Saturday December 22nd

S

How about a little Christmas Eve supper around the fire, something light and delicious and not too time consuming to make. Just one course of something comforting to soothe frayed nerves. Wouldn’t it be lovely to tuck into a pie – I adore Ballycotton Fish Pie, or a Shepherd’s Pie with a blob of garlic butter melting onto the crispy potato topping, or maybe Babotie, the spicy South African version of Shepherd’s Pie. Easier still, a bubbly Macaroni Cheese with lots of Dan Hegarty’s mature cheddar cheese melting into the sauce.

Quesadillas are really quick to make, this recipe has a pumpkin filling but you can use whatever you like or have to hand.

A good green salad made up of winter greens like Arctic green lettuce, curly kale, finely shredded Savoy cabbage and watercress, with a honey and mustard dressing would be so welcome. A plate of green salad has the magical effect of making you feel less full so you have room for pudding or a piece of delicious Irish farmhouse cheese.

Membrillo or quince paste is one of my favourite accompaniments with cheese, Medjool dates and those plump Turkish figs on raffia string also make irresistible nibbling. Lots of sweet clementines, a Panforte di Siena, and a Panettone (the light Italian Christmas confection) are worth having as a standby, as is a Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese.

If you just feel like a snack and a glass of wine, this unctuous creamy cheese hidden under the rumpled crust, is heaven on a cracker and totally stress-free.

I had this wonderful light Christmas pudding at a friend’s house the other night, the recipe comes from ‘Delia Smith’s Christmas’, trust Delia to come up trumps again. You may not wish to eat it on Christmas Eve if you are having Plum Pudding again next day, but if you haven’t got around to making a pudding it would fit the bill!

We wish you a peaceful and convivial Christmas.

Hot Tips

 

Vacherin Mont d’Or – available from Iago and On the Pigs Back in Cork’s English Market, Sheridans Cheesemongers in Dublin and Galway, Peter Ward in Nenagh, Urru in Bandon and Mallow.

 

Greatfood2buy.com – new fine food shop opened in every town in Ireland –

Gourmands countrywide now have access to a well stocked, specialist ingredients outlet and gift food online shop which delivers direct to their door anywhere in Ireland.  It explains what each item is like and even suggests how it may be used.  They also do gift vouchers.

 

Morrin O’Rourke Farm Foods, Kilcock, Co Kildare

Certified organic farm foods – beef, lamb and vegetables.   Delicious meat pies,(nicest bite I’ve had in a long time), breads, jams, chutneys, sauces and other seasonal treats.  Their philosophy is ‘the best life for all involved’ – humans and animals.   Tel 086-3208940 or email morrinoh@yahoo.ie

 

Quesadillas with Pumpkin,Wicklow Blue and Rocket Leaves

 

 

Serves 8

 

 

16 flour tortillas

750g (1¾lb) pumpkin or butternut squash

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 teasp. fresh thyme leaves

100g (3½oz) mature cheddar, grated

125g (4½oz) soft blue cheese, eg Wicklow Blue, crumbled

125g (4½oz) mozzarella, grated

 

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas6

 

 

 

Halve, deseed and peel the pumpkin, dice the flesh.   Transfer to a baking tray, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper and a teaspoon of thyme leaves.

Roast in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

Heat a wide heavy iron or wide non-stick pan on a medium heat, pop a flour tortilla into the pan.  Sprinkle on a little grated cheddar.  Top with a layer of roasted pumpkin and a liberal scattering of crumbled blue cheese and mozzarella.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Top with some fresh rocket leaves.   Press the other tortilla down, the underneath should be lightly browned by now, so turn over and continue to cook for about 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and beginning to ooze.   Slide onto a timber board, cut into quarters or eighths and pass around immediately.  

 

Babotie

 

Serves 8-10

 

This South African recipe was given to us by Alicia Wilkinson from Silwood Kitchens in Capetown.

 

generous 30ml (1fl oz) oil

4 tablespoons butter

450g (1lb) lamb, freshly minced

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

110g (4oz) grated carrot

 

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2½ teaspoons ground ginger

3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh herbs

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cinnamon

sugar to taste – 1 teaspoon approx.

a piece of red chilli

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

15g (½oz) almonds, chopped

some lemon leaves or 2 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind

generous 15ml (2½fl oz) wine vinegar

2 x 2.5cm (1inch) slices of sandwich loaf, soaked in water, drained and squeezed dry

 

Topping

250ml (9fl oz) buttermilk

2 large eggs, free-range and organic

salt and freshly ground pepper

2½ teaspoons turmeric

seasoning

 

Heat the butter and oil, add onion and garlic and cook until soft.  Add mince and stir well, add grated carrot, spices, chilli, seasoning, chopped almonds and lemon rind.     Stir well and continue to cook until the flavours mingle.   Stir in the soaked and squeezed bread, and the wine vinegar.  Mix well, taste and correct seasoning.

