ArchiveDecember 2016

So what to do with all those Christmas Book Tokens….

So what to do with all those Christmas book tokens, there may even be some since last year tucked behind the candlesticks on your mantelpiece. Of course there are hundreds of tempting volumes like
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben but this is a food column so here’s a list of my pick of the 2016 cookbooks.

This year there’s been a whole slew of books from the Middle East with wonderfully evocative titles like Samarkand. This volume by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford is a love letter to Central Asia and the Caucasus, an intriguing book. Not just recipes, there are travel essays, beautiful photography, stories and dishes that are little known in the West that have been expertly adapted for the home cook. For hundreds of years, various ethnic groups have passed through Samarkand sharing and influencing each others cuisine and leaving behind their culinary legacy. A melange of Uzbek, Tajik, Russian, Turkish, Jewish, Afghan – how evocative is that.

The Saffron Tales, Recipes from Persia by Yasmin Khan was also chosen by BBC Radio 4 Food Programme as one of their books of the year. Once again this is much more that a compilation of recipes, Yasmin is a British Iranian cook. She crisscrossed Iran with little more than a fistful of childhood memories and a notebook. Her adventure took her from the snowy mountains of Tabriz to the cosmopolitan cafes of Teheran and the pomegranate orchards of Isfahan. She was warmly welcomed into the homes and kitchens of ordinary Iranians, farmers, teachers, artists, electricians….who shares their family recipes from fesenjoon to kofte berenji (lamb meat balls with prunes and barberries) and delicious dessert with evocative names like rose and almond cake.

Naomi Duguid whose book on Burma also entranced me in 2016 has written a Taste of Persia – a cooks travels through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan. Naomi’s book has been named as best cookbook of the year by Food and Wine, The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Wall Street Journal.

Mesmerizing tales and exceptional recipes for beguiling dishes from the rich soupy stews called ash to intriguingly spiced grilled kebabs, barbari breads and alluring sweets like rosewater pudding and date halva.

If you don’t already have the Honey and Co cookbook, Food from the Middle East, check it out . This was one of the best loved and again multi awarded winning book of 2015, our copy is already dog eared. Itamar and Sarit generously share the favourite recipes from their jam packed café, keeping nothing back, leaving nothing out. There’s also Honey and Co The Baking Book, check that out too.

Well I mustn’t get stuck in the Middle East and the Caucasus’s enchanting as it is.

I’ve long been a fan of José Pizzaro, whose restaurants José and Pizzaro are two of my favourite haunts in London. José comes from Extremadura and like many Spanish natives is fiercely proud of his heritage, language and of course the food and drink. He has a particular love and admiration for the food of the Basque country, in particular its major city, San Sebastian, known for its rich food traditions and its obsession with the perfect tapa (pintxos) and for more Michelin starred restaurants per head than anywhere in the world. You’ll love José’s latest book Basque, Spanish recipes from San Sebastian and beyond – beautiful simple tapas recipes for the home cook to enjoy with friends and a glass of fino.

Salt is Essential (and other things I learned from 50 years on the stove) is the arresting title of Shaun Hill’s new book. Shaun is a hugely respected ‘elder statesman’ in the world of food. I have long been an admirer of his pragmatic approach and his food at The Walnut Tree in South Wales “all chefs, however proficient, need to remember that food must taste good, not just look good. The level of seasoning with salt and spice is crucial to the eventual success of the dish”.

This book is packed with well judged, carefully tested recipe that I love to cook.

Another book simply entitled Knife by Tim Hayward has also caused quite a stir, brilliantly researched and not just for knife nerds.
I’m running out of space but for lovers of Chinese food there are two treasures, Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop, a gifted scholar and researcher and a beautiful cook and writer. You may also want to seek out, China – the cookbook by Kei Lum Chan another awesome work, a huge hard back with gold edge pages. I’m just started to try recipes and love it so far.

For cooks who love to grow some of your own food, two books in particular caught my eye this Christmas. The Complete Book of Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit by Bob Flowerdew, Jekka McVicar and Matthew Biggs is pretty much the standard work on the subject, I usually avoid ‘complete books’ of anything but this hardback which by the way you’ll need a wheelbarrow to carry into the garden is mightily impressive, possibly the only book on the subject you’ll ever need – huge praise from me.

Another gem, but this time a light paperback from the king of ‘No Dig’. Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Garden diary could change lives – a perfect present for the cook/gardener in your life.
Finally the Scandi cook Trina Hahnemann is one to watch I have several of her books but am particularly looking forward to getting the latest, Scandinavian Comfort Food, another dose of Hygge to launch me into 2017. There are others like Palomar cookbook that I love but these are just a few titles to tempt you to rush to your local bookshop to exchange those book tokens for a good read and lots of fun in the kitchen.

Blue Cheese and Sesame Biscuits

Makes 20 small biscuits

These simple biscuits have been my favourite snack with drinks for years, so apologies if I have mentioned them before. I have made them slightly larger on occasion and squirted beetroot and horseradish purée on top so they look a little more posh and interesting. I’ve also served them alongside gravadlax and prosciutto for grand canapé situations. I’m sure you’re not silly enough to cater for this sort of event but will enjoy them as they are. I try to use Roquefort or Stilton, but any blue cheese that isn’t too soft – a mountain Gorgonzola or Bresse Bleu perhaps – will be just fine. A perfect use of leftover blue cheese in fact, better than the overpowering dressings you may have tried to use it for previously. The biscuits are crumbly, so vacuuming of carpet will be a factor next day. Serve them bite sized and warm.

100g unsalted butter – cut into cubes
100g self-raising flour
100g blue cheese – crumbled
50g sesame seeds

Use a food processor to blend the butter and flour to the texture of breadcrumbs. Add the cheese and process for a further few seconds, on the pulse setting. You don’t want a blue purée.

Turn out and knead the mixture a couple of times to evenly distribute all the ingredients, then refrigerate until needed. Chill briefly before cooking if you have time.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4.

Scoop or pinch out small pieces of the dough and roll these into balls about 2.5cm across. Toss these in the sesame seeds.

Space the balls out on a baking tray and then bake for about 10 minutes or until firm and golden.

Taken from Salt Is Essential by Shaun Hill. Published by Kyle Books. Photography: Tamin Jones


A traditional dish for Tunisian Jews, this is usually made by cooking the potatoes and onions in a pot of oil, then pouring the eggs in and placing the whole dish in the oven with a tray underneath to catch the oil overflow. We offer this lighter (but no less gorgeous) version.

Enough for breakfast for 4 hungry or 6 modest guests

Fills an 18-20 cm (7-8 inch) frying pan

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 cm dice (about 300 g)
½ teaspoon salt + ½ teaspoon table salt
50 g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, peeled and sliced (about 200 g)
8 eggs
100 ml double cream
2 teaspoons ras el hanut spice mix
2 tablespoons capers
1 small bunch of parsley, leaves picked and chopped
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a pan containing 500 ml of water seasoned with the first half teaspoon of salt. Boil for 5 minutes, then drain.

Melt the butter and oil together in a good non stick frying pan. Add the onions and fry on a medium heat until they soften entirely (this will take about 8-10 minutes) now add the cooked diced potatoes and continue frying for a further 6-8 minutes. In the meantime, whisk all the remaining ingredients together in a bowl.

Increase the heat to high and pour in the egg mixture. Allow 1 minute for the eggs to start cooking around the rim, then use a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to push the mixture from the sides into the centre, all around the pan. Leave to cook for another minute, then repeat.

Now smooth the top and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 2 minutes, then use the lid and pan combined to flip the maakouda. Carefully slide it back into the pan to finish cooking on a low heat for 5 minutes before transferring to a plate to serve.

You can eat this hot but it also keeps well for a packed lunch or picnic and is just as delicious cold as it is hot.

Taken from Honey and Co, The Baking Book by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich

Chicken with Cashew Nuts

Serves 4

5 boneless chicken legs cut into ¾ inch (2cm) cubes
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
1½ teaspoons cornflour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra for deep frying
¾ cup (3½ oz/100 g) cashew nuts
6 shallots, quartered
1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
2 spring onions, stems only, cut into 2 inch (5 cm) lengths
½ teaspoon sesame oil
Coriander leaves for garnish, roughly chopped
Steamed rice, to serve

Combine the chicken, garlic, salt, wine and 1 teaspoon of cornflour in a large bowl, then add the oil and marinate for 10 minutes.

Put the cashew nuts into a wok or large frying pan and add enough oil to cover them completely. Heat the oil to 285°F/140°C or until a cube of bread turns golden in 2 minutes. Deep fry the nuts for 2-3 minutes or until crunchy. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the nuts from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Pour out most of the oil leaving 1 tablespoon in the wok and heat over a medium heat. Add the shallots and stir fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Put in the chicken, increase the heat to high and toss rapidly for 2 minutes until browned.

Add the bell pepper and soy sauce and stir fry for another minute or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the spring onions.

Mix the remaining ½ teaspoon cornflour with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl and stir this mixture into the wok. Bring to a boil stirring for about 30 seconds to thicken the sauce. Add the sesame oil and garnish with coriander, if using. Serve with steamed rice.

Taken from CHINA THE COOKBOOK by Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan

Samarkand Plov

The quintessential dish of Uzbekistan, with as many variants as there are people who cook it. This Samarkand version is a little lighter than most traditional Uzbek plovs, where pools of lamb tail fat provide the dominant flavour. It can be made with lamb or beef and is distinctive for being cooked and served in layers. Plov should be eaten from one large dish placed on the table to share, each diner digging in their fork. It is said people form mutual love from a communal plate and the joy of eating plov.

