ArchiveDecember 6, 2008

Store Up Sauces for Christmas

Try to snatch a few hours this week to stock up your pantry for Christmas.
Sauces, relishes and flavoured butters add magic to your cooking; they can enliven many otherwise mundane meals. Many are easy peasy to make and can be stored as a standby in a fridge or a pantry for weeks sometimes months. This week I suggested a variety of sweet and savoury sauces that you can stash away to make festive cooking less hectic. Many are also suitable for Christmas presents, pack them into little 6 fl oz (180ml) jars, make pretty or quirky labels and decorate with lots of twiddles and bows. Otherwise go for the thrifty chic look and use recycled newspaper and jute string with luggage labels. This year, ostentatious bling is definitely out. It’s all about re-making, recycling and re-gifting, always a bit dicey! Making homemade presents are no longer looked on as merely worthy at last it’s chic, so into the kitchen, we’ll all have fun.

Three good sauces to go with the turkey, goose and ham

Bramley Apple Sauce

Apple sauce can be frozen in little tubs. Serve with roast goose, duck or pork.
The trick with apple sauce is to cook it covered on a low heat with very little water.

Serves 10 approx.

450g (1 lb) cooking apples, e.g. Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
1-2 dessertsp water
55g (2 ozs) sugar, depending on how tart the apples are

Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut the pieces into two and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan with sugar and water. Cover and cook over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, beat into a puree, stir and taste for sweetness.

Spiced Cranberries

Serves 10-12

450g (1lb) sugar
225ml (8fl oz) water
125ml (4fl oz) wine vinegar
½ stick cinnamon
1 star anise
6 cloves
5cm (2inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled, sliced and tied in a muslin bag
1 chilli, split and seeded
450g (1lb) cranberries

Lemon juice

Place the sugar, water, vinegar and spice bag in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the cranberries and simmer very gently until the cranberries become tender. Some will burst, that’s ok, add a little juice to taste.

Cumberland Sauce

Serves 8-12 approx.

This classic sauce is great with cold ham, turkey, chicken, guinea fowl, game or rough pâtés.

1 orange
1 lemon
225g (8oz) red currant jelly
3-4 tablespns port
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a pinch of ground ginger

With a swivel-top peeler, remove the peel very thinly from the orange and half of the lemon (make sure there is no white pith). Shred into thin julienne strips, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Strain off the water and discard it, then refresh the peel under cold water. Strain and keep it aside.

Squeeze the juice from the fruit and put it into a stainless steel saucepan with the jelly and spices; allow it to melt down. Then add the peel and port to the sauce. Boil it rapidly for 5-10 minutes.

Test like jam by putting a little blob on a cold saucer. When it cools it should wrinkle slightly.

Cumberland Sauce may be served in a bowl right away or it can be potted up and kept until needed, like jam.

Three good things to go with ice-creams or crepes

Three sweet sauces
Butterscotch Sauce

This irresistible sauce is delicious served with ice-cream or with sticky toffee pudding or crêpes on its own or even better with sliced bananas. It keeps for several weeks stored in a screw top jar in the fridge.

4 ozs (110 g) butter
6 ozs (170 g) dark soft brown Barbados sugar
4 ozs (110 g) granulated sugar
10 ozs (285 g) golden syrup
8 fl ozs (225 ml) cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract.  Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.  Serve hot or cold.

Chocolate Sauce

Serve with ice-cream, crêpes, profiteroles or meringues

2 ozs (55g/2 squares) plain chocolate
1 oz (30g/1 square) unsweetened chocolate
6 fl ozs (175ml) syrup, approx. (see below)
½ to 1 tablespoon Rum or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water or in a low heat oven. Gradually whisk in the syrup. Flavour with rum or vanilla essence.

Stock Syrup

Makes 28 fl ozs (825 ml)

1 lb (450 g) sugar
1 pint (600 ml) water

To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil.  Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool.  Store in the fridge until needed.

Irish Coffee Sauce

Brilliant with ice-cream, crêpes or chocolate mousse.

8 oz (225 g) sugar
3 fl oz (80 ml) water
8 fl oz (240 ml) strong coffee
1 – 2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

Put the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan; stir until the sugar dissolves and the water comes to the boil.  Remove the spoon and do not stir again until the syrup turns a rich golden caramel.  Then add the coffee and put back on the heat to dissolve.  Allow to cool and add the whiskey.

Serve immediately or store in a glass bottle in a cool place – it keeps indefinitely.

Three good things to go with plum puddings and mince pies

Brandy Butter

Serve with plum pudding and mince pies – makes 180ml (6 fl oz)

3ozs (90g) unsalted butter
3ozs (90g) icing sugar
2-6 tablesp. Brandy

Cream the butter until very light, add the icing sugar and beat again. Add the brandy, drop by drop. If you have a food processor, use it: you will get a wonderfully light and fluffy Brandy Butter.

Brandy, Rum or Muscovado butter can be made several weeks before Christmas, store in the fridge

Moscovado Butter

Substitute moscovado sugar in the brandy butter recipe.

Jamaica Rum Butter

Follow the recipe above. Replace with 3 – 4 tablespoons of Jamaica rum.

Three good things to go with cold meats

Spiced Kumquat Relish

Serve with ham, duck, goose or pork.

