ArchiveDecember 24, 2010

Tasty and Tempting Christmas Treats

Lots of last minute preparation still to be done despite your best intentions? Don’t worry we are all in the same boat!  In this Christmas Eve column I thought I’d concentrate on easy suppers and little nibbles. If you have even a few minutes to dash to the shops or market, make sure to stock up with some of Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen salami and chorizo and some good smoked fish. Just nibble the cured sausage or use for Chorizo fritters. If you want to splash out, some of Frank Hederman’s smoked eel or mussels are a memorable treat. If funds are running low, smoked mackerel is less expensive but equally delicious. Don’t miss the smoked haddock or hake either, it’s a foodie feast when thinly sliced and drizzled with sweet dill mayonnaise. I also love Ummera, Woodcock Smokery and Bill Casey’s organic Shanagarry smoked salmon, always a terrific standby served with Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread. A few Irish farmhouse cheeses are also a

must-have and a melted Gubbeen would be perfect for an easy Christmas Eve supper around the fire with crusty bread or potato wedges to dip into the gooey cheese.

There are so many Irish farmhouse cheeses to serve proudly it’s difficult to choose. I’ve got a gorgeous Durrus ripening up, a Bellingham Blue from Castlebellingham, Co Louth, a Clonmore Goat Cheese from Tom Biggane and a Cáis Rua from Fermoy Cheese. Remember your local farmhouse cheese makes a perfect inexpensive present and buying locally has the extra feel good factor of putting money back into your own community. I love to serve a little membrillo (quince paste) with farmhouse cheese, this is available at most cheese shops and at Farmer’s Market stands, it keeps forever and you’ll buy a nice slab for a couple of euro. A few Turkish figs tied on raffia string are also great with cheese as are plump Medjool dates. I get the former at Urru in Bandon and the Village Greengrocer in Castlemartyr among others sell great Medjool dates in the midst of local and exotic fruit and vegetables.

I’ve also picked out a few simple dishes to share with family and friends. How about Baked Eggs with Creamy Kale, this comes from Rachel’s new book Entertaining at Home. Parmesan custards with anchovy toasts are irresistible too. I’m ‘over’ mulled wine but still love mulled apple juice – let’s fill our glasses, make a toast with this one, Happy Christmas to all our readers.  2011 will be great after all things can only get better – surely and remember every day a little treat!


Mulled Apple Juice


Serves 8

1 orange preferably unwaxed

1 x 750ml (1 1/4 pints) bottle pure apple juice

1 x 750ml (1 1/4 pints) bottle water

12 whole cloves

3 small cinnamon sticks

75g (3ozs) golden castor sugar

6 all spice or pimento berries

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Wash the orange in warm water, remove the rind in strips with a swivel top peeler, and juice the orange.  Pour the apple juice and water into a stainless steel saucepan add the rind, juice and cloves with the rest of the spices and sugar.  Heat gently. Taste, add more sugar if necessary.

Serve warm but not too hot.

Frank Hederman’s Smoked Haddock with Sweet Dill Mayonnaise


1 fillet of Smoked Haddock

Serve with

sweet dill mayonnaise (see below)

Slice the haddock very thinly down onto the skin. Arrange in a small layer on a chilled plate. Drizzle with a little sweet dill mayonnaise. Garnish with a little fresh dill.


Sweet Dill Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range

2 tablespoons French mustard

1 tablespoon white sugar

150ml (1/4 pint) ground nut or sunflower

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.

Baked Gubbeen Cheese with Thyme Leaves and Crusty Bread  

One could also use a Durrus or Ardrahan, all of which are truly delicious just with crusty bread and a glass of red wine. 

