ArchiveDecember 2020

Cookbook Recommendations

I love that so many who have never cooked before have discovered the joy of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen during the lockdowns enforced on us during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Several of the ‘born again’ cooks I’ve spoken to are messianic about the therapeutic value of the experience and how amazed they are to find themselves actually feeling excited about getting into the kitchen and the “Oops” they get in their tummy from the reaction of their family to each new home-made dish. This experience has definitely heightened awareness of the importance of passing on each newly learned skill to the next generation.

We surely need all these little highlights to enhance the quality of our lives at any time but even more so during these tumultuous and for many, heart breaking times.

So thought I’d share five titles of new cookbooks to use up those Christmas book tokens. Alternatively order the title that appeals to you on line but I urge you to buy directly from your local book shops or from Kenny’s in Galway ( who have a huge list of titles and are super efficient and are in many cases cheaper than the well known international companies and plus your order will support an Irish firm.

Home Cookery Year from Claire Thompson, published by Quadrille is definitely worth having in your repertoire. You may even want to buy two copies, one to keep and another to gift. I found it incredibly difficult to choose just a couple of recipes. It’s divided into individual seasonal chapters, focusing on

Midweek dishes on a budget,

From the Larder.

Salads as light lunches or

Side dishes,

Treat yourself,

Leisurely Weekend cooking and Celebration feasts – You may not have heard of Claire before but, she writes regularly for The Telegraph, BBC Good Food and Olive Magazines and does quite a bit of media work. Follow her on Instagram @5oclockapron for a daily snapshot of the food she cooks at home. In the Winter chapter alone I picked out about 15 recipes that I would love to cook. I chose Buttermilk Fried Cauliflower with Jalapeno & Lime dressing and

Croque Monsieur Bread & Butter Pudding to share because I thought they could add to your repertoire of delicious ways to use up Christmas leftovers. See next week’s column for more ideas….

As Weekend Examiner readers will know, delicious home cooking has always been the most important focus for me and interestingly this year many of the books published have focussed on comforting dishes to nourish and feed our precious family and friends. Next up Clodagh’s Weeknight Kitchen by Clodagh McKenna has become, and always was, ever since I’ve known her, when she was a student here at Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2000. She then went on to then work alongside Myrtle Allen in Ballymaloe House kitchens, sold paté at the Farmers Markets in Midleton every Saturday, presented several TV series, wrote 8 bestselling cookbooks, while running several restaurants….Wow, all the while oozing energy and passion for food. More recently, her daily pod cast Clodagh’s Midweek Kitchen has almost 100K followers plus can this girl dance! and she keeps hens…..Seek out at your local bookshop or order at for more.

For me one of the most meaningful books of the year is A Taste of Home, 100% of the proceeds from the sales of this really beautiful book go to support the work of The Passage’s, a British charity who for over 40 years have helped thousands of homeless people off the streets for good in the UK, among them many Irish. During 2020 their work was made even more challenging due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The original book concept was created by Kyle Cathie, my long time friend and publisher of many years, now retired. It’s packed with gorgeous recipes donated and mindfully chosen by cooks and chefs from all over the world. So many interesting ideas to try……

Finally Always Home another of my favourite books of the year, an endearing and enchantingly written memoir by Fanny Singer about growing up as the daughter of the renowned chef and founder of Chez Panise, Alice Waters. A story of food, family and the need for beauty in all aspects of life – What could be more appealing during these uncertain times. A charmed childhood for sure, beautifully written and peppered with recipes for many of her beloved childhood foods, published by Orion Publishing.  The recipes in Always Home are written in prose interwoven with stories so I haven’t included them in this article.

Just in, The Happy Health Plan yet another cracker from the two handsome chaps from Greystones, David and Stephen Flynn. Simple and tasty plant-based food to nourish your body inside and out.

Buttermilk Fried Cauliflower with Jalapeno & Lime dressing (From Home Cookery Year by Claire Thompson and published by Quadrille)

1 cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

400ml (14fl oz) buttermilk (or use natural yoghurt)

1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped

1-2 jalapeno chillies, roughly chopped

1 lime (or 2 if your limes aren’t especially juicy), halved

1 small bunch of coriander (cilantro), leaves picked and roughly chopped

½ – 1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground

½ tsp salt, plus more to taste

100g (3 ½ oz) self-raising flour

50g (1 ¾ oz) cornflour (cornstarch)

Bring a large pan of well salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets and boil for 2 minutes, until just tender, then drain well and allow to cool a little.

In the meantime, blend half the buttermilk with the garlic, chilli, salt to taste, juice from half the lime and all the coriander to make a smooth dressing and put to one side.

Mix the remaining buttermilk with the chilli powder, cumin and a ½ teaspoon of salt, then mix the drained cauliflowers florets into the buttermilk mixture until fully coated.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and cornflour (cornstarch) together with a big pinch of salt.

Coat the cauliflower in the flour mixture and place on a baking tray so that the pieces aren’t touching each other. Pour at least 3cm (1 ¼”) of oil into a wide, deep frying pan and heat to 180°C/350°F. The oil is ready for frying when you drop in a piece of cauliflower and it sizzles and floats to the surface immediately.

Working in batches of about 6 – 8 pieces at a time, fry the cauliflower florets for a few minutes, or until golden on all sides. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels while you fry the remainder. Season well with salt.

Serve the fried cauliflower immediately along with the dressing and with the remaining half of the lime cut into wedges for squeezing over.

