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
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 (www.reganorganicfarm.ie)
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
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
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.
1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic, turkey with neck and giblets
Fresh Herb Stuffing
(14-16oz) approx. soft white breadcrumbs (or approximately 1lb 4oz of
50g (2oz) freshly
chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, annual marjoram,
salt and freshly
Stock – the base for a big jug of gravy
giblet, neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey
or 4 peppercorns
For basting the turkey
(8oz/2 sticks) butter
square of muslin (optional)
Cranberry Sauce (see recipe)
Bread Sauce (see recipe)
sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress
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.
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.
turkey is cooked when the juices run clear.
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. .
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
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.
possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crispy
and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of
holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.
with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce
Basic Brine for Turkey, Chicken, Duck or
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).
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.
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
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
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
grated zest of
half an organic orange
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
Roast Buttermilk Brined Turkey Breast
Inspired by Samin Nosrat
1 half turkey crown (breast) about 2 ½ lbs
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,
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
Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before
carving. Serve with your favourite traditional or non-traditional
Darina’s 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.
(6oz) fresh or frozen cranberries
tablespoons (60ml/scant 2 1/2fl oz) water
(3oz) granulated sugar
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
warm or cold.
Note: Fresh cranberries keep for weeks on end but also
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.
600ml (1 pint) whole
75-110g (3 – 4oz)
soft white breadcrumbs (see recipe)
2 medium onions, each
stuck with 6 cloves
35 – 50g butter
salt and freshly
75-110ml (3-4 fl oz)
2 good pinches of
ground cloves or quatre
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.
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
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
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:
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
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.
and freshly ground pepper
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.
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
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.
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.
4 – 6
head of celery
and freshly ground pepper
oz (120-175ml) cream or creamy milk
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.
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.