ArchiveDecember 2014

Yummy Christmas Leftovers

What is it about leftovers that brings a glint to my eyes? I can think of so many ways to use up tasty bits. You can give them an Asian, Mexican or Middle Eastern twist, or just keep it traditional – all can be delicious. I hate to waste even a scrap of delicious food and can think of a zillion yummy ways to reincarnate it.

If you have some juicy morsels of turkey left over, why not try Christmas Couscous Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Pistachio Nuts or Boxing Day Pie with lots of fluffy mash on top. Chop up the turkey carcass and pop into a pot with a couple of chunks of onion, carrot, a couple of celery stalks, the green part of leeks and some little bunches of fresh herbs, thyme, parsley stalks, maybe a sprig of tarragon and a few peppercorns, no salt and cover with cold water and simmer for 2 to 3 hours on a low heat to make a delicious turkey broth which can be used as a basis for soup or  Turkey, Orzo, Pea and Spring Onion Broth.

Ham or bacon can of course be used in a myriad of ways, even added to a simple frittata, risotto or scrambled egg.  I love cheddar cheese and ham bread pudding which also uses up stale bread and scraps of dry cheese in a delicious moreish way.

Mexican tostadas and quesadillas are a terrific vehicle for all kinds of yummy scraps. Left over cold potatoes can be made into Finca Buenvino Mini Tortillas, see my column on 26th April 2014,  so delicious and moreish that you’ll want to cook potatoes especially to make them.

Brussels sprouts keep well and make great salads as well as soups.

Leftover Ballymaloe mincemeat keeps for years but you may want to try mincemeat and Bramley apple meringue tart. Throw a fistful of leftover cranberries into scones or a fruit or make a delicious tart or pear and cranberry chutney.

Stale bread can be made into breadcrumbs for croque monsieur, French toast and knights of Windsor, of course no apologies need to be made for Panettone or bread and butter pudding.

Left over vegetables make a comforting soup or a vegetable gratin. There’s just no end to the delicious reincarnations you can make that will win compliments for your ingenuity.

All the recipes mentioned here come from Darina Allen’s A Simply Delicious Christmas published by Gill and Macmillan, here are a selection for you to try.

 

Turkey, Orzo, Pea and Spring Onion Broth

This broth can be the basis of a flavoursome light soup to use up delicious morsels of cooked poultry.

Serves 6

1 litre (1 ¾ pints)well-flavoured turkey, chicken or pheasant stock

pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

50g (2oz) orzo pasta

2 tender stalks celery, finely sliced at an angle

150 – 175g (5 – 6 oz) shredded cooked turkey, chicken or pheasant

110g (4oz) frozen peas

4 – 6 spring onions, sliced at an angle

lots of fresh coriander and/or fresh mint

 

Bring the stock to the boil; add the orzo, celery and chilli flakes. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the pasta is just cooked, add the peas and shredded turkey. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, correct the seasoning. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with lots of spring onion and fresh coriander and/or mint.

 

 

Christmas Couscous Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Pistachio Nuts

Serves 2-3

How did we cooks manage before we could access juicy pomegranates?

 

600g (1 1/4lb) leftover roast turkey, chicken or goose

450ml (16fl oz/2 cups) chicken stock

175g (6oz) couscous

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) dried cranberries or cherries

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) golden sultanas

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) pistachio nuts

salt and freshly ground black pepper

lots of fresh mint leaves

seeds from 1 pomegranate (keep a few back for garnish)

4 heaped tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) yoghurt

pomegranate molasses

 

Pour the boiling chicken stock over the couscous, cover and allow to plump up until the water has been fully absorbed.  Chicken stock gives more flavour but if you haven’t any to hand use boiling water.

 

Shred the fresh cooked turkey, chicken or goose into bite-size pieces. Put it into a mixing bowl with the pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries or cherries, fat golden sultanas and shelled pistachios.  Season generously with salt, pepper and coarsely chopped mint leaves then add the pomegranate seeds.

 

Fluff up the couscous with a fork, sprinkle lots of coarsely chopped mint leaves and pomegranate seeds over the top, then fold in the dry ingredients and freshly squeezed lime juice.  Top with a few dollops of yoghurt, a generous trickle of pomegranate molasses, lots of fresh mint leaves, and a scattering of pomegranate seeds.

 

Inspired by Nigel Slater.

 

St Stephen’s or Boxing Day 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.

Serves 12

900 g (2lbs) cold organic or free-range turkey meat, including the diced crispy skin

450 g (1lb) cold ham or bacon

30 g (1oz) butter

1-2 teasp. grated fresh ginger (optional)

340 g (12oz) chopped onion

225 g (8oz) flat mushrooms or button if flats are not available

1 clove of garlic

900 ml (30 fl.oz) well flavoured turkey stock or 568ml (20 fl oz) stock and 300 ml/10 fl.oz) turkey gravy

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

2 teaspoons fresh marjoram or tarragon if available

150 ml (¼ pint) cream

450 g (1lb) puff or flaky pastry or 900g (2lb) Duchesse or mashed Potato

 

2 x 1.1 L/2 pint) 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.

Cheddar Cheese and Ham Bread Pudding

Bread and Butter pudding can be sweet or savoury, try this one, even just with cheese, but if you have a little cooked ham or bacon it’s even better, it makes a tasty economical supper for 3 or 4 hungry people.

 

Serves 6

50g (2oz) very soft butter (for buttering the bread and greasing the dish)

6 slices of good white bread (1-2cm/½-¾ inch thick approx.), crusts removed – about 100g (3½oz) prepared weight

110g (4oz) mature Cheddar, coarsely grated

175- 225g (6-8oz) cooked ham, diced in 7mm (⅓ inch) cubes approx.

3 medium free-range eggs

450ml (16fl oz) milk

3-4 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

A generous pinch of mace

1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

1 litre (1¾ pint) ovenproof soufflé dish.