Spiced Chicken & Chickpea Curry

(From Clodagh’s Midweek Kitchen by Clodagh McKenna and published by Kyle Books)


2 tablespoons olive oil

6 bone-in chicken legs (thigh and drumstick), skin on

2 large onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1½ tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

400g (14oz) can chickpeas,

drained and rinsed

470ml (17fl oz) chicken


150g (5½oz) baby spinach

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 To Serve

60g (2¼oz) Greek yogurt

60g (2¼oz) flat-leaf parsley, chopped

brown rice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Place an ovenproof casserole dish or a large saucepan over a medium heat and warm for 30 seconds. Pour in the olive oil. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes until they are golden brown on all sides. Then transfer to a plate.

Add the onions to the casserole, adding more olive oil if necessary. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes until the onions are soft and golden brown.

Stir in the garlic, ginger and spices, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant. Add the chickpeas and the chicken stock. Return the chicken pieces and their juices to the casserole. Bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer to the oven to cook for 45–55 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Remove the casserole from the oven and place over a low heat, then stir in the spinach which should only take a minute to wilt. Transfer the curry to a large, deep platter, serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt, some flat-leaf

parsley and rice, if you wish.

Harvest Salad with Kale, Apple, Beetroot & Grilled Halloumi

(From Clodagh’s Midweek Kitchen by Clodagh McKenna and published by Kyle Books)


1 sweet potato, peeled and

cut into chunks

1½ tablespoons olive oil

50g (1¾oz) kale, chopped

100g (3½oz) halloumi, sliced

1 apple, quartered, cored and grated

1 beetroot, cooked, peeled and grated

160g (5¾oz) cooked wild rice

50g (1¾oz) whole almonds,

toasted and chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad Dressing

2 tablespoons balsamic


6 tablespoons extra virgin

olive oil

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

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

Put the sweet potato chunks in a roasting tin, toss with ½ tablespoon of the

olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.

While the potato chunks are roasting, steam the kale for 2 minutes, then drain and roughly chop. Set aside.

Place a griddle or frying pan over a medium heat, add the remaining

tablespoon of the olive oil and fry the halloumi for 2 minutes on each side.

Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together in a small bowl.

Place the apple, beetroot, roast sweet potato chunks, kale and rice in a large serving bowl. Toss with the dressing, season with salt and pepper, top with the grilled halloumi and scatter over the almonds to serve.

Claudia Roden’s Pasta with Minced Lamb and Yoghurt Sauce

(From A Taste of Home compiled by Kyle Cathie)

Serves 4

1 large onion cut in half and sliced

3 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil

400g  minced lamb

1 ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

1 ½ teaspoon pomegranate molasses (optional)

200g pappardelle

25g flat leaf parsley, chopped

400g plain whole-milk yoghurt at room temperature

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Chilli pepper to taste

40g butter, melted

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

This interpretation of manti, a Turkish meat-stuffed pasta (like large tortellini) with a yoghurt sauce, is a deconstruction of one of the most sophisticated and refined of Middle Eastern dishes that was developed in the palaces of Ottoman Sultans in Constantinople – now Istanbul.

In a large frying pan, fry the onion in the oil over a medium-low heat, stirring often for about 15 minutes, until very soft and lightly coloured.

Add the minced lamb, keep crushing it with a fork and turning it over until it changes colour.

Add salt and pepper, the cinnamon and allspice and the pomegranate molasses, and cook for 5 minutes more. Then add about 150ml water and cook for 5 minutes, until much of the liquid is absorbed and the meat is very soft.

At the same time cook the pappardelle in salted boiling water until al dente, drain and pour into a serving dish.

Stir the parsley into the minced meat and mix with the pasta. Beat the yoghurt with the garlic and a little salt and pour over the dish.

Mix the chilli pepper with the melted butter and dribble over the top.

Veggie Pot Noodle with Miso

(From The Happy Healthy Plan by David & Stephen Flynn, Published by Penguin Books)

Serves 1

10g carrot

2 spring onions

¼ fresh red chilli

50g wholemeal noodles or brown rice noodles

½ teaspoon miso

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon fresh ginger

25g frozen peas

25g baby spinach

Zest and juice of ½  a lime

1 teaspoon tamari / soy sauce

To Serve

Toasted sesame seeds

Pickled ginger

Finely grate the carrot and slice the spring onions. Finely dice the red chilli (include the seeds if you like it spicy, or leave them out if you prefer it milder). Peel and grate the fresh ginger. Put the noodles into a large jar, along with the veg stock, miso and the rest of the ingredients.

When you are ready to eat, fill and boil the kettle. Once boiled, pour boiling water into the jar until everything is covered and leave it to sit for 15 minutes.

Serve with toasted sesame seeds and pickled ginger.

Linda Tubby’s Fudgy Chocolate Cake

(From A Taste of Home compiled by Kyle Cathie)

150g 75% plain dark chocolate

85g salted butter

100g ground almonds

3 large eggs

85g golden caster sugar

Large pinch of cream of tartar

Icing sugar or cocoa to dust (optional)

This flourless chocolate cake uses whisked egg whites to create a meringue and provide volume and to give a light texture. You will need a 20cm springform tin, greased and fully lined with baking parchment.

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

Break the chocolate into a medium-sized bowl. Cut the butter into chunks and add to the bowl. Sit the bowl over a small pan of just-simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Melt the chocolate and butter together for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir to melt completely. Mix in the almonds and set aside.

