ArchiveDecember 2013

Delicious Ways with Christmas Leftovers

Phew it’s all over again for another year – hope it was jolly and lots of fun. Now for the best bit, using up the leftovers. If you haven’t eaten every last morsel from the turkey carcass, here are two delicious ways to use up the remainder.

We made the Tostadas recently with chicken and I was amazed how the grandchildren as well as the adults loved them. The kids loved the interactive bit of piling the filling on top of the tortillas.

Ramen Shops are sweeping across the US and UK. People can’t get enough of this comforting Japanese broth choc full of Chinese noodles with various additions. The best ones are of course made with homemade broth, noodles. This is a quick comforting version on the Ramen theme. Use up scraps of turkey, ham and even Brussels sprouts. Ribollita is similar, another comforting bowl of chunky soup.

If you still have any leftover Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce you may be surprised to hear it makes the most divine boozy ice-cream and it’s definitely hard to beat plum pudding that’s gently fried in butter.

A frittata is also a fantastic vehicle for little bits and pieces, add some grated

cheese and lots of freshly chopped herbs.

Macaroni cheese can be perked up with a little dice of smoked mackerel or salmon or a few little morsels of cooked ham or bacon. Left over bread can be made into all manner of bread and butter puddings – there’s no end to the delicious revival you can serve up with aplomb. Happy New Year

Turkey Tostadas

Tostadas are a favourite snack in Mexico, the filling varies according to the area, it can be beef, chicken, pork, turkey, crab or just vegetables.  The filling is always piled high so Tostadas are always quite a challenge to eat elegantly but what the heck they taste delicious! For a family meal pile the crisp torillas onto a plate and have bowls of shredded turkey meat, tomatoes, guacamole…so people can help themselves and make their own tostadas.


Serves 8


8 tortillas, they ought to be corn tortillas but wheat flour tortillas can be substituted.


225g (8ozs) refried beans, optional

1/2 iceberg lettuce, shredded

110-175g (4-6ozs) cooked turkey or chicken, shredded

4 sliced chilli, optional

4 – 6 very ripe tomatoes, sliced (cherry tomatoes would be best in which case you’ll need more)

1 or 2 avocados or guacamole

4 tablespoons spring onion, sliced

8 tablespoons sour cream

50-110g (2-4ozs) grated Cheddar cheese


Deep fry the tortillas in hot oil until crisp and golden, drain on kitchen paper.  Put each tortilla on a hot plate, spread with a little warm refried beans and then top with some crunchy lettuce, shredded chicken breast, guacamole and so on.


Finish off with a blob of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and chives.

Serve immediately.   In Mexico Tostadas are considered to be finger food – you’ll need both hands!


Refried Beans


Refried beans accompany numerous snacks including tacos and Mexican Scrambled Eggs.  The texture can be soupy or a thickish puree.


50-75g (2-3oz) best quality pork lard or butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

225g (8oz) Mexican beans


Heat the lard or butter in a heavy frying pan, cook the onion until soft and brown,  increase the heat and add about a third of the beans and their broth to the pan and cook over a high heat mashing them as you stir with a wooden spoon, or you could even use a potato masher.  Gradually add the rest of the beans little by little until you have a soft or thick puree.  Taste and season with salt if necessary.   Although this sounds as though it might be a lengthy business it only takes about 5-6 minutes.  Refried Beans keep well and may be reheated many times.




The avocado must be really ripe for guacamole


1 ripe avocado (Hass if available)

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander or flat parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Scoop out the flesh from the avocado.  Mash with a fork or in a pestle and mortar, add lime juice, olive oil, chopped coriander, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.  Otherwise, cover the surface of the guacamole with a sheet of plastic to exclude the air.  Cover and keep cool until needed.


A little finely diced chilli or tomato may be added to the guacamole.


Festive Frittata


Serves 6-8



A frittata is an Italian omelette.  Unlike its soft and creamy French cousin, a frittata is cooked slowly over a very low heat during which time you can be whipping up a delicious salad to accompany it!  It is cooked on both sides and cut into wedges like a piece of cake.  This basic recipe, flavoured with grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of herbs.  Like the omelette, though, you may add almost anything that takes your fancy.  One could substitute grated mature cheddar but Gruyére and Parmesan give you more ‘bang for your buck’.


10 large eggs, preferably free range organic

1 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

75g (3ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated

25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

25g (1oz) butter

4 tablespoons basil or annual marjoram chopped


To Serve

Rocket leaves

Tomato and Coriander Salsa


Non-stick pan – 22.5cm (10inch) frying pan


Whisk the eggs in a bowl; add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, grated cheese into the eggs.  Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs.  Turn down the heat, as low as it will go.  Leave the eggs to cook gently for 12 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.


Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set but not brown the surface.  Alternatively after an initial 3 or 4 minutes on the stove one can transfer the pan to a preheated oven 170ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3 until just set 15-20 minutes.


Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate.

Serve cut in wedges, arrange some rocket leaves on top of the frittata and top with a blob of tomato and coriander salsa or alternatively you can serve with a good green salad and perhaps a tomato salad.