You’ll need a good, heavy-bottomed pan with a close-fitting lid to make plov. In Uzbekistan, a cast-iron kazan is used; a large cast-iron casserole makes the perfect substitute.

Serves 6

450g basmati rice, rinsed
600g blade stewing steak, diced
150ml clarified butter or
sunflower oil
4 onions, cut into wedges
2 bay leaves
4 yellow and 2 orange carrots
(or use 6 orange), cut into
thick matchsticks
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
12 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 hard-boiled quail’s eggs, peeled
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the rinsed rice into a large bowl of cold water to soak while you start the recipe. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the clarified butter in the pan until hot and foaming. Brown the beef over a medium-high heat, in batches if necessary, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon leaving the butter behind. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden. Return the beef to the pan with any collected juices, the bay leaves and a small
cupful of water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down very low, cover the pan and gently simmer for 1 hour until the meat is tender.
Spread over the carrot matchsticks, but don’t stir as you want to keep the layers separate. Scatter over the spices, and cover and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Drain the rice and layer it on top of the carrots. Poke the whole garlic cloves into the rice and flatten the top with the back of a spoon. Season very generously with salt and slowly pour over enough boiling water to just cover the top of the rice. Increase
the heat and leave the pan uncovered so that the water starts to boil away.
When the liquid has cooked off, make six holes in the rice using the handle of a wooden spoon to help the steam escape. Cover the pan and cook at a low simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat without removing the lid and leave the dish to steam undisturbed for a further 10 minutes. If the rice isn’t cooked, add a splash
more boiling water and cover again. Serve the layers in reverse, first spooning the rice onto the platter, then the carrots and finally the tender chunks of meat on
the top. Circle the hard-boiled quail’s eggs around the edge. A juicy tomato salad is the perfect accompaniment.

Taken from: Samarkand by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, published by Kyle Books, priced £25. Photography by Laura Edwards.

Christmas Left Overs

Phew, well that’s Christmas over for another year – hopefully you enjoyed the festivities and had lots of cheerful help and support both in the kitchen and dining room. Now, for the best bit – using up the left overs in lots of delicious ways. I love to buy a whopping big turkey so we’ll hopefully have some leftovers after turkey sandwiches to make some of my favourite dishes of the whole year.
We’ll start with the turkey……

First strip off every scrap of meat and crispy skin from the turkey. Chop up the carcass as best you can. Make a fine pot of turkey stock by adding the giblets, neck, heart and gizzard but not the liver, that would make the stock bitter plus be a waste of a superb ingredient – it will make a rich and smooth, unctuous pot of turkey liver pâté.

One can make many, flavoursome turkey soups from Asian Pho to a nourishing Scandi broth. I’ve chosen Mexican flavours inspired by a trip to Oaxaca. If you still have some cold turkey or even leftover roast chicken or pork – you simply must try (how bossy am I….) turkey tonnata, a twist on the Italian veal tonnata served with a properly tasty mayo based sauce laced with tuna, anchovies and capers, which by the way makes a fantastic present to include in a hamper of sauces. If roast goose or duck was your Christmas day feast, there’s probably not much on the carcass but save all those little morsels to make a duck or goose broth include…..

Try this spicy Indian Brussels sprout recipe, delicious just served as an accompaniment but also a perfect base to add some diced cooked turkey or ham.

Left over cranberries keep well in the fridge or can be frozen but you can never have too many because they are delicious added to scones, muffins, pancakes and make a tasty plus a quick and easy apple and cranberry sauce or chutney, another handy edible gift.

If you have a surplus of tangerines or mandarins they are of course delicious in a fresh tasting salad or make them into marmalade. You probably won’t have time do that today but this could be therapeutic after Christmas exercise. I could go on and on but I’m running out of space. Some mincemeat make these utterly delicious scones and serve warm from the oven with left over brandy butter. Sublime.

Thank you to our readers. We wish you a Happy, Joyful and Peaceful Christmas and many blessings and lots of new exciting food adventures in 2017.

Turkey Liver Pâté with Sourdough Toasts and Red Onion Marmalade

Duck or goose can also be used in this boozy recipe

Serves 10-12 depending on how it is served.

225g (8oz) fresh organic turkey livers
2 tablespoons brandy
200-300g (8-12oz) butter (depending on how strong the livers are)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 large clove garlic, crushed
225g (8oz) butter, cubed
freshly ground pepper

clarified butter, to seal the top

Accompaniment: Crusty brown bread, sourdough toasts or croutes
Red Onion Marmalade

Wash the livers in cold water and remove any membrane or green tinged bits. Dry on kitchen paper.
Melt a little butter in a frying pan; when the butter foams add in the livers and cook over a gentle heat. Be careful not to overcook them or the outsides will get crusty; all trace of pink should be gone. Add the crushed garlic and thyme leaves to the pan, stir and then de-glaze the pan with brandy, allow to flame or reduce for 2-3 minutes. Scrape everything with a spatula into a food processor. Purée for a few seconds. Allow to cool.

Add the butter. Purée until smooth. Season carefully, taste and add more butter.

This pâté should taste fairly mild and be quite smooth in texture. Put into pots or into one large terrine. Tap on the worktop to knock out any air bubbles.

Spoon a little clarified butter over the top of the pâté to seal.
Serve with crusty brown bread, sourdough toasts or croutes. This pate will keep for 4 or 5 days in a refrigerator.

Watchpoint: It is essential to cover chicken liver pate with a layer of clarified or even just melted butter, otherwise the pâté will oxidize and taste bitter and turn grey in colour.

Duck or Goose Liver Pâté with Melba Toast

Substitute duck livers for chicken livers in the above recipe. You may need to increase the amount of butter used depending on the strength of the livers.

Sherry may be substituted for brandy and its really good.

To Serve
Fill the kilner jar with a handful of mixed salad leaves and fresh herbs. Serve with two slivers of toasted focaccia.

Chicken Liver Pâté with Pedro Ximenez Jelly
Soak 1 sheet of gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes, when soft discard the water. Warm 150ml (5fl oz) of Pedro Ximenez gently in a saucepan, add the gelatine and allow to melt. Cool, then spoon over the top of each ramekin of pâté.

Red Onion Marmalade

Makes 450ml (16fl.oz)

Red Onion Marmalade will keep for months and is especially delicious with pâtés and terrines of meat, game and poultry. Ordinary onions may also be used.

700g (1½ lb) white or red onions
110g (4oz) butter
1½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
155g (5½oz) castor sugar
7 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons cassis
250ml (scant ½pint) full bodied red wine

Peel and slice the onions thinly. Heat the butter in a sauté pan until it becomes a rich nut brown (beurre noisette) – this will give the onions a delicious flavour but be careful not to let it burn. Toss in the onions and sugar, add the salt and freshly ground pepper and stir well. Cover and cook for 30 minutes over a gentle heat, keeping an eye on the onions and stirring from time to time with a wooden spatula. Add the sherry vinegar, red wine and cassis. Cook for a further 30 minutes uncovered, stirring regularly. This onion jam must cook very gently (but don’t let it reduce too much). When it is cold, skim off any butter which rises to the top and discard.
Pour into sterilized jars as for jam.

Turkey Stock

Keep your turkey carcass to make a stock, which may be used as the basis of a delicious soup or in St. Stephen’s Day Pie.

1 turkey carcass
Turkey giblets, ie. heart, gizzard, neck
8-10 pints (4.5-5.6 L) approx. water
2 onions, cut in quarters
2 leeks, split in two
2 sticks celery, cut in half
2 carrots, cut in half
A few parsley stalks
6 peppercorns
No salt

Break up the carcass as much as possible. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum or fat. Simmer for 4-5 hours, then strain and remove any remaining fat. If you need a stronger flavour, boil down the liquid in an open pan to reduce by one-half the volume. Do not add salt.
Note: Stock will keep for several days in the fridge. If you want to keep it for longer, boil it up again for 5-6 minutes, allow it to get cold and refrigerate again or freeze.
If you have a ham bone, it could also be used in the stock for extra flavour.

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.

Brussel Sprout Masala

It was quite a surprise to discover Brussel sprouts in South India. Somehow I associated them with these islands. This masala version which I learned at the Bangala converts even those who refuse to even taste Brussel sprouts.

Serves 4-6

450g (1lb) Brussel sprouts, cut in quarters if large
1.2L (2 pints) water
3 teaspoons salt

50 ml (2 fl oz) vegetable oil
100g (3½ oz) onion, peeled and finely chopped
½ teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder, mild (Kashmiri if available)
125ml (4fl.oz) fresh tomato puree
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Bring 1.2L (2 pints) water with 3 teaspoons salt to a boil in a saucepan.
Add the brussel sprouts and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain in a colander and refresh in cold water.

Heat the oil in a wok over a high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, slide in the onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir and add the fresh tomato puree. Reduce the heat to low, continue to cook, stir and scrape to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom.
Continue to cook until the oil separates around the edge, add the drained sprouts to the masala. Stir, and cook for a minute or two. Taste and correct seasoning.

Garnish with lots of fresh coriander leaves and serve.

Turkey ‘Tonnata’

A super tasty way to enjoy leftover turkey, add a little grated raw Brussels sprout to the salad for extra deliciousness.

