ArchiveDecember 2017

Christmas Memories

  1. A Plate of Irish Charcuterie and Cured Meats
  2. Gravadlax with Cucumber Ribbon Salad and Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise
  3. Pumpkin Soup with Coriander Salsa
  4. This is our new favourite an excellent way to use up any stray pumpkin leftover from Halloween. This comes to us from the Autumn Certificate Course students who created this version to serve at the Slow Food Pop-up dinner in aid of the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project which teaches kids in nine local schools to grow and cook their own food. This is gluten free, Serves 6   700g (1 1/2lbs) pumpkin or butternut squash (see below) 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1/2 red chilli, chopped (depending how spicy it is) 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 1 heaped teaspoon of grated ginger 4 kaffir lime leaves (small ones), roughly chopped 1 stalk lemongrass, peeled and finely chopped 1 teaspoon chana masala 1 scant teaspoon tamarind paste (soak it in hot water and press through the sieve) 2 tablespoons fish sauce (Nam Pla) 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice 400ml (14fl oz) homemade chicken stock, a little more if too thick 350ml (12fl oz) coconut milk (we use Thai Gold) salt to taste   Coriander Salsa 25g (1oz) fresh coriander 3 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds 75 ml (3fl oz) olive oil salt to taste   To Serve 2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds, crushed   Preheat the oven to 180/350/Gas Mark 4.   First roast the pumpkin or butternut squash. Remove the outer skin and seeds from the pumpkin and cut it into slices 2 1/2cm (1 inch) thick. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes depending on the size, turn occasionally during cooking. The pumpkin is cooked when the tip of a knife inserts easily into the thickest part of the wedge.   Fry the chopped chilli, garlic, ginger and lime leaves for a few minutes.  Add the roasted pumpkin and chana masala to the spices and continue to cook stirring occasionally over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes.  Add the tamarind paste, lime juice, fish sauce and the chicken stock. Bring to the boil.  Add the coconut milk, stir and reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for further ten minutes.  Blitz in a liquidiser and sieve to make the soup really smooth. Taste and add salt if needed.   Best to prepare in advance in order for all the flavours to blend.  To make the coriander salsa: Roast the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray in the preheated oven for 5-8 minutes until golden at the edges. Allow to cool. Put all the salsa ingredients into a food processor. Purée until smooth. The salsa should have a loose-ish texture. Taste and correct the seasoning.   To Serve: Serve the hot soup with a blob of crème fraîche and a drizzle of coriander salsa, sprinkle a few crushed roasted pumpkin seeds over the top of each bowl.     Succulent Glazed Loin or Streaky Bacon
  5. Ballymaloe Spiced Beef
  6. Old-fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Traditional Bread Sauce
  7. Turkey Stock
  8. Best Brussels Sprouts Ever
  9. Rory’s Scrambled Eggs with Lobster and Chives
  10. Celeriac Fritters with Pears, Walnuts, Radicchio and Caper Mayonnaise
  11. Tart of Macroom Buffalo Ricotta with Roasted Red Onions,
  12. Mushrooms, Thyme and Marjoram

Memories of my childhood Christmas come flooding back at this time of year. How on earth did my beautiful mother manage to create such a wonderful Christmas for all of us, Rory and I have five brothers and two sisters. The excitement built from mid-November onwards when Mummy would start to plot and plan. The Christmas cakes and puddings were made, this took two whole afternoons – she’d specially wait until we came home from the village school so we could participate, washing and chopping cherries, deseeding moscatel raisins, chopping and peeling – everything had to be done from scratch then, and of course it was an advantage to have a few more hands around to help cream the butter and line the cake tin and stir the plum pudding. That was super exciting because we each had to make a wish, eyes tightly shut, before the fruity mixture flecked with suet  was packed into white delph bowls and covered with grease proof paper, “don’t forget to overlap it in the centre to allow the pudding to expand”. Little fingers held the knot to secure the twine handle tightly. Best of all the tradition in our house was to eat the first plum pudding on the night it was made. The Christmas season had begun and without doubt my mother’s plum pudding recipe (inherited from my grandmother and great-grandmother) is the best recipe any of us have ever tasted and I’m not just being nostalgic. If you don’t believe me, try it this year and I’ll be expecting a flood of cards and emails after Christmas.


So Christmas is all about tradition, few want surprises on Christmas day. Everyone, particularly those who are coming home for the festive season, look forward to the same delicious Christmas dinner, a fine roast turkey or goose with all the trimmings, lots of gravy, roasties, Brussels sprouts and in our house creamed celery (sounds old-fashioned, there’s a ring of the Grand Hotel about it) but so good with the roast turkey particularly and it’s cooked several days ahead. Keep covered in the fridge or pop it into the freezer, and just reheat. Christmas is definitely a ton of work particularly for those who don’t normally spend much time in the kitchen.

So let’s make a plan so it’s easier and less stressful. Lists and lots of them are the way to start, allocate some fun roles to as many family and friends as you can cajole or shame into helping. Start with a two week planner; fill in the basics and your social engagements.

We often overestimate the amount of food we need. Next a list of jobs, dishes, a shopping list, what can be done ahead. Have the turkey, goose or ham been ordered? The best organic and free-range turkeys get snapped up early so hurry, hurry…

If there’s just two or four people, ask yourself do you really need a turkey, how about a beautiful organic chicken or a fat free range duck. Decide if you would like a rich Christmas cake – bake it right away, wrap it well and store it in a cool dry cupboard, wonderful for cutting into fingers to share when friends or neighbours drop by with a glass of port or a cup of tea.


Maybe you’d prefer a lighter cake, I love it baked in a low sided rectangular tin and cut into small squares and there’s also a white Christmas cake iced with meringue frosting in my Darina Allen’s Christmas book.  One way or another it’s time to get cracking if you want to have the satisfaction of ticking off some of the “to do” items on your list.

Most of the accompaniments and sauces both sweet and savoury can be made weeks ahead, make more than you need as gifts for  your friends, cranberry sauce, brandy butter and lots of chutneys and relishes.


Rory has shared several recipes from his new lovely book, “Cook Well, Eat Well”, which has just won the “Eurospar Cookbook of the Year Award” at the recent Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.