Diced cooked potato, ham, chorizo, sweated leek, spring onion, blanched broccoli, roast pumpkin or squash, sautéed mushroom…





Ramen is the ultimate comfort food, it needs to be well flavoured but it can be varied in so many ways. The broth can be a mixture of chicken, pork, dashi, miso or vegetable based. Noodles can be traditional wheat ramen noodles or you can use buckwheat or brown rice noodles if it needs to be gluten free. The meat can be braised brisket or short ribs, pork shoulder, pork belly or bacon, tofu or shrimp. It’s whatever vegetables are in season, fresh herbs that you like. You can top it with softish hardboiled egg, nori, sesame seeds or nuts. The variations are endless. It’s also a fantastic way to use leftovers at any time of year but particularly Christmas. Here’s a basic starting point.
1.8 litres (64fl oz)        homemade chicken stock
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon mirin
1-inch chunk ginger root, gently smashed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
12 oz ramen noodles or other Chinese noodles
11/2 cups sautéed greens (spinach, Swiss chard, kale or Brussels sprouts)
11/2 cups mashed cooked squash or pumpkin
1lb  roasted turkey, chicken thighs, with or without skin, sliced
3  soft cooked eggs
3 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Heat chicken stock with soy sauce, mirin and ginger. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Discard ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sesame oil.
Cook the noodles in boiling water until just tender (usually 4 to 5 minutes but check the directions on the package). Drain well.
Heat greens, squash and chicken.
When everything is hot, assemble soup. Place about a cupful of noodles in each bowl. Ladle the broth over noodles. Arrange greens, squash and slices of chicken — in separate areas on top of the noodles. Shell the eggs, halve and lay ½  an egg in each bowl and sprinkle with lots of  green spring onions. Eat while very hot — broth first and then other ingredients or any way you want.
Sautéed greens  Sauté 275g (10oz) baby spinach or 450g (1 lb) trimmed and chopped kale or Swiss chard in 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil until wilted and tender — a minute or two for spinach and 8 to 10 minutes for kale or Swiss chard. Season with salt and pepper.
Puréed squash - Cut a butternut or buttercup squash in half, remove seeds and pulp, brush cut surfaces with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast, cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, in a preheated 400F oven for 45 minutes to one hour or until tender when pierced with a knife. Scoop out squash and mash with 1 tbsp roasted sesame oil and salt to taste.
Roasted chicken thighs - Toss 8 boneless chicken thighs (with or without skin) in 112ml (4fl oz) teriyaki sauce or 112ml (4fl oz) hoisin mixed with 2 tbsp soy sauce. Arrange skin side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in a preheated 200°C/400°F/Mark 6 oven for 30 minutes.
Soft-cooked eggs - Add 4 eggs gently to a medium sized saucepan of boiling, salted (1 tbsp) water. When water returns to the boil, cover pot and turn off heat. Let rest seven minutes. Drain eggs and cool in cold water. Crack shells and soak eggs in cold water for 5 minutes longer. Remove shells and cut eggs in half lengthwise with a piece of unflavoured dental floss.


Boozy Ice Cream with Raisins


A gorgeous rich ice cream with a scoopable texture, serve it in small helpings. Here I give the recipe from scratch but if you have any Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce left over you can use that instead.


Serves 20 approximately


4 oz (110g) butter

8 oz (225g) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown sugar)

1 egg, free-range


62ml (2½fl oz) port

62ml (2½fl oz) medium sherry


2 ¼-2 ½ pints (1.3-1.4L) lightly whipped cream


4oz (110g) muscatel raisins

62ml (2½fl oz) sherry

62ml (2½fl oz) rum

2oz (50g) fresh walnuts, chopped


2 13x20cm (5x8inch) loaf tins or plastic box


Melt the butter, stir in the sugar and allow it to cool slightly.  Whisk the egg and add to the butter and sugar with the sherry and port.  Cool.  Add the softly whipped cream.  Put into a plastic box, cover and freeze.

Alternatively line two loaf tins with cling film, cover and freeze.

Meanwhile put the raisins into a bowl, cover with a mixture of rum and sherry and allow it to plump up.  Chop the walnuts coarsely and add to the raisins just before serving.

To Serve 

Cut the ice cream in slices or serve in little glasses scattered with a few boozy raisins and some chopped walnuts.  Sliced or diced banana is also delicious with this combination.


Hot Tips


The Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co Leitrim 2014 Course Program and Seed Catalogue is full of brilliant ways to fulfil your New Year’s Resolutions to grow your own vegetables. You could start by signing up for Starting a Garden from Scratch on Saturday 22nd February 2014 and there are lots more brilliant forgotten Skills courses like Cheese Making, Beer Making, Beekeeping…  – to order a 2014 Catalogue or phone 071 9854338.


Master It – How to Cook Today – Rory O’Connell

For me it was a wonderful surprise that my latest book 30 Years at Ballymaloe won the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year award at the Bord Gais Irish Book Awards – and it really was a surprise, I was in very good company Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen and Catherine Fulvio’s The Weekend Chef were also shortlisted as were Neven Maguire’s The Nation’s Favourite Food, Kevin Dundon’s Modern Irish Food  and Ross Lewis for his beautifully produced Chapter One – An Irish Food Story.

But for me the best cookbook of the year was unquestionably Master It – How to Cook Today by Rory O’Connell. Yes, he’s my brother and you may well be thinking ‘well she would say that wouldn’t she’ but that’s what I truly believe.

It’s a fine tome and by the way, long overdue. Rory has spent his life in food ever since he came to Ballymaloe for a Summer job after his first year at University. Myrtle in her perceptive way noticed that he had a particular interest so she invited him into the kitchen to ‘try his hand’ for a couple of weeks. After no more than ten days she decided he was a natural…

Rory cooked in the kitchens at Ballymaloe House and Arbutus Lodge for many years. He spent several years with the legendary Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico in London, a stint in Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons with Raymond Blanc, a month with Alice Waters in Chez Pannise in Berkeley California and in the inspirational kitchens of the American Academy in Rome. He was head chef at Ballymaloe House for many years.

Rory and I co-founded the Ballymaloe Cookery School in 1983 and we now run the Cookery School together with my son Toby and our ace team.

