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


About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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