ArchiveDecember 2010

Tasty and Tempting Christmas Treats

Lots of last minute preparation still to be done despite your best intentions? Don’t worry we are all in the same boat!  In this Christmas Eve column I thought I’d concentrate on easy suppers and little nibbles. If you have even a few minutes to dash to the shops or market, make sure to stock up with some of Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen salami and chorizo and some good smoked fish. Just nibble the cured sausage or use for Chorizo fritters. If you want to splash out, some of Frank Hederman’s smoked eel or mussels are a memorable treat. If funds are running low, smoked mackerel is less expensive but equally delicious. Don’t miss the smoked haddock or hake either, it’s a foodie feast when thinly sliced and drizzled with sweet dill mayonnaise. I also love Ummera, Woodcock Smokery and Bill Casey’s organic Shanagarry smoked salmon, always a terrific standby served with Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread. A few Irish farmhouse cheeses are also a

must-have and a melted Gubbeen would be perfect for an easy Christmas Eve supper around the fire with crusty bread or potato wedges to dip into the gooey cheese.

There are so many Irish farmhouse cheeses to serve proudly it’s difficult to choose. I’ve got a gorgeous Durrus ripening up, a Bellingham Blue from Castlebellingham, Co Louth, a Clonmore Goat Cheese from Tom Biggane and a Cáis Rua from Fermoy Cheese. Remember your local farmhouse cheese makes a perfect inexpensive present and buying locally has the extra feel good factor of putting money back into your own community. I love to serve a little membrillo (quince paste) with farmhouse cheese, this is available at most cheese shops and at Farmer’s Market stands, it keeps forever and you’ll buy a nice slab for a couple of euro. A few Turkish figs tied on raffia string are also great with cheese as are plump Medjool dates. I get the former at Urru in Bandon and the Village Greengrocer in Castlemartyr among others sell great Medjool dates in the midst of local and exotic fruit and vegetables.

I’ve also picked out a few simple dishes to share with family and friends. How about Baked Eggs with Creamy Kale, this comes from Rachel’s new book Entertaining at Home. Parmesan custards with anchovy toasts are irresistible too. I’m ‘over’ mulled wine but still love mulled apple juice – let’s fill our glasses, make a toast with this one, Happy Christmas to all our readers.  2011 will be great after all things can only get better – surely and remember every day a little treat!


Mulled Apple Juice


Serves 8

1 orange preferably unwaxed

1 x 750ml (1 1/4 pints) bottle pure apple juice

1 x 750ml (1 1/4 pints) bottle water

12 whole cloves

3 small cinnamon sticks

75g (3ozs) golden castor sugar

6 all spice or pimento berries

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Wash the orange in warm water, remove the rind in strips with a swivel top peeler, and juice the orange.  Pour the apple juice and water into a stainless steel saucepan add the rind, juice and cloves with the rest of the spices and sugar.  Heat gently. Taste, add more sugar if necessary.

Serve warm but not too hot.

Frank Hederman’s Smoked Haddock with Sweet Dill Mayonnaise


1 fillet of Smoked Haddock

Serve with

sweet dill mayonnaise (see below)

Slice the haddock very thinly down onto the skin. Arrange in a small layer on a chilled plate. Drizzle with a little sweet dill mayonnaise. Garnish with a little fresh dill.


Sweet Dill Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range

2 tablespoons French mustard

1 tablespoon white sugar

150ml (1/4 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.

Baked Gubbeen Cheese with Thyme Leaves and Crusty Bread  

One could also use a Durrus or Ardrahan, all of which are truly delicious just with crusty bread and a glass of red wine. 

Serves 4

1 whole Gubbeen cheese

1 tablesp. chopped thyme leaves or a little chopped rosemary

2 cloves of garlic, chopped (optional)

Cracked black pepper

crusty loaf of bread or potato wedges

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, cut the cheese in half horizontally to make 2 rounds.  Sprinkle the cracked black pepper, fresh herbs and chopped garlic if using on the bottom half of the cheese.   Replace the top disc of cheese and wrap loosely in aluminium foil. Transfer the cheese on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until just soft and runny inside.  Spoon the gooey cheese on slices of chunky bread or potato wedges.

Parmesan Custards with Anchovy Toasts

Serves 8

250ml (9fl ozs) cream

250ml (9 fl ozs) milk

4 organic egg yolks

100g (3 1/2 ozs) finely grated Parmesan, Coolea or Desmond cheese

salt, freshly ground pepper and a good pinch of cayenne

melted butter

Anchovy Butter

6 anchovy fillets

25g (1ozs) unsalted butter

4 slices of good quality white yeast bread

8 deep ovenproof pots or ramekins (75ml/3fl ozs) (we use shot glasses)

bain marie

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300°F/Gas Mark 2.

Whisk the cream and milk with the egg yolks and the finely grated cheese.  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Whisk again.  Brush the inside of the pots with melted butter.  Divide the mixture between the pots.

Fill a bain marie with hot water, put the pots into the bain marie, the water should come about 2/3 way up the sides.  Cover the tops with a sheet of silicone paper.  Depending on the depth of the ramekin, bake for 30-45 minutes in the preheated oven or until the mixture has just set.  A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Meanwhile, make the anchovy butter.

Mash the anchovies finely with a fork, add the butter and mix well.

Just before serving, toast the bread quickly on both sides.  Spread the anchovy butter on 2 slices of bread and make into sandwiches with the other slices.  Press down to seal, trim off the crusts.  Cut each in half crosswise and then cut into thin fingers.  Put a pot or ramekin on a plate.  Arrange a little trellis of anchovy toasts on the side, add a teaspoon. Serve immediately.

Rachel’s Baked Eggs with Creamy Kale

Taken from Entertaining at Home by Rachel Allen by published Harper Collins

Serves 6

These are delicious for brunch or a casual supper. If you can’t get kale, use

spinach. I love to use the Irish farmhouse cheese Glebe Brethan for its delicious flavour and melting texture, but you could use Gruyère instead.