Master It is a culmination of all those years of cooking and teaching both of which Rory really really loves. “This is not a ‘chuck it in and see how it goes’ book.  I find that approach irksome and unfair, as unless the cook is utterly instinctive and much practised, this approach is fraught with pit falls. Food is too precious and expensive for that sort of game of chance. So many times, I have witnessed the wide eyed amazement and delight of a cook who, when finally cajoled into reading, weighing, heating and timing a set of ingredients, has produced a dish that has previously eluded them. My approach to cooking is simple and not new. Use the best ingredients you can find, get organised and follow the recipe.”

Master It was one of just a handful of cookbooks chosen by BBC4 Radio Food Programme as one of the outstanding books of 2013, quite an honour and they are definitely not a ‘pushover’.

To the students here at Ballymaloe Cookery School he is a hero, his creativity and presentation are inspirational and they love it.

Follow any of the recipes in Master It you will be guaranteed success and a bucketful of compliments.


Hot Tips

We are very excited about New Seasons Capezzana Extra Virgin Olive Oil that has just arrived in the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop – 021 4646785

Rory O’Connell’s Carrot, Coconut and Lemongrass Soup


I tasted a soup with these ingredients in Laos a few years ago, and when I came home I set about recreating that delicious flavour. Carrot soup is a funny thing – you imagine it would be easy, but in fact it can be difficult to achieve a really flavoursome result. However, with

this lovely combination of flavours I think it works really well. It is worth noting that lemongrass grows successfully in this country in a glasshouse or conservatory, or even just on a south-facing windowsill. If possible buy carrots with the earth still on them, as generally they have much more flavour than pre-washed ones.


The ingredients

I like to make this soup with big carrots that have been sold with some earth still on them, and preferably after the first frosts, when they seem to become deeper in flavour, so this becomes a late autumn and winter soup.


Lemongrass is easy to source now and is a lovely ingredient with its sweet, scented and astringent flavour. Bright green when fresh, it dulls to a pale straw colour when dried, which is the way it is sold generally in the West. Here it needs to be sliced as finely as you can, so that it will cook down and disappear into the puréed soup. Be careful when running your hands over the grass, as its leaves can be razor sharp. If you have not cooked with it before, give it a go, as it will open up a world of different recipes to you.


Coconut milk, like lemongrass, is an essential ingredient in the cooking of south-east Asia and indeed all of southern India. Like lemongrass, using it is an entry ticket to a repertoire of dishes bigger than you can imagine. The first time you open a can, you may be surprised

by the rather grey-white colour of the contents. That’s fine, that’s the way it looks. Apart from the colour, the general appearance can also vary. Sometimes there will be a thick and solid layer on top, which is the richer cream, with a thinner, watery milk-like liquid underneath. If the can has been shaken, the two different consistencies can appear rather curdled, and again that’s all quite all right.  Just stir the two liquids together to mix. Some brands of coconut milk have been emulsified to prevent the two liquids from separating and to give the coconut a creamy appearance. I avoid these brands, because apart from the fact that in some recipes the

thick and the thin are added separately, I really just want the coconut and water that is used as part of the process and don’t want the stabilisers and emulsifiers. The quality of tinned coconut milk varies quite a bit, so search out a good brand such as Chaokoh.


Serves 6–8

40g butter

700g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

225g onions, peeled and thinly sliced

1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped

2 stalks of lemongrass

Maldon sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

and sugar, to taste

850ml chicken stock

500ml coconut milk

Fresh coriander leaves, to garnish


Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and allow it to foam. Add the carrots, onions and garlic and stir to coat in the butter. Remove the coarse outer leaves and the tough ends from the lemongrass. Slice the trimmed stalk finely against the grain and add to the vegetables. Tie the tough outer leaves together with string and add to the pan. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cover with a greaseproof paper lid and the saucepan lid and cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are beginning to soften.


Add the chicken stock, return to a simmer and cook, covered, until the vegetables are completely tender. Remove and discard the tied up lemongrass stalks. Purée the ingredients to achieve a smooth and silky consistency. Heat the coconut milk to a simmer, add to the carrot purée and mix well. Return the soup to a simmer. The consistency will be slightly thick. Taste and correct the seasoning, bearing in mind that carrots sometimes benefit from a small pinch of sugar to really lift the flavour. Serve hot, garnished with coriander leaves.


Rory O’Connell’s Fish Fillets Bakes ‘au gratin’


Keys to Success

Measure all the ingredients accurately, so as to ensure the correct amount of sauce and flavourings for the amount of fish being cooked.

The cooked gratin should be a rich golden colour and bubbling hot when ready to be served.


Gratin of Hake with Tomatoes, Basil, Olives and Parmesan


The firm texture of hake is perfect for this dish, although cod, Pollock and salmon are also good here. Really ripe tomatoes are essential to add sweetness and depth of flavour to the sauce.

The final addition to the dish of the strong-tasting chopped olive and basil pulls the flavours together. The cooked gratin should arrive at the table bubbling hot, with a rich golden colour.

The ingredients

Hake is a firm-textured white-fleshed fish with great flavour. Freshness, as ever, is the key to a delicious result.

Fat, black and briny Kalamata olives are the preferred choice for this dish.


Serves 4:

2 teaspoons olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons

600g ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced 5mm thick

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced

4x150g pieces of hake fillet, skin removed

10 basil leaves

100ml regular or double cream

50g Parmesan

16 fat black olives, such as Kalamata, stoned removed and finely chopped

8 small basil leaves, for serving


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


Rub an ovenproof gratin dish with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Place the sliced tomatoes in the dish and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the sliced garlic. Lay the pieces of fish on next. Tear the basil leaves and scatter over the fish. Whisk the cream and Parmesan together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the cream directly over the fish.