A Plate of Irish Charcuterie and Cured Meats


One of my favourite easy entertaining tricks is to serve a selection of Irish artisan charcuterie from inspired producers like Fingal Ferguson from Schull, West Cork and James McGeough from Oughterard, Co. Galway, Jack McCarthy from Kanturk, Co Cork, Patrick Mulcahy from Ballinwillin, Mitchelstown, Co Cork,  and Eoin Bird from The Wodded Pig in Tara, Co Meath.

The quality is so wonderful that I’m always bursting with pride as I serve it.


A selection of cured meats:

Air dried smoked Connemara lamb

Smoked venison

Gubbeen Prosciutto and Chorizo

Woodside Farm Salami and Chorizo

Dunmanus Castle beef salami

Pepper and Caraway salami

Three Castle Pastrami

West Cork Kassler

Rillettes, brawn


A selection of:

Crusty country breads, sour dough, yeast and Irish soda bread.

Tiny gherkins or cornichons

Fresh radishes, just trimmed but with some green leaf attached

A good green salad of garden lettuce and salad leaves


Arrange the meats and potted meat on a large platter, open a good bottle of red and tuck in!


Gravadlax with Cucumber Ribbon Salad and Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

A delicious light starter and also gluten free.

Serves 8


225-350g (8-12oz) Gravadlax


For the pickled cucumber strips,

1 cucumber

2 teaspoons salt

110g (4oz) sugar

75ml (3fl oz) cider vinegar


Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range

2 tablespoons French mustard

1 tablespoon white sugar

5fl oz (150ml) ground nut or sunflower oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon  dill, finely chopped

salt and white pepper


To serve

sprigs of dill,

freshly cracked black pepper




Two or three days before, prepare the gravlax.

On the day of serving: Make the cucumber pickle. Cut the cucumber in half, then cut into strips using a potato peeler. Put the cucumber into a deep bowl, add the sugar, salt and cider vinegar. Toss gently, leave to macerate for at least 30 minutes.


To make the Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise: Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.


To assemble: Unwrap the gravadlax, cut down to the skin in thin slices. Arrange the drained cucumber strips and the gravadlax in a haphazard way on each serving plate. Drizzle with Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise. Garnish with tiny sprigs of dill and chive or wild garlic flowers.


Finally add a little freshly cracked black pepper over each serving. Serve with Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread.



Pumpkin Soup with Coriander Salsa

This is our new favourite an excellent way to use up any stray pumpkin leftover from Halloween. This comes to us from the Autumn Certificate Course students who created this version to serve at the Slow Food Pop-up dinner in aid of the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project which teaches kids in nine local schools to grow and cook their own food. This is gluten free,
Serves 6


700g (1 1/2lbs) pumpkin or butternut squash (see below)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 red chilli, chopped (depending how spicy it is)

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 heaped teaspoon of grated ginger

4 kaffir lime leaves (small ones), roughly chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon chana masala

1 scant teaspoon tamarind paste (soak it in hot water and press through the sieve)

2 tablespoons fish sauce (Nam Pla)

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
400ml (14fl oz) homemade chicken stock, a little more if too thick
350ml (12fl oz) coconut milk (we use Thai Gold)
salt to taste


Coriander Salsa
25g (1oz) fresh coriander
3 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds
75 ml (3fl oz) olive oil
salt to taste


To Serve
2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds, crushed


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


First roast the pumpkin or butternut squash.

Remove the outer skin and seeds from the pumpkin and cut it into slices 2 1/2cm (1 inch) thick. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes depending on the size, turn occasionally during cooking. The pumpkin is cooked when the tip of a knife inserts easily into the thickest part of the wedge.


Fry the chopped chilli, garlic, ginger and lime leaves for a few minutes. 
Add the roasted pumpkin and chana masala to the spices and continue to cook stirring occasionally over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. 
Add the tamarind paste, lime juice, fish sauce and the chicken stock. Bring to the boil.  Add the coconut milk, stir and reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for further ten minutes.  Blitz in a liquidiser and sieve to make the soup really smooth.
Taste and add salt if needed.


Best to prepare in advance in order for all the flavours to blend. 

To make the coriander salsa:

Roast the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray in the preheated oven for 5-8 minutes until golden at the edges. Allow to cool.

Put all the salsa ingredients into a food processor. Purée until smooth. The salsa should have a loose-ish texture. Taste and correct the seasoning.


To Serve:

Serve the hot soup with a blob of crème fraîche and a drizzle of coriander salsa, sprinkle a few crushed roasted pumpkin seeds over the top of each bowl.



Succulent Glazed Loin or Streaky Bacon

A ham is traditional at Christmas but I prefer a piece of succulent streaky bacon or loin, less expensive, just as delicious and so easy to carve.


Serves 12-15


1.8-2.25kg (4-5lbs) streaky or loin of bacon, either smoked or unsmoked

400g (14oz) 1 small tin of pineapple -use 3-4 tablespoons approx. of the juice

350g (12oz) brown Demerara sugar

whole cloves 20-30 approx.


Cover the bacon in cold water and bring slowly to the boil, if the bacon is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water, in this case it is preferable to discard this water. It may be necessary to change the water several times depending on how salty the bacon is, finally cover with hot water and simmer until almost cooked, allow 25-30 minutes approx. to the lb.  Remove the rind, cut the fat into a diamond pattern, and stud with cloves.  Blend brown sugar to a thick paste with a little pineapple juice, 3-4 tablespoons approx., be careful not to make it too liquid.  Spread this over the bacon.  Bake in a fully preheated hot oven 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9 for 20-30 minutes approx. or until the top has caramelized.


Ballymaloe Spiced Beef

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in these parts without spiced beef. Although Spiced Beef is traditionally associated with Christmas it’s available all year round in the English Market.   It may be served hot or cold and is a marvellous stand-by, because if it is properly spiced and cooked it will keep for 3-4 weeks in a fridge.  Butchers have their own secret recipe but this superb recipe has been passed down in the Allen family of generations,


Serves 12-16


1.35kg-1.8kg (3-4lb ) lean flap of beef or silverside


Ballymaloe spice for beef

This delicious recipe for Spiced Beef has been handed down in Myrtle Allen’s family and is the best I know.  It includes saltpetre, nowadays regarded as a health hazard, so perhaps you should not live exclusively on it!  Certainly people have lived on occasional meals of meats preserved in this way, for generations. This recipe is also gluten free.

