ArchiveDecember 19, 2015


Last week I was asked a seemingly simple question by a food writer – ‘which do you love most – Christmas dinner or the leftovers’, well now, doesn’t that set you thinking…..

Even when you are super organised, Christmas dinner is still quite a mission, but whipping up some recycled leftovers is a more chilled affair entirely. I love the improvisation and creative challenge of incorporating dollops of this and that into something entirely different. Think Asian, Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Mexican as well as traditional favourites.

So let’s think what you might have left over apart from the usual morsels of turkey, ham or goose, maybe plum pudding, stale bread, cranberries, sprouts….

Several of these, eg cranberries can be frozen for another time and the sauce itself (see last week’s recipe) is good for months. Mincemeat has a long shelf life, a year at least and can gradually be used when the fancy takes you. It makes delicious Eccles cakes and Pear, Frangipane and Mincemeat tart, all very morish when served warm. Add a teaspoon of mincemeat to a basic muffin recipe and serve them warm with left over brandy or rum butter, no need to apolgise for that, in fact there could well be a ‘scrap’ to get the last morsel.

Fresh or frozen cranberries can also be added to muffins or a cranberry loaf popped into ice cubes with a fresh mint leaf to enhance Christmas lemonades and sodas. They are also super delicious added to pear compote. Apple and cranberry chutney goes deliciously with pork or some cold duck or goose. Left over bread of all kinds can of course be frozen, made into breadcrumbs for gratins or pannagratto or as a basis for a bread and butter pudding.

We’ve also got delicious recipes for mincemeat and for a Cranberry and Raisin bread and butter pudding.

Brussel Sprouts keep well in a cold larder or a fridge but basically they are best when they are really fresh.  Do try them roasted or shredded into salads or quickly blanched and dressed as a last minute addition to risotto or a pilaff rice with lots of grated Parmesan or Coolea cheese and maybe a few crisp cubes of chorizo or Merquez sausage scattered over the top.

The remains of the ham is a bonus rather than a bother, apart from sandwiches and wraps, it can be eaked out in toasties, croque monsieur and eggs benedict. So here are some more recommendations to whet your appetite and empty out your fridge and pantry in a fun and delicious way


Hot Tips

Watch out for RTE’s Christmas cookery programmes.  My brother Rory O’ Connell and I have just shot two programmes, first of which will be shown on Tuesday December 22nd 2015.

O’ Connell’s Restaurant in Donnybrook, Dublin have the iconic O’ Connell Sherry Trifle back this year. A perfect gift for trifle devotees.  Available in three sizes. The trifle comes in a glass bowl, topped with berries, gift wrapped and ready to serve. Tel: 01 269 6116 or


Eggs Benedict


This recipe is a combination of two forgotten skills: poaching eggs and making Hollandaise sauce (which also involves eggs). It is the perfect breakfast for a lazy weekend.


Serves 4 (or 2 if very hungry)


Hollandaise Sauce (see recipe)

4 organic eggs

4 slices good sourdough bread or 2 English muffins or 2 bagels


4 slices home-cooked ham or 8 rashers good bacon, cooked


First, make the Hollandaise sauce and keep it warm. Poach the eggs. Meanwhile, toast the bread, muffins or bagels. Slather a little butter on the hot bread and lay a slice of ham or freshly cooked crispy bacon on the base. Prop a beautifully poached egg on top and coat generously with the Hollandaise sauce.


Hollandaise Sauce


A classic Hollandaise is based on a reduction of dry white wine, vinegar and finely chopped shallots. In the version we make at the Cookery School we simply emulsify rich butter with egg yolks by whisking and then sharpen with a little lemon juice. Unless you have a heavy-based saucepan, don’t attempt this recipe without a bain-marie. Even on the lowest heat, cooking a Hollandaise sauce in a pot that isn’t heavy-based may scramble the eggs.

Once the sauce is made, it must be kept warm, though the temperature should not go above 80ºC (180ºF), or the sauce will curdle. A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale; otherwise put the sauce into a Delft or plastic bowl in a saucepan of hot, but not simmering, water. Hollandaise sauce cannot be reheated very successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need. If, however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or mashed potatoes. When it solidifies, it makes a delicious Hollandaise butter to melt over fish.


Serves 4–6

2 organic egg yolks

125g (5oz) butter, cut into dice

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


Put the egg yolks in a heavy, stainless-steel saucepan on a low heat or in a bowl over hot water. Add 2 teaspoons water and whisk thoroughly. Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water to cool it quickly. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add the lemon juice to taste.

If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency.

It is important to remember that if you are making Hollandaise sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand, then it is also too hot for the sauce.

Another good tip if you are making Hollandaise sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the base of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.


Oaxacan Turkey Soup with Accompaniments

We love this light broth with lots of tasty accompaniment to add in at the table.