Separate the eggs into two large bowls and had half the sugar to the yolks. Add the cream of tartar to the whites and whisk until soft peaks form. Gradually add the rest of the sugar, whisking between each addition to create a stiff meringue.

Without washing the beaters whisk the yolks and sugar together until creamy and the whisk leaves a trail. Fold in the chocolate almond mixture and mix well to combine. Gently fold in the meringue and keep folding until the mixture is even in colour.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform tin and bake for 25 – 30 min until risen. It will still be quite soft in the middle but it firms up as it cools. When cold, if wished, dust with icing sugar or cocoa to serve.

Christmas Leftovers

Does it seem a little early to talk about using up leftovers deliciously? Well, I don’t think so. This day next week, it’ll be St. Stephen’s Day. Probably, the most tumultuous Christmas any of us have ever experienced will be over.

Despite the challenges we’ve been determined to keep cooking and carry on!

Meanwhile, you may be beginning to get a little peckish again so let’s head back in the kitchen, have a root through your fridge or pantry – There are bound to be some delicious morsels left over from the Christmas feast and maybe some forgotten ingredients hidden in there.

How about getting the family involved in a competition to think of new and creative ways to use up a variety of miscellaneous ingredients. How about you go for an exhilarating walk or put your feet up and let the others into the kitchen to have fun cooking your supper for a change.

So many options… Of course, one could just make a tasty turkey and ham pie with the nibbles left on the carcass. I’d start by sautéing off some sliced onions and mushrooms, then adding a mixture of turkey stock and cream, a generous fistful of chopped parsley and some thyme leaves or better still a little chopped tarragon. Thicken the boiling mixture with a little roux. Season well and add the coarsely chopped turkey and ham. A gorgeous Goose Pie can be made in a similar way but I’d re-crisp the skin in the oven for a few minutes to scatter over the top which could be covered with a ruff of fluffy mash, a flaky pastry lid or just a layer of cheesy buttered crumbs.

For many transforming, leftovers into another equally delicious meal is a ‘forgotten skill’, perhaps it was my 50s and 60s upbringing but for me it’s a way of life. It may be difficult to understand that back then ’food waste’ was simply unthinkable, shameful, absolutely not an option. It doesn’t make any sense any time, it’s like tearing up pound notes and floating them down the river and most people don’t even have a few hens to eat up the scraps and convert them into eggs a few days later…..

Nowadays, there are so many exciting new ingredients and flavour options on the shelves of virtually every shop and supermarket in the country. It’s an opportunity to be creative and to add the flavours of the East, Far East, Mexico, the Caribbean… to what might otherwise be boring leftovers.

So here are a few suggestions… Communal activities are the most fun and are a brilliant way to use up leftovers. All kinds of fillings can be enclosed in samosas, pasties, empanadas or filo triangles.

Chinese Turkey with Spicy Glaze and Toasted Peanuts

Serves 4

900g (2lb) leftover turkey or chicken

1 tablespoon sunflower oil but I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


50g (2oz) pale soft brown sugar

35ml (scant 1 1/2fl oz) soy sauce

1 teaspoons Hoisin sauce

1 dessertspoon sweet chili sauce

1/2cm (1/4 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and grated

pinch of chilli flakes

juice of 1/2 lime


2 tablespoons  sesame seeds

25g (1oz) peanuts, peeled and roasted (optional)

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

If the chicken breasts are large, divide in half at an angle.

Heat the oil in a sauté or frying pan.

Season the turkey or chicken meat with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss over a medium heat until golden for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile put all the ingredients for the glaze in a small stainless steel saucepan, stir well, bring to the boil over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Pour over the turkey or chicken in the sauté or frying pan, allow to bubble for a minute or two.

Spoon into a warm serving dish. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, coarsely chopped peanuts and sliced spring onions.

Serve immediately with some boiled rice and a salad of organic leaves.

How to Roast Peanuts

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

Spread the peanuts over a roasting tray, roast for about 15 minutes, shaking once or twice.  Take the tray out doors and blow off the loose skins, sounds very odd but it’s exactly what everyone does in Asia.  Return to the oven if they are not already golden brown all over.  Chop coarsely.

Roasted Carrot Salad with Chamoy

Inspired by a Ottolenghi recipe from Flavour

This recipe is a great way to use up the extra carrots you may have in your fridge from your Christmas grocery shop.

Serves 4 -6

The Chamoy recipe keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. Use this Mexican sauce as a marinade or condiment for roasted vegetables, chicken or pork. Serve as a starter or as an accompaniment with pork belly or duck breasts.

1 kg carrots cut into quarters, lengthwise

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 ½ tablespoons to serve

1 ½ tablespoons of maple syrup or runny honey

70g (approx. 8) dried apricots, finely sliced

30g roast salted almonds, split lengthwise

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


50g apricots

1 teaspoon maple syrup

2 teaspoon sumac

45ml lime juice, plus 2 teaspoons to serve

1 ½ teaspoons Aleppo chilli flakes (or ¾ teaspoon of regular chilli flakes)

1 small garlic clove

2 tablespoons olive oil

10g mint leaves

5g dill, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 240°C/450°F/Mark 8.

Toss the carrots in a large bowl with the olive oil, maple syrup/ honey, 1 teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Spread out in a single layer on two large parchment-lined baking trays. Roast for 15 – 18 minutes, tossing the carrots every now and then and continue to cook until nicely browned but still retain bite.

