It’s a very busy time in the kitchen now so don’t forget a big hug for the cook! By now most people will have planned their menu for the festive season. Let’s hope the lesson learned from the excesses of Celtic Tiger era will mean that fewer people will totter out of the supermarket with trolleys piled high as though the shops were never ever to open again. Despite all my good intentions I’m just as guilty as anyone else, I always seem to over estimate what I’ll need and despite the best laid plans, I succumb to spontaneous invitations which are too tempting to resist. The result of changing plans is that my fridge and pantry overflow with the ingredients from cancelled meals. Lots of friends seem to be in a similar situation and there are regular conversations and even outright arguments on the lines of “You are so kind but please please can you come over to our place instead and eat up the remains of the ….” There are unquestionably people in dire straits and actually hungry this Christmas so one can’t help feeling guilty if even a scrap of food is wasted. St Vincent de Paul, Simon, Quaker Penny Dinners…are all delighted to hear from anyone who has food, or clothes or a myriad of other essentials to share.
This Christmas instead of a ham I’ve decided to serve a piece of streaky bacon deliciously glazed with pineapple juice, brown sugar and cloves. I’m also going to make a piece of spiced beef using an inexpensive bit of flank – even more delicious than silverside. A piece of spiced beef keeps for several weeks and its totally delicious cut in thin slivers. Serve it with slices of avocado, Ballymaloe relish and a potato and scallion salad. This recipe has been handed down in Myrtle Allen’s family for generations and is the most delicious I know. The meat is not corned first as in some other recipes just rub the spice into the meat and leave for a couple of days before cooking.
Left over streaky bacon also keeps well but can of course be cut into cubes and added to a delicious Turkey and Ham pie or into a frittata or pasta sauce.
Mincemeat made with suet keeps for months so you needn’t be in too much of a hurry to use it up. It is delicious in bread and butter pudding (uses up stale bread also) or in the base of an open tart with a topping of apple of frangipane, I’ve also added it to muffins and used it to stuff Bramley apples with delicious results.
Left over Brussels sprouts make a delicious fresh tasting soup and even cooked ones provided they weren’t overcooked at the initial stage, make a bubbly gratin when covered with parsley sauce and some freshly grated cheese – a fine accompaniment to liven up some cold turkey or ham.
I love cold duck and goose just in a sandwich but if you have enough make a Red Cabbage with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Apple Salad cut the duck or goose into thin slivers, don’t forget to include some of the crispy skin; it’s packed with flavour and a little won’t do you a bit of harm.
The turkey carcase makes the best stock of all so make sure to chop it up and let it bubble away in a pot for a few hours with a few carrots an onion and a stalk or two of celery, the resulting broth is good enough to eat on it’s own, so light and soothing after a series of rich meals. Alternatively use it for soups or stews and of course it freezes perfectly – here I suggest using it in the celery soup if you have a head or two left over after Christmas.
Left over plum pudding, cut into thick slices and cooked gently in a little sizzling butter on a heavy pan is irresistible. Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce keeps for months but you have already mixed it with whipped cream and aren’t planning to eat it minced pies or apple tart, simply freeze it – the result is an irresistible boozy ice cream.
Cranberry sauce will keep but is surprisingly good with chocolate mousse or in a meringue roulade. Finally left over roast potatoes make a tasty roast potato salad tossed with lots of spring onions, parsley and a few dollops of mayonnaise. Every morsel can be used up in a delicious way so enjoy. A very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year to all our readers.
Winter Celery Soup with Cashel Blue and Toasted Hazelnuts
This soup is delicious served on its own but a little crumbled blue cheese make a delicious addition if you have some to spare.
13 lbs (560g) celery, finely chopped
12 ozs (45g) butter
5 ozs (140g) onion, chopped
5 ozs (140g) potatoes, cut into 3 inch (5mm) dice
salt and freshly ground pepper
12 pints (900ml) homemade chicken stock
–2 pint (150-300ml) creamy milk
2 tablesp. hazelnuts, skinned, toasted and chopped
2 tablesp. Cashel Blue or Crozier Cheese, crumbled
a few tablesp. whipped cream
sprigs of chervil or flat parsley
Use a potato peeler to remove the strings from the outside stalks of celery.
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes, onion and celery; toss in the butter until evenly coated. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid and sweat over a gently heat for 10 minutes approx., until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the celery is fully cooked, 10-12 minutes approx. Liquidise the soup, add a little more stock or creamy milk to thin to the required consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning.
