, I have cooked up a Christmas menu with a little twist. Those who are wedded to familiar flavours needn’t fret, we’ve still got the turkey and sprouts but not in the predictable way.

I’ve chosen some gorgeous Dublin Bay prawns as a starter – for me they are always a treat, one of nature’s great blessings. In fact every time I eat a beautiful prawn I offer up a silent thank you to the Good Lord of the Oceans. They can be cooked ahead and served in a myriad of ways but as ever I believe less is more, I like to cook them in the shells and serve them with a big bowl of unctuous homemade mayonnaise and some delicious crusty brown soda bread. I am also including a Parsley and Chilli Oil Dressing as an alternative for those who would like a lighter sauce with the Prawns, this too has the advantage that it can be made ahead and is also delicious on pasta, or a pangrilled chicken breast or squid.

The recipe for the Brussels Sprout Salad came from the lovely Skye Gyngell of Petersham Nurseries Café near Richmond in London, one of my all time favorite lunch time restaurants. She was guest chef at the school earlier this year and we loved her food.

For the main course I have chosen a Chinese cooking method to poach the crown of turkey. Make sure you choose a saucepan with a tight fitting lid. This gentle cooking method produces a tender succulent texture and can be served warm or at room temperature.

The little salad of crunchy leaves – cucumber ribbons and fresh herbs is deliciously fresh tasting and doubly welcome on Christmas day. Kale is in season now too and is the most nutritious of all brassicas, it also has cholesterol reducing qualities.

For pudding the boozy Rum and Raisin Ice Cream Plum Pudding is the hedonistic choice, but a less calorific and equally delicious option might be a Ruby Grapefruit and Mint Granita sprinkled with cholesterol busting pomegranate seeds.

You may not have room for some farmhouse cheese at this meal, but be sure to have some delicious handmade dark chocolate from the growing number of Irish artisan chocolatiers to nibble with a cup of coffee before you settle down in front of the fire to open presents. Spare a thought for those who are less fortunate this Christmas and reflect on how we can enhance their festive season.

Ballycotton Prawns with Dill Mayonnaise or Chilli and Flat Parsley relish.

We get the most wonderful juicy prawns straight from Ballycotton Seafood. – they are known as Dublin Bay prawns but the species is Nephrops norvegicus.

We eat them in several ways but they are best freshly cooked and served with homemade Mayonnaise and some crusty bread. If you don’t fancy or can’t get fresh dill, fennel would also be good, or leave it out.

Serves 4

24 large very fresh prawns

4 pints (2.3 L) water

2 tablespoons salt


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

1 tablespoon freshly chopped dill

Chilli and flat parsley relish – (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. Add the dill to the mayonnaise. Spoon a tablespoon or two of homemade 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.


I know it is very tempting to reach for the jar of ‘well known brand’ but most people don’t seem to be aware that Mayonnaise can be made even with a hand whisk, in under five minutes, and if you use a food processor the technique is still the same but it is made in just a couple of minutes. The great secret is to have all your ingredients at room temperature and to drip the oil very slowly into the egg yolks at the beginning. The quality of your Mayonnaise will depend totally on the quality of your egg yolks, oil and vinegar and it’s perfectly possible to make a bland Mayonnaise if you use poor quality ingredients.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

¼ teaspoon salt

Pinch of English mustard or ¼ teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon White wine vinegar

8 fl ozs (250ml) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 6 fl ozs (175ml) arachide oil and 2 fl ozs (50ml) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, salt and the white wine vinegar (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 vinegar if necessary.

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. If 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 emulsifies again.

Chilli and Parsley Oil Relish

Serves 8

3 cloves garlic

8 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped

1 large red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

4 fl ozs (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the sauce, chop the garlic. Add the seeded and chopped chilli, (use a mezzaluna if you have one) and the flat parsley. Continue to chop until fine. Put into a bowl with the olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

(This sauce will keep a week in the fridge and is also good served with pasta or steak!).