The dish can now be cooked immediately or covered and refrigerated for up to 2 hours. To cook, place in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through and the cream and tomatoes have become a bubbling light sauce with a golden hue.

Mix the chopped olives with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and drizzle over the dish.

Scatter the small basil leaves over and serve.


Rory O’Connell’s Roast Loin of Pork with Fennel Seeds


Watch out for pork from old breeds such as Gloucester Old Spot, Saddleback, Red Duroc and Black Berkshire for juicy and flavoursome meat.

Fennel seeds have a sweet and aniseed-like flavour and are lovely with pork.

Dried chillies, with their deep and slightly smoky heat, enliven this dish.

Bitter Bramley-type cooking apples and dark red plums are best for the accompanying sauce.

Star anise is a beautiful, sweet and aromatic spice but needs to be used with restraint. Too much can result in an over-the-top, pot-pourri type flavour.


Serves 6-8

2.25kg loin or belly of pork, on the bone, with the rind on

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2-4 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 dried chillies or 2 teaspoons chilli flakes

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

500ml chicken stock

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F / gas 5

Score the pork rind at 1cm intervals, running with the grain of the meat. If you are worried about this, ask your butcher to do it for you. Grind the fennel seeds to a coarse powder with the pestle and mortar. Add the garlic and chilli and a pinch of sea salt and continue to grind to a paste. Season the pork with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Place it on a wire rack in a roasting tin and roast the loin for 1 hour or if using belly for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread on the spice paste. Replace in the oven and roast for a further 40 minutes. By now the juices should be running clear, and if you do the ‘skewer test’ on the pork, the skewer will be hot. Baste the pork several times during the cooking.

Remove the pork from the oven and place it in another roasting tin. Increase the oven temperature to 230°C / 450°F/ gas 8 and return the pork for a further 10 minutes to give the rind a final crisping. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 100°C/200°F/ gas ¼. Put the pork on a plate and return it to the oven to keep warm and rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

To make the gravy, degrease the first roasting tin thoroughly, saving the fat if you wish. Deglaze the tin with the chicken stock, scraping the tin to dislodge any caramelised meat juices. Strain the liquid though a sieve into a small saucepan. Taste and correct the seasoning, and if necessary continue to cook the gravy to reduce and to concentrate the flavour. Add the parsley just before serving.

Carve the pork into neat slices and serve on hot plates, with the bubbling gravy and the apple sauce on the side.


Rory O’Connell’s Chocolate Biscuits


These biscuits are particularly festive-looking at Christmas when you can shower them with all manner of shiny edible decorations – hundreds and thousands, coloured sugars and so on. They cut beautifully into different shapes, so this may be the moment to use your fanciest biscuit cutters. During the summer months these biscuits are delicious sandwiched

together with lightly sweetened berries such as raspberries, loganberries or tayberries, and vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


The ingredients

Cocoa powder, another important ingredient in the sweet kitchen, should be dark and completely unsweetened.


The pure vanilla extract used here should not be confused with vanilla essence. The extract is pure, dark, perfumed and low in sugar, indeed sometimes with no sugar at all. Generally, the pure extracts contain at least 35% alcohol. The essences tend to be low in vanilla and alcohol and high in sugar, a pale imitation of the real thing. It is quite easy to make your own extract by macerating slashed vanilla beans in water and brandy, bearing in mind the 35% of alcohol as a general rule.


Makes 36


140g salted butter, at room temperature, but not hot and oily

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

125g caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

225g plain flour

35g cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder


Place the butter, oil and caster sugar in a bowl. By hand with a wooden spoon, or with the aid of a machine, cream together until light and fluffy in consistency and pale in colour. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until well blended and smooth. Sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder on to the mixture and blend in until it comes together and no longer looks streaky. Do not overmix. Chill the mixture for at least 30 minutes.


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


Roll out half the mixture at a time to about 5mm thick, using a little flour to prevent it from sticking. Alternatively, roll it between sheets of baking parchment. Cut out the biscuits with your cutter of choice (you should get about 36 if you use a 5cm cutter), then, using a palette

knife, place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Leave a little space between the biscuits, as they swell slightly when cooking. Bake in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes. The biscuits will rise slightly and feel gently set to the touch. They crisp up as they cool. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and allow them to cool, still on the baking parchment.


Serve dusted with a little icing sugar or caster sugar, or ice with one of the icings suggested below. If you are using the icing and wish to sprinkle the biscuits with edible decorations, make sure to do that as soon as the biscuits are iced so that the decorations will stick on to the still slightly moist icing.


Best eaten on the day they’re made, but they will keep for 2–3 days in

an airtight box or biscuit tin.


Rory O’Connell’s Chocolate, prune and Armagnac Puddings with Chocolate Sauce


These puddings are delicious and without doubt made for chocolate lovers. Although not molten in the centre, they are soft and yielding. The combination of ingredients is a classic one but has timeless appeal. The cooked puddings will sit happily in a warm oven for at

least an hour before serving, and indeed could be made ahead of time, allowed to cool and reheated in a bain-marie in a warm oven. The prunes in the recipe can be replaced with cherries, a delicious variation, in which case I would soak them in kirsch. Cognac can

replace the slightly dryer Armagnac with the prunes.


The pudding can be cooked in a large dish, or in individual ramekins or even teacups.


The ingredients

Best-quality chocolate, 62% cocoa solids, is best for this pudding.

I use Valrhona.