Serve the soup piping hot with a little blob of whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with the crumbled Cashel Blue, chopped hazelnuts and a sprig of chervil or flat parsley.
Red Cabbage with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Apple
A simple winter salad – so good with cold duck, goose, pork or ham.
450g (1lb) red cabbage
3 Cox’s Orange pippin apples
75g (3oz) dried cranberries
50g (2oz) fresh walnut halves
Small handful of flat parsley leaves
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar e.g. Forum
6 tablespoons walnut oil
1 small teaspoon honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper
First make the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, oil and honey together and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Dice the apple (unpeeled) and toss in a little of the dressing, add the dried cranberries. Quarter the red cabbage and slice across the grain. Put into a large serving bowl, add the diced apple, dried cranberries, flat parsley and some more dressing. Toss gently to coat evenly, add the walnut halves, taste and correct the seasoning. Serve on its own or as an accompaniment to cold duck, goose, pork or ham.
Ballymaloe Spiced Beef
There are lots of recipes for spiced beef, traditionally eaten at Christmas, and many of them corn or brine the beef first. This recipe, which has been handed down in Myrtle Allen’s family, is for dry-spiced beef. Initially, the recipe called for silverside, but I prefer to use flap (also known as flank) a less expensive cut. The recipe also includes saltpetre, which should only be used in moderation. If you can’t find it, just leave it out. The meat will be slightly greyer in colour rather than the rosy pink that comes from the saltpetre cure. The recipe below makes enough spice to cure five flanks of beef, about 1.8kg (4lb) each in size. Spiced beef keeps for immeasurably longer than ordinary cooked or roast beef. Store the spice mix in a screw-top jar. It will keep for months, so make the full quantity even if it is more than you need at a particular time. To serve, cut it into thin slices and serve in sandwiches or with freshly made salads and homemade chutneys.
1.8kg (4lb) lean flank of beef
Ballymaloe Spice for Beef
225g (8oz) Demerara sugar
350g (12oz) salt
10g (1⁄2 oz) saltpetre (potassium nitrate) optional
75g (3oz) whole black pepper
75g (3oz) whole allspice (pimento, Jamaica pepper)
75g (3oz) whole juniper berries
Grind all the spice ingredients (preferably in a food-processor) until fairly fine.
Remove the bones from the flank and trim away any unnecessary fat. Rub a little spice well over the surface of the beef and into every crevice. Put into an earthenware dish and leave in a fridge or cold larder for 3–7 days, turning occasionally. (This is a dry spice, but after a day or two some liquid will come out of the meat.) The longer the meat is left in the spice, the more spicy the flavour and the longer it will last.
Just before cooking, remove the spiced beef from the earthenware dish. The salt and sugar will have extracted some liquid. Discard this spice mixture. Roll and tie the joint neatly with cotton string into a compact shape. Put it into a deep saucepan, cover generously with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 3–4 hours or until soft and fully cooked. If it is not to be eaten hot, then press the meat by putting it on a flat tin or into an appropriate sized bread tin and covering with a board and weight. Leave it for 12 hours in a fridge or cold larder. Spiced beef will keep for 3–4 weeks in a fridge.
Glazed Streaky Bacon with Cloves and Pineapple
4-5 lbs (1.8-2.25 kg) streaky bacon, either smoked or unsmoked
14 ozs (400g) 1 small tin of pineapple -use 3-4 tablespoons approx. of the juice
3/4 lb (340g) brown demerara sugar
whole cloves 20-30 approx.
Cover the bacon in cold water and bring slowly to the boil, if the bacon is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water, in this case it is preferable to discard this water. It may be necessary to change the water several times depending on how salty the bacon is, finally cover with hot water and simmer until almost cooked, allow 15 minutes approx. to the lb. Remove the rind, cut the fat into a diamond pattern, and stud with cloves. Blend brown sugar to a thick paste with a little pineapple juice, 3-4 tablespoons approx., be careful not to make it too liquid. Spread this over the bacon. Bake in a fully preheated hot oven 250°C/475°F/regulo 9 for 20-30 minutes approx. or until the top has caramelized.
Turkey and Ham Pie
Try to keep some left-over turkey and ham for this delicious pie – it’s the most scrumptious way to use up left-overs and can be topped with fluffy mashed potatoes or a puff pastry lid.