 

Grease the soufflé dish with soft or melted butter.

 

Then butter slices of bread and cut into roughly 2.5cm (1inch) squares.  Put into the dish, add the grated cheese and ham and toss to combine.

 

Whisk the eggs well.  Add the milk, thyme leaves, mace and Dijon mustard and continue to whisk for a minute or two.  Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour over the bread, cheese and ham mixture.  Cover and pop in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or even overnight.

 

The next day, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and bake the soufflé for 40 minutes or until puffed up and golden like a soufflé.

 

Serve with a green salad.

Tostadas

Another great way to use up leftover turkey chicken, guinea fowl or pheasant, you’ll be wishing you cooked a bigger turkey.

Tostadas are a favourite snack in Mexico, the filling varies according to the area, it can be beef, chicken, pork, turkey, crab or just vegetables.  The filling is always piled high so Tostadas are always quite a challenge to eat elegantly but what the heck they taste delicious!

 

Serves 8

 

8 tortillas, they ought to be corn tortillas but wheat flour tortillas can be substituted.

225g (8ozs) refried beans, optional

1/2 iceberg lettuce, shredded

110-175g (4-6ozs) cooked turkey or chicken breast or leg, shredded

1 sliced chilli, optional

4 very ripe tomatoes, sliced

1 avocado or Guacamole

4 tablespoons spring onion

3 tablespoons sour cream

50-110g (2-4ozs) grated Cheddar cheese

Sea salt

 

Deep fry the tortillas in hot oil until crisp and golden, drain on kitchen paper.  Put each tortilla on a hot plate, spread with a little warm refried beans and then top with some crunchy lettuce, shredded chicken breast, guacamole and so on.

Finish off with a blob of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and a few chives. If you don’t have refried beans to hand, just omit them. The tostadas will still be delicious.

Serve immediately.   In Mexico Tostadas are considered to be finger food – you’ll need both hands!

 

Mincemeat and Apple Meringue Tart

Serves 10-12

 

A wonderful Christmassy Tart and also a particularly good way to use up leftover mincemeat.

 

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter. Use it for a variety of fruit tarts. It can be difficult to handle when its first made and benefits from being chilled for at least an hour. Better still, if rested overnight.

 

Pastry

175g (6oz) white flour

25g (1oz) caster sugar

10g (1/2oz) icing sugar

1 egg, beaten

 

Filling

450g (1lb) mincemeat – see recipe (p.00)

700g (1 1/2lbs) Bramley apples

 

Meringue

3 egg whites

175g (6ozs) caster sugar

 

Egg wash

 

1 x 9 inch (23cm) deep tart tin

 

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

 

First make the pastry in the usual way. Beat the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the egg and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 1 hour otherwise it is difficult to handle.

Bake the tart base blind for about 25 minutes in the preheated oven or until pale and golden, remove the beans and paper.

 

Brush the prebaked tart shell with a little beaten egg and pop back into the oven for 5-minutes or until almost cooked. Cool. Reduce the temperature to 130ºC/250ºF/Gas mark 1/2.

 

Peel and core the apples. Cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) chunks. Place in a sauté pan with a tight fitting lid. Put on a very low heat and cook until the apples have broken down 25- 30 minutes approx. It should be tart to counteract the sweetness of the mincemeat and meringue.

 

Whisk the egg whites with the caster sugar until it reaches stiff peaks. Spread the apple puree over the cooked pastry base, spoon the mincemeat over the apple. Top with the meringue fluffing into peaks. Return to the oven and cook for 1 hour until the meringue is crisp. Cool on a wire rack and serve with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

 

Mincemeat and Bramley Apple Tart

Omit the meringue and just cover the tart with another layer of pastry, decorate with stars, holly leaves and berries, or whatever takes your fancy.  Brush with egg wash and bake.

 

Hot Tips:

The Lettercollum Cookbook. Karen Austin has published her much anticipated cookbook of Lettercollum recipes at last. It is mostly vegetarian but her delicious weekly fish dinners have also slipped in. Karen Austin and Con McLoughlin occasionally enjoy a little chorizo with their beans so these are also included. A charming book with photos by Arna Rún Rúnarsdóttir.  The Lettercollum Cookbook was published by Onstream.

 

It’s the Little Things, Francis Brennan’s Guide to Life. Francis Brennan is terrifically good company, erudite and witty with a razor sharp eye for detail. His new book is a guide to modern manners  and etiquette.  A timely reminder at a time when many have forgotten the joy of sitting around the kitchen table with family and friends not to speak of how to fold napkins, interact with waiting staff or arrange the towels for guests. A best seller over the Christmas season.

 

Christmas – Food Intolerances

Even if you love all the razzmatazz, Christmas is certainly ‘a bit of work’ and can be a deeply stressful time for the cook or chef. This is exacerbated even further if you yourself or a member of the family have one or several food allergies or intolerances. Until relatively recently I never heard of anyone who had a food allergy or intolerance even though the Ballymaloe Cookery School has been in operation for thirty years and Ballymaloe House is celebrating its fiftieth year. The problem has really gathered momentum in the last decade. Nowadays between one quarter and a third of our students report a food allergy or intolerance on their booking form.

There is a very important distinction to be made between food allergies and food intolerance. The former can be life threatening e.g. a peanut allergy, the latter may cause varying degrees of discomfort.

Back to Christmas…

The cause of all this will be the subject of another article in the New Year, but meanwhile I’ve had many requests for festive recipes suitable for vegetarians and diabetics, (recipes with low sugar options for those with blood sugar balancing issues) and those on a wheat free or  dairy free diet.