25g (1oz) butter

900g (2lb) kale with stalks removed before weighing

salt and ground black pepper

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

350ml (12fl oz) single or regular cream

6 eggs

350g (12oz) Glebe Brethan or gruyère cheese, grated

Six 100ml (31⁄2 fl oz) ramekins or ovenproof dishes

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°f), Gas mark 4. Add the butter to a large wide frying pan and place over a medium heat. Add the kale and season with salt and pepper. As

soon as the kale wilts and becomes tender, add the cream and nutmeg, then allow to bubble for 3–5 minutes until thickened. Divide the kale between the ramekins or dishes, placing it around the inside of each dish and leaving a small well in the

centre. Break one egg into each dish and sprinkle (50g) 2oz of the grated cheese over the top. Bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes or until golden on top and bubbling around the edges. Scatter over a little pepper and serve immediately with a little toast on the side.

Irish Farmhouse Cheese and Gubbeen Chorizo Puffs

Makes 40 approximately


8ozs (225g) white flour

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 free range eggs, separated

2 tablespoons olive oil

6flozs (175ml) warm beer

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.2 litres (2 pints) peanut or corn oil

10ozs (275g) Gubbeen chorizo, skinned and finely chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

4ozs (110g) grated Coolea or Desmond cheese

fresh parsley leaves, preferably flat leaf Italian

Deep Fry or 3/4 inch (2cm) oil in a frying pan

Sieve the flour into a bowl.  Add the red pepper flakes and mix well.  Make a well in the centre and add the beaten egg yolks, olive oil, beer, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Mix well, cover and allow to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

Heat the oil to 190°C /375ºF/Gas Mark 5.  Meanwhile cook the chorizo in a frying pan over a medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Fold the whites into the batter with the chorizo, parsley and cheese. Drop tablespoonfuls of batter gently into the hot oil, turn occasionally until golden, 2-3 minutes.  Drain on kitchen paper.   Serve and garnish with parsley leaves.  Serve immediately.

List of Suppliers


Gubbeen Farmhouse Products, Fingal Ferguson – 028 278 24

Belvelly Smokehouse, Belvelly, Cobh, Co Cork – Frank Hederman – 021 4811 089

Ummera Smokehouse, Inchybridge, Timoleague, West Cork – Anthony Cresswell

023 884 6644

Woodcock Smokery, Gortbrack, Castletownshend, Skibbereen, West Cork

Sally Barnes 028 362 32

Durrus Farmhouse Cheese, Coomkeen, Durrus, West Cork – Jeffa Gill 027 611 00

Bellingham Blue, Glyde Farm, Castlebellingham, Co Louth 042 937 2343

Clonmore Goat Cheese, Charleville, Co Cork, Tom Biggane 063 704 90

Fermoy Natural Cheese Company, Strawhill, Fermoy, Co Cork

Frank and Gudrun Shinnick 025 31310

Urru Artisan Food Store, McSwiney Quay, Bandon, West Cork – Ruth Healy 023 885 4731

Village Greengrocer & Food Hall, Main Street, Castlemartyr, Co Cork.

Sean Walsh – 021 466 7655


Edible Presents


Stained Glass Snowflake Cookies

Annie Rigg – Gifts from the Kitchen – published by Kyle Cathie

I used to have festive snowflake cutters for these cookies, but the same idea works just as well for almost any shape. They look beautiful hanging at a window, allowing the light to shine through the ‘stained glass’. Or you could give one cookie to each guest as a place setting or table gift for the Christmas dinner table.

Makes 8 – 12 cookies

225g  (8oz (½lb)unsalted butter, softened

150g  (5oz) icing sugar

1 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

350g  (12oz) plain flour, plus extra for rolling

inch of salt

assorted flavoured and coloured boiled sweets

You will need a selection of snowflake cookie cutters.

Cream the softened butter and icing sugar together until pale and light. Add the whole egg and vanilla extract and mix again until thoroughly combined. Sift the flour with the salt, add to the bowl and mix again until smooth. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc and wrap in Clingfilm. Chill for a couple of hours or until firm.

Meanwhile divide the boiled sweets into separate colours, place in freezer bags and crush using a rolling pin. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and line 2 solid baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment. Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out the dough until it is roughly 3mm thick. Using the snowflake cutters, stamp out snowflakes in assorted sizes and arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Carefully and neatly fill the holes in the snowflakes with the crushed boiled sweets. Bake in batches on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are pale and golden and the boiled sweets have melted and filled the holes. Cool the cookies on trays until hardened, and package into boxes lined with greaseproof or waxed paper.  These will keep for 4 or 5 days in an airtight box.



The many fans of Arbutus Artisan Breads will be delighted to hear that Declan Ryan plans to share his secrets and teach traditional skills and techniques for making his soda, yeast and sour dough breads. Numbers are limited so book soon. The course runs for four nights from 6:30pm till finish (depending when the bread you take home with you is ready) for four weeks starting on Wednesday 12th January, 2011. €250.00 and email to book – 0862513919.


Having a last minute Christmas gift emergency? A Ballymaloe Cookery School gift voucher means everyone’s a winner! They can email you a presentation gift voucher even on Christmas Eve – 021 4646785

Muriel Coughlan won the Grow Bake Cook at the EAT Cork Festival 2010. Since then she worked really hard to get her company Gookies off the ground – she makes a wheat free, gluten free cookie dough roll which she now supplies to SuperValu in Midleton and Anne William’s stall at the farmers market. In O’Briens Sandwhich Bar coeliacs can request a Gookie – which are kept in a separate area in a special container – and can enjoy a freshly baked cookie with confidence. Contact Muriel Coughlan 0878229749.

Turkey or Goose?