The recipe below makes enough spice to cure 5 flanks of beef, each 1.8kg (4lbs) approx. in size and can also be used to spice beef tongues.


225g (8oz) demerara sugar

350g (12oz) salt

15g (½oz) saltpetre (available from chemists)

75g (3oz) whole black pepper

75g (3oz) whole allspice (pimento, Jamaican pepper)

75g (3oz) whole juniper berries


Grind all the ingredients (preferably in a food processor) until fairly fine.  Store in a screw-top jar; it will keep for months, so make the full quantity even if it is more than you need at a particular time.


To prepare the beef:  If you are using flank of beef, remove the bones and trim away any unnecessary fat.  Rub the spice well over the beef and into every crevice.   Put into an earthenware dish and leave in a fridge or cold larder for 3-7 days, turning occasionally.   (This is a dry spice, but after a day or two some liquid will come out of the meat.).  The longer the meat is left in the spice, the longer it will last and the more spicy the flavour.

Just before cooking, roll and tie the joint neatly with cotton string into a compact shape, cover with cold water and simmer for 2-3 hours or until soft and cooked.  If it is not to be eaten hot, press by putting it on a flat tin or into an appropriate sized bread tin; cover it with a board and weight and leave for 12 hours.


Spiced Beef will keep for 3-4 weeks in a fridge.


To Serve

Cut it into thin slices and serve with some freshly-made salads and home-made chutneys, or in sandwiches.


Other good things to serve with Spiced Beef  are horseradish Sauce and Cucumber Pickle or warm potato, hard-boiled eggs and scallion salad or avocado, rocket leaves, tomato and chilli jam.


Old-fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Traditional 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 it’s 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) 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 e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper

Turkey Stock

neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey (save the liver for a pâte)

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

Bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns


For self-basting the turkey

225g (8ozs/2 sticks) butter

large square of muslin (optional)


Cranberry Sauce (see recipe)

Bread Sauce (see recipe)


To brine the turkey

6 litres (10½ pints) water

600g (1¼ lb) salt



large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress


Brine the turkey the night before, not essential but it 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.


The next day, 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 2¾ -if brined) to 3¼ 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.



To test the turkey is done 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. Easier said than done when oven space is at a premium, so cover with a large sheet of parchment, (I’m not keen on tin foil) and then wrap the whole thing snugly with a warm bath towel. It will keep hot 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.


Present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crisp roasties. Garnish 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 and lots of gravy.



Traditional 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!  It’s good with roast chicken and guinea fowl as well as turkey. Use gluten free bread for a gluten free version – you may need more breadcrumbs.


Serves 6-8


600ml (1 pint) whole milk

110g (4½ oz) soft white breadcrumbs

2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 or more cloves

35 – 50g (1½  – 2oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

75-110ml (2-3fl oz) thick cream

2 good pinches of ground cloves or quatre epices (a French spice, equal amounts of ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.)


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.


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! This recipe is also gluten free.

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 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.



















Rory’s Scrambled Eggs with Lobster and Chives


Cooked lobster is now so much easier to find – so this treat can be made without having to cook the lobster yourself.


Serves 4 as a starter or 30 as a canapé


225g cooked lobster, chopped into 2cm pieces

4 tablespoons cream

8 free-range eggs

sea salt and freshly ground

black pepper

25g butter

grilled sourdough bread


to serve

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons finely chopped

fresh chives

1 tablespoon chive flowers (optional)


This is a delicious combination that can be served as a starter or canapé on grilled bread or melba toast. Shrimp or crayfish could replace the lobster in the recipe. The addition of cream to the cooked eggs prevents the mixture from solidifying, making it an ideal dish to prepare in advance. I hold the cooked mixture at room temperature for a couple of hours and serve it on hot grilled or toasted bread.

The optional chive flowers make a pretty and delicious garnish, but they could be replaced another time with garlic, kale or fennel flowers.


Place the lobster and cream in a small saucepan and gently heat to a bare simmer, then remove from the heat.


Beat the eggs with a good pinch of salt and pepper.


Melt the butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the beaten eggs and cook over a gentle heat, stirring all the time with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon. When the eggs are just beginning to scramble, add the lobster and cream and keep cooking for a few more minutes, until the eggs are a creamy consistency. Remove from the heat and transfer from the saucepan to a bowl. The eggs will not set hard like cold scrambled eggs, but will retain their lovely softness. The eggs are best served barely warm but are also good at room temperature.


When ready to serve, spread the scrambled eggs over the hot grilled bread. Grate over the lemon zest and finish with a sprinkling of chives and chive flowers (if using).

Serve immediately.


From Rory O’Connells “Cook Well, Eat Well” published by Gill Books, photographs by Joanne Murphy




Celeriac Fritters with Pears, Walnuts, Radicchio and Caper Mayonnaise


sunflower oil, for deep frying

120g (4¼ oz) celeriac (weight after peeling), peeled and cut into fine julienne, like long matchsticks

12 watercress sprigs

12 radicchio leaves

1 ripe pear, cut in quarters lengthways, cored and thinly sliced

16 walnut halves

4 generous teaspoons homemade mayonnaise 28 capers


140g (4¾ oz)plain flour

pinch of salt

1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

100ml (3½fl oz) water

1 large egg white, beaten until quite stiff


6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon honey

sea salt and freshly ground

black pepper

Celeriac, or root celery, as it is sometimes called, is a terrific vegetable. It make a marvellous soup, is great roasted or as a purée and is the essential ingredient in the classic remoulade, in which case it is eaten raw. The flavour of celeriac is milder and sweeter than the green celery we are more familiar with. These crisp fritters are served here as a main course but would also be very good as a starter, in which case the recipe would serve eight people. I use peppery watercress sprigs and radicchio leaves here, but you could substitute a mixture of leaves.


Makes 4


Make the batter for frying the fritters first. Place the flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and whisk in enough water to form a smooth batter the consistency of thick cream. Chill for 30 minutes, then fold in the stiffly beaten egg white.


Whisk all the dressing ingredients together. Taste and correct the seasoning.