Serves 4

1 whole Gubbeen cheese

1 tablesp. chopped thyme leaves or a little chopped rosemary

2 cloves of garlic, chopped (optional)

Cracked black pepper

crusty loaf of bread or potato wedges

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, cut the cheese in half horizontally to make 2 rounds.  Sprinkle the cracked black pepper, fresh herbs and chopped garlic if using on the bottom half of the cheese.   Replace the top disc of cheese and wrap loosely in aluminium foil. Transfer the cheese on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until just soft and runny inside.  Spoon the gooey cheese on slices of chunky bread or potato wedges.

Parmesan Custards with Anchovy Toasts

Serves 8

250ml (9fl ozs) cream

250ml (9 fl ozs) milk

4 organic egg yolks

100g (3 1/2 ozs) finely grated Parmesan, Coolea or Desmond cheese

salt, freshly ground pepper and a good pinch of cayenne

melted butter

Anchovy Butter

6 anchovy fillets

25g (1ozs) unsalted butter

4 slices of good quality white yeast bread

8 deep ovenproof pots or ramekins (75ml/3fl ozs) (we use shot glasses)

bain marie

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

Whisk the cream and milk with the egg yolks and the finely grated cheese.  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Whisk again.  Brush the inside of the pots with melted butter.  Divide the mixture between the pots.

Fill a bain marie with hot water, put the pots into the bain marie, the water should come about 2/3 way up the sides.  Cover the tops with a sheet of silicone paper.  Depending on the depth of the ramekin, bake for 30-45 minutes in the preheated oven or until the mixture has just set.  A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Meanwhile, make the anchovy butter.

Mash the anchovies finely with a fork, add the butter and mix well.

Just before serving, toast the bread quickly on both sides.  Spread the anchovy butter on 2 slices of bread and make into sandwiches with the other slices.  Press down to seal, trim off the crusts.  Cut each in half crosswise and then cut into thin fingers.  Put a pot or ramekin on a plate.  Arrange a little trellis of anchovy toasts on the side, add a teaspoon. Serve immediately.

Rachel’s Baked Eggs with Creamy Kale

Taken from Entertaining at Home by Rachel Allen by published Harper Collins

Serves 6

These are delicious for brunch or a casual supper. If you can’t get kale, use

spinach. I love to use the Irish farmhouse cheese Glebe Brethan for its delicious flavour and melting texture, but you could use Gruyère instead.

25g (1oz) butter

900g (2lb) kale with stalks removed before weighing

salt and ground black pepper

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

350ml (12fl oz) single or regular cream

6 eggs

350g (12oz) Glebe Brethan or gruyère cheese, grated

Six 100ml (31⁄2 fl oz) ramekins or ovenproof dishes

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°f), Gas mark 4. Add the butter to a large wide frying pan and place over a medium heat. Add the kale and season with salt and pepper. As

soon as the kale wilts and becomes tender, add the cream and nutmeg, then allow to bubble for 3–5 minutes until thickened. Divide the kale between the ramekins or dishes, placing it around the inside of each dish and leaving a small well in the

centre. Break one egg into each dish and sprinkle (50g) 2oz of the grated cheese over the top. Bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes or until golden on top and bubbling around the edges. Scatter over a little pepper and serve immediately with a little toast on the side.

Irish Farmhouse Cheese and Gubbeen Chorizo Puffs

Makes 40 approximately


8ozs (225g) white flour

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 free range eggs, separated

2 tablespoons olive oil

6flozs (175ml) warm beer

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.2 litres (2 pints) peanut or corn oil

10ozs (275g) Gubbeen chorizo, skinned and finely chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

4ozs (110g) grated Coolea or Desmond cheese

fresh parsley leaves, preferably flat leaf Italian

Deep Fry or 3/4 inch (2cm) oil in a frying pan

Sieve the flour into a bowl.  Add the red pepper flakes and mix well.  Make a well in the centre and add the beaten egg yolks, olive oil, beer, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Mix well, cover and allow to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

Heat the oil to 190°C /375ºF/Gas Mark 5.  Meanwhile cook the chorizo in a frying pan over a medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Fold the whites into the batter with the chorizo, parsley and cheese. Drop tablespoonfuls of batter gently into the hot oil, turn occasionally until golden, 2-3 minutes.  Drain on kitchen paper.   Serve and garnish with parsley leaves.  Serve immediately.