Sichuan Poached Turkey Breast with a Perky Salad

Serves 8

1 x crown of organic turkey -2 ½ kilos/ 5lb10oz approximately (save the legs for another dish)

4 large spring onions

1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally

250 ml (9 fl oz) soy sauce

250 ml (9 fl oz) Chinese rice wine

1 head garlic

2 x 8 cm (2 ½ oz /7g) pieces of fresh ginger peeled and chopped

thinly peeled rind of 1 orange

2 sticks cinnamon

4 star anise

Homemade chicken stock to cover


4 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tsp sesame oil


4 little gem lettuce, leaves washed and separated

4 spring onions sliced diagonally

2 – 3 mild red chillies, thinly sliced at an angle

leaves from a large bunch coriander

2-3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Put the coarsely chopped spring onion, soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, sliced ginger, orange rind, cinnamon, star anise into a deep sauce pan. Add the turkey crown and enough chicken stock to cover.

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a gentle heat for 15 minutes, remove from the heat and allow it to stand tightly covered for 20 minutes.

Take 10fl oz of the cooking liquid, skim the fat from the surface; add rice vinegar and sesame oil.

Just before serving combine the little gem leaves, with the spring onions cucumber ribbons, thinly slices red chilies. Season with Maldon Sea Salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Remove the turkey from the poaching liquid.

Slice the turkey into chunky slices, arrange overlapping slices on a large platter and pile the salad alongside, spoon some of the dressing over the turkey and the salad. Scatter with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Note: the poaching liquid may be used over and over again. Provided it is refrigerated. Bring to the boil before using.

Salad of Aged Parmesan, Raw Sprouts, Shaved Celery and Speck

Serves 8

12 large brussel sprouts – trimmed of outer leaves, washed and patted dry
240g (8½oz) parmesan cheese
6 x stalks of celery (sweet white hearts)
24 x slices of speck or parma ham
the zest of 2 lemons
the juice of 1 lemon
2 tablesp of very finely chopped parsley
6 tablesp of good quality new season extra virgin olive oil

Slice the brussel sprouts as finely as you can – they should fall apart so
that they are like finely sliced ribbon.

Wash and dry the celery and slice it into long shards (you can achieve this
by cutting it on the bias).

Slice the parmesan using a sharp knife – odd slices are nicest – some very,
very fine – some slightly thicker (in terms of taste and texture this is far
more interesting).

Place the sprouts, celery and parmesan in a bowl, season with a little salt
& pepper – add the lemon zest, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil – toss
well to combine!

Divide among 8 plates and lay the speck over the top.
Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve!

Skye Gyngell told us that this is one of her favourite winter starters – it gives a whole new dimension to the much abused sprout

Curly Kale with Bacon and Chestnuts

Serves 8

900g (2lb) curly kale or cavalo nero


Extra virgin olive oil

250g (9oz) streaky bacon

200g (7oz) peeled chestnuts

Bring a (6litre) 10pt of water to the boil in a large saucepan add 2tbsp salt.

Destalk the kale; wash quickly in lots of cold water. Drain. Cook the kale at a fast rolling boil until tender 8 – 10 minutes, depending on how tough it is.

Meanwhile cut the bacon into 5mm(¼ in) lardons. Heat a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and cook until crisp and golden add roughly chopped chestnuts and cook for a minute or two.

Drain the kale well and add to the bacon and chestnuts, toss and drizzle generously with olive oil add a knob of butter taste and season with lots of freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately

Note: Omit bacon for a vegetarian version.

Ruby Grapefruit and Spearmint Granita

Serves 6-8

Ruby grapefruit sorbet is terrifically versatile; it can be served at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a meal.

1 litre (1¾ pint) ruby grapefruit juice (10 grapefruit approx.)

225g (8oz) castor sugar approx.

1 egg white (optional)

4 tbsp freshly chopped spearmint


1 pomegranate

Fresh spearmint leaves

8 chilled white side plates

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

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. 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. 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. Freeze again until needed.

Meanwhile remove the seeds from the pomegranate and keep chilled in the fridge.

To Serve:

Chill the plates in a refrigerator or freezer.

Put 1 or 2 scoops of sorbet on each chilled plate; sprinkle with a few pomegranate seeds. Decorate with fresh mint leaves and serve immediately.

Boozy Ice Cream with Raisins

A gorgeous rich ice cream with a scoopable texture, serve it in small helpings!.