When ready to cook the fritters, heat 10cm of sunflower oil in a heavy-bottomed cast iron or stainless steel saucepan until it reaches 180°C, or if you have a deep fat fryer, that will work perfectly.


Mix the celeriac through the batter. Gently drop four large spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil and cook until crisp and golden brown on both sides, which should take about 10 minutes in total. Remove from the oil, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven. They will remain crisp for 20 minutes or so.


To serve, place the salad leaves, sliced pear and walnuts in a large bowl and dress with the well-mixed dressing. Divide between four plates and place a fritter on top of each salad. Drop 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise on top of the fritters and scatter on the capers. Add a few grains of sea salt and serve immediately.

From Rory O’Connells “Cook Well, Eat Well” published by Gill Books, photographs by Joanne Murphy


Tart of Macroom Buffalo Ricotta with Roasted Red Onions,

Mushrooms, Thyme and Marjoram

250g puff pastry

2 medium red onions, peeled and each onion cut into 8 even-sized wedges

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large sprigs of fresh thyme

sea salt and freshly ground black


100g buffalo or sheep’s milk ricotta

25g Parmesan, grated

½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 large flat mushroom

2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves

To serve

salad of mixed leaves

I am delighted to be able to use Irish ricotta that comes from

Macroom in County Cork, where the buffalos that produce the milk for the cheese are happily grazing on Irish grass. I find these sort of sustainable developments in Irish food production quite thrilling and I congratulate all involved who had the vision and energy to run with an idea that may have sounded hare-brained to many.


The tart can be served as a starter or as a main course and I always serve a salad of mixed leaves with a simple olive oil dressing to accompany it. The quality of the puff pastry you are using is really important for a fresh-tasting result that isn’t greasy. I always make my own puff pastry and freeze a few pieces so that I have it to hand when I need it. If you are buying puff pastry, make sure it is made with butter. The technique used here for creating a tart using puff pastry is one that can be repeated over and over again with other vegetables and fruit.


The mushroom in the recipe is one of those big flat mature mushrooms that has dark brown gills rather than the smaller ones with pink gills. The more deeply flavoured mushroom that I favour here stands up well to the robust flavour of the roasted onions and pairs well with the delicate ricotta. Serves 4


Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper.


Roll the pastry out and cut into a neat 22cm circle, saving the pastry trimmings for another day. Place on the lined baking sheet. To achieve a rim on the cooked tart, cut another circle 1cm in from the edge of the pastry. Your knife should pierce the pastry about 1mm deep and should be an obvious cut, not just a mark. This 1cm rim will be the risen edge of the cooked tart and will hold the vegetables in place.


Now pierce the pastry inside the 1cm rim all over with a normal table fork, making sure you feel the tines of the fork hitting the baking sheet. Do no pierce outside of the 1cm ring with your fork. The somewhat alarming holes you have created will close and reseal when it cooks. Chill the pastry until you are ready to assemble the tart.


Toss the onions in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, add the thyme sprigs and season with salt and pepper. Tip into a roasting tray and cook in the oven for 30 minutes, until tender. Cool completely.


Mix the ricotta with the Parmesan, thyme leaves and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.


To assemble the tart, spread the ricotta mixture over the base, making sure not to go onto the pastry rim. Arrange the roasted onions on top. Cut the mushroom into slices 1cm thick and place cap side down, stalk side up, in a circle on top of the onions. Season the mushroom slices. If the thyme sprigs still look reasonable respectable, I pop these on top as well as I love their roasted appearance.


Cook in the oven for 30 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and cooked through. Add a final few grains of sea salt and the marjoram leaves and serve as soon as possible.

Christmas Presents

How do we keep the magic of Christmas alive at a time in history when we are all being mercilessly manipulated by commercial interests. Resentment is mounting, particularly among Mná na h’Éireann, the mothers, grandmothers, aunties who are feeling intense pressure to deliver on the unrealistic expectations built up by constant advertising and clever marketing. Several people recently told me that they have to resist the urge to run and hide “until it’s all over” and what they are really looking forward to most is that delicious moment after Christmas when they can punch the air and say, Hooray- thank goodness that’s over for another year – how sad is that – but hardly surprising that we feel completely frazzled instead of festive.

Some feel like screaming when they hear, yet again, the words “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday”. How many more shopping days to Christmas …such pressure, we can’t stop the clock or halt the relentless advertising.

We all know shopping doesn’t do it….so let’s just snuggle up together, make some lists and start to cook some yummy things that we can share with family and friends. It’s really is a good feeling to know that much of the preparation is done and tucked neatly into the freezer or preserved in bottles and jars, ready for the off.  I love to have lots of soup in the freezer to defrost at a moment’s notice or to give as pressies. So I’ve chosen a variety of recipes that can be used as gifts or to enhance you and your family’s Christmas.









Angels Hair (Carrot Jam)

This unusual jam is super delicious with ham or roast pork.

600g (1 1/4lbs) carrots

500g (18oz/2 1/4 cups) caster sugar

zest of 2 large lemon, cut into strips

freshly squeezed juice of 2 large lemon

6 cardamom pods, split


Trim and scrape the carrots.  Grate on a medium sized grater.  Put into a pan with the sugar, lemon zest and juice and the cardamom pods.  Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then boil hard until the mixture is very thick.

Place into a warmed, sterilised jar and seal tightly.



Pear or Nashi Chutney with Lemon Verbena

Makes 4 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars


2 large onions, chopped

1 organic lemon, quartered and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon fennel seed

175g (6oz) sugar

2 cloves garlic, chopped

200ml (7fl oz) white wine vinegar

6 Conference or Nashi pears (700g/1 1/2lb) peeled and diced into 5mm (1/4 inch)

60g (2 1/2oz) sultanas

1 tablespoon lemon verbena


Put the onions into a stainless steel saucepan, add the lemon, fennel seed, sugar, garlic and white wine vinegar.

Peel, core and chop pears and add to the saucepan with the sultanas.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently stirring occasionally for 25 minutes approximately until reduced by more than half its original volume.  Add the lemon verbena and continue to cook for a further 4-5 minutes.

Pour into sterilized jars and cover.

Allow to mellow for 2 weeks before serving.  Keeps for 6 months or more.