List of Suppliers


Gubbeen Farmhouse Products, Fingal Ferguson – 028 278 24

Belvelly Smokehouse, Belvelly, Cobh, Co Cork – Frank Hederman – 021 4811 089

Ummera Smokehouse, Inchybridge, Timoleague, West Cork – Anthony Cresswell

023 884 6644

Woodcock Smokery, Gortbrack, Castletownshend, Skibbereen, West Cork

Sally Barnes 028 362 32

Durrus Farmhouse Cheese, Coomkeen, Durrus, West Cork – Jeffa Gill 027 611 00

Bellingham Blue, Glyde Farm, Castlebellingham, Co Louth 042 937 2343

Clonmore Goat Cheese, Charleville, Co Cork, Tom Biggane 063 704 90

Fermoy Natural Cheese Company, Strawhill, Fermoy, Co Cork

Frank and Gudrun Shinnick 025 31310

Urru Artisan Food Store, McSwiney Quay, Bandon, West Cork – Ruth Healy 023 885 4731

Village Greengrocer & Food Hall, Main Street, Castlemartyr, Co Cork.

Sean Walsh – 021 466 7655


Edible Presents


Stained Glass Snowflake Cookies

Annie Rigg – Gifts from the Kitchen – published by Kyle Cathie

I used to have festive snowflake cutters for these cookies, but the same idea works just as well for almost any shape. They look beautiful hanging at a window, allowing the light to shine through the ‘stained glass’. Or you could give one cookie to each guest as a place setting or table gift for the Christmas dinner table.

Makes 8 – 12 cookies

225g  (8oz (½lb)unsalted butter, softened

150g  (5oz) icing sugar

1 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

350g  (12oz) plain flour, plus extra for rolling

inch of salt

assorted flavoured and coloured boiled sweets

You will need a selection of snowflake cookie cutters.

Cream the softened butter and icing sugar together until pale and light. Add the whole egg and vanilla extract and mix again until thoroughly combined. Sift the flour with the salt, add to the bowl and mix again until smooth. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc and wrap in Clingfilm. Chill for a couple of hours or until firm.

Meanwhile divide the boiled sweets into separate colours, place in freezer bags and crush using a rolling pin. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and line 2 solid baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment. Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out the dough until it is roughly 3mm thick. Using the snowflake cutters, stamp out snowflakes in assorted sizes and arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Carefully and neatly fill the holes in the snowflakes with the crushed boiled sweets. Bake in batches on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are pale and golden and the boiled sweets have melted and filled the holes. Cool the cookies on trays until hardened, and package into boxes lined with greaseproof or waxed paper.  These will keep for 4 or 5 days in an airtight box.



The many fans of Arbutus Artisan Breads will be delighted to hear that Declan Ryan plans to share his secrets and teach traditional skills and techniques for making his soda, yeast and sour dough breads. Numbers are limited so book soon. The course runs for four nights from 6:30pm till finish (depending when the bread you take home with you is ready) for four weeks starting on Wednesday 12th January, 2011. €250.00 and email to book – 0862513919.


Having a last minute Christmas gift emergency? A Ballymaloe Cookery School gift voucher means everyone’s a winner! They can email you a presentation gift voucher even on Christmas Eve – 021 4646785

Muriel Coughlan won the Grow Bake Cook at the EAT Cork Festival 2010. Since then she worked really hard to get her company Gookies off the ground – she makes a wheat free, gluten free cookie dough roll which she now supplies to SuperValu in Midleton and Anne William’s stall at the farmers market. In O’Briens Sandwhich Bar coeliacs can request a Gookie – which are kept in a separate area in a special container – and can enjoy a freshly baked cookie with confidence. Contact Muriel Coughlan 0878229749.


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