Serves 20 approximately

4 oz (110g) butter

8 oz (225g) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown sugar)

1 egg, free-range

62ml (2½fl oz) port

62ml (2½fl oz) medium sherry

2 ¼-2 ½ pints (1.3-1.4L) lightly whipped cream

4oz (110g) muscatel raisins

62ml (2½fl oz) sherry

62ml (2½fl oz) rum

2oz (50g) fresh walnuts, chopped

Holly Sprigs

Icing sugar

1½ pint (850ml) bowl or two 13x20cm (5x8inch) loaf tins or plastic box

Melt the butter, stir in the sugar and allow it to cool slightly. Whisk the egg and add to the butter and sugar with the sherry and port. Cool. Add the softly whipped cream. Put into a plastic bowl, cover and freeze*.

Meanwhile put the raisins into a bowl, cover with a mixture of warm rum and sherry and allow the fruit to plump up. Chop the walnuts coarsely and add to the raisins just before serving.

*Alternatively line two loaf tins with cling film, cover and freeze.

To Serve

Turn out the boozy ice-cream plum pud onto a chilled plate. Scatter the boozy raisins and some chopped walnuts over the top. Decorate with a sprig of holly and a sprinkling of icing sugar snow. Serve on chilled plates.

Hot Tips

Artisan Chocolates –

French chocolatier Gwen Lasserre makes exquisite chocolates in his shop on Main St. Schull, Co Cork, Tel 028-27853

Benoit Lorge also makes delicious chocolates at O’Connors Shop, Bonane, Co Kerry, Tel 087-9917172

O’Connaill Chocolates are available at Midleton, Mahon, Kinsale and Bandon farmers’ markets and the shop in Frenchchurch St. Tel 021-4373407

Eve Chocolates, another favourite, available at Flair, Magazine Road and some shops in the Cork area –Tel 021-4347781

Cocoa Bean Chocolate Co – Limerick, available at The Milk Market in Limerick and check out Tel 061-446615

Skelligs Chocolate Co. Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, Tel 066-9479119

Ightermurragh Garden Allotments, Ladysbridge, Co Cork

Give a present of an allotment to someone who would love to grow their own vegetables, fruit and flowers – various sizes available, ready for planting, water on site, private parking – great family Christmas present or maybe for somebody about to retire.

Tel Liam at 021-4667330 or 086-3003810 – Gift vouchers available

New Addition to Cork Culinary Scene –

McCarthy’s Village Food Fare, Eden Hall, Model Farm Road, Cork – locally sourced products, deluxe Christmas Hampers, outside catering and cooking classes in the New Year.

Christmas Dinner Part 2

This week we have the remainder of the recipes for Christmas dinner, I’m hoping that you may have had time to take my advice and that by now the Plum Pudding is made and maturing.   Stuffing, bread sauce and Clementine granitas are in the freezer and the Cranberry Sauce and Muscovado Brandy Butter are sitting on a shelf like ‘good deeds’ in a cool pantry.

I have to tell you that I haven’t got around to doing any of that myself but I’m full of good resolutions to do it all next week.

A plate or large platter of locally smoked fish is an easy and delicious option as a starter for Christmas Day.  Don’t just get the first smoked salmon you see, the quality varies enormously. Because of the ban on drift netting, this year smoked wild Irish salmon is either non-existent or rare as ‘hens teeth’, so look out for Irish organic salmon smoked carefully by one of Ireland’s growing number of artisan fish smokers.  Smoked mackerel, eel, mussels, sprats, tuna can all be part of the selection.  There are also some good smoked oysters about also.  If you are feeling a tad lazy a few segments of lemon and some brown bread will be adequate, but cucumber pickle, horseradish sauce and dill mayonnaise and a few sprigs of fresh watercress make a wonderful accompaniment.

Frank Hederman sells plump whole mackerel but also a selection of fillets, some slathered with grainy mustard, others sprinkled with chives, harissa or freshly cracked pepper.  If you have some left over just remove the skin and bones and whizz it up in a food processor with some cream cheese, a little soft butter and some dill.

The cucumber pickle will keep for several days and is also delicious with cold meat or just about any snack.

On Christmas Day pop the fresh or defrosted stuffing (see last week’s article) into the turkey and roast as in the recipe.

Trim and halve or quarter the sprouts, depending on size, the night before.  Keep them cool in the fridge covered with damp kitchen paper.  Don’t soak them in water or you’ll lose a great deal of the flavour and most of the nutrients.

Potatoes for raggedy roasts may also be peeled and blanched on Christmas Eve, toss in extra virgin olive oil and keep in a plastic bag in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

Make sure to have a nice big bowl of green salad read to eat after the main course and you will have room for plum pudding.  Don’t believe me? Try it.  If you really can’t face plum pudding try the deliciously refreshing Clementine granita.  It will flit over your tongue and melt like a winter snowflake.