Meanwhile, whizz all the ingredients for the Chamoy with ¼ teaspoon of salt in a food processor until smooth. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of water to the Chamoy if too thick.

When the carrots are cooked, transfer them to a large bowl. Pour over the Chamoy, toss to coat the roast carrots. Leave for 15 – 20 minutes to meld the flavours together.

Lay a bed of rocket leaves on a serving platter. Top with the roasted carrots, sprinkle with the sliced apricots and dill sprigs. Finish with some shredded mint leaves and the toasted almonds.

Serve at room temperature.

A Cheesy Gratin of Leeks and Brussel Sprouts

Serves 8

Everyone in our house loves a hot bubbly gratin, a yummy comforting supper dish, I sometimes wrap each leek in a slice of ham before coating in the cheesy Mornay Sauce. Use up the little ends of cheese – a mixture can be delicious but taste carefully.

8 medium sized leeks or 1 ½ lbs plus ½ lbs quartered, blanched and refreshed sprouts

600mls whole milk

A few slices of carrot and onion

3 or 4 peppercorns

A sprig of thyme or parsley

175g grated Cheddar cheese or a mixture of grated Cheddar,  Parmesan and Gruyère

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Buttered crumbs (see recipe below)

Trim most of the green part off the leeks (use to make soup or pop into the stock pot).  Leave the white parts whole, slit the top and wash well under cold running water.  Cook in a little boiling salted water in a covered saucepan until just tender, 15 minutes approx.

Meanwhile put the cold milk into a saucepan with a few slices of carrot and onion, 3 or 4 peppercorns and a sprig of thyme or parsley.  Bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.  Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a light coating consistency.  Add the mustard and two-thirds of the grated cheese, keep the remainder of the cheese for grating over the top.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Drain the leeks well, slice into chunks, mix with the blanched Brussel sprouts. Arrange in an ovenproof serving dish, season well, coat with the sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese mixed with a few buttered crumbs. Reheat in a moderate oven 180˚C (gas mark 4), until golden and bubbly – about 15 minutes.

Buttered Crumbs

A great way to use up stale bread. Whizz into crumbs and store in the freezer for stuffings or crumbles.

2 ozs (50g) butter

4 ozs (110g) soft white breadcrumbs

Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool. Use what you need and store the remainder in a box in the fridge to scatter over gratins or fish pies.

Cheddar Cheese and Ham Strata

A Strata is a savoury bread and butter pudding. Try this one, even just with cheese, but if you have a little cooked leftover ham or bacon it’s even better. A few morsels of cooked turkey wouldn’t go astray either or a little dice of chorizo which everyone seems to have in their fridge these days – careful not to add too much, it can be overpowering.

Serves 6

50g (2oz) very soft butter (for buttering the bread and greasing the dish)

6 slices of good white bread (1-2cm/½-¾ inch thick approx), crusts removed – about 100g (3½oz) prepared weight

110g (4oz) mature Cheddar, (or a mixture of Cheddar, Gruyère and Parmesan) coarsely grated

175- 225g (6-8oz) cooked ham or bacon, diced in 7mm (â…“ inch) cubes approx..

3 medium free-range eggs

450ml (16fl oz) milk (or 8floz of milk and 8floz of cream)

3-4 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

A generous pinch of mace

1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground black pepper

A little extra grated cheese for sprinkling

1 litre (1¾ pint) ovenproof soufflé dish.

Grease the soufflé dish with soft or melted butter.

Then butter slices of bread and cut into roughly 2.5cm (1inch) squares.  Put into the dish, add the grated cheese and ham and toss to combine.

Whisk the eggs well.  Add the milk, thyme leaves, mace and Dijon mustard, continue to whisk for a minute or two.  Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour over the bread, cheese and ham mixture.  Cover and pop in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or even overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Sprinkle a little grated cheese over the top and bake the Strata for 40 minutes or until puffed up and golden like a soufflé.

Serve with a salad of organic leaves.

Chocolate Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 8-12 approx.

Panettone is now readily available, it is a rich fruit bread traditionally eaten at Christmas in Italy. If you have some leftover this is a brilliant way to use up the leftovers – use a yeast barm brack for a similarly delicious result.

1 panettone, sliced 2 inch (1cm) thick

220g (7 ozs) good quality plain chocolate, grated

1 litre (1 ¾ pints) cream

5 egg yolks, preferably free-range

100g (3 ½ ozs) sugar

110g (4oz) best quality chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate

brown demerara sugar, Moscavado (to sprinkle over at the end)

Softly whipped cream to serve.

8 inch x 2 inch deep oval or rectangular oven-proof dish

Melt the chocolate in the cream in a basin over boiling water.  In a separate bowl beat together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture pales slightly.   Pour the chocolate into the egg mixture and put it back over the pan of boiling water.  Lower the heat and stir continuously, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  If the mixture is cooked for too long or at too high a temperature, it will curdle, it is ready as soon as steam starts to rise from the surface.

Pour a little of the mixture into the oven dish, then add a layer of sliced panettone.  Scatter in a few chocolate chips. Continue doing this until the dish is full, ensuring that the top layer absorbs enough of the custard to remain moist.  Allow to sit for 1 hour or longer if you have time.

Place the dish in a roasting tin and add boiling water until the dish is half submerged.  Bake at 150°C/300°F/Regulo 2. for approx. 20 minutes or until hot throughout.  (It took 30-35 minutes in my oven.)