Prunes vary in quality, so look out for juicy-looking ones with their stones still in. I get the ones known as Agen prunes, grown in the Aquitaine region in the south-west of France. The same variety is grown successfully in California as well.


Armagnac, a brandy from the Armagnac region, which is close to Aquitaine, is dryer than the brandy from Cognac and seems to have an affinity with the flavour of the prunes, though either will do. Cream of tartar, or tartaric acid, adds stability to the beaten egg whites, resulting in a more luscious texture in the cooked pudding.


Serves 10


the prunes

225g prunes, weighed after removing the stones

4 tablespoons Armagnac or brandy


the pudding

150g best-quality chocolate, 62% cocoa solids

150g unsalted butter

150ml warm water

110g caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs

110g plain white flour

Pinch of cream of tartar


to serve

A dusting of icing sugar

Softly whipped cream


Put the prunes into a bowl with the brandy and leave to soak overnight.


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and get ready either a 2 litre ovenproof pie or gratin dish, or ten 200ml ramekins or teacups of a similar volume. If you plan to serve the individual puddings unmoulded from their containers, you will need to paint them with

melted butter before adding the mixture. You will also need a roasting tin about 4cm deep, large enough to accommodate the ramekins or dish.


Cut the chocolate into small pieces and put it into a Pyrex bowl with the butter. Place over a saucepan of cold water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Place on a low heat – don’t let the water do more than simmer. While the chocolate is melting, tear or chop the Armagnac-soaked prunes into smaller pieces, about 1cm, and either divide them between the ramekins or spread them over the base of the large dish. If there is some Armagnac that has not soaked into the prunes, save it for adding to the cream later.


When the chocolate is nearly melted, remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir with a flexible rubber spatula to blend the chocolate with the butter. Add the water, sugar and vanilla and mix with a whisk until smooth. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a spotlessly clean bowl for whisking later. Whisk the yolks into the chocolate mixture, followed by the sieved flour.


Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until holding soft but definite peaks. Do not allow them to over-whip and take on a grainy appearance. Stir a quarter of the egg white into the chocolate mixture and fold in the remainder with a heavy flexible spatula, making sure no lumps of egg white remain unblended.


Divide the mixture between the ramekins, or put it all into the one dish, and immediately place in the roasting tin. Pour boiling water into the tin, to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins or dish. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 160°C/325°F/gas 3 for a further 10 minutes if using individual dishes or a further 20 minutes for a large dish. The puddings will appear cooked on top but will feel a little soft and molten in the centre. Remove the roasting tin carefully from the oven and allow the puddings

to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.


The individual puddings can be turned out on to warmed plates for serving. The large dish can be brought to the table as it is. Regardless, I dust the puddings with a little sieved icing sugar just before serving.


Pass softly whipped cream separately. I sometimes serve chocolate sauce with these as well.


Rory O’Connell’s Salad of Oranges, Dates and Mint


This is a lovely refreshing salad which I like to serve when the new season oranges from Italy and dates from Morocco arrive in the shops in December. I scramble around in the garden trying to find a few surviving mint leaves to freshen it up. If the mint has all been scorched by the frost, I just use a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

This dish can be served on its own with perhaps a little yoghurt.


The ingredients

In the shops here, oranges start to get good in early December, as the Italian ones arrive on the market. These oranges are usually around for a couple of months and are sweet and full of juice, light years away from the hard little scuds we have to put up with for most of the rest of the year. Colour in oranges is not an indication of quality, and avoid rock-hard light ones in favour of firm and heavyfeeling fruit.


Medjool dates, fat, meaty and shiny, arrive in the shops in December, usually the same time as the good oranges, a fortuitous bit of timing. Watch out for another wonderful variety of date called Barhi, which Alice Waters introduced me to at the Berkeley farmers’ market in California.


Orange flower or orange blossom water is a perfumed distillation from the fresh blossoms of Seville oranges and can be found in good food shops and chemists.


Serves 4–6


5 oranges

1 tablespoon caster sugar or 1 dessertspoon honey

12 dates

2 tablespoons orange flower water

1 tablespoon mint leaves

2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (optional)


Remove the zest from one of the oranges with a fine grater or a Microplane. Juice the zested orange and put into a bowl with the zest. With a sharp knife, remove the skin and pith from the remaining oranges. Slice or segment the oranges and add to the juice and zest with the caster sugar or honey.


Halve the dates lengthways, remove the stones and add to the oranges. Sprinkle on the orange flower water. Chop the mint leaves and gently mix all the ingredients together, being careful not to break up the orange pieces. If using the pomegranate seeds, add now. Cover and chill before serving.


Rory O’Connell’s Brown bread Ice Cream


I think this is a brilliant recipe – it’s really simple and tastes great. I use it year round. In autumn and winter I serve it with poached pears or citrus fruit, and in spring and summer I serve it with all of the different fruits as they arrive in season. It works really well with the first rhubarb, then with gooseberries and so on, and it’s heavenly when paired with roast peaches or nectarines in high summer.


The ingredients

Wholemeal bread, lightly processed into coarse crumbs about the

size of peas, is ideal here.


Serves 6–8

175g coarse wholemeal breadcrumbs (brown soda

breadcrumbs are ideal)

600ml regular, double or whipping cream

125g soft light brown sugar (or icing sugar)

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon dark rum, or whiskey or brandy

2 egg whites


Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 5. Spread the breadcrumbs out on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 20 minutes. They should become crisp and slightly browned.


Meanwhile, beat the cream with the sugar until softly whipped. Mix the egg yolks with the rum, if using, and add to the cream mixture, beating it in well.