2 lbs (900 g) cold turkey meat
1 lb (450 g) cold ham or bacon
1 oz (30 g) butter
1-2 teasp. grated fresh ginger (optional)
12 ozs (340 g) chopped onion
8 ozs (225 g) flat mushrooms or button if flats are not available
1 clove of garlic
30 fl oz (900 ml) well flavoured turkey stock or 20 fl oz (568 ml) stock and 10 fl oz (300 ml) turkey gravy
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram or tarragon if available
¼ pint (150 ml) cream
1 lb (450 g) puff or flaky pastry or 2 lbs (900 g) Duchesse Potato
2 x 2 pints (1.1 L) capacity pie dishes
Cut the turkey and ham into 1 inch (2.5 cm) approx. pieces. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the chopped onions and ginger if using, cover and sweat for about 10 minutes until they are soft but not coloured. Meanwhile wash and slice the mushrooms. When the onions are soft, stir in the garlic and remove to a plate. Increase the heat and cook the sliced mushrooms, a few at a time. Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper and add to the onions and garlic. Toss the cold turkey and ham in the hot saucepan, using a little extra butter if necessary; add to the mushrooms and onion. De-glaze the saucepan with the turkey stock. Add the cream and chopped herbs. Bring it to the boil, thicken with roux, add the meat, mushrooms and onions and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning.
Fill into the pie dishes, and pipe rosettes of potato all over the top. Bake in a moderate oven, 190C/375F/regulo 5, for 15-20 minutes or until the potato is golden and the pie is bubbling.
Alternatively, if you would like to have a pastry crust, allow the filling to get quite cold. Roll out the pastry to about 1/8-inch (3 mm) thickness, then cut a strip from around the edge the same width as the lip of the pie dish. Brush the edge of the dish with water and press the strip of pastry firmly down onto it; wet the top of the strip again. Cut the pastry into an oval just slightly larger than the pie dish. Press this down onto the wet border, flute the edges of the pastry with a knife and then scallop them at 1 inch (2.5 cm) approx. intervals. Roll out the trimmings and cut into leaves to decorate the top. Make a hole in the centre to allow the steam to escape while cooking.
Brush with egg wash and bake in a preheated oven, 250C/475F/regulo 9, for 10 minutes; then turn the heat down to moderate, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and the pie is bubbling.
Serve with a good green salad.
225g (8oz) white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 level tablespoon) baking powder
140g (5oz) caster sugar or caster sugar and soft dark brown sugar mixed
75g (3oz) butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
170ml (6floz) milk
110g (4oz) mincemeat
1 muffin tray lined with muffin papers
Preheat the oven at 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 4-5. Sieve the flour, salt, baking powder in a bowl. Stir in the sugar. Rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Combine the beaten egg, vanilla extract and milk and add to the dry mixture. Combine with a fork to give a wet consistency. Fold in the mincemeat gently. Spoon into the muffin cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well-risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar.
Countdown to Christmas
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 several weeks. It is also great with white chocolate mousse, as a filling for a meringue roulade.
Serves 6 approx.
170 g (6ozs) fresh or frozen cranberries
4 tablespoons (60 ml) water
85 g (3ozs) 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.
3ozs (75g) butter
3ozs (75g) icing sugar
2-6 tablespoons brandy
Cream the butter until very light, add the icing 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.
A gift token for a cookery class
make a great pressie, there are so many to choose from. Paul Flynn at the Tannery in Dungarvan, Co Waterford 353 (0)58 45420 email@example.com . Carmel Somers of Good Things Café in Durrus Tel: 00 353 27 61426 firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House in Co Wicklow www.thecookeryschool.com or Linda Booth of Dublin Cookery School Tel: (01) 2100 555, email@example.com (the latter are both past 12 Week Certificate Students) Ballymaloe Cookery School new seasons brochure is now available also with lots of temptations. The afternoon cookery demonstrations are open to the public. 021 4646785 www.cookingisfun.ie
Fans of Café Paradiso will be thrilled to know that the restaurant will be in full swing again from Sunday 20th December after extensive repairs following flood damage. Telephone 021 4277939 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Urru in Bandon has also bounced back. Ruth Healy has many temptations for foodie friends 023 8854731 email@example.com as has Claire Nash, the dynamo behind Nash 19, I particularly love their Confit of Fig 021 4270880.