Put the meat into a shallow rectangular baking dish and smooth over.  

Whisk all the ingredients together for the topping, check the seasoning and strain over the meat.  Bake at once in a pre-heated oven 180C/350F/gas 4 until topping is set and golden.

 

 

Ballycotton Fish Pie 

Serves 6-8

 

Many different types of really fresh fish may be used for a fish pie, so feel free to adapt this recipe a little to suit your needs. Periwinkles would be a good and cheap addition and a little smoked haddock is tasty also.

 

2½ lbs (1.25kg) fillets of cod, haddock, ling, hake, salmon or pollock or a mixture, skinned

 

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pint (600ml) full cream milk and a very little cream (optional)

1-2 slices onion

3 or 4 slices of carrot

1 small bay leaf

a sprig of thyme

3 peppercorns

 

18 cooked mussels (optional)

roux made with 1 oz (30g) butter and 1 oz (30g) flour

 

4 hard boiled eggs

½ oz (15g) butter

4oz (120g) onion, chopped

6 ozs (170g) sliced mushrooms, preferably flat

2 tablesp. chopped parsley

2 lbs (900g) fluffy mashed potato or Champ

 

Accompaniment

Parsley and anchovy or Garlic butter (optional)

 

Cut the fish into 5-6 oz (140-170g) chunks.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the onion, carrot, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns into the milk, bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Strain.  (This step is optional but adds extra flavour to the milk).

Wash the mussels (if using), put into a shallow pan in a single layer, cover and cook over a medium heat just until the shells open – 3 or 4 minutes approx. Cool.

Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes in boiling salted water, cool and shell.

Sweat the onion in a little melted butter on a gently heat until soft but not coloured, remove to a plate.

Increase the heat, sauté the sliced mushrooms in the hot pan, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add to the onions. Put the fish into a wide sauté pan or frying pan, in a single layer, cover with the flavoured or plain milk.

Don’t use more than 4 ozs of smoked haddock unless you want the smoky flavour to predominate. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and simmer gently until the fish is just cooked – no more than 3-4 minutes.

Remove the fish carefully with a slotted spoon, carefully removing any bones or skin.

Bring the liquid to the boil and thicken with roux  (see recipe), add a little cream (optional) and the chopped parsley, roughly chopped hard boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, chunks of fish and the mussels. Stir gently, taste and correct the seasoning.

Spoon into 1 large or 6-8 small dishes and pipe fluffy mashed potato or Scallion Champ on top.    The pie may be prepared ahead to this point.

To reheat, put into a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 10-15 minutes approx. if the filling and potato are warm, or 30 minutes approx. if reheating the dish from the cold. Flash under the grill if necessary to brown the top.

Serve with Garlic butter or Parsley butter.

 

Roux

 

4 ozs (110 g) butter

4 ozs (110 g) flour

 

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally.  Use as required.  Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred.  It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

 

Foolproof Food

Parsley Butter

 

2 ozs (55g) butter

4 teasp. finely chopped parsley

Few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

 

Cream the butter, then stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at the time. Roll into butter pats of form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tin foil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.

To serve: Remove the tin foil and cut into 3 inch (5mm) slices.

 

Garlic Butter

 

2 ozs (55g) butter

4 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped

2-3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

 

Cream the butter, stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at a time.  Add the crushed garlic.  Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tinfoil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker.  Refrigerate to harden.

 

Winter Green Salad with Honey and Mustard Dressing

For this salad, use a selection of winter lettuces and salad leaves, e.g. Butterhead, Iceberg, Raddichio, Endive, Chicory, Watercress, Buckler leaf, Sorrel, Rocket leaves and Winter Purslane Mysticana.  Tips of purple sprouting broccoli are also delicious and if you feel like something more robust, use some finely-shredded Savoy cabbage and maybe a few shreds of red cabbage also. 

 

 

Honey and Mustard Dressing

 

6 fl ozs (150ml) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils, eg. sunflower and arachide

2 fl ozs (50ml) wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 teasp. honey

2 heaped teasp. wholegrain honey mustard

2 cloves garlic

 

Mix all the ingredients together and whisk well before use.

 

Wash and dry the lettuces and other leaves very carefully in a large sink of cold water.  If large tear into bite sized pieces and put into a deep salad bowl.  Cover with cling film and refrigerate if not to be served immediately.  Just before serving toss with a little dressing – just enough to make the leaves glisten.  Serve immediately.