When the breadcrumbs are cool, fold them into the cream mixture gently and thoroughly, so that they are evenly distributed. Lastly, whip the whites of the eggs stiffly and fold into the mixture. Freeze in the usual way, in a covered container. There is no need to stir up this ice cream.

Ten Days ’til Christmas

The excitement gathers, only ten days to Christmas. Hopefully you got the opportunity to make a Christmas cake and a pudding and some mincemeat over the past few weeks. The base of Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce and Brandy Butter can also be made now. Hide them for fear the family dig in!

You’ll probably have opted for a turkey or a goose – so here are my favourite recipes – a potato stuffing is fantastic in a goose but the buttery herb stuffing I’ve chosen for the turkey is also perfect for a goose or duck or indeed either a pheasant or guinea fowl.

The most dramatic improvement for a turkey particularly if you can’t get your hands on a free-range bronze turkey is to brine it. The way this simple procedure enhances the flavour is dramatic.

It couldn’t be simpler just soak the bird in a brine mixture of salt and water (preferably for 48 hours); 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 the flavour.

This brine can also be used for chicken and pork with spectacular results, spread the left over brine on your garden paths, it’ll kill the weeds.

For the first time this year Sharon fruit or persimmon are coming into the shops ripe – they are just so gorgeous in the Winter Salad of Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pecans

This would be a totally delicious starter salad before Christmas dinner – it only takes a couple of minutes to make – light and lipsmackingly good.

If you would like to ring the changes with goose try serving it with a kumquat compote or a combination of kumquat and apple. Both can be made ahead and reheated.

Have a wonderful Christmas and many blessings for 2014.


Winter Salad of Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pecans


At last we can source ripe persimmons, they are wonderfully versatile and also great with goats cheese or mozzarella and rocket leaves.

Serves 8



2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar, Sherry vinegar or wine vinegar I use Forum Chardonnay Vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


3 ripe persimmons

3 ripe d’Anjou or other pears

1 lime, freshly squeezed

seeds from ½ pomegranate


a selection of frizzy lettuce, watercress and rocket leaves

1 lime freshly squeezed


3- 4ozs (75g – 110gs) fresh toasted pecans


First make the vinaigrette.


Mix the Balsamic or sherry vinegar, mustard, shallots, salt and pepper.  Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.


Slice the persimmons and pears into slices about 1/4 inch (5mm) thick.  Put into a medium bowl and sprinkle with freshly squeezed lime juice.  Add the pomegranate seeds.  Toss gently.


Wash and dry the greens, store in a clean towel in the fridge until ready to use.


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4


Put the nuts onto a baking sheet in a moderate oven for 5 -6 minutes, tossing gently from time to time.  Alternatively toast under a grill.


To Serve


Toss the greens in some of the vinaigrette and arrange on eight plates.  Toss the fruit mixture lightly in the remaining vinaigrette.  Arrange on top of the greens and sprinkle with the toasted pecans.

Serve immediately.


Brining a Turkey


A brilliant way to guarantee moist tender flavourful meat.


To make basic brine, mix together 8 quarts (12.8 pints) water and 2 cups (16fl ozs) salt in a stainless steel 5 gallon bucket or a large container with a cover. A little sugar may be added to the brine, even a few spices. Add the raw turkey, cover and chill overnight.


N.B. If you want to brine the bird for just 24 hours, reduce the amount of salt to 8fl ozs


Old Fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce


Serves 10-12


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 of fresh herbs and the turkey juices.  Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.


(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic, turkey with neck and giblets


Fresh Herb Stuffing


170g (6ozs) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16ozs) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non GM) (or approximately 1lb 4ozs of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

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

salt and freshly ground pepper



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 (8ozs) butter

large square of muslin (optional)


cranberry sauce

bread sauce



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/regulo 4, for 2 3/4-3 1/4 hours.  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 tin foil.  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. See – Darina’s Weekly Letters for the recipes.


Traditional Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing, Rose Geranium and Bramley Apple


Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing is almost my favourite Christmas meal. However, just a word of warning: a goose looks enormous because it has a large

carcass. Many people have been caught out by imagining that it will serve more people than it does. Ensure that you allow 450g (1lb) in cooked weight per person.


Serves 8-10


goose, about 4.5kg (10lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper

roux for the gravy (optional)


Giblet Stock

goose giblets

1 onion, sliced

1 carrot, chopped

bouquet garni

a sprig of thyme

4 parsley stalks

3 celery stalks, sliced

6 black peppercorns


Potato Stuffing


25g (1oz) butter

450g (1lb) onions, chopped

450g (1lb) cooking apples e.g.

Bramley Seedling, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon lemon balm

25ml (1 fl oz) fresh orange juice

900g (2lb) potatoes, in their jackets

1⁄4 teaspoon orange rind, finely grated

salt and freshly ground pepper


To Serve

Rose Geranium and Bramley Apple Sauce


To prepare the goose, gut the bird and singe off the pin feathers and down if necessary. Remove the wishbone from the neck end.

Combine the wishbone with the other stock ingredients in a saucepan, cover with cold water and the lid of the saucepan and simmer for 1 1/2–2 hours. Season the cavity of

the goose with salt and freshly ground pepper; also rub a little salt into the skin.

To make the potato stuffing, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes.

Then add the apples, herbs and orange juice. Cook, covered, until the apples are soft and fluffy.


Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in their jackets until cooked, peel, mash and add to the fruit and onion mixture. Add the orange rind and seasoning.

Leave it to get quite cold before stuffing the goose.


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.


Stuff the goose loosely, then roast it for about 2 hours or until the juices run clear. Prick the thigh at the thickest part to check the juices. If they are still pink, the goose needs to cook a little bit longer. When cooked, remove the bird to a serving dish and put it in a very low oven while you make the gravy.