What are we like – even though we may momentarily flirt with the idea of having something new and exotic for Christmas dinner, in the end everyone just seems to crave the traditional favourites with all the trimmings, so which will it be, turkey or goose? Well I’m giving the recipes for both here with the favourite accompaniments. Hopefully by now you have already bought the bird, you could just slather it in butter or wrap it in butter soaked muslin but the traditional brining method so beloved by the Americans in particular perks up even an undistinguished turkey and brings it to a new level of flavour. Don’t forget to use the carcass to make a bowl of turkey broth. It has tons of flavour and is full of goodness – akin to Jewish penicillin as chicken broth is called.

When I was in Dublin at the Good Food Ireland awards a few weeks ago, Peter Caviston the charismatic fishmonger from Glasthule in Co Dublin arrived with a gorgeous Norfolk Black turkey reared by Sandra Higgins in Co Kildare.  It was ‘New York dressed’, still had all its insides intact in the time honoured way. I brought it home and hung it in a cold room for a further three weeks (years ago people would have hung the turkey in the garage which was like a fridge anyway during the ‘cold snap’.) Then I gutted it, made a delicious buttery herby stuffing and roasted it as below. It was absolutely scrumptious with a delicious mild gamey flavour, reminiscent of the flavour of turkeys years ago.

I didn’t tell the young people that I had hung the turkey with its innards in for three weeks until they had ‘oohed and aahed’ about how delicious it was and those who knew, where deeply sceptical until they tasted it.

The secret is in the hanging, so remember this for next year, order a bronze turkey well ahead, hang and prepare it in the time honoured way. If gutting the bird seems daunting in an era when so much of our food comes in a sanitised form wrapped in plastic on polystyrene trays – ask your Mum or Gran, it’s so much more fun to be able to do these things yourself, it’s easy and clean, and can be done in a matter of minutes.

Back to the goose one could use the turkey stuffing but traditionally a potato stuffing was used. I’ve added some mashed parsnip which is so good with the dark goose meat.

Don’t forget to save every scrap of the fat for roast potatoes – it will keep in jars in your fridge for months – remove the two chunky pieces of goose fat at the vent end and render those down separately 100°C/225ºF/gas mark ¼ for 30 minutes or more. They will produce about 8 – 10 fl oz of precious goose fat to use for roast potatoes. Red cabbage and mashed or roast parsnips and of course lots of crispy potatoes are favourite accompaniments to serve with goose and don’t forget the apple sauce and gravy.

San Francisco Chronicle Classic: Brined Turkey


Brining poultry and pork hugely enhances the flavour but doesn’t make it excessively salty. It is particularly beneficial if you cannot find a free range organic bird. This recipe is based on a tried and tested recipe which has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle several times because of its popularity.

How to prepare a turkey for brining and roasting

1 x 5.4kg -6.6kg (12-15 lb) turkey

225g (8oz) sugar

454 g – 510 g (15ozs-12 ozs) dairy salt

17 pints  (22 ½ litres) cold water

2 bay leaves, torn into pieces

1 bunch fresh thyme

1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

5 whole allspice or pimento berries, crushed

4 juniper berries, smashed

25g (1oz) softened butter and butter for basting

1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

125 ml – 225 ml (4-8 fl ozs) chicken stock


Save the turkey giblets for stock. Rinse well with cold water. Mix the sugar, salt and 8 pints of water in a large bowl. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the bay leaves, thyme, peeled garlic cloves, allspice (or pimento) and juniper berries.

Choose a large self-sealing or zip lock brining bag, put into a picnic cooler that is large enough to hold the turkey. Slip the turkey into the bag, pour in brine and remaining 7-8 pints water – there should be enough liquid to completely cover the bird. Press out the air in the bags.

Close the bag tightly. Keep the turkey cold by piling sealed bags of ice over and around the closed bag which will also help keep the turkey submerged. Brine for 12-24 hours.





Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F  / Mark 6. Remove the turkey from brine, rinse and dry well. Slather the softened butter over the breast and legs. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper over skin and in cavity. Tuck the wing tips underneath, loosely truss the legs and transfer the turkey into a roasting tin. Cover the breast loosely with foil.

Put the turkey into the preheated oven. Roast for about 1 hour, baste the turkey with 112ml (4fl oz) of chicken or turkey stock. Return to oven and roast, basting with pan drippings every 20 minutes or so, use more stock if needed. If legs begin to brown too much, cover loosely with foil. Total roasting time should be about 2¼-3 hours. Let bird rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving. Make gravy with the juices. Serve with cranberry, bread sauce and lots of gravy.


Traditional Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing, Rose Geranium and Bramley Apple Sauce

A word of warning: a goose looks enormous because it has a large

carcass. Many people have been caught out by imagining that it will serve more people than it does. Ensure that you allow 450g (1lb) in cooked weight per person.

Serves 8-10

goose, about 4.5kg (10lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper

roux for the gravy (optional)



Giblet Stock

goose giblets

1 onion, sliced

1 carrot, chopped

bouquet garni

a sprig of thyme

4 parsley stalks

3 celery stalks, sliced

6 black peppercorns


Potato Stuffing

25g (1oz) butter

450g (½lb) onions, chopped

1 lb parsnips, peeled and blanched in boiling salted water

450g (1lb) Bramley Seedling, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon lemon balm

25ml (1 fl oz) fresh orange juice

900g (2lb) potatoes, in their jackets

1⁄4 teaspoon orange rind, finely grated

salt and freshly ground pepper



To Serve

Rose Geranium and Bramley Apple Sauce (see recipe)


To prepare the goose, gut the bird and singe off the pin feathers and down if necessary. Remove the wishbone from the neck end.

Combine the wishbone with the other stock ingredients in a saucepan, cover with cold water and the lid of the saucepan and simmer for 1 1/2–2 hours. Season the cavity of

the goose with salt and freshly ground pepper; also rub a little salt into the skin.

To make the potato stuffing, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes.

Then add the blanched parsnips, herbs and orange juice. Cook, covered, until the parsnips are fluffy.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in their jackets until cooked, peel, mash and add to the base mixture. Add the orange rind and seasoning.