Marie and Gustav Mandelmann’s Green Tomato Marmalade with Chilli


You may not have green tomatoes at this time of year but this recipe transforms the under-ripe Winter tomatoes into something totally delicious.   We always have masses of green tomatoes at the end of the season when it becomes colder in the Autumn and the tomatoes ripen more slowly. Really good with cold meats and pâté.



1 kg (2¼ lbs) green tomatoes

3 organic lemons

1 chilli

500 g (18 oz) sugar


Blend the tomatoes roughly, slice the lemons thinly and finely chop the chilli. Mix all the ingredients and stir in the sugar. Leave overnight. The next day bring it to the boil until it is the perfect consistency, approximately 1 hour. Put into clean sterilise jars.

Red Pepper and Tomato Chutney

Good with spiced beef, cold meats and coarse pâtes and terrines.


Makes 3 – 5 jars depending on size


8oz (225g) onion, finely chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

1lb (450g) very ripe red peppers, seeded and chopped into 1/4 inch (5mm) dice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1lb (450g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

4oz (110g) raisins

1 clove garlic, chopped

7oz (200g) white sugar

5fl oz (150ml) white wine vinegar


Sweat the onions in the olive oil in a tall narrow stainless steel saucepan, add the chopped peppers, salt and spices. After 10 minutes, add the tomatoes, raisins, chopped garlic, sugar and vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for about 1 1/3 hours or until it looks thickish. Pour into small sterilized glass jars and store in a cool dry place.

Christmas Mustard

Pot into tiny pots and label creatively

Makes about 175ml (6fl oz)


1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds

1 dessert brown mustard seeds (optional)

175ml (6fl oz) boiling water

1-2 teaspoons freshly chopped herbs: dill, tarragon, chives, parsley, chervil or a combination

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar


Grind the mustard seeds in a spice grinder or a food processor until fine.  Put into a small heavy bottomed saucepan with the boiling water, stir well over a low heat and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes.  It will thicken gradually.

Remove to a bowl, add the herb, seasoning and vinegar to taste.  Store in glass jars with screw tops.  Allow to mature for a few days before using.


Cheese Sablées with Sesame Seeds

A brilliant recipe for using up left over bits of cheese, add a little blue cheese if available.

Any bits of left over cheese eg. Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyére, Coolea, Cashel Blue … a little soft cheese may also be added but you will need some hard cheese to balance the flavour.


Weigh cheese then use equal amounts of butter and plain white flour.

Grate the cheese – rinds and all. Dice the butter.  Cream the butter and stir in the flour and grated cheese, form into a roll like a long sausage, about 4cm (1 1/2 inches) thick.

Roll in sesame seeds to coat the exterior.

Alternatively whizz in a food processor until it forms a dough, shape using a little flour if necessary. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 -2 hours until solid.

Slice into rounds – about 7mm (1/3 inch) thick.  Arrange on a baking tray, cook in a preheated oven 250ºC/475ºF/regulo 9 for approximately 5 minutes until golden brown.

Leave to cool for a couple of seconds then transfer to a wire rack.   Best eaten warm on the day they are made as they soften quite quickly.


Charlotte’s Swedish Seed Crackers

Delicious, just with butter, cheese or smoked salmon and perfect for a present I pop some into cellophane wrap and tie them with a tartan ribbon and a sprig of holly, alternatively put them in an airtight tin and include it in the present.


Makes 48 approx.

200g (7oz) sunflower seeds

130g (4 1/2oz) pumpkin seeds

70g (2 3/4oz) flax seeds

70g (2 3/4oz) sesame seeds

2 tablespoons psyllium husk

2 tablespoons almond flour

1 teaspoon salt

450ml (15fl oz) water


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

Line the two baking trays with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together (should be the consistency of watery porridge).

Divide in half and spread as thinly as possible on parchment paper.

Sprinkle with sea salt and poppy seeds on top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 70 minutes approximately until dry.

Store in pieces in an air-tight tin.  Keep dry, pop into a hot oven for a few minutes before serving to crisp them up.

Delicious, just with butter, cheese or smoked salmon.


Lily O’Connell’s Best Ever Plum Pudding with Mrs. Hanrahan’s Sauce


It has always been the tradition in our house to eat the first plum pudding on the evening it is made.   The grandchildren can hardly contain themselves with excitement – somehow that plum pudding seems the most delicious, it’s our first taste of Christmas.   The plum pudding can be made from about mid-November onwards. Everyone in the family helps to stir so we can all make a wish.


It’s fun to put silver plum pudding charms in the pudding destined to be eaten on Christmas Day.  Wrap them individually in silicone paper so they are bulky and clearly visible.


This recipe makes 2 large or 3 medium puddings.  The large size will serve 10-12 people, the medium 6-8 but I also like to make teeny weeny ones.


12oz (350g) raisins

12oz (350g) sultanas

12oz (350g) currants

10oz (300g) soft brown sugar

12oz (350g) white breadcrumbs (non GM)

12oz (350g) finely-chopped beef suet

4oz (110g) diced candied peel (preferably home-made)

2 Bramley cooking apples, coarsely grated

4oz (110g/) chopped almonds

rind of 1 lemon

3 pounded cloves (1/2 teaspoon)

a pinch of salt

6 eggs

2 1/2 fl oz (62ml) Jamaica Rum


Mix all the ingredients together very thoroughly and leave overnight; don’t forget, everyone in the family must stir and make a wish!  Next day stir again for good measure.  Fill into pudding bowls; cover with a double thickness of greaseproof paper which has been pleated in the centre, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine, making a twine handle also for ease of lifting.


Steam in a covered saucepan of boiling water for 6 hours.  The water should come half way up the side of the bowl.  Check every hour or so and top up with boiling water if necessary.  After 5 hours, 3 hours, 2 hours depending on the size, remove the pudding.   Allow to get cold and re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper.  Store in a cool dry place until required.


On Christmas Day or whenever you wish to serve the plum pudding, steam for a further 2 hours.  Turn the plum pudding out of the bowl onto a very hot serving plate, pour over some whiskey or brandy and ignite.  Serve immediately on very hot plates with

Brandy Butter.