Serves 8

The sauce may be used for cooked chicken, veal and pickled ox tongue also.

2 lbs (900 g) cooked turkey

Tonnata sauce

4 rounded tablespoons home-made mayonnaise
85g (3oz) canned tuna in oil and 2 tablespoons of the oil
2 anchovies
1 rounded tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon lemon juice
green salad
sprigs of flat parsley

16 – 24 black olives
16 anchovies
24 capers
salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the sauce. Put the mayonnaise into a food processor with the tuna, oil, anchovies, capers, lemon juice and freshly ground pepper, whizz until smooth and then put into a bowl.
Drain the capers on kitchen paper. Deep fry in hot oil for a few seconds. They will split and open out into crispy flowers. Spread on kitchen paper. Slice the turkey as thinly as possible then season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Put a little green salad on each plate. Arrange a few slices of turkey on top of the leaves. Drizzle generously with the tonnata sauce, garnish with anchovies, a few olives, crispy capers and sprigs of flat parsley.

Cranberry Bread and Butter Pudding

Bread and Butter Pudding is a most irresistible way of using up both leftover white bread and cranberries at Christmas. This is a particularly delicious recipe which can also be cooked and served in cappuccino cups.

Serves 6-8

12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed
2 ozs (55g) butter, preferably unsalted
½ teaspoon freshly-grated cinnamon or nutmeg
7 ozs (200g) cranberries or a mixture of cranberries and sultanas
16 fl ozs (475ml) cream
8 fl ozs (225ml) milk
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
6 ozs (170g) sugar
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding

Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish

Butter the bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle the bread with half the nutmeg and half the cranberries, arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the cranberries, and sprinkle the remaining spice and cranberries on top. Cover the raisins with the remaining bread, buttered side down.
In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence, sugar and a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, covered loosely, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.
Bake in a bain-marie – the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of a preheated oven, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly-whipped cream.

Note: This Bread and Butter Pudding reheats perfectly.

Tangerine Salad with Cinnamon and Orange Water Blossom

This is a classic dessert usually made with oranges in Moroccan restaurants. The combination is a perfect palate cleanser after a rich tagine or cous cous but also a welcome after a Christmas feasting.

Serves 6

10 tangerines, clementines or madarins
4 teaspoons orange blossom water
4-6 teaspoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
3-4 sprigs fresh mint

Peel the fruit and remove the pith with a sharp knife. Slice across the equator, flick out the pips and arrange the rounds, slightly overlapping on a circular plate. Dot with cinnamon and caster sugar and drizzle with orange blossom water. Chill well before serving with shredded fresh mint or mint sprigs sprinkled over the top.

Christmas Mincemeat Swirls with Brandy Butter

Just love these mincemeat swirls – a super way to use up leftover mincemeat and brandy butter. Most delicious served warm.

Makes 18-20 scones

900g (2lb/8 cups) plain white flour
175g (6oz) butter
3 free-range eggs
pinch of salt
50g (2 oz) castor sugar
3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix
400-450 g (14 oz-16 oz) Ballymaloe mincemeat or vegetarian and gluten free mincemeat

Egg Wash (see below)

110 g (4 oz) flaked almonds
110 g (4 oz) demerara sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

Brandy Butter, see recipe

1-2 baking trays lined with parchment

First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Don’t knead but roll gently into a rectangle about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick. Spread the mincemeat over the surface to within a half inch of the edge. Roll from the long side. Cut into 1½ inch (3cm) pieces. Arrange on a baking tray, allowing a little space for the swirls to spread. Brush the cut side with egg wash. Sprinkle each one with flaked almonds and dip in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm with a dollop of homemade brandy butter on top.

Egg Wash
Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

Christmas Edible Presents

Christmas is edging ever closer, the excitement and craziness mounts and we’re having lots of fun making edible presents. It’s become a tradition and let’s face it, something delicious to eat will be genuinely welcomed rather than yet another glittering bauble or scented candle destined for the re-gifting drawer.

This week I’m keeping my blurb to the minimum to allow for maximum space for recipes. There is no shortage of ideas for yummy edible presents. Of course sweet, cute little macaroons, marshmallows, mini muffins, chocolate truffles are fine and delicious but I’ve had even more delighted responses to less evocative but gleefully received cartons of homemade soups, pasta sauces, stews, tagines….add a tinsel bow and a sprig of holly or rosemary to give them a festive air.

Another busy young Mum with four little ones keeps dropping hints about a couple of dozen simple fish cakes and chicken pie with no yucky mushrooms or green flecky bits in the potato topping, to make the kids go ‘yuck’ (parsley). Deliver them fresh or frozen. They are super handy to have in a freezer as a standby at any time not to speak of over the crazy Christmas period – easy comforting food.

We make the pies in little enamel dishes with either a puff pastry lid or fluffy mashed potato. The dishes are useful for the rest of the year, so it doesn’t have to be an ‘all singing all dancing present’. Tubs of homemade soup are always received with delight, also great for older friends or those living alone not to speak of those in special need in our communities.

You’ll find all those recipes in my previous columns and books as well as a whole range of condiments. Buy lots of ribbon and luggage labels to add a festive look to your edible presents.

Here are some delicious frivolous recipes that we’ve been enjoying making.

Still racking your brain for a suitable present – a little hamper of some artisan foods will be joyously received:-
Mella’s Fudge, now in seven flavours including Salted Caramel,

A basket of Irish oysters, flat or gigas, the ultimate briny treat for a Christmas Day starter.

A hamper of Gubbeen cured meats – salami, chorizo, chistora, smoked rashers….
A Fingal Ferguson handmade knife – the ultimate treasured kitchen utensil for cool chefs. www.gubbeencom.

A basket of Arbutus Artisan Breads, check out medieval sourdough, rye/spelt sourdough with carrot, Irish craft beer…..

A juicy, fruity Christmas puddings from Country Choice in Nenagh.

Shana Wilkies, handmade choccie bars –she’s got a gorgeous festive Christmas cracker with chocolate bars, luxurious chocolates and bean to cup chocolate powder.

Check out the Chocolate Shop in the English Market, maybe the best selection of superb chocolate in Ireland.

Give a gift token for your local Farmers Market

A few pots of Nourishing Broth from Sonny’s Merchants of Broth at Mahon Farmers Market.

Some of my favourite smoked fish comes from Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Smoke House, tel: 021 4646955, artisan smoker Frank Hederman of Belvelly smoke house, Sally Barnes of Woodcock smoker and Burren smokehouse
Anthony Cresswell of Ummera also does superb smoked chicken and duck as well as nitrate free rashers.

How about some Irish snails from The Irish Snail Farm in County Carlow.

A few pouches of award winning Irish Mozzarella from Macroom Dairy or Toonsbridge Dairy are also making a range of pecorino vincenzo and cacio cavallos

A basket of Green Saffron Spices and a packet of aged Basmati rice with flavour like you’ve never tasted before.

A couple of litres of raw milk from Dan Ahern of Ballysimon, Midleton, 086 1659258 or couple of pints of Glen Ilen pasteurized milk straight from the farm to the farmers market.

A bag of Golden Wonders from John Kennefick, Churchtown South, 086 2246102.

A gift token for a cooking class at Good Things Cafe in Skibbereen or of course the Ballymaloe Cookery School and the Dublin Cookery School.

Don’t forget the beverages. Those of you who can no longer drink wine without suffering adverse consequences, not just headaches but exaggerated reactions – rashes and nausea, contact Colm McCan and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau wines in Kilkenny for a selection of natural wines. This present could and will change your life..

If you feel like making a pilgrimage out to East Cork there are of course many temptations in Midleton and Youghal but venture a little further to Shanagarry and you’ll find a cluster of good things.
Stephen Pearce Pottery, Kilkenny Design Centre, both in Shanagarry and Ballymaloe Shop…..All the above also have café where you can relax and enjoy lunch or revive with just a cup of tea or Golden Bean coffee.

Ballymaloe Cookery School Shop, just ¼ a mile up the road from the Shanagarry village has a range of frivolous and practical gifts plus freshly picked organic produce from the farm and garden, thick unctuous Jersey yoghurt and rich homemade butter, totally natural sourdough bread and of course raw milk from our tiny herd of seven Jersey cows. Telephone 021 4646785 before you come to reserve) and then have relaxing walk along Shanagarry strand before you return to the fray.

A hamper from Woodside Farm, beautiful free range pork and bacon products, rashers, sausages, hocks, bacon…all the hams are gone but there may still be delicious loin or streaky or collar bacon, hocks, pigs tails… or 087 276 7206

NASH 19 Christmas Bespoke Hampers
for your foodie friend stocked with lots of delicious artisan produce…Spiced Beef, Mince Pies, Gluten Free Plum Puddings….. Pop into NASH 19 Food Shop to create your own hamper, packaged and wrapped in store. Deliveries nationwide too. Tel 021 427 0880

Ardmore Pottery Christmas Craft Fair
runs daily from 26th November to 24th December. Beautiful willow baskets, jewellery, knitwear, pottery plus Lismore Biscuits, Mella’s Fudge, Crinnaughtan Apple juice, jams and preserves…….
Contact Mary Lincoln at 024 94152 or

Best Ever Tomato Sauce

A good tomato sauce is invaluable to have in the fridge or freezer as a standby, another marvellous accompaniment to all sorts of dishes. Use it on pizza or of course you can have a pasta sauce in seconds. Add a pinch of chilli flakes if your friends would like some extra oomph!

