Christmas is Coming, the Geese are Getting Fat…


‘Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, please put a penny in the old man’s hat…’so goes the old nursery rhyme so if we are lucky enough to be sitting down to a fine plump goose or turkey this Christmas, let’s give thanks to the Good Lord and Terra Madre and resolve to put our hands in our pockets for Simon or St Vincent de Paul, doesn’t necessarily have to be money – could be food or a few bottles of beer, wine, or lemonade to bring cheer during the festive season.  The delicious, buttery, herby stuffing I’m using here for the turkey would also be delicious in a free range chicken, pheasant or guinea fowl, the accompaniments are interchangeable but a few homemade potato crisps –  called game chips when they are served with game would also be delicious  if non-traditional – served with turkey. Again the stuffing for goose or duck can be interchangeable. Several local farmers, including Tom Clancy in Ballycotton, Robbie Fitzsimmons in East Ferry near Midleton and Eugene and Helena Hickey of Skeaganore in Ballydehob,West Cork rear delicious ducks.

Bramley apple sauce is of-course a delicious foil for the rich goose meat but here I serve it with a simple Seville orange sauce. Don’t forget to save the precious duck or goose fat – it’ll keep for ages in the fridge and produces totally irresistible roast potatoes.

For a starter, smoked and fresh salmon rillettes with dill or ruby grapefruit, with green grapes and pomegranate seeds is light and refreshing. Both can be made ahead, the rillettes several days ahead and the day before for the grapefruit starter.

The sauce for the plum pudding (see my recipe for this in the Examiner Saturday 26th November) keeps for weeks, make more than you need, pop on a label and a ribbon and use the extra jars as presents.

Pick up a nice piece of spiced beef from your butcher, cook it according to the instructions and serve it with some cucumber pickle, slices of avocado and flat leafed parsley, a great standby for salads and sandwiches after Christmas.

Traditional mince pies have a pastry top and bottom and delicious though they are we have had fun doing lots of twists on the original, we sometimes add a teaspoon of Bramley apple puree to each tart, or replace the pastry top with meringue or crumble with flaked almonds – delicious and less filling.

Sticky toffee pudding is another delicious alternative to plum pud – less expensive to make – just watch your family and friends fighting over the last few morsels in the best Christmas spirit! Enjoy and many blessings for 2012.

Rillettes of Salmon and Dill


This is a terrific standby recipe made from a combination of fresh and smoked salmon. It makes a great little starter but can be tarted up in all sorts of ways or simply slathered on hot thin toast or crusty bread for a tasty nibble to accompany a glass of crisp white wine.


The texture of this pate should be coarse and slightly stringy – it should resemble that of pork rillettes, where the meat is torn into shreds with forks rather than blended.  Don’t be spooked if the amount of butter you use – you’re not going to eat it all yourself!


Serves 12-16


350g (3/4 lb) freshly-cooked salmon

350g (3/4 lb) smoked wild or organic Irish salmon

350g (3/4 lb) softened butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 – 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

a good grating of nutmeg

lemon juice to taste


To Cook the Smoked Salmon


25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons water

clarified butter (optional)


Melt 25g (1oz) butter in a small saucepan; add the smoked salmon and 1 tablespoon of water.  Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until it no longer looks opaque.  Allow it to get quite cold.


Cream the butter in a bowl.  With two forks, shred the fresh and smoked salmon and mix well together.  Add to the soft butter still using a fork (do not use a food processor).  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, chopped dill or a little freshly grated nutmeg.  Taste and add lemon juice as necessary, and some freshly chopped fennel if you have it.


Serve in individual pots, tiny Kilner jars, in a pottery terrine, on cucumber slices or on grilled bread. Cover with a layer of clarified butter.  Serve with hot toast or hot crusty white bread, a little salad or organic leaves and fresh herbs.  Salmon rillettes will keep perfectly in the refrigerator for 5 or 6 days provided they are sealed with clarified butter.


Salmon Rillettes on Cucumber Slices

2 cucumbers

salmon rillettes as above

Cut the cucumber into 1/4 slices.  Pipe or spoon a blob of pâté onto the cucumber slices.  Garnish with sprigs of chervil and chive or wild garlic flowers.  Arrange 3 on a plate with a little salad in the centre or serve as a canapé.


Salmon Rillettes on Grilled Sour Dough

Toast or char grill a slice of sour dough bread, spread with some rillette mixture. Top with a few tiny rocket leaves and some chive or wild garlic flowers.



Pomelo, Grape, Pomegranate and Ruby Grapefruit Salad


A deliciously refreshing starter before you tuck into the Christmas feast. If you can’t find a Pomelo, the giant of the citrus fruit family then just increase the number of Ruby grapefruit.