My first bit of advice is to source as much local, organic, biodynamic and chemical free food as possible. You will be amazed at the difference that one change can make. Eat less meat but splurge on better quality. Gorge on organic vegetables and whole grains lightly cooked or in salads. You will need much less to feel satisfied, don’t just believe me, try for yourself. Butter is a beautiful natural product but people who are dairy intolerant can substitute olive oil, coconut oil or some other oils in all recipes for soups and even cakes. A bottle of beautiful extra virgin olive oil is a shortcut to flavour and health.

Coeliacs or those with a gluten intolerance don’t have to feel deprived; the turkey stuffing can be made with gluten free breadcrumbs, as can the delicious Gluten-Free Mummy’s Plum Pudding with Boozy Sauce on my website, www.cookingisfun.ie. There’s also a recipe for Debbie Shaw’s delicious gluten free bread. Vegetarians will enjoy the chunky vegetable soup or watercress, blood orange and new seasons Toonsbridge mozzarella salad. How about Smoked Gubbeen and pearl barley, cucumber, pomegranate and toasted almond salad for the main course? Diabetics of course need to be careful not to cause an insulin spike. Jerusalem artichoke soup is the highest in insulin of any vegetable, this vital ingredient promotes healthy gut flora. This soup is suitable not just for vegetarians but also coeliacs and those with a dairy intolerance provided olive oil is substituted.

Made with coconut milk, Asian ceviche (dairy-free) is one of my all-time favourites. A plate of Irish smoked fish or seafood also makes a delicious starter (a larger portion will make a substantial main course). Diabetics must avoid sugar or any of the sugar substitutes that raise blood sugar levels, however a little coconut flower sugar or maple syrup occasionally can be allowed so why not try Debbie Shaw’s raw chocamoca tart with espresso syrup or her mini Christmas plum puddings. The latter will also delight the growing number of raw food afficandos. The real joys of these recipes apart from the delicious taste is that there is no oven required

Medjool dates are a real treat enjoy them with blue cheese or in combination with oranges and fresh mint.

Recipes from Darina Allen’s Simply Delicious Christmas published by Gill and Macmillan.

 

Watercress, Blood Orange and New Seasons Toonsbridge Mozzarella Salad

The rich West Cork pasture that the buffalos feed on gives the Toonsbridge Mozzarella its quintessentially Irish taste. A few beautiful fresh ingredients put together simply make an irresistible starter.

 

Serves 4

 

2-3 balls of fresh Toonsbridge Mozzarella

2 blood oranges

a bunch of fresh watercress

2-3 tablespoons (2 1/2 – 4 American tablespoons) Irish honey

a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

some coarsely ground black pepper

50g (2oz) unskinned almonds, toasted and sliced

 

Toast the almonds in a preheated oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 10-15 minutes.  Allow to cool and then slice each almond lengthwise into 2-3 pieces.

 

Just before serving, scatter a few watercress leaves over the base of each plate, slice or tear some mozzarella over the top.  With a sharp knife remove the peel and pith from the blood oranges, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices, tuck a few here and there in between the watercress and mozzarella.   Drizzle with honey and really good extra virgin olive oil.  Scatter with toasted almonds. Finally add a little coarsely ground fresh black pepper and serve.

 

 

Smoked Gubbeen and Pearl Barley, Cucumber, Pomegranate and toasted Almond Salad.

Pearl Barley is inexpensive and fantastically nourishing – lots of protein, vitamins, and minerals – some varieties are also high in Lysine.  In tandem with other grains it’s having a revival of interest in gastronomic circles.  We also use it for pilaffs and to add to winter stews and casseroles like our Granny’s did!

 

Serves 8

 

185g (6 1/2oz) pearl barley

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) water

1 teaspoon salt

1 small cucumber

2 dessert apples, Cox’s Orange or Gala, cored and diced

freshly squeezed lemon juice of 1 lemon

seeds from 1/2-1 pomegranate, depending on size

60g (2 1/2oz) halved toasted almonds

coarsely chopped diced smoked Gubbeen cheese

 

Dressing

125ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons Forum Chardonnay vinegar or cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Flat parsley leaves

 

Put the pearl barley and water into a saucepan and add salt. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.

 

Drain very well. Whisk the extra virgin olive oil and vinegar and crushed garlic together, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss while still warm. Spread out to cool.

Cut the cucumber lengthways, remove the seeds, cut at a long angle into 7mm (⅓ inch) slices and add to the bowl.

Meanwhile, quarter and dice the apple. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top, and add the pomegranate seeds, well toasted almonds and diced smoked Gubbeen cheese. Add the remainder of the dressing. Toss gently and combine with the pearl barley. Taste and correct the seasoning. Transfer to a serving dish and allow the flavours to meld for an hour or so. Scatter with flat parsley leaves and serve.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

Serves 8-10

Jerusalem artichokes were a sadly neglected winter vegetable, but many people have discovered them in recent years.  We love the flavour and of course they are brilliantly nutritious – packed with inulin. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants!

 

50g (2oz) butter or 4 tablespoons of olive oil

560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped

1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.1L (2 pints) light chicken or vegetable stock

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) approx. creamy milk or soya milk

 

Garnish

Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa (see recipe)

 

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onions and artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx.  Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk, and adjust the seasoning.

 

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with avocado and roast hazelnut salsa.

Note This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required.

 

Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

2 ripe avocados

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped roast hazelnuts

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) hazelnut oil

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped chives

 

Peel and dice the avocados.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the avocado and chopped roasted hazelnuts over the soup, drizzle with a little hazelnut oil and chopped chives.

Asian Ceviche

Antony Worrall Thompson introduced me to this Asian–inspired version of ceviche when he taught at one of his hugely entertaining classes at the cookery school. He used Asian prawns but we have adapted the recipe to use monkfish instead with great success.  This is also a way of preserving fish in the short-term.