Makes 1-2 jars, depending on size

340g (12oz) kumquats
300g (10oz) sugar
250ml (8fl oz) white wine vinegar
5cm (2inch) piece of cinnamon stick
8 whole cloves
2 blades of mace

Rinse the kumquats. Slice the kumquats into a stainless steel saucepan.  Cover generously with cold water. Dissolve the sugar in the white wine vinegar in a stainless steel saucepan, add the cinnamon, cloves and mace, and stir until it comes to the boil. Add the sliced kumquats into the vinegar syrup. Simmer until the kumquats look transparent and slightly candied, 10 minutes approx.
Put the fruit in a wide-mouthed sterilized glass jar, pour the boiling syrup over and cover tightly (not with a tin lid).  Label and leave to mature for 3-4 weeks before use.

Rory O’Connell’s Spiced Plums

Delicious served with goose, duck, ham or Pâte de Campagne.

Serves 8 – 10

10 blood plums quartered
450ml (1lb) white sugar
125ml (4 fl oz) white wine vinegar
225ml (8 fl oz) water
1 split chili
1 stick of cinnamon
2.5cm (1 inch) of ginger
4-6 cloves

Put all the ingredients except the plums into a stainless steel saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Cut the plums into quarters and then cut each piece across into two.  Add to the saucepan and simmer very gently until tender, about 15 minutes.
Stored in a kilner jar or a covered bowl, the cooked plums will keep for several weeks in the fridge.

Three good relishes

Mango and Red Pepper Relish

Great with ham, bacon or vegetable pakoras.

50ml (2 fl ozs) medium sherry
50ml (2 fl ozs) water
50ml (2 fl ozs) white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
½  cinnamon stick
1 star anise
½ teaspoon salt
pinch of ground mace
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the sherry, water, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, star anise, salt and mace into a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the mango, pepper, and lemon juice, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Spoon into a screw top glass jar and refrigerate until required. Keeps for weeks.

Tomato and Chilli Sauce

Makes 2 to 3 small jars

2 oz (25g) green chillies, deseeded and chopped, or 2-3 depending on size
2 red peppers deseeded and cut in 1/4 inch (2cm) dice.
2 x 14 oz (400g) tin of tomatoes chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon castor sugar
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
1 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons water

Put the chillies, pepper, tomatoes and garlic into a small stainless steel saucepan with the sugar, vinegar and water.  Season and simmer for 10 minutes until reduced by half.

Tomato and Chilli Jam

Makes: 1 large pot or 2 small pots

In season:

This zingy jam is great with everything from fried eggs to cold meat.  Terrific on a piece of chicken breast or fish or spread on bruschetta with goat’s cheese and rocket leaves.

500g (1lb 2oz) very ripe tomatoes
2-4 red chillies
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
about 2.5cm (1inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
25ml (1 fl oz) fish sauce (Nam Pla)
300g (11 ozs) golden castor sugar
100ml (3 ½ fl oz) red wine vinegar

Peel the tomatoes and chop into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice. Purée the chillies, garlic, ginger and fish sauce in a blender.  Put the purée, sugar and vinegar into a stainless steel saucepan, add the tomatoes and bring to the boil slowly, stirring occasionally.  Cook gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking.

When cooked pour into warmed, sterilized glass jars.  Allow to cool and store in the fridge.

Fool Proof Food

This simple sauce is a terrific standby to have in your store cupboard because it keeps for months and is delicious with ice cream and mousses.

Caramel  Sauce

225g (8oz) sugar
85ml (3fl oz) cold water
225ml (8fl oz) hot water

Dissolve the sugar in the cold water over a gentle heat.  Stir until all the sugar has dissolved, then remove the spoon and continue to simmer until the syrup caramelises to a chestnut colour.  If sugar crystals form during cooking, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet brush, but do not stir.  Remove from the heat, pour in the hot water and continue to cook until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is quite smooth.  Allow to get cold.


Hot Tips

Special Christmas Markets
Midleton Farmers Market on Saturday 20th December and Tuesday 23rd December, 2008.
Re-opens on Saturday 10th January 2009.
Mahon Point Farmers Market on Thursday 18th December and Monday 22nd December from 10am to 4pm.
Re-opens Thursday 15th January 2009.
South Aran House
Maria and Enda Conneely run Organic and Wild Café at Fisherman’s Cottage on the Aran Island, Inishere. Their menu incorporates organically produced foods as well as locally caught wild fish. They recently opeAned a guesthouse alongside and are offering some great Christmas breaks that include three traditional dinners in their Organic and Wild Café.
Wisteria Restaurant
This week’s restaurant gem is Wisteria.  In the little village of Cloyne, Colm Falvey always incorporates locally produced food into his menu. Don’t miss the grilled fillet of cod with West Cork Scollops. Better still, come early and stock up with home baked goods from the girls in Cuddigan’s shop around the corner.
Wisteria – 021 465 1444.  Cuddigan’s – 021 4652762
Thrifty Tip

Recycle your used plastic 1 litre milk bottles and get triple the value. Fill the empty bottle to freeze soups and stocks; don’t fill completely to allow for expansion. Cut the top off the bottle ¾ ways up and use as a handy funnel. You can then use the base as a container that is easily stackable.


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