You might like to decorate the plum pudding with a sprig of holly; but take care not to set the holly on fire – as well as the pudding! Love to use sparklers too.



Mrs. Hanrahan’s Sauce

This recipe is so delicious that people ask to have more Plum Pudding just so that they can have an excuse to eat lots of sauce.  This makes a large quantity but the base will keep for several weeks in the fridge, so you can use a little at a time, adding whipped cream to taste.


110g (4oz) butter

200g  (7oz) Barbados sugar * (moist, soft, dark-brown sugar)

1 organic free-range egg

62ml (2½fl oz) medium sherry

62ml (2½fl oz) port

1.3-1.4litres (2 ¼  -2½pints) lightly whipped cream

Melt the butter, stir in the sugar and allow to cool slightly.  Whisk the egg and add to the butter and sugar with the sherry and port.  Refrigerate.

When needed, add the lightly whipped cream to taste.

This sauce is also very good with mince pies and other tarts.






Another irresistible present that lasts for months.


Makes 2 cakes


sunflower oil, for greasing

100g (3 1/2oz) blanched almonds – toasted

100g (3 1/2oz) blanched hazelnuts – toasted

100g (3 1/2oz) unsalted shelled pistachios

50g (2oz) whole sour cherries

50g (2oz) Lexia raisins

50g (2oz) Medjool dates, roughly chopped

50g (2oz) figs, roughly chopped

50g (2oz) dried apricots, roughly chopped

50g (2oz) homemade candied peel, chopped (see recipe)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch ground cloves

pinch freshly grated nutmeg

100g (3 1/2oz/scant 1 cup) plain flour

pinch of salt

200g (7oz) clear honey

200g (7oz) granulated sugar

icing sugar, to serve


2 x 18cm (7 inch) round tins


Line the base of each tin with rice or parchment paper.


Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.


Mix the toasted almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios in a large bowl. Add the chopped dried fruit and mix well. In another small bowl, mix together the spices, flour and salt. Add to the dried fruit and nuts and mix until thoroughly combined.

Combine the honey and sugar in a medium-sized pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 115°C/240°F on a sugar thermometer.


Remove from the heat, pour into the fruit and nut mixture and mix well. Spoon into the prepared tin and spread level.


Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 45–50 minutes, until firm. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin. Run a palette knife around the edge of the tin and carefully ease out the panforte. Dust with icing sugar to serve.


*Stored in an airtight container, panforte keeps for weeks even months but gradually gets harder!.



Mead is a honey wine and it’s super easy to make. Use raw local fresh honey.

The process of yeasts fermenting sugars into alcohol is a natural phenomenon.  It happens easily with overripe fruits, or in the case of mead, when honey is diluted in water. Use pure water

Makes  1.25 litres (2 pints)

1 part raw honey

4 parts water

Mix the honey with the water in a jar.  Stir vigorously creating a vortex in the middle.


Cover the jar with a piece of muslin or a cotton handkerchief to keep out flies and dust.  Stir vigorously several times a day.  After a few days of frequent stirring, you will notice that the honey water has bubbles on the surface.  Keep stirring, on and off,  for a few more days until the bubbles increase.  After a week or 10 days the bubbling begins to subside.  The mead is ready to drink at this stage but it will better at 3 weeks.


The quality of water is very important here so avoid chlorinated tap water.  Tap water can be de-chlorinated by simply allowing it to sit uncovered in a wide rimmed bowl overnight.










Christmas Biscuits

This dough can be used for all kinds of shapes, round, square, rectangles, stars, hearts, teddy bears, animals, birds……


Makes 20-30


175g (6oz) flour

75g (3oz) butter

50g (2oz) caster sugar

1/2 – 1 egg, free-range and organic


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


Sieve the flour into a bowl.  Rub in the butter, add the caster sugar and mix well.  Beat the egg.  Mix the dry ingredients to a stiff dough with the beaten egg.

Turn out on to a floured board and roll out to a scant 5mm (1/4 inch) thickness.  Cut the biscuits with the cutter of your choice.  Transfer to a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes depending on thickness.  Cool on a wire rack.

When cold, decorate as desired. Alternatively ice them together with butter cream or jam, or a simple dusting of icing sugar.


As we edge ever closer to Christmas, my desk is piled high with new cookbooks published just in time for the festive season. They are penned by a mixture of aspiring chefs and seasoned cookbook writers, packed with gorgeous photos and immensely cravable dishes, so I’ll devote this column to my 10 of my favourites and a very difficult choice that was…


David Tanis’s “Market Cooking. Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient” published by Artisan, is definitely one of my new ‘go to’ books; I find David’s recipes irresistible and simply have to buy every new cookbook he produces. David, who was head chef at Alice Water’s Chez Panisse in Berkley for 25 years is a gifted cook and tantalizingly talented tutor.  He cooks the sort of food that I really love to eat, honest creative and deeply flavourful.

In Market Cooking, David is encouraging those of us who do a weekly supermarket shop to change our ways. Do as he does, and discover the magic of shopping every day at a Farmers Market or a local shop, without fixed ideas, chose the freshest, most beautiful produce and cook it simply- sound familiar…..?

David lives in downtown Manhattan, not far from the Union Square Market in Greenwich Village. I’ve chosen his version of the Roman classic,  Cacio e Pepe, to share with you, it’s one of my favourite pasta dishes of all time.


Who doesn’t love Nigel Slater and his homey comfort food. “The Christmas Chronicles” published by Fourth Estate also gives us a glimpse, in fact more than a glimpse of Nigel’s childlike love of Christmas, frost and tinsel, baubles and plum pudding……love this quince and cardamom mincemeat.


Rick Stein is back on the road again. Many of you will be watching his latest TV series on BBC2, “Road to Mexico” published by BBC Books – get the book too….

Rick has got the uncanny knack of creating dishes that best illustrate a taste of that place, some classics, some with appealing twists on the originals. So many good things,  love the Crab Tacos with Chili, Lime and Avocado.

Georgia, close to Russia, is high on my “must see” list of countries so I keep a keen eye on Olia Hercules. Her new book “Kaukasis” is enchanting, a journey through Georgia, Azerbaijan and beyond. She’s a born story teller and her recipes are deeply tempting. So difficult to choose ….try this comforting Khingal, one of Olia’s favourites.