 

Serves 8

 

450g (1lb) monkfish, plaice or lemon sole, cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

4 tablespoons coriander leaves

2 tablespoons fresh mint, shredded

1 avocado (peeled and diced into 1cm/1/2 inch dice)

4 tablespoons peeled and diced mango into 1cm/1/2 inch dice (1 small or 1/2 large mango)

4 spring onions (sliced)

2–3 red chillies (deseeded and thinly sliced)

4 tablespoons diced cucumber (approximately 1/2 cucumber)

 

Dressing

175ml (6fl oz) freshly squeezed lime juice

75ml (3fl oz) fish sauce (nam pla)

75g (3oz) caster sugar

175ml (6fl oz) thick coconut milk

 

Trim the monkfish of all skin and membrane. Next, make the dressing. Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl. Add the dressing, toss to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.

 

Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. Add to the monkfish and mix gently to combine.

 

Serve with a little shredded lettuce in little bowls or glasses, or in a martini glass for extra posh.

 

Debbie Shaw’s  Raw Chocamoca Tart with Espresso Syrup

 

Serves 10-12

20.5cm (8 inch) spring-form tin or 20.5cm (8 inch) round silicon cake mould

 

For the base:
300g (10oz) lightly toasted pecan nuts or almonds
1 teaspoon of pink Himalayan salt or Maldon sea salt
200g (7oz) Medjool dates, stones removed

For the filling:
4 large ripe avocados, skin and stones removed
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste plus beans from 1 whole vanilla pod
5-7 scant tablespoons (6 1/2 -9 American tablespoons) raw cocoa powder or ordinary cocoa powder (for a more milk chocolate tart use 5 tablespoons and for a rich dark chocolate tart use 7 tablespoons)
2-3 teaspoons Irel coffee essence
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) coconut oil, melted
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) coconut flower sugar (use an additional 4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) of maple syrup instead, if unavailable)
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) maple syrup
100g (3 1/2oz) 70% dark chocolate

 

Espresso Syrup:
110ml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) agave syrup

110gml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) very strong freshly brewed coffee

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon and 1 teaspoon) cocoa powder

1 heaped tablespoon (1 American tablespoon and 1 teaspoon) espresso powder

juice of 1/2 lemon

First make the tart. Place the pecan nuts in a dry frying pan and toast lightly, moving them around the pan constantly for 3-4 minutes, until they smell toasty. Allow the nuts to cool and then place them in a food processor and blend. Add the stoned Medjool dates and salt and blend until a dough is formed, which sticks together when pressed between your fingers.

 

Line an 20.5cm (8 inch) spring-form tin or use a round silicon cake mould, no lining required. Press the base evenly into the tin or mould. Place in the freezer to set for 15 minutes.

 

Meanwhile, just barely melt the coconut oil in a pan over a very low heat. Place all of the filling ingredients, except the coconut oil, in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the coconut oil to the filling while the motor of the food processor is running. Taste the filling and make sure it does not need a little extra sugar, vanilla or coffee essence. Pour it onto the set base and smooth out the top. Place in the fridge to set for 4 hours or freeze the tart for 2 hours and remove it from the freezer 30 minutes before serving.

 

Lastly make the espresso syrup.

 

Debbie Shaw’s Mini Christmas Plum Puddings Sweeties 

Debbie is a nutritionist and teacher at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
3oz (75g) Medjool dates, roughly chopped
3oz (75g) dried apricots, roughly chopped
3oz (75g) prunes, roughly chopped
2oz (50g) walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) toasted sunflower seeds, chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 generous teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoons of Irish whiskey

For decoration:
100g (4oz) white chocolate, melted
A little sliced crystallised angelica and a few diced red glace cherries

Mix all of the chopped ingredients (except those for decoration) together in a bowl or whizz briefly in a food processor. Shape into mini plum pudding and decorate with a little melted white chocolate, angelica and glace cherry.

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and allow to reduce for 5-10 minutes until it reaches a light syrup consistency.

Serve the tart with espresso syrup and natural Greek yoghurt.

 

Medjool Dates with Crozier Blue Cheese  

How easy can a delicious bite be – the blue cheese needs to be mild and meltingly ripe.

Split the Medjool dates lengthways and remove the stone. Arrange on a plate, top each half with a little nugget of creamy blue cheese and a sprig of chervil. Serve as a canapé or amuse gueule

 

Edible Gifts

chutneys

 

With only one and a half weeks to go to Christmas, this week I am devoting my column to edible gifts, there are a zillion delicious suggestions I could make, and you too can have fun in the kitchen, so why not decide to have a cooking party with a couple of pals.

Many people like to cook alone in the peace and quiet (if there is such a thing) of their own kitchen, others love the buzz of  cooking with kids and teenagers  and don’t bother about the mess. After all, these fun session are what memories are made of.

Really good homemade jams and chutneys are always welcome, but we also love relishes and perky sauces. Moroccan tomato jam and confiture d’oignons or onion marmalade or beetroot and ginger relish will do so much to perk up cold cuts and chunky sandwiches around Christmas, and you’ll find your friends sidling up to you, begging for more. The beetroot relish is also delicious with goats cheeses and makes a tasty topping for canapés, it’s also a winner as a simple starter paired with crusty bread and a few fresh rocket leaves.

Rolls of fridge or freezer cookie dough or Doune McKenzie’s cheese biscuits, buttery short crust or puff pastry are terrific little treasures to have in your fridge. The latter can be used to top a pie or to whizz up a comforting apple tart. Cookie dough keeps well in a fridge or freezer. Pop a few slices of cookies dough into the oven, and what’s not love about cookie dough – the eternal standby. The Doune McKenzie’s cheese biscuits use up scraps of slightly dry cheese in the most delicious way.

If you make sloe or damson gin earlier in the autumn now is the time to transfer it into those cute little stoppered bottles. Sloe gin and tonic is delicious to sip with a slice of Christmas cake.

There’s a whole chapter in my revised edition of Simply Delicious Christmas on edible presents.