A Plate of Locally Smoked Fish with Horseradish Sauce and Sweet Dill Mayonnaise


Serves 4


We have fantastic smoked fish in Ireland – see Hot Tips last week for contact details.


The horseradish cream, dill mayonnaise and cucumber pickle will come in useful to serve with cold meats also.


A selection of smoked fish – smoked salmon, smoked mussels, smoked mackerel, smoked trout, smoked eel, smoked tuna, smoked hake and smoked sprats.

Horseradish cream (see recipe)

Sweet dill mayonnaise (see recipe)

Sweet cucumber pickle (see recipe)


Segments of lemon

Sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves


First make the horseradish cream and sweet dill mayonnaise. 

Slice the smoked salmon into thin slices down onto the skin, allow 1 slice per person.  Cut the mackerel into diamond shaped pieces, divide the trout into large flakes.  Skin and slice the eel.  Thinly slice the tuna and hake. 

To serve

Choose four large white plates drizzle each plate with sweet dill mayonnaise, divide the smoked fish between the plates.  Arrange appetizingly, put a blob of horseradish sauce and cucumber pickle on each plate.  Garnish with a lemon wedge and sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves.


Occasionally we serve just three different types of smoked fish for example salmon, mussels and trout on tiny rounds of Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread, topped with a little frill of fresh Lollo Rosso.  A little blob of cucumber pickle goes with the smoked salmon, a blob of home made Mayonnaise is delicious with marinated smoked mussels and a blob of Horseradish Cream and a sprig of watercress complements the pink smoked trout – These three delicious morsels make a perfect light starter.  




Horseradish Cream


A nice big chunk of horseradish keeps for ages in the fridge or pantry.  I use it for lots and lots of dishes.


Serves 8 – 10


3-4 tablespoons grated horseradish

2 teaspoons wine vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon mustard

1/4teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

250 ml (8 fl ozs) whipping 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.  Stir in the cream but do not overmix or the cream may curdle.  It will keep 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 ‘clear the sinuses’, increase the amount of horseradish!


Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel or eel, also great with pickled beetroot.



Sweet Cucumber Pickle

170 g (6 ozs) cucumber, thinly sliced

 55 g (2 ozs) onion, thinly sliced

 55 g (2 ozs) sugar

1 level teaspoon salt

35.5 ml (1¼ fl ozs) white wine vinegar


Combine the sliced cucumber and onion in a large bowl.  Mix sugar, salt and vinegar together and pour over the cucumber and onion.  Place in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator and leave for at least 1 hour.


Sweet Dill Mayonnaise



1 large egg yolk, preferably free range

2 tablespoons French mustard

1 tablespoon white sugar

150ml (¼ pint) ground nut or sunflower

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper


Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.



Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Crispy Bacon


Not surprisingly many people hate Brussels sprouts because invariably they are over cooked.

The traditional way to cook sprouts was to cut a cross in the stalk so that they would, hopefully, cook more evenly. Fortunately I discovered quite by accident when I was in a mad rush one day, that if you cut the sprouts in half lengthways they cook much faster and taste infinitely more delicious so with this recipe I’ve managed to convert many ardent brussels sprout haters!


Serves 4-6


1 lb (450g) Brussels sprouts, (cut lengthways top to bottom)

1 pint (600ml) water 

1½ teasp. salt

1-2 ozs (30-55g) butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 packet of peeled cooked chestnuts

2-4ozs (55-110g) crispy bacon lardoons




Choose even medium sized sprouts. Trim the outer leaves if necessary and cut them in half lengthways. Salt the water and bring to a fast rolling boil. Toss in the sprouts, cover the saucepan just for a minute until the water returns to the boil, then uncover and cook for 5 or 6 minutes or until the sprouts are cooked through but still have a slight bite. Pour off the water.*  Add the chestnuts for one minute before the end of cooking to heat through

Melt a little butter in a saucepan, roll the sprouts gently in the butter, season with lots of freshly ground pepper and salt. Taste and serve immediately in a hot serving dish scattered with hot crispy bacon.


