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 www.cookingisfun.ie – 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 – philip@tinahelyfarmshop.com – http://tinahelyfarmshop.com/


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 – www.mahonpointfarmersmarket.com


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


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.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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