Pear and cranberry, blood plum and apple or banana and date chutney, pickled pears – these are quick and easy condiments to rustle up. Pop them into quirky small jars, dress them up with fun labels and make up some home-made Christmas hampers.

How about marshmallows or nougat, the recipe makes a million! Snowballs dusted in icing sugar also make an irresistible gift as do frosted candied peel, home-made macaroons and how about festive chocolate pops or melt in the mouth chocolate truffles. I won’t go on – a reader just texted me to say the new Simply Delicious Christmas was worth the price of the book just for the Edible Presents chapter alone – fancy that!

 

Moroccan Tomato Jam

A high percentage of cinnamon is in fact cassia, so seek out cinnamon from Sri Lanka or Ceylon.  I first came across this delicious jam when I visited a Berber family in the Atlas Mountains in the 1980’s – delicious with cold meats, cheese, crostini……

Makes 6 x 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) jars

 

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) chopped onion

salt and freshly ground pepper

2.2kg (5lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1-2 teaspoons Sri Lankan cinnamon (careful might be too much)

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped coriander

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) tomato purée

4-6 (5 – 7 1/2 American tablespoons) tablespoons honey

 

Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan or sauté pan, add the chopped onion.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook on a gentle heat for a couple of minutes, while you peel and chop the tomatoes.  Add the tomato purée to the onions with the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) of the freshly chopped coriander.  Cook uncovered until the tomato is thick and concentrated, approx. 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally, otherwise it will catch on the bottom.

It will be thick and jam like, stir in another teaspoon of cinnamon, the remaining coriander and the honey.  This is meant to be sweet, but reduce honey if you rather it less intense.

Cook, taste and tweak the seasoning if necessary.

 

Beetroot and Ginger Relish

This recipe was also published in my ‘Forgotten Skills’ book but I couldn’t omit it from this book because it’s so good with cold meats, coarse country terrines, pickled ox tongue, goats’ cheese …  Another great presie and a contender for a Christmas  hamper.

 

Makes 4 jars (yields 500ml approximately)

Serves 8 – 20 depending on how it’s served

 

225g (8oz) onion, chopped

45g (1½ oz) butter

3 tablespoons sugar

salt and freshly ground pepper

450g (1 lb) raw beetroot, peeled and grated

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

25ml (1fl oz) sherry vinegar

120ml (4fl oz) red wine

 

Sweat the onions slowly in butter, they should be very soft, add sugar and seasoning.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook gently for 30 minutes.  Serve cold.

This relish keeps for ages.

 

Pear and Cranberry Chutney

Everyone loves this, its quick to rustle up, makes great presents, and is of course, delicious served with cold meat, cheese, and slathered onto crostini.

Makes 8 x 200ml (7fl.oz) jars

 

350g (12oz) cranberries

900g (2lb) pears (6 pears approx.. depending on size) peeled, quartered, cored and cut into 1cm (½ inch) dice

450g (1lb) sugar

225ml (8fl oz) cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 x 5cm (2 inch)  piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated – 35g (1½oz)

1 x 10cm (4 inch) cinnamon stick

1 clove

100g (3 ½oz) raisins

 

Put the pears, cranberries, sugar, vinegar, and ginger into a large saucepan.  Tie the cinnamon stick and clove in a square of cheesecloth and add to saucepan.  Bring to the boil over a medium heat.  Simmer uncovered until the cranberries collapse and the pears are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir the raisins into the chutney and cook for 25 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  When cool, remove cheesecloth bag.  Refrigerate in a covered container or pot into 6 sterilized jars.

Serve with cold meats.

 

Blood Plum and Apple Chutney

Another favourite which ticks all the boxes.   Try it with Duck, Goose or Pork.

Makes 7 x 200ml (7fl oz) small jars

 

110ml (4 fl ozs) cider or wine vinegar

175g (6ozs) caster sugar

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise

1/2 teaspoon peeled and grated ginger

900g (2lb) blood red plums, stoned and chopped

900g (2lb) Bramley apples, peeled and chopped

 

Put the vinegar and sugar in a stainless steel saucepan with the cinnamon, star anise and ginger.  Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Add the chopped plums and apples, simmer gently for about 40 minutes until the plums and apples are tender and the liquid is thick.  Pour into jars.  Cover and keep in the fridge.

 

Fridge or Freezer Cookies

Particularly good with coffee.  A crisp, rich biscuit.  The mixture can be kept in the fridge for several days or popped in the freezer.

Makes 50 approximately

200g (7oz) butter

150g (5oz) caster sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 large organic egg

75g (3oz) shelled walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts, chopped

 

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the flour, beaten egg and chopped nuts.  Shape the dough into a long roll or rolls, about 5cm (2 inches), in diameter, or smaller if you prefer, and wrap in silicone paper or foil.  Chill in the refrigerator until the next day.

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5.

Cut the dough into very thin rounds.  Arrange well apart on a baking tray.  Cook them for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, they should remain pale in colour.  Transfer to a wire rack.

 

Doune McKenzie’s Cheese Biscuits

This is a brilliant recipe for using up leftover cheese. A little soft cheese may also be added, but you will need to balance the flavour with hard cheese. Delicious to nibble with a glass of wine or to tuck into a lunch box.

Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyère or other cheese of your choice

butter

plain white flour

 

Weigh the cheese, then use the same weight of butter and flour. Preheat the oven to 250ºC/475ºF/gas mark 9.

Grate the cheese – rinds and all. Dice, then cream the butter. Stir in the flour and grated cheese and form into a roll like a long sausage, about 4cm (11⁄2in) thick. Alternatively whizz in a food-processor until it forms a dough – shape using a little flour if necessary. Chill in the refrigerator for 1–2 hours, until solid.