 

Note:  Green Salad must not be dressed until just before serving, otherwise it will be tired and unappetising.

 

Macaroni Cheese

 

Serves 6

 

Macaroni cheese is one of my children’s favourite supper dishes. We often add some cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni.

 

8 ozs (225g) macaroni

6 pints (3.4L) water

2 teaspoons salt

 

2 ozs (55g) butter

2 ozs (55g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1½ pints (850ml) boiling milk

3 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon  freshly chopped parsley, (optional)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

5 ozs (145g) grated mature Cheddar cheese (We use our local Cheddar which is made at Mitchelstown and matured at Imokilly Creamery)

 

1 x 2 pint (1.1L) capacity pie dish

 

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook until just soft, 10-15 minutes approx. drain well.

Meanwhile melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, parsley if using and cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately.

Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place, it is very good served with cold meat particularly ham.

 

Top Tip: Macaroni soaks up an enormous amount of sauce.  Add more sauce if making ahead to reheat later.

Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Salmon

Add 4 ozs (110 g) of smoked salmon pieces to the macaroni cheese.

 

Macaroni Cheese with Mushrooms and Courgettes

Add 8 ozs (225 g) sliced sautéed mushrooms and 8 ozs (225 g) sliced courgettes cooked in olive oil with a little garlic and marjoram or basil and add to the Macaroni cheese.  Toss gently, turn into a hot serving dish and scatter with grated cheese – delish.

 

Light Christmas Pudding

 

Serves 8

 

6oz (175g) self-raising flour, sifted

Pinch of salt

4oz (110g) butter, softened

4oz (110g) soft light brown sugar

1 medium cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped small

2 eggs, size 1

3 rounded tablespoons mincemeat

⅓ teaspoon ground mace

1 teaspoon lemon juice

The grated zest of 1 small orange

The grated zest of 1 small lemon

2 pieces whole candied orange peel

2 pieces whole candied lemon peel

1 piece candied citron peel

 

2 pint (1.2litre) pudding basin – rounded-based sort is best

 

 

Prepare the basin by buttering it lightly and arranging the candied peel in the base.  First snip the citron peel into ½ inch (1cm) strips and arrange these in an overlapping circle in the centre of the base of the basin; you need something that resembles a flower.  Then, using a sharp pair of scissors, snip the whole candied peels lengthways into strips, but leaving the end intact.  Imagine five fingers attached to a hand and you’ve got it.  Now arrange these around the ‘flower’, spreading out the strips as much as possible.

Now, for the pudding, simply beat the sugar and butter with an electric hand whisk until the mixture is pale and creamy and drops off a spoon easily with a sharp tap.  Then beat the eggs in a jug and add these a minute amount at a time, whisking well after each addition.  When all the liquid egg is incorporated carefully fold in the sifted flour, mace and salt, followed by the lemon juice, grated lemon and orange zest, chopped apple and finally the mincemeat.

Now spoon the mixture into the basin, being careful to leave your artistic arrangement intact.   Tie a double piece of pleated foil on to the basin, place it in a steamer over boiling water and steam for 2½ hours.

If you are not using it immediately, allow it to get completely cold. Turn it out, wrap it well and freeze till needed.  Take it out of the freezer the night before you want to use it.

Re-steam for 1½ hours and serve with Brandy butter, Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce, softly whipped cream or Hot Punch Sauce as Delia suggests.

 

Hot Punch Sauce

 

This sauce can be made well in advance, as long as you re-heat it gently and don’t let it boil.

 

10fl.oz (275ml) water

2oz (50g) caster sugar

The thinly pared outer rind of ½ medium orange

The thinly pared outer rind of ½ large lemon

The juice of 1 medium orange

The juice of 1 large lemon

6 fl.oz(175ml) dry sherry (or medium would do)

2 tablesp. rum

2 tablesp brandy

1 rounded dessertspoon plain flour and 3oz (75g) unsalted butter worked together into a paste.

 

Measure the water into a small saucepan, then cut the thinly pared orange and lemon rind into tiny shreds.  Add them to the water along with the sugar, then gently bring the mixture up to simmering point and simmer gently for 20 minutes.   Meanwhile, squeeze the orange and lemon juice into a bowl, and measure out the sherry, rum and brandy to join it.  As soon as the 20 minutes are up, whisk the butter and flour paste into the contents of the saucepan.  Bring back to simmering point, still whisking until the sauce has thickened.

Now, keeping the heat very low, add the alcohol and fruit juices and, stirring gently, allow everything to become very hot without coming to the boil.

Serve some sauce spooned over each portion of pudding and hand the rest around separately.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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