Makes 16 fl ozs (475ml)

1 oz (25g) butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-4 cloves garlic, depending on taste, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 lbs (900g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 2 x 14 oz (400g) tins Italian tomatoes, chopped
salt, freshly ground pepper and a little honey to taste
a pinch of chilli flakes, optional

Melt the butter, add the olive oil and toss in the chopped garlic and optional pinch of chilli flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until pale golden, then add the onion, cook for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes, then season with salt, pepper and a little honey to taste. Cook fast for 15-20 minutes if you want a fresh tasting sauce, or more slowly Рfor up to 1 hour Рif you prefer it more concentrated. Pur̩e through a mouli legumes. Taste and correct seasoning. Pour into sterilized glass kilner or little jam jars. Cover, label and decorate.

Black or Green Olive Tapenade

The strong gutsy flavour of Tapenade can be an acquired taste but soon becomes addictive – and has become a”new basic”.

Serve with Cruditées, Bruschetta, Crostini with Lamb, Pasta, Goat cheese…..

2 ozs (50g) anchovy fillets
3 1/2 ozs (100g) stoned black or green or a mixture of olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
freshly ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Whizz up the anchovy fillets (preferably in a food processor) with the stoned black olives, capers, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper.

Alternatively, use a pestle and mortar. Add the olive oil as you whisk and process to a coarse or smooth puree as you prefer.

Tapenade Oil

Add lots of Extra virgin olive oil and store in a sterilized jam – jar use to drizzle over goat cheese etc.

Banana and Date Chutney

This unusual chutney is quite a departure from the ordinary but your friends will love it to serve with cold meats and the cheese board during the Christmas season.

Makes 6 x 200g (7oz) jars

250g (9oz) Bramley cooking apples, peeled and roughly chopped
200g (7oz) onions, peeled and roughly chopped
225ml (8fl oz) malt vinegar
8 ripe bananas (approximately 750g/1 10oz) peeled and roughly chopped into 1cm (1/2 inch) rounds
100g (3 1/2oz) stem ginger, drained and finely chopped
200g (7oz) soft dark brown sugar
250g (9oz) stoned dates, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
100ml (3 1/2fl oz) water

Spice Bag
4 allspice berries
1 small (5cm/2 inch) cinnamon stick
4 cloves
2 pieces of orange peel

Put the apples and onions into a large, heavy based saucepan, pour in the vinegar and cook over a low heat until soft, approximately 20 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to a simmer and bubble away gently for 45 minutes approximately or until the chutney thickens and reduces by about 1/3 – 1/2. Spoon into warm, sterilised jars and cover and store in a cool, dark place for up 6 months. Once opened, keep in the fridge and try to use up within a month.

Note: The onion can be omitted if desired.

JR’s Handmade Rose Water Marshmallows

Once you taste handmade marshmallow you will never go back to the mass produced version. JR Ryall, the Pastry Chef at Ballymaloe House, makes these delicately flavoured and lighter than air marshmallow that are best enjoyed within a few days of making.

Makes approximately 100

455g (1lb) granulated or caster sugar
1 tablespoon liquid glucose
9 gelatine leaves or 5 1/2 rounded teaspoons of powdered gelatine
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon good quality rose water
red food colour paste
4 tablespoons icing sugar and 4 tablespoons corn flour sieved together

For Raspberry Marshmallow – fresh raspberries and pistachio nuts (optional).

Line the bottom of a 30 x 20cm (11 x 8 inch) baking tray with parchment paper. Dust with sieved icing sugar and cornflour.

Place sugar, glucose and 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) of water in a heavy bottom saucepan. Stir to ensure all of the sugar is wet. Using a pastry brush dipped water, remove any sugar crystals from the side of the saucepan. Place the saucepan on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling do not stir, simply tilt the pot from side to side to ensure the solution heats evenly until it reaches 127°C/260°F. It is important to keep an eye on the temperature using a sugar thermometer.

Meanwhile, rehydrate the gelatine in 140ml (4 3/4fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) water.

When the boiling syrup reaches 110°C/230°F start whipping the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

Add the rehydrated gelatine and water into the syrup when it reaches 127°C/260°F and stir with a wooden spoon. The mixture will foam slightly, this is normal. Pour the hot syrup onto the egg whites and whip on full speed for 5-10 minutes until the marshmallow thickens and the bowl of the mixer is warm to the touch. Turn the speed of the mixer to low and whisk in the rosewater and enough food colour paste to turn the marshmallow baby pink.

Spoon the thick marshmallow mix onto the lined baking tray and smooth with a palette knife. Allow to set (usually takes 2 hours).

Dust the top of the marshmallow with the icing sugar and cornflour mix. Turn out onto a work surface, peel off the paper and cut into cubes. Roll each marshmallow in the cornflour and icing sugar mix to finish.

Raspberry Marshmallow

JR also makes divine fresh raspberry marshmallows. Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin, sprinkle the surface with fresh raspberries. I love to add some pistachio nuts as well. Pour the remainder on top, allow to set, proceed and serve as above.

Agen Chocolate Prunes

Delicious and super quick to make and a real surprise guaranteed to convert even the most ardent prune hater.

Makes 22

225g (8oz) best quality dark chocolate
32 Agen prunes, stoned

Melt the chocolate gently in a Pyrex bowl over barely simmering water. Turn off the heat just as soon as the water comes to the boil, the chocolate will gradually melt in the hot bowl.

Dip the prunes one at a time into the chocolate. Shake off excess chocolate and allow to set on a baking tray covered with silicone paper.

Serve as a petit four. Pop into pretty gold paper cases arrange in a pretty box and decorate.

Rachel’s Salted Caramel Sauce

I’ll be forever grateful to the French genius who first put salt in caramel. The ultimate expression of salty and sweet. This sauce works brilliantly with chocolate mousse or of course on crepes or ice cream.

225g (8oz) sugar, caster or granulated
75ml (3fl oz) water
110g (4oz) butter
175ml (6fl oz) regular or double cream
a good pinch of salt (I love to use salt flakes such as Maldon or Atlantic sea salt)

Place the sugar and the water in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir as it heats up to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved stir in the butter, turn the heat up to high and cook for about 10 minutes until it turns a toffee colour. Do not stir the pan though you might need to swirl the pan occasionally if you see it turning golden on one side of the pan before the other. Once it is a rich golden toffee colour tale it off the heat for a moment and stir in half the cream. When the bubbles die down, stir in the rest of the cream and the salt to taste (it will depend on the type of salt used and of course your taste how much you’ll need. Serve with the chocolate mousse and shortbread biscuits.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Spread

You’ll never go back to the well-known brand…..

Makes 2 small jars

250 g (9 oz) best quality hazelnuts
150 g (5 oz) icing sugar
45 g (1.5 oz) cocoa powder (we use Valrhona)
4 tablespoons hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salt, between 1/8 and ¼ teaspoon

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Spread the hazelnuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes or until the skin start to loosen and the nuts are golden and evenly roasted. Rub the skins off the hazelnuts and discard.

Cool and transfer to a food processor. Whizz the hazelnuts for 2-5 minutes or until the oil begins to separate from the soft paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder, hazelnut oil, vanilla extract and salt to taste. Keep whizzing until the spread is loose, glossy and a spreadable texture. Taste, it may need another pinch of salt or another tablespoon of hazelnut oil.
Spoon into little jars, cover and use within a month but usually it doesn’t last that long!

Christmas Mincemeat Swirls with Brandy Butter

Just love these mincemeat swirls – a super way to use up leftover mincemeat and brandy butter. Most delicious served warm.

Makes 18-20 scones

900g (2lb/8 cups) plain white flour
175g (6oz) butter
3 free-range eggs
pinch of salt
50g (2 oz) castor sugar
3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix
400-450 g (14 oz-16 oz) Ballymaloe mincemeat or vegetarian and gluten free mincemeat

Egg Wash (see below)

110 g (4 oz) flaked almonds
110 g (4 oz) demerara sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

Brandy Butter, see recipe

1-2 baking trays lined with parchment

First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Don’t knead but roll gently into a rectangle about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick. Spread the mincemeat over the surface to within a half inch of the edge. Roll from the long side. Cut into 1½ inch (3cm) pieces. Arrange on a baking tray, allowing a little space for the swirls to spread. Brush the cut side with egg wash. Sprinkle each one with flaked almonds and dip in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm with a dollop of homemade brandy butter on top.

Egg Wash

Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

Brandy Butter

3ozs (75g) butter
3ozs (75g) icing sugar
2-6 tablespoons brandy

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

A Brandy Mincemeat, vegetarian and gluten free

Makes approximately 7 x 375g (13oz) jars

125g (4 1/2oz) almonds
500g (18oz) candied citrus peel (see recipe)
4 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
60g (2 1/2oz) real glacé cherries
375g (12oz) seedless raisins
500g (18oz) sultanas
500g (18oz) currants
450g (16oz/2 cups) soft dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
grated zest of juice of one lemon
grated zest of one orange
110ml (4fl oz) Brandy or Armagnac
125g (4 1/2oz) melted butter

Blanch, peel and chop the almonds. Put in a bowl with the chopped candied peel, apple and glacé cherries. Add the raisins, sultanas and currants. Stir in the brown sugar, mixed spice, freshly grated nutmeg, lemon and orange zest, lemon juice, brandy and butter. Mix well.