Slice into rounds about 7mm (1⁄3 in) thick. Arrange on a baking tray and bake for about 5 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool for a couple of seconds, then transfer to a wire rack. These biscuits are best eaten on the day they are made as they soften quite quickly.

 

macaroons

Pat Browne’s Almond Macaroons

We’ve got lots of macaroon recipes, but this one given to us by one of our tutors Pat Browne, is the most foolproof of all.  They can be flavoured or coloured as you wish, a few drops of rosewater or orange blossom water, a little crème de menthe……

Makes  74 approx of petit four size

4 free range organic egg whites, depending on size

25g (1oz) caster sugar

225g (8oz) icing sugar

115g (4¼oz) ground almonds

 

Baking tray or trays

No 9 plain piping nozzle

 

Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1

Cover the baking tray with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

 

Whisk the egg whites and castor sugar until stiff.

Sieve the icing sugar twice into a bowl. Add the ground almonds to the icing sugar.

Mix half the dry ingredients into the egg whites and then fold in the remainder.

Pipe into approx. 2.5cm (1 inch) rounds onto a baking tray.   Rest for 30 minutes, then bake in the preheated oven for 12-14  minutes until pale golden. Continue to cook the remainder.

The macaroons are cooked when they lift easily off the paper.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin.

 

Sandwich together with chocolate, lemon or coffee butter cream.

 

Chocolate Butter Cream

110g (4oz) soft butter

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved

1 level tablespoon cocoa powder, sieved

1 dessertspoon hot water

 

Cream the butter and add the sieved icing sugar.  Mix the cocoa powder with the hot water and beat into the mixture until light and fluffy.

 

Lemon Butter Cream

110g (4oz) soft butter

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved

Finely grated rind of ½ lemon

 

 

Cream the butter and add the sieved icing sugar and lemon zest.  Beat until light and fluffy.

 

Coffee Butter Cream

110g (4oz) butter

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved

2-4 teaspoons Irel or Camp coffee essence

 

Whisk the butter with the sieved icing sugar and add the coffee essence.  Continue to whisk until light and fluffy.

Pops

Festive Chocolate Pops

225g (8oz) dark  or white chocolate, chopped

Chocolate Pop moulds

 

Put the chocolate into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water (the base of the bowl should not touch the water). When the water comes to the boil, turn off the heat and leave until the chocolate melts.

Melt the white or dark chocolate as above, spoon into the moulds.  Insert a lollipop stick.

Tap the work top to smooth over the top.

Decorate the top with freeze-dried raspberries or dried cranberries or Santas…

Allow to set.  Unmould.

Serve in a piece of oasis decorated with holly or coloured tissue etc.

 

Hot Tips

Wilson on Wine 2015.   I’ve just come across John Wilson’s (one of Ireland’s more iconic wine writers) new wine book ‘Wilson on Wine 2015’. It features John’s favourite wines & what a list….it could be the ideal stocking filler for the wine lover in your life. Signed copies are available in Bradley’s Off Licence, Cork and The Ballymaloe Shop.

 

Helen James at Dunnes Stores.  A few weeks ago, I got a gorgeous hamper choc-a-bloc with ‘artisan food’ products and housewares from Helen James. This talented designer has teamed up with Dunnes Stores to create a new range entitled ‘Considered’. Check it out it’s exceptionally good quality. Paul Costelloe’s range is not to be missed either and congratulations to Dunnes Stores for creating these visionary partnerships.

 

Ballymaloe Pop Up wine shop. Award winning sommelier Colm McCan has amassed a tempting selection of wines for Christmas (including some organic, biodynamic and  natural wines) from the award winning wine cellar at Ballymaloe. Open weekends at Ballymaloe House, beside the Grainstore on Saturday 11pm -4pm and Sunday 12.30pm – 4pm. Tel 021 4652531 res@ballymaloe.ie

FINAL high res cover (1)

‘A Simply Delicious Christmas’

FINAL high res cover (1)

 

Can you believe it’s 25 years since my ‘Simply Delicious Christmas’ was first published, I had brown hair and red glasses and had just done my first Simply Delicious series on television. The response amazed us all and was so overwhelmingly positive that Michael Gill commissioned a second book in time for the festive season.

It was written and photographed in just five busy weeks, and that little green paperback solved many people’s Christmas present dilemma that year. It included many of our favourite Christmas recipes, a delicious moist Christmas cake encrusted in toasted marzipan, Ballymaloe mincemeat, and mince pies with a dreamy shortcrust pastry. The traditional roast stuffed turkey and goose are there and a sugary caramel glazed ham studded with cloves, and of course there was Mummy’s favourite trifle, and both my Mum’s and Mother-in-law’s plum pudding. What a saga that was – the latter had a misprint in the measurements which caused a great furore and prompted a cartoon in the Sun and an interview on the Gay Byrne Show to clarify the situation. I often see a copy of that original, greatly coveted paperback on peoples’ kitchen shelves tattered from use but much loved. Well 25 years later Gill and Macmillan have published a brand new hard-back edition. Many of the old favourites are still there, but I’ve included over 100 new recipes. Much has changed in those 25 years apart from the colour of my hair….ingredients, expectations. After all, I remember a time when a cap-gun or a Beano annual, or even a tangerine in your Christmas stocking, was a cause for excitement. Pomegranates were beyond exotic and certainly not widely available as they are now.

Crown roasts of turkey are now an easy option for the many white meat lovers, consequently those of us who love brown meat can often have the legs at bargain price.

I have discovered the magic of brining, not only for the turkey, but also for the chicken and pork. It’s a brilliant way to transform even a mundane turkey into something quite delicious.