To make the gravy, spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting tin (save the fat for sautéing or roasting potatoes – it keeps for months in a fridge). Add about 600ml (1 pint) of the strained giblet stock to the roasting tin and bring to the boil.


Use a small whisk to scrape the roasting tin well to dissolve the meaty deposits which are full of flavour. Taste for seasoning and thicken with a little roux if you like a thickened gravy. If the gravy is weak, boil it for a few minutes to concentrate the flavour; if it’s too strong, add a little water or stock.

Strain and serve in a hot gravy boat.


Carve the goose. Serve it, the rose geranium and Bramley Apple Sauce and the gravy separately.


Roast Goose with Quince


I sometimes serve a warm compote of stewed quince with a simple roast stuffed goose instead of Bramley apple sauce and I find it to be a surprisingly good combination for a change.



Kumquat Compôte


A gem of a recipe, this compôte can be served as a dessert or as an accompaniment to roast duck, goose or glazed ham.  Also delicious with goat’s cheese or yoghurt, it keeps for weeks in the fridge.


Serves 6-20 depending on how it is served


235g (8 1/2 oz) kumquats

200ml (7fl oz) water

110g (4oz) sugar


Slice the kumquats into four or five round depending on size, remove the seeds.  Put the kumquats into a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender.


Serve warm or cold.




The award winning Tinahely Farm Shop is open every day until Christmas Eve when they close for Christmas at 2pm. They stock 32 different Irish and European farmhouse cheeses and make up some fantastic cheese hampers for gifts.  The shop sells freshly baked gluten free cakes and fresh white and brown soda bread every day. Rebecca Hadden makes soup from whatever fresh vegetables she can find in the garden daily and she also makes beautiful Christmas wreaths. Tinahely Farm Shop, Coolruss, Tinahely, Co Wicklow, Ireland
– on the Shillelagh road. 087 8168457 – –


Mahon Point Farmers Market will be open as usual on Thursday 5th  Thursday12th  and Thursday 19th December, plus two additional Saturday markets on 14th and 21st  December from 10 – 3pm – on Saturday 14th there will a wonderful festive atmosphere with four local choirs performing –


Midleton Market will be operating every Saturday until Christmas and will run for an extra day on Monday 23rd from 9am to 2pm –


Fans of Iago (of which I am most definitely one) should know they are moving from the English Markey to Princess Street in Cork into a great new premises, the new shop is brimming not just with beautiful cheeses but a whole range of gastro temptations.

Homemade Christmas

The countdown to Christmas continues. This week, let’s get the puddings sorted and a little encouragement for those of you who have never ventured to make your own plum pudding or homemade mincemeat, honestly it’s a doddle. Mincemeat is just a question of combining ingredients and putting the end result into glass jars.

For the plum pudding, it’s the same but when you’ve mixed all that yummy dried fruit with the suet, spice and breadcrumbs, everyone has to make a wish before you divide it between the pudding bowls for the initial steaming. Here’s where that pressure cooker I wrote about a few weeks ago can really come in handy – it will reduce the cooking time substantially.

Your butcher will give you lovely fresh suet which will make a delicious succulent pudding and if you would like a gluten-free version use gluten-free bread to make the breadcrumbs (note, commercial suet often contains flour.) Here again is my favourite plum pudding recipe passed down through my grandmother’s family for many generations. Make a large, a medium and several teeny weenies for friends who would love just a taste of a moist and succulent pudding. A pot of brandy or rum butter completes the gift.

Mincemeat also benefits from being made well ahead; here’s a delicious recipe we use at Ballymaloe which is also gluten free. This also can be added to your edible presents.

On the subject of edible presents, few things are more welcome around Christmas than some delicious homemade gifts.  Pickles, relishes, chutneys also benefit from a couple of weeks mellowing. Confiture d’Oignons is a particularly delicious accompaniment to have in the pantry to cheer up cold meats or to add to starter plates of coarse pates or terrines.

We also love to have a proper old fashioned trifle at Christmas. This is also my mum’s recipe which was so loved that she had to hide it every year in ever more obscure places otherwise the boys would polish it off when they came home from midnight mass. It can easily be made a few days ahead of Christmas provided it’s well soaked in sweet sherry. The sponge cakes could even be made now and frozen but don’t add cream and final embellishments until Christmas Day or whenever you decide to serve it.

Christmas is all about tradition, in our house it was always served in the special cut-glass trifle bowl which only appeared once a year however it also works brilliantly in tiny glass pots (we use recycled Glenilen yoghurt pots) for individual helpings or little presents.

Let’s have a homemade Christmas this year and enjoy the compliments.


Mummy’s Plum Pudding


It has always been the tradition in our house to eat the first plum pudding on the evening it is made.   The grandchildren can hardly contain themselves with excitement – somehow that plum pudding seems the most delicious, it’s our first taste of Christmas.   The plum pudding can be made from about mid-November onwards. Everyone in the family helps to stir so we can all make a wish.

It’s fun to put silver plum pudding charms in the pudding destined to be eaten on Christmas Day.  Wrap them individually in silicone paper so they are bulky and clearly visible.


This recipe makes 2 large or 3 medium puddings.  The large size will serve 10-12 people, the medium 6-8 but I also like to make teeny weeny ones.