Fill into sterilised jars, cover and store in a cool, dry place. This mincemeat will keep for up to 6 months if kept in a cool larder.

Kumquat and Irish Whiskey Marmalade

Kumquat Marmalade – my special breakfast treat, not as tart as Seville Orange Marmalade, rather more bitter-sweet – just gorgeous. A present that your friends will really treasure and you ‘ll find that they’ll be dropping hints, hoping for another pot. It’ll also sell like hot cakes at a Christmas Bring and Buy or Farmers’ Market.

Makes 6 approx. little pots (200ml/7fl.oz)

1 kg (2¼lb) kumquats
1 3/4 litres (2½ pints) water
1 3/4 kgs (3 1/2 lbs) sugar
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

Slice kumquats thinly crossways. Collect the seeds, put in a small bowl with 250ml
(8 fl oz) of the water, allow to stand overnight. Put the kumquats in a larger bowl with the remaining water, cover and allow to stand overnight.

Next day, strain the seeds, save the liquid (this now contains the precious pectin, which contributes to the setting of the jam); discard the seeds.

Put the kumquat mixture into a large saucepan with the reserved liquid from the seeds. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, simmer, covered for 30 minutes or until the kumquats are very tender, Remove the lid and boil fast to reduce the liquid to less than original volume.

Warm the sugar in a moderate oven for about 8-10 minutes. Add the sugar. Stir until fully dissolved (the mixture should not be more than 5 cm /2 inch deep). Bring to the boil and cook rapidly with the lid off for about 15 minutes or until a teaspoon of mixture will wrinkle when tested on a cold saucer – remove the pan from the heat while testing. Stir in the whiskey.

Pot in hot sterilised jars. Seal and store in a cool dry place.

Homemade Crackers with Irish Farmhouse Cheese

Include a beautiful Irish Farmhouse cheese in perfect condition. This recipe makes a huge number of light biscuits, which taste delicious with butter alone, or with butter and a soft cheese.

Makes 45-50 biscuits

1/2 lb (225g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) butter
pinch of salt
5-6 fl ozs (150-175ml) hot milk

Preheat the oven to 220°C\425°F\regulo 7

Rub the first three ingredients together. Then mix to a dough with hot milk, it should be firm but soft. Knead it well. Roll out small bits of the dough to paper thinness, it will look and feel like a piece of cloth. Prick with a fork….

Cut into approx. 3 inch (7.5cm) rounds with a plain or fluted scone cutter and bake in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, until they are slightly browned and puffed up. Cool and store in an air-tight box.

The Christmas Frenzy……

The Christmas frenzy is well under way. Fairy lights twinkle, Christmas decorations festoon the shops and high streets. Just yesterday a lovely lady stopped me in the street and asked where could she find my Christmas book, apparently she’d lent it to a friend years ago who’d lent it to another friend and the net result was she never got it back. I hear this a lot.

The original Simply Delicious Christmas published in 1989 has been out of print since 2011 but as a result of these kind of requests my Christmas book A Simply Delicious Christmas have reprinted in hardback by Gill and Macmillan with all the original recipes and 100 new ones so no need to panic. It could make a handy Christmas present plus give you an excuse to ask for the original dog eared paperback copy. Many more requests this year for the traditional recipes, I’ve included the roast turkey with all the trimmings but since I wrote the original Christmas book, I’ve realised the value of brining the turkey before cooking.

I can’t tell you how much it enhances the flavour of even mediocre poultry. Simply submerge the bird in a brine solution of 6 litres water to 600g salt overnight. Next day drain, dry, stuff and cook.

Here’s another dilemma and another question that I’m regularly asked – To stuff or not to stuff the bird! Well it’s a resounding YES from me. Doesn’t matter how good your stuffing is, it won’t’ be up to much if it’s just cooked in a pie dish or tin foil. The juices of the turkey enhance it immeasurably but don’t pack the cavity too tightly – the heat needs to be able to penetrate fully into the centre of the stuffing during cooking. Stuff the neck end also and tuck the flap underneath, secure it with the wing tips and so you have lots extra for all the stuffing lovers in the family.

Hopefully, you’ve ordered your turkey by now, personally I favour a bronze turkey and like to get it ‘New York’ dressed, so I can hang it for 3 or 4 weeks, no butcher will do that for you but for me it hugely enhances the flavour.

A ham is just a brilliant standby particularly at Christmas, order that well ahead also but if you can’t find a nice fat succulent ham; my top tip is to choose a fine piece of loin of bacon. If anything, streaky bacon with its stripes of fat and lean is even more juicy and delicious and deliciously inexpensive. It’s also an excellent ‘store cupboard’ ingredient to keep in your fridge to add to chunky soups, stews, frittatas, pasta sauces….now a few words for the cook about surviving Christmas. If you’ve got a big crowd for Christmas dinner, ask for help, I certainly do and you know what, it makes it all more fun for everyone plus we can pass on the skills to the younger generation, both boys and girls.

Making a plum pudding, mincemeat, cranberry sauce, brandy butter, bread sauce, making stuffing, preparing Brussels sprouts and celery is not exactly rocket science but it all takes time and it makes all the difference to the enjoyment of the meal if as much as possible can be prepared ahead.

Don’t know about you but I have to make lists – so as soon as you can, make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, sit down, relax and make a week’s planner. Christmas is not just one day, it now lasts for 5-7 days. Insert the basic meals for each day and then start on the list of jobs and allocate a certain number of tasks to ensure that everyone has a share in the fun and the work, a sense of humour is vital and somehow lightens the load for everyone. Don’t forget a hug for the cook.

Stock up your Pantry
A well-stocked store cupboard of dry goods makes it so easy to rustle up meals in moments by adding a few fresh ingredients or even leftovers.
Apart from the obvious dry goods – flour, onion and potatoes, pasta, rice, spices…..
For Christmas – pannetone, Panforte di siena, clementines, mandarins, streaky bacon, chorizo, salami…..a block of cheddar and a variety of farmhouse cheese, pickled herrings, spiced beef, tortillas, pitta bread, good quality chocolate, nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, sardines, tuna, anchovies, tinned tomatoes, tinned beans – chickpeas, flageolets, black eyed beans, extra virgin olive oil…….

NASH 19 Christmas Bespoke Hampers
for your foodie friend stocked with lots of delicious artisan produce…Spiced Beef, Mince Pies, Gluten Free Plum Puddings….. Pop into NASH 19 Food Shop to create your own hamper, packaged and wrapped in store. Deliveries nationwide too. Tel 021 427 0880

Ardmore Pottery Christmas Craft Fair
Runs daily from 26th November to 24th December. Beautiful baskets, jewellery, knitwear, pottery plus Lismore Biscuits, Mella’s Fudge, Crinnaughtan Apple juice, jams and preserves…….
Contact Mary Lincoln at 024 94152 or

East Cork Christmas Market
is on tomorrow from 11.30am-4.30pm at the Garryvoe Hotel. Local producers of food and crafts, delicious Christmas treats, handmade crafts. Order your Christmas poultry, baking and locally grown vegetables. Admission by voluntary donation. Proceeds to East Cork Rapid Response. I’ll be signing my Simply Delicious Christmas from 11am to 12. Rory O’ Connell will sign copies of Master It from 12pm-1. Looking forward to seeing you!
Contact Mary Griffin

How to Brine a Turkey

6 litres (10 1/2 pints/26 1/4 cups) water
600g (1 1/4lb) salt

Brining the turkey overnight is not essential but it hugely enhances the flavour and makes for moist, tender and flavourful meat.

*Add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve. Put the turkey into a clean stainless steel saucepan, plastic bucket or tin. Cover with the brine and a lid and chill for 24 hours. Drain and dry well. This is of course optional, but it hugely enhances the flavour of the turkey.

Old-fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce

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
175g (6oz/3/4 stick) butter
350g (12oz) chopped onions
400-500g (14-16ozs) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non GM) (or approximately 1lb 4oz 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/2 sticks) butter
large square of muslin (optional)

Cranberry Sauce (see recipe)
Bread Sauce (see recipe)

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/Gas Mark 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

Bread Sauce

I love Bread Sauce but if I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it – the recipe sounds so dull! I serve it, not just with roast turkey and chicken, but also with pheasant and guinea fowl. Make the breadcrumbs yourself from stalish white bread.

Serves 10-12

450ml (16 fl.oz) whole milk
110g (4 ozs) soft white breadcrumbs – see recipe
2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 cloves
35 – 50g (1 1/2 – 2 ozs) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
50ml (2fl.oz) thick cream
2 good pinches of ground cloves or quatre epices

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream. Season, with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook 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.

Note: The bread sauce will keep in the fridge for several days – the remainder can be reheated gently – you may need to use a little more milk.

Quatre Epices is a French spice product made of equal amounts of ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

How to Make Bread Crumbs

I’ve just been to the shops and seen breadcrumbs for sale for more than the price of a loaf of bread for a 250g (9oz) bag, so let me share the secret of how to make your own.

There are three options.

Fist save all left over white bread, for white bread crumbs, cut off the crusts (save for dried crumbs) (see below).

Tear each slice into 3 or 4 pieces, drop into a liquidiser or food processor, whizz for 30 seconds to a minute, hey presto – bread crumbs. Use immediately or freeze in convenient size bags for use another time.