There’s also lots of advice gleaned over many years on how to ‘survive’ Christmas, and a whole raft of tips and suggestions on how you too can have fun rather than feeling utterly resentful and exhausted. Unless you are a super hero or modern-day saint, one can’t do it all oneself. So make yourself a cup of coffee, put your feet up and accept that Christmas is not just one day it’s an 8 to 10 day affair, and start to make lists and plans.   A rough draft of 9 to 10 day menus is a brilliant idea. Use the left-overs for the next meal, for example ham or spiced beef. Also, allocate a couple of hours on several days to cook for the freezer, stock up on chunky soups and stews and bread crumbs for stuffings. A few frosted meringue cakes and maybe tangerine sorbets…then you have a cushion of staples to see you through any situation. It’s a good plan to freeze in small portions. They can be defrosted easily singly, or three or four at a time, if a group of pals unexpectedly turn up. A few tubs of stew or tagine can be defrosted in minutes.

Meanwhile, if you have not already made the basic Christmas comfort foods, it’s time to get started. These are the tastes that Irish Christmases are made of.  There are recipes for several delicious plum puddings in the Christmas book, but here’s a lighter version you may enjoy as well or instead of the original. Also, a delicious light Christmas cake instead of the richer traditional version. There are also several gluten and fat free mince-meat recipes so have fun….

 

Darina Allen’s ‘A Simply Delicious Christmas’ is published by Gill & Macmillan.

 

Frosted Meringue Christmas Pudding with Chocolate Sauce and Toasted Hazelnuts

 

It’s fun to bring this chocolate covered ‘pudding’ to the table with sparklers on top.  Other meringue flavours may also be used, but we love this combination.

Serves 6

150g (5oz) Hazelnut Meringue (see recipe)

1/2 – 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of finely grated orange rind

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) softly whipped cream

150g (5oz) good quality chocolate, melted

15g (1/2oz) peeled, toasted hazelnuts or hazelnut praline (see recipe)

 

Decoration

sprinkles or sparklers

1.2 litre (2 pint) pint pudding bowl

Line the pudding bowl with a double thickness of cling film.

First make the Hazelnut Meringue (see recipe).

 

Break the hazelnut meringue into chunks and put into a wide bowl.  Sprinkle the ground cinnamon and orange rind over the meringue.  Fold in the whipped cream.  Pour into the lined pudding bowl, pressing down well.  Cover with cling film and freeze overnight.

 

To Serve

Melt the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over simmering but not boiling water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water).  Allow the chocolate to cool a little while you turn the frosted meringue pudding out onto a serving plate.  Pour the chocolate over the pudding, allowing it to drop down the edges (the chocolate will go solid).

 

Decorate with peeled and toasted hazelnuts or Hazelnut Praline (see recipe) and sprinkles or sparklers.

Hazelnut Meringue

1 1/2oz (45g) toasted and peeled hazelnuts

2 egg whites

4 1/2oz (125g/1 cup) icing sugar

 

Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease.

 

Meanwhile put the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until the skins start to flake away. Rub off the skins with a cloth and chop the hazelnuts roughly.

 

Mark two 19cm (7 1/2) circles or heart shapes on silicone paper or a prepared baking sheet. Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks. Fold in the hazelnuts. Divide the mixture between the 2 circles or heart shapes and spread evenly with a palette knife. Bake immediately in a cool oven, 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 45 minutes or until crisp they should peel off the paper easily, turn off the oven and allow to cool.

Hazelnut Praline

110g (4oz) toasted and peeled hazelnuts

110g (4oz/1/2 cup) sugar

 

Put the hazelnuts with the sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour. Stir if necessary. When the caramel stage is reached, and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel.  When the nuts go ‘pop’, pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin, marble slab or parchment lined tray. Allow to get quite cold. When the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.

 

christmascakebites (1)

Light Christmas Cake

This light fruit cake was Mummy’s favourite. She used Royal Icing and made a snow scene with Santa standing on top – thanks for the memories.

 

Makes 35 pieces

225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) castor sugar

4 large or 5 small eggs

275g (10oz) flour

50g (2oz) ground almonds

50g (2oz) whole almonds

a pinch of salt

⅛ teaspoon bread soda, dissolved in 1 teaspoon milk

Grated rind of 1 orange

200g (7oz) sultanas

200g (7oz) raisins

50g (2oz) currants

100g (4oz) home-made chopped candied peel

50g (2oz) cherries, cut in quarters

 

Icing:

Almond Paste:

175g (6oz) ground almonds

175g (6oz) castor sugar

1 small free range or organic egg

1 drop of almond extract

2 teaspoons of whiskey

 

Beaten egg white or apricot jam for applying the almond paste

 

Fondant Icing:

560g (1¼lb) ready to roll fondant icing

 

Corn flour for rolling out

Vodka to brush over almond paste

 

Decorations – optional – Santas, candied angelica, holly leaves

1 cake tin 20.5cm x 33cm (8 inch x 12 inch) x 5cm (2 inch) deep,  lined with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2

 

Blanch the whole almonds in boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes, rub off the skins and chop.  Mix all the fruit together with the cherries, peel, ground and chopped almonds. Cream the butter until really soft, add in the castor sugar and beat until light and creamy.  Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition.  Add the grated orange rind, stir in the flour and all of the fruit.  Dissolve the bread soda in the milk and stir thoroughly through the mixture.  Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour.  Allow to get cold, turn out of the tin and wrap in greaseproof paper until ready to ice.

 

To make the Almond Paste:

Sieve the castor sugar and mix with the ground almonds.  Beat the egg; add the almond extract and whiskey.   Add to the dry ingredients and mix to a stiff paste (you may not need all the egg.)

 

To ice the Cake

Brush the top of the cake with beaten egg white or apricot jam.

 

Sprinkle the work top with icing sugar.  Roll the almond paste into a rectangle slightly larger than the cake.  Roll the almond paste over the rolling pin, then unroll over the cake.  Press carefully onto the cake.  Allow to dry for at least four hours, or preferably overnight.

 

When ready to apply the fondant icing, brush the almond paste with vodka or other non-coloured spirit.