Cover the pudding with a generous layer of brown sugar and put under a hot grill until the sugar starts to bubble.  Leave for a few minutes before serving to allow the sugar to set.  Serve with clotted cream or softly whipped cream.

Crêpes with Plum Pudding and Brandy Butter


Makes 12 approximately

Pancake Batter

175g (6ozs) white flour, preferably unbleached

a good pinch of salt

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range

scant 450ml (15fl oz) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed

3-4 dessertspoons melted butter

6 – 8oz Leftover plum pudding

Brandy Butter

Softly whipped cream to serve

Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce (optional) (date this was featured need to insert)

8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crêpe pan

First make the batter.

Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of castor sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).

Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so Рlonger will do no harm. Just before you cook the cr̻pes stir in 3-4 dessertspoons (6-8 American tablespoons) melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the cr̻pes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.

To cook the crêpes or pancakes.

Heat the pan to very hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly.

A small ladle can also be very useful for this.  Loosen the crêpes around the edge, flip over with a spatula or thin egg slice, cook for a second or two on the other side, and slide off the pan onto a plate. The crêpes may be stacked on top of each other and peeled apart later.

They will keep in the fridge for several days and also freeze perfectly. If they are to be frozen it’s probably a good idea to put a disc of silicone paper between each for extra safety.

To Serve: Melt a couple of tablespoon of brandy butter in a pan over a medium heat. Crumble in the plum pudding, toss gently until heated through.

Put a crepe onto a hot pan, spoon a couple of tablespoons of the buttery plum pudding over half the crepe. Fold the other half over, add a little more plum pudding mixture, fold the crepe into a fan shape, repeat with another. Serve on hot plates.

Add a dollop of softly whipped cream and a drizzle of Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce if available.

A Trip Down Christmas Memory Lane…

A trip down memory lane this Christmas I’ve been racking my brains to think of ways to add extra meaning to what for many, may be a long, lonely, cheerless Christmas. Pick up a pen, let our minds drift, dredge up memories of Christmas’s past, happy or perhaps tinged with sadness, anticipation, longing, disappointment…. Don’t worry if the memories seem disjointed. Snippets of family get-togethers. Raw, funny, poignant… – just get it down on paper.

The lets sit by the fire, share and while away a few nostalgic hours recounting memories that may have been un-consciously buried for many years.

Memories come flooding back. Christmas baking started in November in our house too. This took two whole afternoons – we would look forward to it for weeks. Mum would specially wait until we came home from the village school so we could all get involved – washing the glacé cherries, deseeding muscatel 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 to cream the butter, 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 greaseproof 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 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.

And then there was the trifle, Mum’s trifle was legendary – when I was little it was made with dried rusk like trifle sponges that appeared in the village shop before Christmas every year. Mum had a generous hand with the Bristol cream – we split them in half, then sandwiched them with homemade raspberry jam, we layered them up with homemade custard (no not Birds) in two special cut glass trifle bowls retrieved from the top shelf of the pantry where they sat from one festive season to the next. I have to share this recipe with you I can confidently say that it’ll be the best trifle you’ll ever, ever taste. But there was ‘trifle drama’ in our house every year… Everyone loved the trifle. So Mummy had to hide the trifles every year because my crafty brothers would search the house to find it when they arrived home from midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Once they found it in the oven of the gas cooker, eventually she resorted to hiding the trifle under her bed to save them for Christmas Day…

I’ve also included a recipe for Mum’s Chapel Window Cake and Myrtle Allen’s Spiced Beef, perennial favourites in both our families.

Mum’s Traditional Irish Sherry Trifle

Serves 8-10

450g (1lb) approx. homemade sponge cake or trifle sponges (see recipe)

(trifle sponges are lighter so you will need less)

225g (8oz) homemade raspberry jam (see recipe)

600ml (1 pint) custard made with:

5 eggs, organic and free-range if possible 

1 1/4 tablespoons castor sugar

1/2teaspoon pure vanilla extract

750ml (1¼ pint) rich milk

150-175ml 5-6 fl.oz) best quality sweet or medium sherry

 – don’t spare the sherry and don’t waste your time with cooking sherry.


600ml (1 pint) whipped cream

8 cherries or crystallised violets

8 diamonds of angelica

a few toasted flaked almonds

1 x 1.7 litre (3 pint) capacity glass bowl

Sandwich the rounds of sponge cake together with homemade raspberry jam. If you use trifle sponges, sandwich them in pairs. 

Next make the egg custard.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla extract.  Heat the milk to the ‘shivery’ stage and add it to the egg mixture whisking all the time.   Put into a heavy saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the custard coats the back of the wooden spoon lightly. Don’t let it boil or it will curdle.

Cut the sponge into 2cm slices and use these to line the bottom of a 1.7 litre (3 pint) glass bowl, sprinkling generously with sherry as you go along.   Pour in some homemade egg custard and then add another layer of sponge.  Sprinkle with the remainder of the sherry.  Spread the rest of the custard over the top.  Cover and leave for 5 or 6 hours, or preferably overnight in a cold larder or fridge to mature.

Before serving, spread softly whipped cream over the top, pipe rosettes if you like and decorate with cherries or crystallised violets and large diamonds of angelica.  Scatter with a few toasted flaked almonds.


For a posher version, line the glass bowl with slices of swiss roll.

Great Grandmother’s Victoria Sponge

Who doesn’t love a buttery Victoria sponge – this recipe keeps really well for at least 5 or 6 days but omit the cream if you plan to keep for a few days.