If you use crumbs include the crusts. The breadcrumbs will be flecked with lots of crust but these are fine for stuffing and any other dish where the crumbs do not need to be white.

Uses for bread crumbs stuffing, coating fish, meat, croquettes etc. Use for bread sauce and buttered crumbs for gratins.

Before the days of liquidisers and food processors, we made bread crumbs by grating squares of stale bread or the coarsest part of a box grater. The breadcrumbs were not as uniform as those made in a whizzer but will be absolutely fine.

Dried Bread Crumbs.
Put the crusts off the bread slices, spread out on a baking tray. Bake in a low oven (100°C/220°F/Gas Mark 1/4) for 2 – 3 hours. Cool, liquidise the dry crusts a few at a time into fine bread crumbs. Sieve and store in a screw top jar or a plastic box as until needed. No need to freeze, they keep for months. Use for coating cheese or fish croquettes.

Ways To Use Up Stale Bread

Breadcrumbs (soft or dried).
Coating fish, meat or croquetts.
Buttered Crumbs.
Bread Sauce.
Melba Toast.
Apple Charlotte.
Eggy Bread – French Toast.
Parmesan Toasts.

Irish Cranberry Sauce

Beautiful cranberries are now grown on the Bog of Allen – how cool is that.
Cranberry Sauce is also delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. We enjoy this simple Cranberry Sauce best. It will keep in your fridge for a week to 10 days. Also great with white chocolate mousse.

Serves 6 approx.

175g (6 ozs) fresh cranberries (look out for the Irish grown cranberries)
60ml (4 tablespoons) water
75 g (3oz) granulated sugar

Put the fresh cranberries in a heavy-based stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan with the water – don’t add the sugar yet as it tends to toughen the skins. Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries pop and soften, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.
Serve warm or cold.

Other good things to add to Cranberry Sauce –

Cranberry and Orange – use freshly squeezed orange juice instead of water and add the rind of half an unwaxed orange.

Cranberry and Apple – Mix Cranberry Sauce made as above with half quantity of Bramley Apple Sauce, so good.

Crusty Roast Potatoes

Crusty roast potatoes are just the thing to surround the Christmas roast. A big roasting tin of crusty potatoes always invokes a positive response. Everyone loves them. They are easy to achieve but I still get asked over and over for the secret of crunchy golden roasties. So here are my top tips:

• Grow or seek out good-quality dry, floury potatoes such as Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks. New potatoes do not produce good roast potatoes.
• For best results, peel the potatoes just before roasting. Resist the temptation to soak them in water, or understandably they will be soggy, due to the water they absorb. This has become common practice when people want to prepare
ahead, not just for roasting, but also before boiling.
• After peeling, dry the potatoes meticulously with a tea-towel or kitchen paper. Otherwise, even when tossed in fat or oil, they will stick to the roasting tin. Consequently, when you turn them over as you will need to do halfway through the cooking, the crispy bit underneath will stick to the tin.
• If you wish to prepare potatoes ahead, there are two options. Peel and dry each potato carefully, toss in extra virgin olive oil or fat of your choice, put into a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Alternatively, put into a plastic bag, twist the end, and refrigerate until needed. They will keep for 5 or 6 hours or overnight without discolouring.

Roast potatoes may be cooked in extra virgin olive oil, top-quality sunflower oil, duck fat, goose fat, pork fat (lard) or beef dripping. Each gives a delicious but different flavour. Depending on the flavour and texture you like, choose from the following cooking methods:

1 Toss the potatoes in the chosen fat and cook.

2 If you prefer a crunchier crust, put the peeled potatoes into a deep saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, simmer for 2–4 minutes only and drain. Dry each blanched potato and score the surface of each one with a fork. Then toss in the chosen oil or fat, season with salt and cook in a single layer in a heavy roasting pan in a preheated oven at 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8.

3 Drain the blanched potatoes, then put the saucepan with the potatoes inside over a medium heat, and shake the pot to dry the potatoes and fluff the blanched surface. Toss in your chosen oil or fat, season with salt and roast as above.

Note: some cooks, to create an even crunchier crust, like to toss the potatoes in a little flour seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper and maybe a pinch of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika.

Duck or Goose Fat Roasties

Everybody loves roast potatoes, yet people ask over and over again for the secret to making them golden and crispy. The type of fat really matters: duck or goose fat adds delicious flavour. Good-quality pork fat or lard from free-range pigs is also worth saving for roast or sauté potatoes. All will keep for months in a cold larder or fridge.

Glazed Ham

A glazed ham is one of my favourite Christmas meals and also a brilliant standby for salads and sandwiches for the festive season. We do lots of glazes but of all the ones this is the one that I keep coming back to. You could just use marmalade. You’ll know when the ham is cooked when the rind peels off the fat easily.

Serves 12-15

1 x 4.5kg (10lb) fresh or lightly smoked ham (ensure it has a nice layer of fat)
30 or more whole cloves, depending on the size of the diamonds
350g (12oz) brown Demerara sugar
a couple of tablespoons of pineapple juice from a small tin of pineapple

If the ham is salty, soak it in cold water overnight and discard the water the next day. Cover the ham with fresh, cold water and bring it slowly to the boil. If the meat is still salty, there will be a white froth on top of the water. In this case it is preferable to discard this water, cover the ham with fresh cold water again and repeat the process. Finally, cover the ham with hot water, put the lid on the saucepan and simmer until it is almost cooked. Allow 25-30 minutes approx. to the lb of cooking time for every 450g (1lb) of ham (usually about 4 hours, but depends on the size of the ham). When the ham is fully cooked the rind will peel off easily and the small bone at the base of the leg will feel loose.

To glaze the ham: preheat the oven to 250ºC/ 500ºF/gas mark 9.

While still warm, peel the rind from the cooked ham, cut the fat into a diamond pattern and stud each diamond with a whole clove. Blend the brown sugar to a paste with a little pineapple juice. Be careful not to make it too liquid. Transfer the ham to a roasting tin just large enough to take the joint.

Spread the thick glaze over the entire surface of the ham, but not underneath. Bake it in a very hot oven for 20 minutes or until it has caramelised. While it is glazing, baste the ham regularly with the syrup and juices.

Serve hot or cold with Cumberland sauce.

Kumquat Compôte

A gem of a recipe, this compôte can be served as a dessert or as an accompaniment to roast duck, goose or glazed ham. Also delicious with goat’s cheese or yoghurt. I usually double the quantity, it keeps for weeks in the fridge and has perked up so many dishes. Try it with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate wafers for an easy dessert.

Serves 6-20 depending on how it is served

235g (8 1/2 oz) kumquats
200ml (7fl oz) water
110g (4oz) sugar

Slice the kumquats into four or five rounds depending on size, remove the seeds. Put the kumquats into a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender.

Serve warm or cold.

Note: This compote keeps for weeks in the fridge and everyone loves it.

Creamed Celery

Serves 4 – 6

How retro does this sound, but it’s so good with roast turkey and can be rustled up the day before. I sometimes add extra milk make this into a celery sauce – so delicious with a poached turkey or chicken.

1 head of celery
salt and freshly ground pepper
roux (see recipe)
120-175ml (4-6 fl.oz) cream or creamy milk

chopped parsley

Pull the stalks off the head of celery. If the outer stalks seems a bit tough, peel the strings off with a swivel top peeler or else use these tougher stalks in the stockpot. Cut the stalks into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks.

Bring 150ml (1/4 pint) of water to the boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the chopped celery, cook for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until a knife will go through with ease. Remove celery to a serving dish with a slotted spoon. Thicken the remaining liquid with the roux, add the enough whole milk or cream to make sufficient sauce to coat the celery. Allow to bubble for a few minutes, pour over celery, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Note: Can be reheated successfully

Best Brussels Sprouts Ever

Not surprisingly many people loathe Brussels sprouts because invariably they are over cooked.
The traditional way to cook sprouts was to cut a cross in the stalk so that they would, hopefully, cook more evenly. Fortunately I discovered quite by accident when I was in a mad rush one day, that if you cut the sprouts in half lengthways, or better still quarters, they cook much faster and taste infinitely more delicious so with this recipe I’ve managed to convert many ardent brussels sprout haters!

Serves 4-6

450g (1lb) Brussels sprouts, (cut lengthways top to bottom)
600ml (1 pint) water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
25-50g (1-2oz) butter or extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Choose even medium sized sprouts. Trim the outer leaves if necessary and cut them in half or quarters lengthways – cut into quarters if they are very large. Salt the water (its really important to add enough salt) and bring to a fast rolling boil. Toss in the sprouts, cover the saucepan just for a minute until the water returns to the boil, then uncover and continue for 5 or 6 minutes or until the sprouts are cooked through but still have a slight bite. Drain very well.

Melt a little butter or extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, roll the sprouts gently in the butter, season with lots of freshly ground pepper and salt. Taste and serve immediately in a hot serving dish.

Note * If the sprouts are not to be served immediately, drain and refresh them under cold water just as soon as they are cooked. Just before serving, drop them into boiling salted water for a few seconds to heat through. Drain and toss in the butter, season and serve. This way they will taste almost as good as if they were freshly cooked: certainly much more delicious than sprouts kept warm for half an hour in an oven or a hostess trolley.