Serves 10


1 Pomelo

3 Ruby Grapefruit

30 grapes

1 pomegranate

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

2 tablespoons castor sugar or more if necessary


Peel and carefully segment the pomelo.  The segments are very large so cut into triangular shape pieces across the grain and put into a bowl.  Peel and segment the grapefruit in the same way but leave the segments whole and add to the pomelo.  Peel and pip the grapes and add to the citrus fruit in a bowl. Cut the pomegranate in half around the equator.  Hold it cut side on the palm of your hand, bash the skin side with the bowl of the wooden spoon, this will loosen the seeds from between the membrane, add to the fruit. Sprinkle with sugar and mint. Taste, add more sugar if necessary. Chill before serving in pretty white bowls or glasses with a sprig of mint on top.


Note: Sweeties, Ugli Fruit or ordinary Grapefruit may also be used in this recipe.

This cocktail is also delicious without the pomegranate.



Old Fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing


Serves 10-12



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


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


Fresh Herb Stuffing

170g (6ozs) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16ozs) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non GM) (or approximately 1lb 4ozs of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

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

salt and freshly ground pepper



neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns


For basting the turkey

225g (8ozs) butter

large square of muslin (optional)


cranberry sauce

bread sauce



large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress


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



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


Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt the 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, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 2 3/4-3 1/4 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.   .


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 (for recipes for both of these visit )




Traditional Roast Goose with Seville Orange Sauce


Serves 8-10


1 x free range, Irish goose, about 4.5kg (10lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper


Seville Orange Sauce

2 x organic orange

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

5 fl ozs (126ml) red wine vinegar

5 fl ozs (126ml) red wine

1 pint (600ml) goose, duck or chicken stock (made from the giblets)

8 fl ozs (220ml) Port

1 – 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice


4 tblsp Seville orange marmalade

watercress salad – (optional)


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

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

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

Roast the goose 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.

Meanwhile make the sauce – Scrub the orange.  Peel the zest with a swivel top peeler and cut two thirds into fine julienne strips, blanch and refresh.

Boil the sugar and vinegar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over moderately high heat for several minutes until the mixture has turned chestnut brown coloured syrup.  Remove from the heat immediately and pour in 1/4 pint (150ml) of the stock.  Simmer for a minute, stirring to dissolve the caramel. Then add the rest of the stock, port, wine and juice of one orange. Simmer until the sauce is clear and lightly thickened; add the orange liqueur little by little.  Add the blanched orange julienne.  Taste, correct the seasoning and sharpen with lemon juice if necessary, leave aside.  The sauce may be prepared to this point several hours in advance.

When the goose is cooked, remove the bird to a serving dish and put it in a very low oven while you reheat the orange sauce.

Carve the goose. Serve it with the Seville orange sauce and a watercress salad.



Sticky Toffee Christmas Pudding


A delicious alternative to plum pudding.


Serves 8-10


8 ozs (225g) chopped dates (use block dates)

1/2 pint (300ml) tea

4 ozs (110g) unsalted butter

6 ozs (175g) castor sugar

3 eggs

8 ozs (225g) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon bread soda

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon Espresso coffee


Hot Toffee Sauce

4 ozs (110g) butter

6 ozs (175g) dark soft brown,Barbadossugar

4 ozs (110g) granulated sugar

10 ozs (285g) golden syrup

8 fl ozs (225ml) cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


2 pint pudding bowl


8 inch (20.5cm) spring form tin with removable base or a heavy cake tin


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


Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes.   Brush the cake tin with oil and place oiled greaseproof paper on the base.


Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour.  Add the sieved bread soda, vanilla extract and coffee to the date and tea and stir this into the mixture.   Turn into the bowl and cover with parchment paper – cook for 1-1 1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. (Alternatively cook in a spring form tin.)


To make the sauce

Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.


To Serve

Pour some hot sauce on to a serving plate. Turn out the sticky toffee pudding, pour lots more sauce over the top. Put the remainder into a bowl, and to serve with the pudding as well as softly whipped cream.


Hot Tips


Christmas Markets…

Mahon Point Farmers Market has a special Christmas market on Thursday 22nd December of December from 10am to 3pm when the artisan food producers will be joined by crafts people


All-Weather Christmas Markets at the Milk Market Limerick on Saturday, December 17, 2011, 08.00am to 4.00pm and Sunday, December 18, 2011, 11am to 4pm –

Midleton Farmers Market – Christmas Market is on Saturday 24th December – 9.00am to 2.00pm

Douglas Farmers Market – Christmas Market on Saturday 24th December – outsideDouglas Court Shopping


Mary Dowey’s Weekend Wine Course at Ballymaloe House – Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th March 2012 – the perfect gift for a wine. Learn the essentials of wine appreciation while enjoying superb food, great wines and good company in one of Ireland’s loveliest country houses. To purchase a gift voucher or to book Tel: 00 353 (0)21 4652531


A membership to Slow Food or a subscription to the Food and Wine Magazine would be a really welcome Christmas gift for a foodie friend.




About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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