Serves 10

175g (6oz) flour

175g (6oz) castor sugar

3 eggs, organic and free-range

125g (4½ oz) butter

1 tablespoon milk

5g (1 teaspoon) baking powder


110g (4oz) homemade raspberry jam (see recipe)

300ml (10 fl.oz) whipped cream

caster sugar to sprinkle

2 x 18cm (7 inch) sponge cake tins

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.

Grease the tine with melted butter, dust with flour and line the base of each with a round of greaseproof paper. Cream the butter and gradually add the castor sugar, beat until soft and light and quite pale in colour. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well between each addition. (If the butter and sugar are not creamed properly and if you add the eggs too fast, the mixture will curdle, resulting in a cake with a heavier texture). Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in gradually. Mix all together lightly and add 1 tablespoon of milk to moisten.

Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 tins, hollowing it slightly in the centre. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked – the cake will shrink-in slightly from the edge of the tin when it is cooked, the centre should feel exactly the same texture as the edge.  Alternatively a skewer should come out clean when put into the centre of the cake. Turn out onto a wire tray and allow to cool.

Sandwich the two bases together with homemade raspberry jam and whipped cream. Sprinkle with sieved castor sugar. Serve on an old fashioned plate with a doyley.

Chapel Window Cake

When we were little this was part of the Christmas baking tradition in our house. We gathered round the kitchen table like little birds in a nest to watch Mummy assemble it, waiting for titbits and trimmings. It’s called a Chapel Window Cake because the different colours in the cake resemble stained glass. It’s definitely a bit of a fiddle to make but the end result is worth the effort.

Serves 10–12

175g (6oz) butter

175g (6oz) caster sugar

4 organic eggs

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder

zest of 1⁄2 organic lemon

1⁄4 teaspoon pink colouring and drop of pure almond extract

25g (1oz) drinking chocolate powder

A little milk (optional)

225g (8oz) Almond Paste or Marzipan

3⁄4 pot homemade Raspberry Jam

caster sugar

three 19 x 11cm (71⁄2 x 41⁄2 in) tins, lined on the base and sides with greaseproof paper

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

Cream the butter well, add the caster sugar and whisk until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, whisking well between each addition. Then stir in the sieved flour and baking powder.

Divide the cake mixture into 3 equal parts. Flavour one part with the lemon zest, the next with almond extract and pink colouring. Stir the drinking chocolate into the last portion and add a few drops of milk if it becomes too thick.

Spoon into the prepared tins and bake for 15–20 minutes. Turn out and leave to cool on a wire rack. Remove the paper.

Meanwhile, make the almond paste and wrap in silicone paper until needed.

To assemble, trim the edges of the cakes and cut each one lengthways into three equal strips. Spread a little jam over all of the sides of each strip, a sticky business… Assemble the strips into a 3 x 3 block so that the colours are mixed up. Press all the pieces firmly together and trim the edges if necessary to ensure a uniform shape.

Sprinkle a little caster sugar on the worktop. Roll out the almond paste to a thickness of a scant 5mm (1⁄4in). Brush the base of the cake with a little more jam. Lay it on top of the almond paste. Brush the sides of the cake with a little more jam. Wrap the paste around the cake. Press the edges together to seal. Smooth the surface with a palette knife if necessary. Score the top into a diamond pattern, pinch the edges and dredge with caster sugar.

Note: if you follow the instructions above, the two ends of the cake are left un-iced, so you can see the ‘chapel window’. However, if you want to seal the cake entirely so it will keep for longer, roll out thinly an extra 110g (4oz) of almond paste and seal the ends. If you can resist, it keeps perfectly for 4–5 weeks.

Ballymaloe Spiced Beef

There are lots of recipes for spiced beef, traditionally eaten at Christmas, and many of them ‘corn’ or brine the beef first. This recipe, which has been handed down in Myrtle Allen’s family, is for dry-spiced beef. Initially, the recipe called for silverside, but I prefer to use flap (also known as flank) a less expensive cut with a little more fat. The recipe also includes saltpetre, which should only be used in moderation. If you can’t find it, just leave it out (ask your local pharmacist). The meat will be slightly greyer in colour rather than the rosy pink that comes from the saltpetre cure. The recipe below makes enough spice to cure five flanks of beef, about 1.8kg (4lb) each in size. Spiced beef keeps for immeasurably longer than ordinary cooked or roast beef. Store the spice mix 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 serve, cut it into thin slices and serve in sandwiches or with freshly made salads and homemade chutneys.

Top tip: Tom Durcan in the English Market in Cork is famous for his spiced beef – also available sliced on or call 021 4279141.

Serves 12–16

1.8kg (4lb) lean flank of beef

Ballymaloe Spice for Beef

225g (8oz/1 cup) Demerara sugar

350g (12oz) salt

10g (1⁄2 oz) saltpetre (potassium nitrate)

75g (3oz) whole black pepper

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

75g (3oz) whole juniper berries

Grind all the spice ingredients (preferably in a food-processor) until fairly fine.

Remove the bones from the flank and trim away any unnecessary fat. Rub a little spice well over the surface of 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 more spicy the flavour and the longer it will last.