“Made at Home – The Food I Cook for the People I Love”- what an irresistible title. Giorgio Locatelli, another of my favourite chefs also feels strongly that home cooking is by far the most important type of food. His latest book is packed with lots of Italian influenced gems that you’ll long to cook – Giorgio makes it all sound so effortless but as ever, the magic of simple food is in the quality of the ingredients.


Nigella’s new book, “At My Table”, a celebration of cooking at home, published by Chatto and Windus is another gem, written in beautiful prose by someone who truly loves to cook and has an extraordinary way with words. You’ll love the Beef and Aubergine Fatteh recipe, so fun to share.

Everything Helen James touches is chic, stylish and comforting. She epitomizes sophisticated Irish hygge. Look for her new book “A Sense of Home: Eat – Make – Sleep – Live”….. all kinds of brilliant tips for natural cleaning products, household management tips and inspiration for your own home as well as some recipes you’ll definitely want to try.


Award winning food write and broadcaster Tim Hayward’s “The Modern Kitchen: Objects that Shape the Way We Cook, Eat and Live” is definitely for the food geek in your life. In his latest book Tim features 70 carefully chosen kitchen implements and explores the history, beauty, aesthetics and functionality of each piece. A fresh approach, intriguing entertaining and beautifully written. Published by Quadrille.


“The Gannets Gastronomic Miscellany” by Killian Fox, and published by Mitchell Beazley is a collection of fascinating, funny and unexpected facts about food and drink. Going beyond the usual food fixations, the book is presented in a fresh, visually inventive style that will appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in food.


Few outside Caís, the Irish Farmhouse cheese makers association and the cheese industry will know the name Bronwen Percival but cheese-lovers and microbiologists make a note….. Bronwen’s book “Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese”, co-authored with Francis Percival is a very important work for all of us who know the value of good dairy and love it. Bronwen is a founder of Microbial and head cheese buyer at Neal’s Yard Dairy in London – a present for the cheese lover in your life.


Giorgio Locatelli’s Carta di muscia with bottarga and lemon

This is one of the shortest recipes in Giorgio’s latest book and one of the most delicious. Carta Musica is crisp, paper thin, Sardinian bread and I always have a couple of packets in the cupboard to make snacks or just nibble. It is particularly sublime paired with bottarga (dried mullet roe). It’s a totally delicious combination.

Serves 6 as a starter

12 carta di musica
120g (4 ¼ oz) bottarga
1 lemon, halved

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Put the sheets of carta di musica one on top of each other on a baking tray and put them into the oven for about 1 minute, until they turn golden in patches.

Remove from the oven and spread out the breads on a large board.

Grate the bottarga over the top and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a little olive oil and black pepper.

From Giorgio Locatelli’s “Made at Home – The Food I Cook for the People I Love” published by Fourth Estate


Rick Stein’s, Crab Tacos with Chili, Lime and Avocado

serves 4 as a starter

12 x 10cm corn tortillas

250g (9 oz) white crab meat

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 green seranno or jalapeño chillies (seeds in), cut in half and sliced

16 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 little gem lettuce, finely shredded

2 limes cut into wedges

2 avocados, stoned, peeled and sliced

small handful of coriander, chopped



Warm the tortillas in a dry frying pan, in a microwave or in the oven.

Combine the crabmeat with the mayo.

Pile the crabmeat, chillies, tomatoes and lettuce on to the tortillas and top with lime wedges, slices of avocado and chopped coriander.

Season with salt to taste.

From Rick Stein’s The Road to Mexico published by BBC Books, photography by James Murphy.

David Tanis’s Pasta Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e pepe (literally, “cheese and pepper”) has lately achieved mythic status, which is a bit surprising considering it’s so basic. You can get it in any restaurant in Rome, but it’s really a home dish. The trick is getting the pasta to finish cooking properly in the creamy sauce, which is just pasta water, butter, and cheese. The more peppery, the better.

Makes 2 servings


Cook  225g ( ½ lb) linguine extra al dente (this is crucial) in well-salted water.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat and add ½  teaspoon coarsely crushed black pepper.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan, along with ½ cup of pasta water and a good pinch of salt.

Stir constantly, keeping the liquid at a rapid simmer; the pasta will begin to wilt in the sauce and absorb liquid. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Turn off the heat, add 2 cups grated pecorino, and stir until the pasta is coated with the creamy sauce. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

From David Tanis Market Cooking by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Evan Sung.


Nigella’s Beef and Aubergine Fattah


This is a subtly textured, richly flavoured arrangement of toasted pieces of flatbread topped with meaty aubergine and beef, a garlicky tahini-yogurt sauce, red pepper flakes, pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts and fresh shredded mint. I think of this rather as a refined, Middle-Eastern form of nachos.


Serves 4–6


For the base:

4 (approx. 250g/ 9oz), Pitta breads,  split open and cut into nacho-sized triangles


For the topping:

500g  (18oz) Greek yogurt

5 tablespoons (75g), Tahini, at room temperature

1-2 lemons to give 3 tablespoons of juice

2 cloves garlic peeled and minced

1-2 teaspoons sea salt flakes, to taste


For the aubergine-beef layer:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small (approx. 125g) onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 (250–300g/ 9oz-11oz) aubergine cut into small cubes

2 teaspoons ground cumin –

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or paprika, plus more for sprinkling

1-2 teaspoons sea salt flakes

500g (18oz) minced beef  


To sprinkle over:

125g (4½ oz) Pomegranate seeds

50g (2 oz) Pine nuts, toasted

1 tablespoon mint


Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan.


Spread the pitta triangles out onto a large baking sheet and toast for 10–15 minutes, or until they are crisp. You don’t need them to colour, but if they do just a little here and there, that’s not a bad thing. Set the pitta triangles aside for the moment.


Beat the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes together in a heatproof bowl that will later sit over a saucepan. Taste to see if you want any more salt. Put to one side while you cook the aubergine-beef layer.


Warm the oil in a wide, though not deep, heavy-based saucepan or casserole and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, over a medium/low heat for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and carry on cooking it, still stirring occasionally, until soft and a pale caramel colour. This will take another 4 minutes or so.