Leave it to get quite cold before stuffing the goose.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Stuff the goose loosely, then roast it for about 2 hours or until the juices run clear. Prick the thigh at the thickest part to check the juices. If they are still pink, the goose needs to cook a little bit longer. When cooked, remove the bird to a serving dish and put it in a very low oven while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy, spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting tin (save the fat for sautéing or roasting potatoes – it keeps for months in a fridge). Add about 600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) of the strained giblet stock to the roasting tin and bring to the boil.

Use a small whisk to scrape the roasting tin well to dissolve the meaty deposits which are full of flavour. Taste for seasoning and thicken with a little roux if you like a thickened gravy. If the gravy is weak, boil it for a few minutes to concentrate the flavour; if it’s too strong, add a little water or stock.

Strain and serve in a hot gravy boat.

Carve the goose. Serve it, the rose geranium and Bramley Apple Sauce and the gravy separately.

Bramley Apple and Sweet Geranium Leaf Sauce

The secret of really good apple sauce is to use a heavy-based saucepan and very little water. The apples should break down into a fluff during the cooking.


450g (1lb) bramley cooking apples

2 teaspoons water

50g (2oz) sugar, or more depending on tartness of the apples

3-4 sweet geranium leaves, Pelagonium Graveolons optional


Peel, quarter and core the apples, then cut the quarters in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast iron saucepan. Add the sugar, water and sweet geranium leaves if using, cover and cook over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, stir so it’s a uniform texture and taste for sweetness. Serve warm.


Old Fashioned Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing and Bread Sauce

If you’d rather not have the chestnuts, simply omit them from the stuffing, it will still be delicious.

Serves 12

4.5kg (10lb) free-range turkey with giblets

For the Giblet Stock

neck, gizzard, heart (save the liver for pâté )

2 carrots, sliced

2 onions, sliced

1 celery stalk

bouquet garni

4 peppercorns

For the Chestnut Stuffing

450g (1lb) chestnuts

175g (6oz) butter

350g (12oz) onions, chopped

400g (14oz) soft breadcrumbs

50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs, e.g. parsley, thyme. chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper

For Basting the Turkey

melted butter

To Garnish

large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress

Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey to make carving easier later. Then make the giblet stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, vegetables, bouquet garni and black peppercorns. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 3 hours while the turkey is being prepared and cooked.

To make the stuffing, bring about 1.2 litres (2 pints) of water to the boil in a saucepan. Throw in the chestnuts and boil for 5–10 minutes, until the shell and inside skin peel off easily and the flesh should be soft. Pick them out one at a time and chop them finely. Melt the butter, and sweat the onions and chestnuts in it until soft. Add the breadcrumbs and herbs, taste and season carefully, mix well.

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

Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time, allowing about 15 minutes per 450g (1lb) and 15 minutes over. Brush the turkey with melted butter (alternatively, smear well the breast, legs and crop with soft butter) and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover loosely with greaseproof paper and roast for about 11⁄2–2 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 to ensure they are 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 tin. Deglaze the pan juices with the giblet stock. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting tin. Boil it up, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning and serve in a warmed gravy boat.

If possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by golden crispy potatoes and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly (make sure no one eats the berries though).

Serve with Bread Sauce and Cranberry Sauce.


Bread Sauce

Bread sauce sounds so dull. If I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it. It is another ingenious way of using stale bread, I even love it cold!

Serves 12

450ml (16fl oz) milk

110g (4oz) breadcrumbs

2 onions, each stuck with 6 cloves

50g (2oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

110ml (4fl oz) thick cream

Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and simmer gently on a very low heat or cook in a low oven at 160°C/325°F/gas mark 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.


Spiced Cranberry Sauce

We have the Americans to thank for the delicious combination of turkey with cranberry sauce. I’ve added spices to the classic version to give extra bite. If you prefer you can put all the spices in a muslin bag to save fishing out the hard spices at the end of cooking.

Serves about 6

450g (1lb) granulated sugar

125m (4fl oz) white wine vinegar

1⁄2 stick cinnamon

1 star anise

6 cloves

5cm (2in) piece of fresh ginger, peeled

1 chilli, split and seeded

450g (1lb) cranberries

lemon juice

Put the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger and chilli in a stainless-steel saucepan with 225ml (8fl oz) water. Bring to the boil. Add the cranberries, bring back to the boil and simmer very gently until the cranberries burst. Lift out the hard spices with a slotted spoon. Add a little lemon juice to taste. Serve warm or cold.


Red Cabbage with Caraway Seed

This red cabbage recipe sounds a bit dull no red wine or spices but it’s the most delicious one I know.

Serves 6–8

450g (1lb) red cabbage

450g (1lb) cooking apples (Bramley Seedling)

1 tablespoon wine vinegar

1 level teaspoon salt

2 heaped tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons roughly ground caraway seeds

Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. Cut in quarters, remove the core and slice the cabbage finely across the grain. Put the vinegar, caraway, salt and sugar into a cast-iron casserole or stainless-steel saucepan with 125ml (4fl oz) water. Add the cabbage and bring to the boil.

Peel and core the apples and cut into quarters (no smaller). Lay them on top of the cabbage, cover and continue to cook gently until the cabbage is tender, about 30–50 minutes. Do not overcook or the colour and flavour will be ruined. Taste for seasoning and add more sugar if necessary. Serve in a warm serving dish.



Rebel Chilli Sauces – I was blown away in the best possible way by Ken Moore’s Chilli Sauces when I tasted them recently at the Douglas Farmers Market. Ken is a Quantity Surveyor turned Chilli Sauce Maker – brilliant ‘hot Christmas pressie’ Ken’s Jalapeno and Raspberry Jelly is guaranteed to perk up even the dullest left overs and for the brave the Habanero with Lemongrass and Ginger Sauce – 0868049958. Also available at Mahon Point Farmers Market.


