ArchiveDecember 8, 2007

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.


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