Note * If the sprouts are not to be served immediately, refresh them under cold water just as soon as they are cooked. Just before serving, drop them into boiling salted water for a few seconds to heat through. Drain and toss in the butter, season and serve. This way they will taste almost as good as if they were freshly cooked: certainly much more delicious than sprouts kept warm for half an hour in an oven or a hostess trolley.



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



Serves 10-12


This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. 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 – see last week’s article



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 last week

Bread Sauce – see last week

Couscous stuffing – see last week


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.

Make the fresh herb stuffing as directed last week.  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 and the Couscous stuffing if using.


Raggedy 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 adds delicious extra flavour to roast potatoes. Good quality pork fat or lard from free range pigs is also worth saving carefully for roast or sauté 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 or British Queens.  New potatoes are not suitable for roasting.



For perfection peel them just before roasting. Choose potatoes of even size and shape. Cut into quarters if large.

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.


Blanch the potatoes by putting into boiling salted water, bring back to the boil.  Then strain off the water in a colander and rinse the potatoes under cold water to refresh.


Dry potatoes carefully, be really pernickety otherwise they will stick to the roasting tin, and when you turn them over you will lose the crispy bit underneath.

Scrape the surface with a fork, roll in seasoned flour,(flour seasoned with salt and pepper).

Heat the olive oil or fat in a roasting pan, then toss the potatoes in the pan to make sure they are well coated in hot oil or fat.

Roast in a hot oven (230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8), basting occasionally, for 30-60 minutes depending on size. 



Hot Tips

Congratulations to Kinsale for winning ‘Ireland’s Best Fairtrade Town’ title –

Fairtrade guarantees a fair price for third world producers and enables the producers to reinvest their extra income into community projects.   Check out this month’s Cork Now Magazine for a report on how successful fair-trade has been in Kinsale.


Best kept secret in London –

Theo Randall at the Intercontinental Hotel, 1 Hamilton Place, London W1, Tel 0207-3188747 

Set lunch £21 for 2 totally brilliant courses or £25 for three.

Daily changing menu, civilized place to have lunch and a great place to entertain a business colleague.




Limited Edition Avoca Cookbooks

Perfect stocking fillers for the discerning gourmand!

The new series of concise cook books from Avoca covers three of the most popular courses; soups, tea time (cakes and snacks) and salads.  The books will be available in limited quantities in Avoca Stores just in time for Christmas. See for locations.   €8.95 each or €24.95 for pack of 3.

Christmas Dinner

Let’s make this the first Christmas where the cook doesn’t have to be resuscitated by the end of the day – we’ll take it nice and easy.  Plan the menu well ahead and, keep it simple. Divide up the workload and do everything you possibly can ahead.  How about  the following menu.

A plate of locally smoked fish with Horseradish Cream, Dill Mayonnaise and Sweet Cucumber Pickle.

Traditional Roast Stuffed Turkey with Herb Stuffing and Gravy or Couscous Stuffing.

Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts, Ragged Roast Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce.

Plum Pudding with Muscovado Brandy Butter.   Clementine Granita.

Make the plum pudding any day now, but first seek out really plump and delicious dried fruit, fat lexia raisins, juicy yellow sultanas and Turkish currants.  If you enjoy making preserves why not make your own candied peel from citrus peel, it tastes sensational and costs very little, but it does take time.   If you can’t see yourself candying orange peel, try to find chunky peel in your local deli and while you are there look out for some old fashioned crystallized cherries, they will look dark red in colour, unlike some of the bright red ones we buy nowadays which were never ‘next nor near’ a cherry tree in their lives.   If you are going to have time to make a plum pudding it might as well be lip-smackingly good.

Rachel’s Leek and Potato Soup can be made well ahead and frozen. Make 2 or 3 times the recipe but don’t add the blue cheese until just before serving.

Cranberry Sauce can also be made weeks ahead, a few extra pots make a natty little present for foodie pals or a kind neighbour.

The stuffing for the turkey can also be made ahead and frozen in a plastic box, for perfection you may want to add the fresh herbs when you are reheating.

Its also worth making some chicken stock to have ready for soups and gravy.

Muscovado brandy butter can also be whipped up ahead.

Save any stale bread to make breadcrumbs, they can be popped into the freezer in 4oz bags read to use for stuffings, bread sauce and crumbles.

I adore Bread Sauce, I know it definitely doesn’t press everyone’s buttons, but ever since I was a child, Mum’s bread sauce was a must with Christmas turkey – this too can be made ahead and frozen.   You may need to add a little more milk when you reheat it on Christmas Day.

