The Christmas Frenzy……

T

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…….

HOT TIPS
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.
www.nash19.com. 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 ardmorepottery@eircom.net

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 eastcorkxmasmarket@gmail.com

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

Stock
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)

Garnish
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.

Crumbs
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.
Gratins.
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

Garnish
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

Brine
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.

Harissa

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
salt

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.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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