Brussels Sprouts with Buttered Almonds
Cook the sprouts in the usual way. Meanwhile melt 25-50g (- oz) butter in a frying pan, toss in about 25g (1oz) nibbed or flaked almonds and cook for a few minutes or until golden. As soon as the sprouts are cooked, drain and toss with the buttered almonds. Serve immediately in a hot dish.

Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts and Crispy Bacon or Chorizo
Add 2-4oz (50-110g) of crispy bacon lardons or chorizo and 50g (2oz) of toasted and chopped hazelnuts to the above recipe and serve immediately.

Pixie’s Yummy Brussels
Cook the brussels sprouts as above, drain while still al dente.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over a high heat, add 1/2 oz butter, add 50g (20oz) slivered almonds, toss for a minute or two, add the sprouts, 1 teaspoon of garam masala and add 150ml (5fl.oz) of cream. Season with freshly ground pepper, allow to bubble. Taste and serve immediately

Crown Roast of Turkey with Harissa, Pomegranate and Cucumber Rita and Moroccan Tomato Jam

I’m a big brown meat fan if all your family prefer white meat you might like to try this delicious combo. Banana and Cardamom Raita, Ballymaloe Tomato Relish, and Cucumber, Radish and Mint Salad are also delicious served with this turkey dish.

Serves 10-12

3.6-4.4kg (8-10lb) organic turkey crown

6 litres (10 1/2 pints) water
600g (1 1/4lb) salt

4 tablespoons Harissa – see recipe
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander

To Serve
Couscous (see recipe)
Moroccan Tomato Jam (see recipe)
Pomegranate and Cucumber Raita (see recipe)

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

Brine the turkey overnight, (*see below) not essential but it makes for moist, tender and flavourful meat.
*Add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve. Put the turkey crown into a clean stainless steel saucepan, plastic bucket or tin. Cover with the brine and a lid and chill for 24 hours. Drain and dry well. This is of course optional, but it hugely enhances the flavour of the turkey.

Mix the harissa, olive oil and coriander together in a little bowl.
Spread all over the skin of the turkey crown, smearing some underneath the skin if possible. Cover and allow to marinade in a fridge for an hour or two.

Put the turkey into a deep roasting tin and cover with tin foil.

Roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, 1 1/4 hours.

Remove the tin foil and cook uncovered for a further 15-30 minutes approximately.
To test if the turkey is cooked, prick the thickest part of the flesh with the point of a knife, examine the juices, they should run clear.
Remove to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow to rest for about 15 minutes.
Serve with Couscous, Moroccan Tomato Jam and Pomegranate and Coriander Raita (x 2 recipe). Enjoy with an Irish craft beer or dry cider.

Herbed Couscous

350g (12oz) medium couscous
juice of 2 lemons
6 tablespoons (7 1/2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) chicken stock (see recipe)
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley and mint
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Greek style yoghurt and fresh coriander leaves, to garnish

Place the couscous in a large bowl and add four tablespoons of the oil and the lemon juice. Mix well ensuring that all the grains are completely coated. Heat the stock in a small pan and season generously. Pour over the couscous and allow to sit in a warm place for 6-8 minutes until all the liquid has absorbed, stirring occasionally.

To serve, stir in the remaining oil and the herbs into the couscous and arrange on plates with the tagine. Finally garnish with a dollop of the Greek yoghurt and coriander leaves.


Makes 100g (3 1/2oz)

10 dried red chillies, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
5 fresh red chillies
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

Deseed and roughly chop the dried and fresh chillies. Put in a food processor with the garlic, cumin, coriander, salt and olive oil. Whizz until smooth.

Store in a jar with a layer of olive oil over the top. It will keep for 3 months.

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.

Pomegranate and Cucumber Raita

This raita makes a moreish dip with poppadums or naan bread. It will taste especially good if you use your own yogurt.

Makes 225ml (8fl oz)

1 pomegranate
1⁄4 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and finely diced
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh coriander
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped mint leaves
200ml (7fl oz) natural yogurt

Split the pomegranate in half around the equator. Place the cut side down on the palm of your hand. Hold over a container and tap vigorously with the bowl of a wooden spoon; the seeds will dislodge and fall into the bowl you’ve put below. Add the cucumber, coriander and mint to the bowl. Stir in the yogurt, season with salt and serve.

Cookbooks for Christmas

I’ve been inundated with a whole new crop of cookbooks published just in time for the Christmas market, something to tempt aspiring, experimental and accomplished cooks.

Every time I think I’ve reached ‘peak’ cookbook along come some new temptations. So what has peaked my fancy….

Jamie has done it again – Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook is full of gorgeous photos of tempting foods and delicious recipes for edible gifts, party foods and new ways to love leftovers.  Loved his smoked salmon toasts and Boxing Day Quesadillas.

Do you know what Hygge means?  I had  no idea what the word meant until relatively recently when I noticed that it seemed to be  popping up all over the place.  Well apparently it means in essence – ‘living cosily’ – enjoying life’s simple pleasures with friends and family, creating a warm atmosphere, fire and candlelight….. It’s a Danish and Norwegian word that’s difficult to translate, it seems to be a feeling of comfortable well-being – savouring the moment….several cookbooks have been published with Hygge in the title including a young Norweigan cook, Signe Johansen who sent me her book How to Hygge: the secrets of Nordic living, Nigel Slater described it as “uplifting heart-warming, life enriching. I wish I could have read this book years ago”.

Signe is a woman after my own heart, in a recent interview in the Guardian, she told Dale Berning Sawa “everything tastes better with butter. It is generally my fat of choice when cooking. I make my own but I also buy some too – both salted and unsalted. I go through so much of it”.

Admirers of Michelin starred chefs may be delighted to get a copy of The Five Seasons Kitchen by Pierre Gagnaire who was voted Best Chef in the World by his peers in 2016 and whose restaurants worldwide boast two or three Michelin stars each.

The recipes are surprisingly easy to reproduce, try this cream of pumpkin soup with coconut milk, easy and super delicious. Use a Red Kuri or pumpkin butternut squash.

Gather by Gill Meller is a beautiful book that will excite your hunter gather friends – you may not be familiar with Gill’s name partly because he stayed behind the scenes at River Cottage with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for years but is now Head Chef has been for some time and is definitely a name to note – I love Gill’s simple food based on superb ingredients from seashore to woodland, orchard to garden, field to farm, moorland to harbour, the very best kind of honest cooking and gorgeous flavours. I’ve chosen fried pheasant with quince and bay for you to try, beautiful food photographs also.

The British Table by Colman Andrews is also quite a production – a  new book of the traditional cooking of England, Scotland and Wales. The photos in this book are by two of my most admired food photographers, Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton.

Many of the recipes from all four corners of the UK have been shared by some of my favourite chefs Jeremy Lee, Mark Hix, Sally Clarke, Fergus Henderson, meticulously researched and beautifully written published by Abrams.

So many tempting recipes but try this cockle popcorn which Mark Hix freely admits he stole from his local fish merchants Samways who originally served them at a local festival. Check out the English Market in Cork for a terrific selection of fish and shellfish but we also get a fantastic selection from Michael Kelly (, Carlingford Oyster Company ( and Quinlans (

Closer to home Rachel Allen has just published yet another gorgeous book, this time it’s called Recipes from my Mother published by Harper Collins and is full of recipes from both her mum and grandmother with a few of my mum’s favourites as well – you’ll love this and here’s to try…


Hot Tips

Midleton Country Market is also celebrating 40 years in business. Each Friday the Midleton Country Market set up at Market Green from 9am-2pm, order your Christmas Cake, Puddings and Mince Pies. Contact Siobhan Murphy at


Slow Food Mayo

Celebrate Terra Madre Day on Thursday 8th December at 7pm at Belleek Castle, Ballina, Co Mayo.  Mulled wine, canapés and three course dinner. Tickets are €35. Tel: Suzanne on 087 9170422


Mella’s Fudge

Mella’s Fudge from Clonakilty has just launched two new flavours Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Fudge. Both are delicious as is the many other varieties – Irish Cream Liqueur, Christmas Spice with Orange, Rum and Raisin, Vanilla……a delightful Christmas gift in beautiful packaging.  Tel: Mella McAuley 086 159 5949 or

Pre-Loved Kitchen Cupboard Sale

at Urru Culinary Store in Bandon on Thursday 8th December from 4-8pm. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure or Christmas present…..Donate a couple of unused or unwanted kitchen items in perfect condition and working order. Proceeds from the sale will support 10 Bandon and West Cork Charity and Community Groups. Organiser Ola Fudali can be contacted on 023 885 4731


In Season  Quince

Look out for quince; they are in season at present. You’ll find them in good greengrocers and at some Farmers Markets. A bright canary yellow fruit that resemble a slightly knobbly pear. They are deliciously perfumed and can have a downy fur on the outside. The fruit is always hard even when fully ripe. Use to make homemade membrillo – quince cheese or quince jam, delicious for Christmas presents or adds cubes of quince to pork or lamb stews or tagines. Alternatively give a quince tree to a foodie gardening friend, (cydonia oblonga)  – a gift for life.


Pierre Gagnaire’s Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Milk


Serves 6 as a starter


700 g pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks

700 ml fresh milk

400 g coconut milk

½ kaffir lime leaf

120 g lightly salted whipped cream

40 g shredded coconut

Fine salt


Cook the pumpkin from cold in lightly salted milk. Once boiling, add the coconut milk and kaffir lime leaf, then continue simmering for a further 15-20 minutes. Remove the kaffir lime leaf and process the mixture in a blender to a perfectly smooth, creamy soup.