12 ozs (350g) raisins

12 ozs (350g) sultanas

12 ozs (350g) currants

12 ozs (350g) brown sugar

12 ozs (350g) white breadcrumbs (non GM)

12 ozs (350g) finely-chopped beef suet

4 ozs (110g) diced candied peel (preferably home-made)

2 Bramley cooking apples, coarsely grated

4 ozs (110g) chopped almonds

rind of 1 lemon

3 pounded cloves (1/2 teaspoon)

a pinch of salt

6 eggs

2 1/2 fl ozs (62ml) Jamaica rum


Mix all the ingredients together very thoroughly and leave overnight; don’t forget, everyone in the family must stir and make a wish!  Next day stir again for good measure.  Fill into pudding bowls; cover with a double thickness of greaseproof paper which has been pleated in the centre, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine, making a twine handle also for ease of lifting.

Steam in a covered saucepan of boiling water for 6 hours.  The water should come half way up the side of the bowl.  Check every hour or so and top up with boiling water if necessary.  After 5 hours, 3 hours, 2 hours depending on the size, remove the pudding.   Allow to get cold and re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper.  Store in a cool dry place until required.

On Christmas Day or whenever you wish to serve the plum pudding, steam for a further 2 hours.  Turn the plum pudding out of the bowl onto a very hot serving plate, pour over some whiskey or brandy and ignite.  Serve immediately on very hot plates with

You might like to decorate the plum pudding with a sprig of holly; but take care not to set the holly on fire – as well as the pudding!


Brandy Butter


3ozs (75g) butter

3ozs (75g) icing sugar

2-6 tablespoons brandy


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


Note: Rum may be substituted for brandy in the above recipe


Mummy’s Traditional Irish Sherry Trifle


There’s a few things, like gravy and trifle, that are very personal – your yardstick is whatever your mammy or granny used to make. In earlier years, Mummy would have made this trifle with the trifle sponges that could be bought in Mrs Freeman’s shop in our village around Christmas; they looked like sponge rusks. Over the years, as these sponges became more difficult to source, we started making the sponge ourselves. We actually used to have a layer of tinned peaches in this trifle, but now I’m too snooty to put them in; the truth is I prefer the trifle without them. Even when my brothers were in their late 40s and 50s, they seemed to revert back to childhood and squabble over the trifle, finishing it off in the middle of the night when they came home from the pub on Christmas Eve. Mummy would have to go to great lengths to hide it on the top of a cupboard or even in her wardrobe, but somehow they always managed to find it! So, why is it better than any other trifle you’re likely to taste? Surprise, surprise – it’s the quality of the ingredients. Use homemade sponge cake, homemade raspberry jam and homemade custard made with good organic eggs, lashings of Bristol cream sherry (don’t waste your time with cooking sherry), and you cannot go wrong. Choose a bowl (glass for preference) that’s not too deep, otherwise the layers will become disproportionate – either too luscious or too dry. For a posher version, line the glass bowl with slices of Swiss roll.


Serves 8–10


450g (1lb) homemade sponge cake

225g (8oz) homemade Raspberry Jam


For the Custard

5 organic eggs

11⁄4 tablespoons caster sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

700ml (11⁄4 pints) full-cream milk


150–175ml (5–6fl oz) best-quality sweet or medium sherry – don’t spare the sherry



600ml (1 pint) whipped cream

8 cherries or crystallised violets


8 diamonds of candied angelica

a few toasted flaked almonds


1.7 litre (3 pint) trifle bowl, preferably glass


Sandwich the rounds of sponge cake together with raspberry jam. If you are using trifle sponges, sandwich them in pairs (you’ll need 5–6 pairs).

Next make the egg custard. Whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla extract. Heat the milk to the ‘shivery’ stage and pour it over the egg mixture, whisking all the time. Return the mixture in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat and stir with a straight-ended wooden spoon until the custard lightly coats the back of the spoon. Don’t allow it to boil or it will curdle.

Cut the sponge into 2cm (3⁄4in) slices and use these to line the bottom of a 1.7 litre (3 pint) glass bowl, drizzling generously with the sherry as you go along. Spoon over a layer of the warm egg custard then add another layer of sponge and drizzle with the remainder of the sherry. Spread the rest of the custard over the top. Cover and leave for 5–6 hours, or preferably overnight in a cold larder or fridge for the flavours to mature.

To serve, spread softly whipped cream over the top, piping rosettes if you wish, and decorate with cherries or crystallised violets and large diamonds of angelica. Scatter with a few toasted flaked almonds.


Ballymaloe Mincemeat


Makes 3.2 kilos approx.

Makes 8-9 pots.


2 cooking apples, eg. Bramley Seedling

2 organic lemons

450g (1lb) beef suet

pinch of salt

110g (4oz) mixed peel (preferably homemade)

2 tablespoons Seville orange marmalade

225g (8oz) currants

450g (1lb) sultanas

900g (2lbs) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown)

62ml (2 1/2fl oz) Irish whiskey


Core and bake the whole apples in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, for 30 minutes approx. Allow to cool.  When they are soft, remove the skin and mash the flesh into pulp.  Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of a stainless steel grater and squeeze out the juice and stir into the pulp.  Add the other ingredients one by one, and as they are added, mix everything thoroughly.  Put into sterilized jars, cover and leave to mature for 2 weeks before using.  This mincemeat will keep for a year in a cool, airy place.




Ballymaloe guests have been enjoying Nora Ahern’s farm fresh geese, ducks and turkeys for several decades – if you hurry you can too – 021 4632354.


The inaugural Bord Bia Christmas Food Market will take place at CHQ Building, IFSC, Docklands, Dublin 1 from Thursday 12th December to Saturday 14th December, 10am to 8pm – and 10am to 6pm on Sunday 14th December. You’ll be spoilt for choice with produce from 40 Irish food producers under one roof!


Ballymaloe Cookery School Gift Vouchers last a lifetime – 021 4646785.


Past Letters