Just before cooking, remove the spiced beef from the earthenware dish. The salt and sugar will have extracted some liquid. Discard this spice mixture. Roll and tie the joint neatly with cotton string into a compact shape. Put it into a deep saucepan, cover generously with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 3–4 hours or until soft and fully cooked. If it is not to be eaten hot, then press the meat by putting it on a flat tin or into an appropriate sized bread tin and covering with a board and weight. Leave it for 12 hours in a fridge or cold larder. Spiced beef will keep for 3–4 weeks in a fridge. Serve thinly sliced with Ballymaloe Relish, Horseradish Cream or slices of ripe avocado, hazelnuts and fresh watercress leaves.

Christmas Dinner with All The Trimmings

What a rollercoaster it’s been for the past few weeks, hopes raised hopes dashed, then raised again. I eventually decided to carry on regardless and respond to reader’s requests for recipes for the traditional Christmas feast that so many happy memories are made of. This year of all years, we are nostalgic for the past and crave a comforting family Christmas.

Hopefully, your nearest and dearest will be gathered around you and our hearts go out to those who have also lost loved ones during this extraordinarily challenging year.

Here are all the favourite Christmas recipes you requested. A fine roast turkey or goose with all the trimmings, lots of gravy, roasties, Brussels sprouts and our house recipe for creamed celery (sounds so old-fashioned, there’s a ring of the Grand Hotel about it) but so good with the roast turkey particularly as it can of course be cooked several days ahead. Keep it covered in the fridge or pop 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. I’m like a broken record about making lists. Lots of them are the way to go, allocate some fun roles to as many family as you can cajole or shame into helping but steady on, we often overestimate the amount of food we need.

If there are 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. You can use the same stuffing as for the turkey or goose.

If it’s just the two of you, you may want to choose a beautiful organic chicken from Mary Regan in Enniscorthy ( or maybe try this delicious Turkey crown marinated in buttermilk, it’s juicy, tender and delicious. Half the crown will be plenty for your Christmas feast and you’ll still have lots to enjoy in your favourite turkey sandwich on Christmas evening. Could be just roasted but marinating in buttermilk is a revelation.

For me a well hung pheasant with game chips (homemade potato chips) is another of my favourite feasts. Bread sauce and Cranberry sauce are the traditional accompaniments and the buttery herb stuffing is perfect here too.

If like me, brown meat is your favourite, why not roast the turkey thighs. The drumsticks are quite sinewy in a bird that has been allowed to range freely but the flavour will be far superior to an intensively produced bird, reared in confinement. Internal temperature of legs or thighs will be 165°C (breast 105°C) when cooked, allow to rest 10 – 15 minutes before serving.

Try this Christmassy riff on Brussels sprouts – with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, and a few crunchy walnuts.

But here’s the ‘pièce de résistance’, I promised in last week’s column All in One Christmas Dinner on a Dish – This recipe dates back to the time when the United Hunt held its annual Hunt Ball in Ballymaloe before Christmas every year. They wanted the ‘whole works’ so my mother in law, Myrtle devised this delicious version which we prepared ahead and reheated for the large gathering. It became such a favourite that it was requested every year. It’s definitely a bit of a mission to make and you’ll need to cook the turkey and ham separately. Meanwhile make a creamy mushroom filling with lots of fresh herbs and then a creamy sauce to coat the lot.

The end result is an unctuous “Turkey and Ham Sandwich” that reheats deliciously in 10-15 minutes on the day.

Whenever you decide to choose, I wish you a happy, joyful and meaningful Christmas and so hope that you will be able to connect with your loved ones over the festive season, either in person or by Zoom. Good times will come again….We’ll just keep cooking and carry on!

 A special thank you to all our readers and Happy, happy Christmas.

Traditional Christmas Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce

More than ever this year in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we all long for the comfort of familiar flavours.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 from the fresh herbs and the turkey juices.  Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given. However, my top tip is to brine the turkey ahead it greatly enhances the flavour, and reduces the overall cooking time.

Serves 10-12

(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 (14-16oz) approx. soft white breadcrumbs (or approximately 1lb 4oz of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, annual marjoram, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper

Stock – the base for a big jug of gravy

Turkey giblet, 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 (8oz/2 sticks) butter

large square of muslin (optional)

Darina’s Cranberry Sauce (see recipe)

Traditional Bread Sauce (see recipe)


large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress

Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate).  Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.

To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to get quite cold.  If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing.  Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end. 

Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt the butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 2 3/4-3 1/4 hours depending on the weight and whether the turkey has been brined. Brined turkey cook considerably faster – be careful not to overcook.  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 dampened parchment paper.  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

Basic Brine for Turkey, Chicken, Duck or Pork

Brining greatly enhances the flavour of chicken, duck or pork.  We brine whole turkeys (48 hours), chickens and ducks (5-6 hours), chicken breast (30-40 minutes depending on size).

Soak the bird or joint in a brine mixture of salt and water.  The electrically charged ions of the salt plump up the muscle fibres, allowing them to absorb water. This changes the structure of the proteins, preventing the water from escaping during cooking. In addition to keeping the meat moist, the salt intensifies flavour.

To make basic brine, mix together 40fl oz (2 pints/5 cups) water and 3 3/4oz (105g/1/4 cup) salt in a suitable size container with a cover (stainless steel, plastic or enamel are ideal). A little sugar may be added to the brine, even a few spices. Add the bird or joint, cover and chill in a refrigerator or keep in a cool place and brine for chosen time.

Glazed Christmas Ham with Cloves and Pineapple

I know this sounds a bit old hat, but of all of the glazes that I do, this is the one that I keep coming back to. Or you could just use marmalade. You’ll know when the ham is cooked when the rind comes off the fat easily. I like to buy my ham with the bone in but order a boned ham if carving becomes a challenge. Don’t forget how delicious a piece of glazed streaky bacon can be and a fraction of the price.