Turn the heat up to medium, tumble in the aubergine cubes and stir well to mix with the onion. Stay by the hob as you will need to stir frequently, and cook them for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down if they look as if they’re catching.


Stir in the cumin, coriander and a teaspoon each of Aleppo pepper and sea salt flakes and, now over a high heat, add the mince and use a fork to break it up a little and turn in the pan until it’s lost its red colour. Turn the heat back down to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through. Taste to see if you want to add more salt, then take off the heat while you return to the tahini-yogurt sauce.


Pour some just-boiled water into a fresh pan, enough to come about 3cm up the sides, and put over a low heat. Sit the bowl with the tahini-yogurt mixture on top, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Beat well until the yogurt is slightly above room temperature and has the consistency of lightly whipped cream.


Now for the grand assembly: arrange the crisp pitta triangles on a large round plate (I use one of about 32cm in diameter). Top with the aubergine-beef mixture, followed by the yogurt-tahini sauce.

Sprinkle with the Aleppo pepper (or paprika, if you’re using that) to give a light dusting. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and, finally, strew with the finely shredded mint leaves.


Eat with your fingers, nacho-style.

Extracted from AT MY TABLE by Nigella Lawson, published by Chatto & Windus  Copyright © Nigella Lawson 2017. Photograph copyright © Jonathan Lovekin.


Olia Hercules’s Khingal


We often perceive comfort food as something lovely yet also a little bland, unassuming. It may not blow our minds with flavour, but it gives us that feeling of safe satiety. When I tried khingal in the Azerbaijan capital Baku, it was a complete revelation to me. It did all those things that comfort food does, except it also made my eyes widen as my mouth was filled with firm pasta, crispy aromatic lamb and milky, but also oh so fresh, sauce. And then there is the butter. Pasta, spice, butter, crispy meat bits, yogurt, herbs – this dish has every single component that makes me feel safe and yet also titillates my senses, what I imagine a perfect marriage may be like.


Serves 8 as a starter

1 large egg, lightly beaten

60ml (4 tablespoons) water

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

100g (3½oz) clarified butter, or 60g (2¼oz) unsalted butter and

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for cooking the onions

300g (10½oz) coarsely minced lamb

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 onions, thinly sliced

200g (7oz) natural yogurt

1 garlic clove, finely grated

a little milk or water

1 tablespoon chopped coriander

1 tablespoon chopped dill

½ teaspoon ground sumac

sea salt flakes and freshly ground

black pepper

To make the dough, mix the egg and water together in a bowl, then gradually add the flour (stop if the mixture seems to be getting dry) and knead the mixture in the bowl into a dough. You should end up with a firm, elastic pasta dough, so knead in more flour if it feels too wet. Cover it in cling-film and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 15–30 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F), Gas Mark 3, ready for keeping the lamb and onions warm.


Heat half the Clarified Butter or half the ordinary butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a pan. When really hot, add half the minced lamb – you want the meat to be crispy, so overcrowding the pan is not an option here. Fry it without disturbing it too much until it starts crisping up. Add half the spices and some seasoning and cook for 1 minute, then pop into a heatproof bowl and keep warm in the oven.


Repeat with the second batch of meat.

Don’t wipe out the frying pan but add some more butter or oil and cook the onions gently until they become deep golden and luscious. Be patient – it will be worth it. Season them too and add them to the lamb keeping warm in the oven.


Roll out the pasta, either by hand or using a pasta machine, but not too thin – about 2mm (1/16 inch) thick – as you want a little bit of a bite here. Then cut the pasta into 3cm (11/4-inch) diamonds. You can let them dry out slightly while you rustle up the yogurt sauce.


You can leave this sauce simple – just mix the yogurt with the garlic and a tiny bit of salt, adding a little milk or water to loosen it up. I also like adding the chopped coriander and dill to it, as well as dusting the whole dish with sumac at the end.


Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and drop in your pasta diamonds. They will be ready within 2 minutes. Check they are cooked by tasting one when they float to the top.


Drain them quickly and layer with the meat and onions, drizzling over the yogurt sauce as you go.



Tip Sometimes I stir a little bit of brown butter into the yogurt. Don’t judge me.

From Olia Hercules “Kaukasis” published by Octopus Publishing Group Ltd.


Nigel Slater’s Quince and Cardamom Mincemeat (without suet)

I feel a little sorry for those impervious to the charm of a mince pie. I want to offer them something. Calling the recipe that follows ‘mincemeat’  is stretching it a bit, but it still contains the fruits and spices of the original (many early recipes include quince in place of apple), and it smells like the classic as it cooks. But it has another appeal, that of no suet, or indeed fat of any kind. Think of it as Christmas jam. The colour is gold rather than black. It is rather good with cheese too, in the way a slice of Cheshire is good with fruit cake. Oh, and can I suggest grinding the cardamom seeds at the last minute the ready-ground stuff loses all its magic.


Makes3x 400g jars

100g (3½ oz) caster sugar

1 litre (1¾ pints) water

juice of 1 lemon

500g (18oz) quinces

8 pods green cardamom

1  teaspoon mixed spice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

200g (7oz) golden sultanas

200g (7oz) raisins

200g (7oz) currants

200g (7oz) dried apricots

100g (3½ oz) light muscovado sugar

100ml (3½fl oz) brandy or quince liqueur


You will also need 3x 400g jam jars, sterilised.


Put the caster sugar into a medium-sized saucepan, add the water and bring to the boil.

Pour the lemon juice into the syrup.

Peel the quinces, cut them into quarters, remove the core, then lower them into the pan. As soon as the syrup comes back to the boil, lower the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pan with a lid and leave for forty minutes, or until the quinces are soft but far from collapsing. Take off the heat.


Break open the cardamom pods, scrape out the seeds and crush them quite finely, using a pestle and mortar or spice mill. Put them into a capacious saucepan with the mixed spice and ground cinnamon.

Add the golden sultanas, raisins and currants, then roughly chop the dried apricots and stir them in.

Pour in 400ml of the quince cooking liquor and add the brown sugar. Simmer, stirring from time to time, for twenty minutes.

Cut the quinces into small dice and add to the mincemeat. Pour in the brandy or liqueur, simmer for a further five minutes, then spoon into sterilised jars and seal.

From Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, published by Harper Collins


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