Cork’s English Market – for the first time ever the traders of the English Market are opening their gates until 9pm every night for Christmas week, also open Sunday 19th until 6pm. English Market Gift Vouchers now available – they make the perfect gift for anyone with an interest in good quality and reasonably priced food. Visit the English Market online


“Big Bird Day” with Claire’s Cheats and Treats. At Nash 19, Princes Street Cork, take the stress and hassle out of providing your family with the best, traditional Christmas foodie experience from home made plum puddings using Peter Ward’s of Country Choice fruits to Claire’s specially matured mincemeat. The list is available in the shop from 7:30am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 8:30am til 5:00pm on Saturdays running up to Christmas week. You can also order bespoke hampers that are wrapped on Little Hill native timber chopping boards. 021 4270880 –

Christmas Cake and Plum Pudding

We can whinge all we like about the state of the economy. We can rant and rave and blame but apart from letting off steam and maybe raising our blood pressure it’s unlikely to get us very far. So let’s count our blessings and try to focus on the positives. If we are still fortunate enough to have good health and energy we can do little things to brighten our day and the day of those about us. Easy enough to say but worry and stress can be hugely debilitating, so when the going is tough one has to dig deeply to find the enthusiasm to even try to be cheerful. Getting together with a few neighbours and friends to have a simple feast or even a few nibbles does wonders for the morale. Why not invite some of the family and even a few neighbours’ kids to do the Christmas baking; this is what memories are made of. It’s definitely not rocket science to make a Christmas cake, plum pudding or a few jars of homemade mincemeat particularly if it becomes a family occasion and you can get help with the chopping and stirring. Invariably there is cake left over after Christmas so this year why not bake a square cake? When it has matured for a couple of days, divide it into 4 small squares and cover it with a bit of simple almond paste: close to Christmas make a batch of royal icing – I promise it’s easy to make and even if you have no plastering skills you can slather the icing generously over the almond iced cakes preferably with a palette knife, dab it here and there to create an impressive snow scene. Desist from adding Santies and snowmen unless they have sentimental value – it’ll look more sophisticated unadorned with maybe a sprig of holly on top. One cute little Christmas cake is plenty for most families and then you’ll have three others to give to friends.

My favourite plum pudding recipe makes 2 large or 3 small puddings. They are rich and succulent so as before a small slice per person is adequate and the remainder will make welcome gifts.

The Ballymaloe Mincemeat recipe makes 7 large jars for using, sharing or selling. It’s also gluten free so its suitable for Coeliacs or those with a wheat intolerance.

Brandy, rum or sherry butter can be made ahead and put into recycled small glass jars. Moscovado cream is best made closer to the time. Both the plum pudding and the mincemeat call for suet, in recent times many people have changed to using butter but believe me suet produces a more succulent result. One can of course buy suet but why not do as our grandmothers did – go along to your local butcher, ask for beef kidney suet.  It’ll cost a euro or two or may even be free if you are already a good customer. Trim it well as below, mince or chop by hand or in a food processor and use as directed in the recipe.

To prepare suet, start by asking your butcher for the fat that surrounds beef kidneys.

Remove and discard the papery membrane and any red veins or fragments of meat. If you’re not meticulous about this, these bits will deteriorate and the suet won’t keep properly. The fat will separate into natural divisions. Chop it coarsely and either mince or whizz it in a food-processor for a minute or two until it’s evenly grainy (years ago, people used to grate suet on a simple box grater). Refrigerate and use within a couple of days, but if it has been properly trimmed it will keep for weeks in a fridge.

Beef kidney suet also renders down into dripping in a cool oven. Perfect for cooking roast potatoes or chips in the time honoured way. Readers may be horrified to hear we suggest using it in this way – believe me it is high in vitamin D, calcium and protein and is far superior to much of the cheap cooking oils more commonly used nowadays. The plum pudding calls for bread crumbs, again, these are easily made. Just save stale bread and either liquidise or whizz in a food processor – in a few seconds you have bread crumbs. Failing that if they aren’t needed simply freeze and use later. They have a myriad of uses, stuffings, crispy coatings, buttered crumbs for gratins, homemade sausages or burgers.

The pudding also calls for candied peel, of course you can buy a tub of psychedelic coloured candied peel but if you make your own from left over orange and lemon peel it will taste infinitely better and keep for ages.

Darina Allen’s Iced Christmas Cake

This makes a moist and slightly crumbled cake which keeps very well. It can either be made months ahead or, if you are frenetically busy then it will still be delish even if made just a few days before Christmas – believe me I know!.

Serves about 40

10g (4oz) real glacé cherries

50g (2oz) whole almonds

350g (12oz) best-quality sultanas

350g (12oz) best-quality currants

350g (12oz) best-quality raisins

110g (4oz) homemade candied peel

50g (2oz) ground almonds

zest of 1 organic unwaxed lemon

zest of 1 organic unwaxed orange

60ml (21⁄2 fl oz) Irish whiskey

225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) pale, soft-brown sugar or golden caster sugar

6 organic eggs

275g (10oz) flour

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 large or 2 small Bramley seedling apples, grated

Line the base and sides of a 23cm (9 inch) round, or 20cm (8 inch) square tin with a double thickness of silicone paper. Then tie a double layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin. Have a sheet of brown or silicone paper to lay on top of the tin during cooking.

Wash the cherries and dry them gently. Cut in two or four as desired. Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 1–2 minutes, then rub off the skins and chop them finely. Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and grated orange and lemon zest. Add about half of the whiskey and leave for 1 hour to macerate.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/ 325°F/gas mark 3.

Cream the butter until very soft. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn’t curdle. Mix the mixed spice with the flour and stir gently into the butter mixture. Add the grated cooking apple to the plumped up fruit and stir into the butter mixture gently but thoroughly (don’t beat the mixture again or you will toughen the cake).

Put the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Make a slight hollow in the centre, dip your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake – this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked.

Now lay a double sheet of brown paper on top of the cake to protect the surface from the direct heat. Bake for 1 hour. Then reduce the heat to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 and bake for a further 21⁄2 hours, until cooked; test in the centre with a skewer – it should come out completely clean. Pour the remainder of the whiskey over the cake and leave it to cool in the tin.