Serves 6


1.8 litres (3 pints/7 1/2 cups) well-flavoured, well skimmed and well-seasoned turkey or chicken stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

225g (8ozs) shredded, cooked or raw turkey or chicken


Tasty Accompaniments

6 medium tomatoes, 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

2-3 ripe Hass avocados, 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

2 medium red onion, 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

3 green Serrano or Jalapeno chillies, thinly sliced

3 limes

3-4 corn tortillas

4-6 tablespoons (5- 7 1/2 American tablespoons) of coriander leaves or coarsely chopped


Put the turkey or chicken stock into a wide saucepan, bring to the boil.  Taste and season, it should have a full rich flavour otherwise the soup with be bland and insipid.

Meanwhile cut each tortilla into 8 ‘chips’.  Heat oil in a deep-fry to 180C.  Cook a few at a time until crisp, drain on kitchen paper.


Just before serving.

Add the shredded turkey or chicken to the hot broth – I sometimes use scraps from the  carcass from the stockpot but it could be raw or cooked, either brown or white meat.  Cooked meat just needs to be reheated in the broth.  Raw white meat will take a few minutes to cook and brown meat a little longer.  Poach it gently so it doesn’t toughen.  Taste again and correct the seasoning.

Ladle into soup bowls.  Provide each guest with a side plate with some diced avocado, tomato, red onions, sliced green chilli, coriander leaves, tortilla chips and a segment of fresh lime to add to their soup as they choose.


Pilaff Rice with Yummy Left Overs


Although a risotto can be made in 20 minutes it entails 20 minutes pretty constant stirring which makes it feel rather laboursome. A pilaff on the other hand looks after itself once the initial cooking is underway. The pilaff is versatile – serve it as a staple or add whatever tasty bits you have to hand. Beware however of using pilaff as a dustbin, all additions should be carefully seasoned and balanced. Here we add turkey and ham.


Serves 8


1 oz (30g/1/4 stick) butter

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) finely chopped onion or shallot

14 ozs (400g) long-grain rice (preferably Basmati)

32 fl ozs (975ml/4 cups) homemade turkey or chicken stock

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives: optional

8 ozs (200 g) cooked turkey, diced

8 ozs (200 g) cooked ham, diced


Melt the butter in a casserole, add the finely chopped onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and toss for a minute or two, just long enough for the grains to change colour. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the turkey or chicken stock, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a minimum and then simmer on top of the stove or in the oven 160C/325F/regulo 3 for 10 minutes approx. By then the rice should be just cooked and all the water absorbed. Just before serving stir in the turkey, ham and fresh herbs. Bubble for a couple of minutes and pour into a large serving dish and serve hot with a good salad of winter leaves.


Basmati rice cooks quite quickly; other types of rice may take up to 15 minutes.


Apple, Celery, Walnut and Turkey Salad

One of the few mixed salad combinations that works really well. The tart combination of apple and celery makes it an excellent counterbalance to rich meats such as duck or pork, and a perfect foil for leftover turkey, or it may be served as a first course on its own.


Serves 6

450-700g (1-1½lb) freshly cooked leftover turkey and shredded crispy skin

1/2 head of fresh crispy celery

225g (8oz) green dessert apples

225g (8oz) red dessert apples

2 tablespoons approx. lemon juice

1 level teaspoon castor sugar

5fl oz (150ml) homemade mayonnaise

2oz (50g) shelled fresh walnuts



sprigs of watercress

freshly chopped parsley


Separate the celery, wash it and chop or julienne the stalks into 1 1/2 inch (4cm) lengths. Put them into a bowl of iced water for 15-30 minutes. Wash and core the apples, and cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) dice.

Make a dressing by mixing the freshly squeezed lemon juice, castor sugar and 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of mayonnaise.  Toss the diced apple in the dressing and let it stand while you prepare the remainder of the ingredients.

Chop the walnuts roughly. Add the celery and the walnuts to the diced apple with the turkey and the rest of the mayonnaise, and mix thoroughly. Taste and correct seasoning.

Garnish with sprigs of watercress and scatter some chopped parsley and the remainder of the chopped walnuts over the centre.



Apple, Celery, Walnut and Fig Salad

Add 4ozs (110g) sliced dried figs to the above recipe with the walnuts.


Apple, Celery, Walnut and Turkey or Chicken Salad

Add 2 cooked and sliced turkey or chicken breasts to the salad with the celery. Serve as a main cours



A croque-monsieur is the quintessential Parisian sandwich.   It’s really no more than a grilled ham sandwich topped with grated cheese, but it appears in many different guises.   Sometimes a croque-monsieur is topped with a thick Mornay sauce, or transformed into a croque-madame with the addition of an egg.


Makes 1

A dab of butter

2 thin square slices best quality white bread (pain de mie in France)

1 slice best quality ham, cut to fit bread

1oz (25g) Gruyère cheese, grated


Preheat the grill.

Butter the slices of bread on one side.  Place the slice of ham on one buttered side and cover with the other slice of bread.

Pop the sandwich under the grill and grill on one side until golden.   Remove, turn and cover the uncooked side with the grated cheese.   Return to the grill and cook until the cheese is bubbling and golden.

Eat immediately while hot – Bon appetit!