If Plum Pudding isn’t your thing make a Clementine Granita or Sorbet, well ahead.  It tastes like superior ‘iced lolly’ and will cause a riot on Christmas Day, everyone will be fighting over the last refreshing spoonful – it’s so welcome after ‘Christmas dins’.

More next week.

Hot Tips

Make lists -  what to order ahead,  what you can buy now and have in the storecupboard, what can be bought or made ahead and put in the freezer,  what has to be bought at the last minute – when you need to collect things – tick off as you do and you will feel very organised!   Planning is half the work and you should enjoy the run up to Christmas and not end up frazzled!





Make Plum Pudding or buy from your favourite source

Make Christmas Cake or buy from somebody you know makes good cakes and uses butter

Order your turkey from a trusted supplier or your local butcher – seek out free-range and organic – your local Farmers Market might be a good source – don’t buy a bigger turkey than you need otherwise you will be eating it for several days.

Ham, Bacon and charcuterie – order a ham or piece of ham from your pork butcher – look out for Caherbeg –Avril and Willie Allshire  Fingal    Frank Krawczyk- On the Pig’s Back, Grand Parade Market, Cork.

Again don’t buy more than you need.  A nice piece of loin of bacon is delicious for a smaller number if glazed and very tasty for a salad or sandwich.

Smoked Fish – You can order this ahead also and pick up a week or so beforehand – or buy online –,, www.clarke’  Bill



More online shopping –


Christmas Courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School –

Christmas Cooking – December 10th, Christmas Party Food – December 11th, Wine Appreciation for the Festive Season – December 12th – 021-4646785


Christmas Fair at Good Things Café, Durrus, Co Cork tomorrow Sunday 2nd December 11-4 –Cakes, Puddings, cookbooks, kitchenware, pottery, vouchers ……


New Farmers Market starting in Ballincollig, Co Cork in the New Ballincollig Shopping Centre,on Friday 7th December from 9.30-2 – everything from food to plants.



Leek, Potato and Blue Cheese Soup


Serves 4-6


25g (1oz) butter

2 leeks (about 300g/12ozs), dark green tops removed, white bits thinly sliced

2 potatoes (about 175g/6ozs), peeled and chopped

2 bay leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 litre (1 ¾ pints) light vegetable or chicken stock

75ml (3fl ozs) single cream

100-150g (4-5ozs) blue cheese, such as Cashel Blue, Stilton, Gorgonzola or Roquefort crumbled plus 25g (1oz) for serving


Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan, add the leeks, potatoes and bay leaves.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cover.  Turn the heat down to low and let the vegetables sweat for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then to ensure they don’t burn.  After 10 minutes, add the stock, increase the heat and simmer for a further 8 – 10 minutes until the potatoes and leeks are soft.  Remove the bay leaves, add the cream and the crumbled blue cheese and transfer to a liquidiser.  Whiz the soup until it is smooth and velvety.  Return to the saucepan to re-heat, tasting and seasoning if necessary. 


To Serve

Pour the soup into warm bowls and sprinkle with the extra crumbled blue cheese.


Rachel’s Tips

·            If making this soup with a strong blue cheese like Roquefort or Gorgonzola, I only add 100g (4ozs), but if you are using a milder blue cheese like Cashel Blue, you might need 125-150g (4 ½ – 5ozs).


·            When sweating onions or other vegetables for a long time, I like to cover them with a butter wrapper or a piece of greaseproof paper as well as the saucepan lid.  This helps to retain the moisture and makes sure they don’t burn.



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



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.  Freeze in plastic boxes.



Couscous Stuffing

Claudia Roden used this delicious stuffing with roast chicken when she taught a course here earlier this year, halve the amount for a chicken or if you feel you need more add on half the recipe again.



500g (18ozs) packet couscous

800ml (1¼ pint) chicken stock


1 teaspoon cinnamon

8 tablespoons sunflower oil

225g (8ozs) blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

100g (4ozs) pistachios, coarsely chopped

100g (4ozs) pine nuts, toasted

100g (4ozs) raisins soaked in water for 30 minutes



Put the couscous in a bowl. Warm the stock, adding a little salt (take into account the saltiness of the stock) and the cinnamon. Pour 600ml (1 pint) of the stock – the same measured volume as the couscous – over the couscous, mix very well and leave for 20 minutes until the couscous has absorbed the stock. Then stir in the oil and break up any lumps with a fork. Rub the grain between your hands, to air it and make it light and fluffy. Stir in the chopped almonds and pistachios (you can chop them in the food processor), the pine nuts and raisins, and mix well. Cover the dish with foil. All you will need is to heat it through for 20 minutes in a 200ºC/400°F/Gas Mark 6 oven before serving. Pour the remaining stock on top.