Next day, remove the cake from the tin. Do not remove the lining paper but wrap the cake in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required.

Store in a cool, dry place; the longer the cake is stored the more mature it will be.

Homemade Almond Paste

450g (1lb) golden caster sugar

450g (1lb) ground almonds

2 small organic eggs

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

a drop of pure almond extract

For Brushing on the Cake

1 organic egg white, lightly whisked, or sieved apricot jam


Royal Icing


1lb (450g) icing sugar

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons strained lemon juice

Sieve the caster sugar and mix with the ground almonds. Whisk the eggs, add the whiskey and 1 drop of almond extract, then add to the other ingredients and mix to a stiff paste. (You may not need all of the egg).

Sprinkle the worktop with icing sugar, turn out the almond paste and work lightly until smooth.

Remove the paper from the cake. To make life easier for yourself, put a sheet of greaseproof paper onto the worktop and dust with some icing sugar. Take about half the almond paste and roll it out on the paper: it should be a little less than 1cm (1⁄2 inch) thick.

Paint the top of the cake with the slightly beaten egg white or apricot jam and put the cake, sticky-side down, onto the almond paste. Give the cake a thump to ensure it sticks and then cut around the edge. If the cake is a little round-shouldered, cut the almond paste a little larger; pull away the extra bits and keep for later to make hearts or holly leaves. Use a palette knife to press the extra almond paste in against the top of the cake and fill any gaps. Then slide a knife underneath the cake or, better still, underneath the paper and turn the cake the right way up. Peel off the greaseproof paper.

Then roll out 2 long strips of almond paste: trim an edge to the height of the cake with a palette knife. Paint both the cake and the almond paste lightly with egg white or apricot jam. Then press the strip against the sides of the cake: do not overlap or there will be a bulge with the uneven edge upwards. Trim the excess almond paste with a long-bladed knife and keep for decoration and to make almond biscuits. Use a straight-sided water glass to even the edges and smooth the join. Then rub the cake well with your hand to ensure a nice flat surface.

Transfer onto a cake board

Leave in a cool, dry place for a few days to allow the almond paste to dry out; otherwise the oil in the almonds will seep through the icing.

When the cake is ready, make the Royal Icing.

Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl just until they begin to froth; then add the sieved icing sugar by the tablespoonful, beating well between each addition.  If you are making the icing in a electric mixer, use the lowest speed. When all the icing sugar has been incorporated, add the lemon juice, and if you would like a slightly soft icing, add a few drops of glycerine.   Beat until the icing reaches stiff peaks; scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth for 1 hour or until you are ready to use the icing.

With a flexible palette knife, smear the icing over the top of each cake.   To achieve a snow-scene effect dab the palette knife onto the cake at irregular intervals so the icing comes up in little peaks.  While the icing is still wet, stick on some Christmas Cake decorations, eg Santa’s, Christmas trees and robins or if you prefer use some frosted fruits or flowers.

If you like you could tie a ribbon or cake frill around the edges of the cakes.

Pile the icing onto the cakes or divide it between the cakes with a palette knife. Slather it over the top and sides and then dab the icing with the palette knife to create peaks to give a snow effect.


Mummy’s Plum Pudding with Pedro Ximenez Butter

It has always been the tradition in our house to eat the first plum pudding on the evening it is made.   The grandchildren can hardly contain themselves with excitement – somehow that plum pudding seems the most delicious, it’s our first taste of Christmas.   The plum pudding can be made from about mid-November onwards but there is still time yet. Everyone in the family helps to stir so they can all make a wish.

Its fun to put silver plum pudding charms in the pudding destined to be eaten on Christmas Day.  Wrap them individually in silicone paper so they are bulky and clearly visible.

This recipe makes 2 large or 3 medium puddings.  The large size will serve 10-12 people, the medium 6-8 but I also like to make teeny weeny ones.

12 ozs (350g) raisins

12 ozs (350g) sultanas

12 ozs (350g) currants

12 ozs (350g) brown sugar

12 ozs (350g) white breadcrumbs (non GM)

12 ozs (350g) finely-chopped beef suet

4 ozs (110g) diced candied peel (preferably home-made)

2 Bramley cooking apples, coarsely grated

4 ozs (110g) chopped almonds

rind of 1 lemon

3 pounded whole cloves or ¼ teaspoon

a pinch of sea salt

6 eggs

2 1/2 fl ozs (62ml) Jamaica Rum

Pudding bowls – 2 pint or ¼ pint – Delph bowls give more protection than plastic

Mix all the ingredients together very thoroughly and leave overnight; don’t forget, everyone in the family must stir and make a wish!  Next day stir again for good measure.  Fill into pudding bowls; if plastic wet the lids, cover with a double thickness of greaseproof paper which has been pleated in the centre, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine, making a twine handle also for ease of lifting.

Steam in a covered saucepan of boiling water for 6 hours or less depending on size.  The water should come half way up the side of the bowl.  Check every hour or so and top up with boiling water if necessary.  After 5  hours, 3 hours, 2 hours depending on the size, remove the pudding.   Allow to get cold and re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper.  Store in a cool dry place until required.

On Christmas Day or whenever you wish to serve the plum pudding, steam for a further 2 hours.  Turn the plum pudding out of the bowl onto a very hot serving plate, pour over some whiskey or brandy and ignite.  Serve immediately on very hot plates with

Pedro Ximinez butter or the more traditional brandy butter if you prefer.

You might like to decorate the plum pudding with a sprig of holly; but take care not to set the holly on fire – as well as the pudding!

Pedro Ximenez Butter

Pedro Ximenez is sweet, rich and deeply concentrated; I use it to drizzle over vanilla ice-cream, soak raisins until they are fat and plump or just to sip. Serve with plum pudding or minced pies.