Next apply the fondant icing.  Roll out again slightly larger than the cake.  Roll over the rolling pin and then unroll over the cake.   Press lightly.

 

Decorate if you wish with Santas, candied angelica, or holly but it looks great just as it is.

 

Cut the cake into 35 pieces (5 across x 7 on the length) or to whatever size you prefer.

 

Emer’s Mincemeat

This delicious recipe, developed by Emer Fitzgerald, tutor at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, is suet-free and suitable for vegetarians.

 

Makes 6 pots

700g (1½lb) Bramley cooking apples, peeled and chopped

1 orange, rind and juice

1 lemon, rind and juice

330ml (11fl.oz) cider or apple juice

500g (18 oz) Barbados sugar

500g (18 oz) sultanas

250g (9oz) currants

125g (4½ oz) mixed candied peel

100ml (3½ fl.oz) Irish whiskey

1 teaspoon mixed spice

 

Place the apples, orange and lemon juice and rind and cider in a large saucepan.  Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the apple has cooked.  Stir in the sugar, mixed spice, mincemeat, sultanas, currants and candied peel.    Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then simmer for a further 15 minutes.   Remove from the heat, allow to cool.   Stir in the whiskey and pot into sterilized jars.

 

Ballymaloe Mince Pies with various toppings with Irish Whiskey Cream

 

Makes 20-24 mince pies

Pastry

225g (8oz/2 cups) plain flour

175g (6oz/3/4 stick) butter

a pinch of salt

1 dessertspoon icing sugar

a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind

450g (1lb) Emer’s Mincemeat (see recipe)

egg wash

 

Sieve the flour into a bowl, cut the butter into 1/2 inch (1cm) approx. cubes, toss into the four and rub in with the finger tips. Add the icing sugar. Mix with a fork as you gradually add in the beaten egg (do this bit by bit because you may not need all the egg), then use your hand to bring the pastry together into a ball: it should not be wet or sticky. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.

 

Roll out the pastry until quite thin – about 1/8 of an inch, stamp out into rounds 3 inches (7.5cm) diameter and line shallow bun tins, put a good teaspoonful of mincemeat into each tin, damp the edges with water and put another round on top. Egg wash and decorate with pastry leaves in the shape of holly berries etc.

 

Bake the mince pies in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 20 minutes approx. Allow them to cool slightly, then dredge with icing or castor sugar.

Serve with a blob of whiskey flavoured cream.

 

We have so much fun with mince pies and do lots of variations.  Sometimes we press out a star shape from the top, so the mincemeat is visible, then we use that star to cover the next one, a tiny heart can be put on top of another.

 

All mince pies with a pastry top, need to be brushed with egg wash before going into the oven.

 

Mince Pies with Meringue

 

Meringue

1 egg white

50g (2oz/1/4 cup) castor sugar

 

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

 

Make the meringue.

 

Line the tins with pastry rounds and mincemeat.  Pipe a blob of meringue on top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.  Turn off the oven and allow the meringue to cool in the oven.

 

 

Mince Pies with Almond Crumble

 

110g (4oz/1 cup) self-raising flour

75g (3oz/scant 1/2 cup) castor sugar

75g (3oz/3/4 stick) chilled butter

25g (1oz) flaked almonds

 

Line the tins and fill as in master recipe, but do not put another pastry round on top of the pies.

Mix together the flour and sugar and then rub in the butter with your fingertips to make a coarse crumble.  Add the flaked almonds.  Sprinkle a generous teaspoon of crumble on top of each mince pie.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.

 

 

Irish Whiskey Cream

1 teaspoon icing sugar

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Irish whiskey

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) whipped cream

 

Fold the sugar and whiskey into the cream.

 

Hot Tips

Pop-Up dinner in the BIG SHED on Ballymaloe Farm Saturday 6th December. Ted Berner and Ivan Whelan will coo up a storm for the Ring Table Dinner. The exciting set menu will cost €50 and  may contain wheat, meat and alcohol! Booking is essential, please text Roisin 086 1905605

Slow Food West Cork Terra Madre Day Event Thursday 10th December,Organico Cooks the Books! Come and join Slow Food West Cork for a bite to eat and a glass of wine on “Good, Clean and Fair” Terra Madre Day in the newly and beautifully extended Organico Cafe on 10th December at 5pm. It will be a celebration of 3 great books and short talks by the authors: Giana Ferguson, Karen Austin and Sally McKenna with a convivial, casual supper in Organico Cafe using inspiration from each book. €20 members/€25 for non members. To avoid disappointment; advanced booking essential via email to organicobantry@gmail.com, or call Organico Cafe on 027 55905

Christmas Cooking with Rachel Allen, Friday 12th December at Ballymaloe Cookery School. We are delighted to tell you that we have put on an extra 1 day Christmas cookery course with Rachel Allen on Friday 12th December at the Ballymaloe Cookery School (the earlier one on Monday 8th December is fully booked). So this is your chance to gather a few pals together or come alone to discover a whole raft of delicious Christmas dishes for entertaining and family and lots of tips not only on how to survive but also enjoy the festive season. All of the dishes can be prepared ahead – could be a super pre-Christmas pressie for a fun day just for you. Bookings telephone 4646785, email www.cookingisfun.ie.

Highbank Orchards Christmas Food and Craft Fair 13th and 14th December. Another date for your diary. The Christmas Food and Craft Fair at Highbank Organic Farm, Cuffesgrane Co. Kilkenny,  over 30 local stalls, orchard train rides, puppet shows, cookery demonstration, Christmas trees and nature trails. Did you know that Highbank is the smallest distillery in Ireland, the official opening is on 13th December at 12 noon. Ticket prices and bookings see www.biabeag.com. Email sales@highbankorchards.com and phone: 056 7729918.

 

Letters

Past Letters