Cranberry Sauce



Cranberry Sauce is delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. We enjoy this simple Cranberry Sauce best.  It will keep in your fridge for a week to 10 days or freeze if you want to make further ahead.


Serves 6 approx.


6 ozs (170 g) fresh cranberries

4 tablespoons (60 ml) water

3 ozs (85 g) granulated sugar


Put the fresh cranberries in a heavy-based stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan with the water – dont 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.



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.




Myrtle Allen’s Plum Pudding with Brandy Butter


Serves 8-10


Christmas puddings should be given at least 6 weeks to mature.  They will keep for a year.  They become richer and firmer with age, but one loses the lightness of the fruit flavour.  We always eat our last plum pudding at Easter.

If possible, prepare your own fresh beef suet – it is better than the pre-packed product. 


6ozs (170g) shredded beef suet

6 ozs (170g) sugar

7ozs (200g) soft breadcrumbs

8ozs (225g) currants

8 ozs (225g) raisins

4 ozs (110g) candied peel

1-2 teasp. mixed spice

a pinch of salt

2 tablesp. (8 teasp.) flour

2 fl ozs (60ml) flesh of a baked apple

3 eggs

2 fl ozs (60ml) Irish whiskey


1 x 3 pints (1.75 L) capacity pudding bowl


Mix the ingredients thoroughly.  Whisk the eggs and add them, with the apple and whiskey.  Stir very well indeed.  Fill into the greased pudding bowl.  Cover with a round of greaseproof paper or a butter-wrapped pressed down on top of the pudding.  Put a large round of greaseproof or brown paper over the top of the bowl, tying it firmly under the rim. 

Place in a saucepan one-third full of boiling water and simmer for 10 hours.  Do not allow the after to boil over the top and do not let it boil dry either.  Store in a cool place until needed.


Boil for 1½ – 2 hours before serving.  Left-over pudding may be fried in butter.


Serve with Whiskey Cream or Brandy butter.



Muscovado Brandy Butter

3ozs (90g) butter

3ozs (90g) Muscovado brown sugar or icing sugar

2-6 tablesp. brandy


Cream the butter until very light, add the sugar and beat again.  Then beat in the brandy, drop by drop.  If you have a food processor, use it: you will get a wonderfully light and fluffy Brandy Butter.




Clementine Sorbet


The quantity of ice below is enough to fill 10-18 clementine shells. Tangerines, mandarins or satsumas may also be used in this recipe.


Serves 10-12, depending on whether people eat 1 or 2



8 ozs (250g) sugar

Juice of ¼ lemon

¼ pint (150ml) water


20-28 clementines

Juice of ½ lemon

Icing sugar (optional)



Vine leaves or bay leaves


First make the syrup. Heat the first three ingredients over a low heat, until they are dissolved together and clear. Bring to the boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes, Cool. Grate the zest from 10 of the tangerines, and squeeze the juice from them. Cut the remaining tangerines so that they each have a lid. Scoop out the sections with a small spoon and them press them through a nylon sieve, (alternatively, you could liquidise the pulp and then strain). You should end up with 1¼ pints (750ml) juice. Add the grated zest, the lemon juice and the syrup to taste. Taste and add icing sugar or extra lemon juice, if more sweetness or sharpness is required. Freeze until firm.

Chill the shells in the fridge or freezer, fill them with the frozen water ice. Replace the lids and store in the freezer. Cover with cling film if not serving on the same day. Serve on a white plate decorated with vine leaves or bay leaves.



Make the sorbet in one of the following ways.

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

2.         Pour the juice into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezing compartment of a refrigerator. After about 4-5 hours when the sorbet is semi-frozen, remove from the freezer and whisk until smooth, then return to the freezer. Whisk again when almost frozen and fold in one stiffly-beaten egg white. Keep in the freezer until needed.

3.         If you have a food processor simply freeze the sorbet completely in a 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 and freeze again until needed.




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