3ozs (75g) butter

3ozs (75g) icing sugar

2-6 tablespoons Pedro Ximenez Sherry (I use the Lustau brand)

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




Christmas Markets


Midleton Farmers Market will be open on Wednesday 22nd December as well as Saturdays from 9:00 to 1:00pm – Casey O’Conaill 0861046075.


Mahon Point Farmers Market opens on Wednesday 22nd December as well as their usual Thursday for you to pick up a last minute Christmas tree or wreath and last minute treats for Christmas day

Christmas in Cork Festival on Grand Parade is on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Christmas. There are over 45 food and craft stalls. Munch on a delicious burger from Dexter Organic Beef stall while you do your Christmas shopping. Also open on Wednesday 22nd December. Contact John Collery for details 086 6055023


Buy a local Christmas tree and support a local farmer. I’ve ordered a fine specimen to showcase my Christmas tree cookies, (see edible presents next week) from David and Siobhan Barry near Carrigtwohill – 021 4883034 – 086 8238187 also available from Midleton, Mahon, Cobh, and Kinsale Farmers Markets.


Annie Rigg’s Christmas Treats

We’re determined not to do doom and gloom. So, on the basis that a yummy little treat can cheer up even the grimmest day, we’re having lots of fun these days experimenting and making delicious Christmas presents for all our friends. With the current mood for all things thrifty and creative, some of our offerings are cheap and cheerful, others use indulgent ingredients and take some time to develop and mature. All can be packed in recycled jars, bottles, tin cans, biscuit boxes… Once you start to think about it there are a myriad of possibilities from home made jam, chutneys, relishes & pickles to cookies, sweeties and cordials, ratafias, drinks and spiced nuts.

Less fancy but practical everyday food can also make a welcome present. How lovely it would be to get a big pot of stew, a casserole, or a dish of shepherds pie with a little roll of garlic butter to melt into the top.

A few cartons of home-made soup, tarted up with tinsel, ribbons and a sprig of rosemary or holly will bring a warm glow to a busy friend or can be tucked into the freezer for another occasion.

Once you begin to think about it there are all kinds of possibilities both everyday and festive, a little homemade Christmas cake, plum pudding, a few jars of mincemeat or any of the Christmas sauces or accompaniments are of course welcome and save time in the run up to the frenzied Christmas rush. Good cookbooks with reliable well tested recipes are a present that can bring more pleasure. We’ve been enjoying Gifts from the Kitchen by Annie Rigg – published by Kyle Cathie.

It’s got 100 irresistible and imaginative recipes for home-made gifts. We’ve tested several with delicious results.

Annie also offers lots of suggestions for creative packaging to give your gift an elegant twist that will be remembered long after the contents have been devoured.

How could you not get a ‘ooops’ in your tummy when you are presented with a box of deliciously decadent chocolate truffles, a jar of piquant chutney or a bottle of raspberry cordial, all beautifully packaged with hand-written labels. If there are kids about they too can become involved in the chopping and stirring and the art work on the labels. Here are a few suggestions to get you started but Annie – an experienced freelance food stylist and writer has over 100 imaginative and completely yummy ideas for you…


Annie Rigg’s Raspberry and Rose Chocolate Wafers

A box of these chocolate wafers would make an ideal gift for Mother’s Day – they are easy enough for little hands to make as the only cooking required is to melt the chocolate.

Freeze-dried raspberries are available on-line or from good health food shops. As an alternative you could top the chocolate wafers with candied stem ginger or chopped dried fruits and nuts.

Makes about 24 wafers


150g (5oz) best-quality dark chocolate (72% cocoa solids)

150g (5oz) best-quality white chocolate

3–4 tablespoons (approx. 25g) freeze-dried raspberry crispies

3–4 tablespoons (approx. 25g) crystallized rose petals

3–4 tablespoons (approx. 25g) pink sugared rose chips or sugar sprinkles

Line 2 large baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment.

Break the dark and white chocolate into pieces and melt separately in heatproof bowls set over pans of barely simmering water. Stir until smooth, remove from the heat and cool slightly. Spoon heaped teaspoonfuls of melted chocolate on to the prepared baking sheets,

spreading the chocolate into discs with the back of the spoon. Scatter with the raspberry crispies, rose petals and rose chips or sugar sprinkles.

Set aside to cool and harden completely before removing from the parchment with a palette knife.

*Stored in an airtight container, these will keep for 4–5 days.

Annie Rigg’s Sea-salted Caramels

You really do need a sugar thermometer for making caramels and toffees, but it won’t be a wasted investment – once you’ve tried these caramels you’ll be hooked. The saltiness is just enough to cut through the intense caramel sweetness, making them dangerously moreish. Wrap each caramel in a twist of non-stick baking parchment.

Makes about 20 caramels


150g (5oz) caster sugar

150g (5oz) light muscovado sugar

100g (3½ oz) unsalted butter

200ml double cream

3 tablespoons golden syrup

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

Grease a 15–17cm square tin with sunflower oil. Place the caster sugar in a deep pan with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Set the pan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and continue to cook until the sugar has turned to a deep amber-coloured caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.

Return the pan to the heat and bring back to the boil. Continue to cook until the caramel reaches 130°C/250°F on a sugar thermometer. Remove from the heat, leave to settle for 30 seconds, then pour into the prepared tin and leave until cold before turning out of the tin and breaking into pieces.

*These will keep for 4–5 days in an airtight box or wrapped in non-stick paper in a jar.

Annie Rigg’s Spiced Nuts

Fill homemade paper cones with spoonfuls of these mixed spiced nuts. They’re the perfect little package to give to the cocktail enthusiast in your life.

Makes 8 paper cones


750g (1lb 10oz) mixed nuts (Brazils, walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, peanuts and macadamias)

50g (2oz) pumpkin seeds

50g (2oz) sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons clear honey

2 teaspoons sea salt flakes

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, coarsely ground

11/2 teaspoons paprika

1 rounded teaspoon celery salt

freshly ground black pepper


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

Tip all the nuts and seeds into a large bowl and drizzle over the olive oil and honey. Add the salt and spices and a generous grinding of black pepper. Mix well to evenly coat the nuts in the spices. Tip the mixture out on to a large baking tray and spread level.