For the whipped cream:- carefully fold the whipped cream into the grated coconut. Serve the pumpkin soup in soup bowls. Each guest can serve their own coconut cream on top of the hot soup.

The Five Seasons Kitchen by Pierre Gagnaire


Gill Meller’s Fried Pheasant with Quince and Bay


This rustic dish has an air of autumn about it. I like to think it’s got all the colour and patina of a hedgerow as its greens turn to soft, mottled yellows and light, earthy browns. The first pheasant of the season usually coincides nicely with the quince harvest. You can prepare the quince well in advance – once cooled, it keeps beautifully in the fridge  in its cooking syrup. If you’re not having pheasant, you can just as easily serve the quince alongside some good cheese and cold ham, or enjoy it sweet – with vanilla icecream.


Serves 2


Pared zest of ½ lemon

8 black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)

2 thyme sprigs

75 g (2½ oz) sugar

2 tablespoons runny honey

2 quinces, peeled, quartered and cored

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

75 g (2½ oz) unsmoked bacon lardons

2 pheasant or guinea fowl breasts (about 150 g/2½ oz) each)

1 knob of butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


First, make the fragrant syrup. Place the lemon zest, peppercorns, bay leaves, fennel seeds (if using), thyme sprigs, sugar, honey and 300 ml/10½ fl oz of water in a medium pan. Place the pan over a medium heat and bring up to a gentle simmer.


Cut each quince quarter into 2 or 3 more evenly sized wedges. Place the wedges into the simmering syrup and cook very gently for 25-45 minutes, until the wedges are tender. (The cooking time can vary from quince to quince). When the quince are ready, remove from the heat, then use a slotted spoon to take them out of the pan and set aside.


Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the lardons and fry, stirring regularly, for 4-6 minutes or until the lardons are beginning to colour a little. Season the pheasant or guinea fowl breasts with salt and pepper and add them to the pan together with the cooked quince. Cook the breasts for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and cooked to your liking, and until the quince wedges are lightly caramelised. Remove the pan from the heat, then remove the breasts from the pan and set aside to rest.


Divide the lardons and quince wedges equally between two warmed plates. Then place the frying pan over a high heat and add 100 ml (3½ fl oz) of the fragrant syrup (save the rest to use a fruit syrup). Reduce this by half; take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter until melted; season to taste. Cut each breast into thick slices and divide it equally between the two plates, arranging it next to the quince. Spoon over the syrup and serve straight away.

Gather by Gill Meller


 Signe Johansen’s Winter Nordic Salad

Kale is about as zeitgeisty as a winter green can be, but I’m actually not a huge fan and this is the only way I’ll eat it as find raw kale hard to chew. The secret is to really massage kale leaves so they start to soften and wilt. Roast squash or sweet potato make pretty much any salad better and pomegranate adds a little razzmatazz to this otherwise super simple dish.


Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main


1 butternut squash or 2 sweet potatoes

Olive oil

Seeds of 1 pomegranate

1 bunch of variegated or plain kale, washed and finely chopped

Zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°Fgas mark 6.


Chop the squash or sweet potatoes into bite sized chunks,  put them on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until tender. Once cooked, remove from the oven and set aside.


Place the pomegranate seeds in a bowl. Massage the kale with the lemon zest and juice and some olive oil so that the leaves soften, then add to the bowl with the pomegranate seeds. Toss together, cover and set aside until ready to serve.


Mix the salad with the roasted butternut squash and serve with some roast fish, chicken or meat of your choice.


This salad also works a treat with diced feta, avocado and mixed seeds if you would rather keep it vegetarian.

How to Hygge The Secrets of Nordic Living, Signe Johansen



Signe Johansen’s Salmon Burgers


The Nordic region is famous for salmon, and I have to confess that as a kid, really hated the taste of cooked salmon. I was fine with smoked salmon, salmon sashimi and pretty much any other cooked fish variety but my poor mother had to suffer years of me turning up my nose at her delicious baked salmon. If only she had mad salmon burgers like these I might have been converted sooner.


Serves 6


800 g salmon, cut into bit sized chunks

1 tablespoon mustard

1 tablespoon horseradish sauce

2 anchovies

Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Handful of breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons chopped spring onion

1 teaspoon capers

1 teaspoon wasabi powder

1 teaspoon chilli flakes or 1 small green chilli, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Oil for greasing


To Serve

500 ml Greek yoghurt

1 bunch of dill, finely chopped

1 bunch of chives, finely chopped

½ cucumber, deseeded and shredded

Pita breads

Pickled radish, fennel and cucumber


In a blender process a quarter of the salmon along with the mustard, horseradish, anchovies and lemon zest until you have a very smooth paste. This forms the glue for the remainder of the burger mixture. Add the rest of the salmon, along with the breadcrumbs, spring onion, capers, wasabi powder and chilli. Season to taste. Pulse everything together until the mixture is even, but be careful not to overmix the salmon – the fish should still be about 5mm in size.

Shape into burger patties and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 3-4 hours before grilling.

To cook, we panfry them in a little clarified butter.


To serve, simply mix the Greek yoghurt with the herbs and cucumber and serve with the pita breads and pickles.

How to Hygge The Secrets of Nordic Living, Signe Johansen


 Mark Hix’s Cockle Popcorn


“I must admit”, confesses Mark Hix, “that I stole this dish from one of our local fish merchants, Samways, who served these at a local food festival”.


Serves 4



Vegetable oil or corn oil, for deep frying

2/3 cup (70 g) self-raising gluten free or all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cayenne


7 ozs (200 ml) whole milk

6 ozs (175 g) raw fresh cockle meat or frozen cooked cockle meat, thawed

Good quality malt vinegar, for serving


Heat 3 or 4 inches (7½-10 cm) of oil in an electric deep fryer or large, heavy bottomed saucepan to a temperature of 350°F (175°C).


Put the flour into a shallow medium bowl and stir in the cayenne and salt to taste. Put the milk in another shallow medium bowl and put out a third (empty) shallow medium bowl.

Toss the cockles in the flour, then shake off the excess and put them in the milk. Pass them back through the flour, then put them in the empty bowl as they’re ready.

Deep fry the cockles in batches, stirring them continuously with a slotted spoon for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown, then transfer them with the slotted spoon to  paper towels to drain.

Serve immediately, accompanied by a good quality malt vinegar.

Taken from The British Table, Colman Andrews


 Rachel Allen’s Custard Creams

These are what they say on the tin, but they are a really good buttery, crumbly version of those you get in a packet.


Makes about 24 biscuits


200 g (7 oz) soft butter

150 g (7 oz) caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla sugar

200 g (7 oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

100 g ( 3½ oz) custard powder


For the Butter Icing

125 g (4½ oz) soft butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

250 g (9 oz) icing sugar


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


Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with baking parchment.


Place the butter in a bowl or in the bowl of an electric food mixer and cream well. Add the sugar and the vanilla and beat again until soft and light. Sift in the flour and the custard powder and mix well until the dough comes together.


When the dough has come together, roll it out on a floured worktop with some flour dusted on top, to stop it sticking, until it is 5 mm (¼ inch) thick.


You’ll probably need to regularly slide a palette knife under the dough with some flour to stop it sticking. Cut into shapes, squares or rectangles (making sure you have doubles of each shape so they can be sandwiched together) and carefully lift onto the prepared baking sheets, spaced a little apart as the will spread ever so slightly when baking.


Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until just feeling dry around the edges and light golden in colour. Take out of the oven and leave to stand on the baking sheet for a few minutes before lifting off to cool on a wire rack.


While the biscuits are cooking or cooling, make the butter icing. Cream the butter and the vanilla extract in a bowl with a wooden spoon or in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mix in the icing sugar until it comes together.


When the biscuits are cooked and cooled, spread some butter icing onto a biscuit

Recipes from my Mother, Rachel Allen


Whisky Soaked Raisin and Orange Marmalade  Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 6-8


145 g (1 cup) sultanas (golden raisins)

60 ml (½ cup) good quality Scotch whisky, plus more if needed

300 ml (1¼ cups) whole milk

300 ml (1¼ cups) heavy cream

Pinch of salt

2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

5 large eggs

50 g (4 tablespoons) sugar

90 g (½ cup) mixed candied citrus peel

1 large brioche loaf bread or challah, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices

285 g (1¼ cups/2½ sticks) butter, softened

480 ml (2 cups) orange marmalade

Vanilla ice cream for serving, optional


Put the sultanas in a small bowl and cover them with the whisky (add a little more if necessary to completely cover them). Soak for at least 2 hours, then drain them and set aside (reserve the whisky for cocktails).

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).

Combine the milk, cream, salt and vanilla beans in a medium pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, then take the pot off the heat and set aside to infuse for at least 15 minutes.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a medium bowl, then strain the milk mixture into the eggs and stir well.

Mix the sultanas and the citrus peel together, then spread them evenly over the bottom of a 4.5 litre baking dish.

Butter each slice of brioche or challah on one side, then cut each one at an angle into two triangles each. Arrange the slices, overlapping on top of the citrus and peel. Pour the custard mixture evenly over the bread, then bake the pudding, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Just before the pudding has finished baking, put the marmalade into a small saucepan and heat it over a low heat, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pudding from the oven and spread the heated marmalade over the top. Bake for 10 minutes more.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream if you like.

Taken from the British Table, Colman Andrews



Past Letters