Serves 12-15

1 x 4.5kg (10lb) fresh or lightly smoked ham (ensure it has a nice layer of sweet fat)

30 or more whole cloves, depending on the size of the diamonds

350g (12oz/1 1/2 cups) 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, score 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.

Then toss the pineapple slices in the glaze and arrange on top for extra glam.

Serve hot or cold with Cumberland sauce.


Glazed Loin or Belly of Bacon

Both of these cuts are delicious glazed as above. The latter is inexpensive yet sweet and succulent. Boiled collar of bacon is also delicious.

Another Glaze for Ham or Bacon

Mix together 225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) of apricot jam, 225g (8oz/1 cup) of sifted golden caster sugar, 3 tablespoons (scant 4 American tablespoons) of whole grain mustard with honey and the juice of 1 orange. Spoon the glaze over the ham and cook as above, basting at regular intervals.

Ginger Glazed Ham or Bacon


5 tablespoons (6 American tablespoons) brown sugar

1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) mustard powder

1 teaspoon grated ginger

grated zest of half an organic orange

20ml (3/4fl oz/scant 1/8 cup) orange juice

Mix together the brown sugar, mustard powder, grated ginger with the zest and juice of the orange. Spoon the glaze over the ham and cook as above, basting at regular intervals.

Roast Buttermilk Brined Turkey Breast

Inspired by Samin Nosrat

Serves 4-6

1 half turkey crown (breast) about 2 ½ lbs (1.1kg)

500ml (16 fl oz) buttermilk

1 ½ tbsp (33g) salt

24-48 hours before you plan to enjoy the turkey, pour the salted buttermilk into a large heavy resealable plastic bag. Put the turkey breast inside, seal carefully, expelling as much air as possible. Squish the bag a little to make sure the turkey is well covered with the buttermilk. Pop it into the fridge in a gratin dish for 24-36 hours, turning occasionally.

Remove the turkey about 2 hours before cooking, lay on a wire rack over a roasting tray to drain off the excess buttermilk.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7. Lay the rack on a baking sheet, roast until the turkey breast is fully cooked through, 40 minutes approximately for a boneless breast. It will register 150°C on a meat thermometer. Keep an eye and cover with parchment if it is browning too much.

Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. Serve with your favourite traditional or non-traditional accompaniments.

Darina’s Cranberry Sauce

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 several weeks.  It is also great with white chocolate mousse or as a filling for a meringue roulade. Add a spoonful of port and quarter teaspoon of finely grated orange zest for a change but I love the clean taste of the original.

Serves 6 approximately

175g (6oz) fresh or frozen cranberries

4 tablespoons (60ml/scant 2 1/2fl oz) water

75g (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.

Note: Fresh cranberries keep for weeks on end but also freeze perfectly.

Note:  It should be soft and juicy, add a little warm water if it has accidently over cooked.

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!  Serve with roast chicken, turkey and guinea fowl.

Serves 6-8

600ml (1 pint) whole milk

75-110g (3 – 4oz) soft white breadcrumbs (see recipe)

2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 cloves

35 – 50g butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

75-110ml (3-4 fl 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. Taste, correct the seasoning and add a little more milk if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot.

Bread sauce will keep in the fridge for several days and can be reheated, add a little extra cream or milk if it’s too thick.

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.

Roast Potatoes

A big roasting tin of crusty roast 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.


Rustic Roast Potatoes

For a more nutritious rustic roast potato, scrub the potato well, cut the unpeeled potatoes into wedges, toss in olive oil, dripping or duck or goose fat. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until soft in the centre and crusty on the outside, about 20–30 minutes.

Pan Roasted Parsnips

I have a real passion for pan roasted parsnips – we eat them three or four times a week during the parsnip season.  Buy them unwashed if possible. Roast Jerusalem artichokes are also super delicious. Scrub, no need to peel, half and cook in the same way.

Serves 6-8

4 parsnips

olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the parsnips, peel and cut them into quarters – the chunks should be quite large. Roast in olive oil in a hot oven 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8, turning them frequently so that they do not become too crusty. We often roast them in the same pan as Rustic Roast Potatoes, see recipe. Cooked this way they will be crisp outside and soft in the centre.

Best Brussels Sprouts Ever

Not surprisingly many people loathe Brussels sprouts because so often 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!

Top tip: they can be blanched, refreshed and drained and refrigerated the day before.

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 Pomegranate Seeds and Walnuts

Cook the sprouts in the usual way.  Meanwhile melt 25-50g butter in a frying pan, toss in about 25g (1oz) coarsely chopped walnuts. As soon as the sprouts are cooked, drain and toss in the walnut butter. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and a little chopped parsley and serve.

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.

Retro Celery

How retro does creamed celery sound but it’s really delicious and a much loved part of our Christmas dinner. It can also be cooked ahead and reheated. Florence fennel also tastes good cooked this way.

Serves 4 – 6

1 head of celery

salt and freshly ground pepper

Roux (see recipe)

4-6fl oz (120-175ml) cream or creamy milk


chopped parsley

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

Bring 1/4 pint of water to the boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the chopped celery, cook gently 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 cream to make sufficient sauce to coat the celery. Allow to bubble for a few minutes, pour over celery, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate when cool and reheat later.


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