Roast on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, stirring the mixture regularly so that it browns evenly. When the nuts are golden, remove from the oven and allow to cool before packaging into paper cones to serve.

*These nuts will keep for 3 days in an airtight box.

Annie Rigg’s Chocolate and Hazelnut Spread

A grown-up version of a childhood favourite, this is delicious when spread thickly onto toast, inbetween cake layers or when sandwiched in the middle of cookies – or if no-one’s looking straight from the jar with a big spoon…

Makes 1 x 450g Jar


75g (3oz) blanched hazelnuts

100g (3½oz) dark chocolate

(72% cocoa solids), chopped

100ml (3½fl oz) condensed milk

1–2 tablespoons hazelnut oil

pinch of salt

3–4 tablespoons hot water

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Tip the hazelnuts on to a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven for about 5–7 minutes, until pale golden. Remove the nuts from the oven and cool slightly. Tip the warm hazelnuts into a food processor and chop until they become an almost smooth paste.

Gently melt the chocolate, condensed milk and hazelnut oil in a small pan over a low heat. Stir until smooth and add to the hazelnut paste in the food processor. Add a pinch of salt and blend, then add the hot water and blend again until the mixture has a thick, spreadable consistency.

Spoon into a pretty sterilised jar and leave to cool. Cover with a lid and label when cold.

*It will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Homemade sweets and candies are always a pleasure to make and to receive. A box of

sugar-dusted, rose-scented Turkish Delight is something we often associate with Christmas but would make a perfect Valentine’s or Mother’s Day gift packed into a box lined with waxed paper.

You could al so try adding pure lemon extract and a drop of yellow food colour in place of the rosewater and pink colouring.


Annie Rigg’s Fortune Cookies

Fill each of these cookies with a personalised message of goodwill and give them to your family and friends at New Year or any other significant event. Bake the cookies in small quantities, as you have to work very quickly to fill and shape them once they come out of the oven before the delicate mixture becomes dry, brittle and impossible to fold.

Makes about 12

100g (3½oz) plain flour

pinch of ground ginger

pinch of salt

3 large egg whites

100g (3½oz) icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

75g (3oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly


Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 and line 2 solid baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment.

Sift together the flour, ground ginger and salt. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients, then add the melted butter and mix until smooth. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Draw 2 x 10cm circles on each sheet of baking parchment and spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture on to each circle. Using either the back of a spoon or a palette knife, spread the mixture in an even layer to fill the circles. Bake 1 sheet on the middle shelf of the preheated oven and the other on the shelf below for about 6–8minutes, until the cookies are starting to turn golden at the edges.

Working quickly, remove one sheet of baking parchment from the oven at a time, leaving the other baking tray inside and, using a palette knife, carefully and quickly lift the cookies off the parchment. Flip the cookie over, lay your fortune message in the middle and fold the cookie over it in half. Bring the points of the cookie together to make the fortune cookie curl and leave to cool in a muffin tin (this will help them to keep their shape). Repeat with the remaining cookies.

Once you have used up all of the mixture and all of your cookies are baked and shaped, slide the muffin tin into the oven for a further minute to brown them evenly.

*Leave to cool in the tins before packaging in takeaway boxes. Stored in an airtight container, they will keep for up to 3 days.

Annie Rigg’s Lemon and Passion Fruit Curd

There’s nothing quite like homemade lemon curd. And when you add passionfruit to the mix, you‘re on to something really special. Serve it with freshly baked scones (or shortcakes), hot buttered English muffins, or spread between vanilla sponge cake layers with lashings of whipped cream and fresh berries.

Makes 4 small jars

4 large eggs

125g (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, cubed

225g (4 1/2 oz) caster sugar

zest and juice of 3 unwaxed lemons

seeds and pulp of 2 passionfruit


Beat the eggs and strain into a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water.

Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to come into contact with the water or the heat will scramble the eggs.

Stir the mixture constantly until it reaches the consistency of very thick custard. Remove from the heat and stand the bowl in a sink of coldwater to speed up the cooling process, stirring occasionally until cold.

Pour into sterilised jars (see page 168), cover and store in the fridge until needed.

*It will keep, in the fridge, for up to 1 week.

Countdown to Christmas

Ballymaloe Spiced Beef


This year why not make your own spiced beef. There are lots of recipes for this Cork specialty 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 which you can get from your local butcher. 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 more grey 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.

Serves 12–16

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)

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.



Christmas cheer at the Milk Market – I still haven’t made it but everyone is talking about the new revamped Milk Market in Limerick – open Thursday to Sunday with up to 60 stalls brimming with great produce. Don’t miss Peter Wards mulled wine and the banter at the Country Choice stall

The Christmas Market in Ballyvaughan’s Community Hall will run on three weekends before Christmas, Saturday and Sunday 4th & 5th December, Saturday and Sunday 11th & 12th December, Saturday and Sunday 18th & 19th December. The Burren Crafts Group will have some stalls too.

Sally and John McKenna of the Bridgestone Guide launched StreetSmart on 22nd November in support of people who are homeless. From now until Christmas Eve, diners at participating StreetSmart restaurants will have the opportunity to donate just €2 to their bill, or more if they so wish, to help raise funds for people who are homeless.  StreetSmart this year brings together restaurants across Cork and Dundalk to help raise funds for Cork and Dundalk Simon Communities and Good Shepherd Services. Restaurants can still sign up to StreetSmart through where a full list of participating restaurants can be found.

Every Thursday until Christmas is Wine Tasting Day at Interior Living on MacCurtain Street in Cork from 5.00pm to 8.OO pm. Stock your pantry for the festive season with gourmet delights – you can even order your Caherbeg Free range ham and local artisan cheeses – 021 4505819.


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