Russet Apple with Coolea Cheese, Brussel Sprouts, Hazelnuts and Apple Syrup


This light, simple and refreshing salad has a wonderful Autumn freshness.

Serves 4

2 large Russet of Cox’s Orange Pippin apples

4 Brussels sprouts

12 -16 hazelnuts, toasted and thinly sliced or chopped

4 radicchio leaves

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) freshly squeezed lemon juice

100g (3 1/2oz) Coolea cheese

4 teaspoons Highbank apple syrup

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Slice the apples and Brussels sprouts very thinly on a mandolin or by hand and place in a wide bowl. Add the hazelnuts and dress very gently with olive oil and lemon juice and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.


Cut the radicchio leaves into strips or pull into bite sized pieces and divide between 4 plates or a large flat serving dish.


Spread the apple, sprout and hazelnut mixture over the radicchio in a single layer.

Peel, thin slices off the cheese using a vegetable peeler or cheese slicer and lay over the salad.


Drizzle 1 teaspoon of apple syrup over each salad and finish with a pinch of sea salt and serve as soon as possible.



Pearl Couscous, Turkey and Dried Cranberry Salad

I’m loving pear cous cous – looks like little bobbles and can be used as a pilaff or as an accompaniment to a meal.


Serves 8


4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

215g (7 1/2oz/1 cup) pearl couscous

450ml (2 cups) turkey, chicken or vegetable stock

150g (5oz/1 cups) dried cranberries

100g (3 1/2oz/3/4 cup) pine nuts toasted

50g (2oz/1 cup) spring onions, green and white parts thinly sliced at an angle

75g (3oz) approx. 1/2 red onion chopped and washed under cold water

zest of 1 organic lemon

freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon to taste

3-4 tablespoons (4-5 American tablespoons) coriander sprigs

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb (450 g) cooked, diced brown and white turkey meat and some crispy skin


Heat 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of the extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add the couscous and stir for 3 or 4 minutes until coated and toasted.  Add the seasoned stock, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the coucous is al dente.  Drain, toss in the remaining 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) olive oil and allow to cool.


When cold, add the dried cranberries, toasted pine nuts and chopped and sliced onions.  Add the turkey meat. Grate on the lemon zest over the top, squeeze on some freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Add the coriander leaves, toss, taste and pile into a bowl and serve.



Pear and Cranberry Compote  

Serves 6


6 Pears

225g (8oz) sugar

600ml (1 pint) water

A couple of strips of lemon peel and juice of ½ lemon

150 g (5 ozs/1 cup) of cranberries


Fresh mint leaves

Bring the sugar and water to the boil with the strips of lemon peel in a non-reactive saucepan.  Meanwhile, peel the pears thinly, cut in half and core carefully with a melon baller or teaspoon, keeping a good shape.  Put the pear halves into the syrup, cut side uppermost, add the lemon juice, cover with a paper lid and the lid of the saucepan.  Bring to the boil and simmer until the pears are just soft – the tip of a knife or skewer should go through without resistance. Add the cranberries, cook for 3-4 minutes or until they just burst. Turn into a serving bowl, chill and serve, on their own or with homemade vanilla ice-cream and fresh mint leaves if available.


Cranberry and Apple Jam

This is another dual-purpose jam that can be used as a sweet or savoury accompaniment. Delicious on scones or with curd cheese, cold turkey, ham, pork or venison.


Makes 7 x 450g (1lb) jars

1kg (2lb) Bramley’s Seedling cooking apples

1kg (2lb) cranberries

1.7kg (33⁄4lb) granulated sugar, warmed


Peel, core and chop the apples. Put the chopped apple into a wide, stainless-steel saucepan and add the cranberries and 300ml (1⁄2 pint) of water. Bring slowly to the boil and continue to cook over a medium heat until the apples and cranberries dissolve into a pulp. Add the warmed sugar and stir to dissolve. Increase the heat and cook until it reaches a set. Bottle in sterilised jars and cover while still hot. Store in a cool, dry place.


Mincemeat Cupcakes and Brandy Butter Cream

Makes 12


150g (5oz) soft butter

150g (5oz) caster sugar

150g (5oz) self-raising flour

2 large free-range eggs

2 tabespoons milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3-4 tablespoons of mincemeat


Brandy Butter


175g (6oz) butter, softened

150g (6oz) icing sugar

4 tablespoons brandy


Cream the butter, add the icing sugar, beat well.

Finally add the brandy.

1 cupcake tray lined with paper cases

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4


Put all the ingredients except milk and mincemeat into a food  processor, whizz until smooth 1-2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add milk and whizz again for a couple of seconds.  Fold in 3 tablespoons of mincemeat.

Divide evenly between the bun cases, put 1 tablespoon of mixture in each case.

Alternatively, put a half tablespoon of the cake mixture into each case, put about a half teaspoon of mincemeat on top and cover with another half tablespoon of the mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes approx.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.


Brandy Butter Cream

Cream the butter, add the icing sugar, beat well.

Finally add the brandy.

Pipe a rosette or blob of brandy butter cream on top and decorate with Christmas fancies.


Past Letters