ArchiveDecember 2019

Christmas Leftovers

Just four days to go until the big Christmas Dinner. Stop – allow yourself to slow down for a few minutes….Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 – 10 how vital is it to dash to the shops once again to buy those last few things?

I am challenging myself to ‘do’ presents rather than buy presents. It can be so fun, economically and frankly much more meaningful. Think of ‘a gift of a time’ – a pressie of a couple of babysitting sessions, an afternoon sowing seeds and gardening after Christmas, a-mid January pressie of a lamb or chicken casserole, a couple of litres of chunky winter warming soups.

Well, despite all my good advice to you on how to achieve as hassle free Christmas, I’ve still got several items on my own ‘to do’ lists that I haven’t had the satisfaction of crossing out as yet. Wrapping last minute presents often catches me out but this year many of the family and our lovely team here at Ballymaloe Cookery School are going to get a copy of my latest book One Pot Feeds All, which I hope will make their busy lives a little easier. I’ve already signed and wrapped them in brightly coloured tissue but still lots more to be done but I’m getting lots of help from my older grandchildren.

Then only five sleeps away from St Stephen’s or Boxing Day, when we can all relax and breathe a sigh of relief till next year but for me there’s still much fun to be had dreaming up delicious away to use some odds and ends and bits and bobs lurking in my fridge and pantry.

Even when you are super organised, Christmas dinner is still quite a mission, but whipping up some recycled leftovers is a more chilled affair entirely. I love the improvisation and creative challenge of incorporating dollops of this and that into something entirely different. Think Asian, Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Mexican as well as traditional favourites.

So let’s think what you might have left over apart from the usual morsels of turkey, ham or goose, maybe plum pudding, stale bread, cranberries, sprouts….

Cranberries, you don’t have to fuss about, pop them into the freezer, they’ll keep for months but better still, remember them and throw a fistful into scones, a muffin  mix or soda bread. Cranberry sauce keeps for weeks, maybe longer and will add oomph to a roast chicken or an apple tart.

Brussel sprout soup is absolutely delicious, quite the revelation actually.

Strip away every last morsel of turkey off the carcas, including the skin, there are so many delicious ways to enjoy any of those precious bits left over after the family have descended on the remains to make turkey and stuffing sandwiches. Make sure to make a batch or two of mayo for over Christmas, I love to add some chopped watercress to slather over those turkey sandwiches.

I’ve included two recipes, Mexican Chilaquiles and Laksa.

There’s also a million ways to use up the remains of the ham, chop up little morsels and add to mac and cheese or cauliflower cheese  – one of the most comforting of all dishes to tuck into in early January. Smoked fish also adds oomph to these two favourites.

I also love to have some plum pudding left over to slice and cook gently in a little butter on a pan. If you have Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce, well, have that with it otherwise slake some sweetened whipped cream with Irish whiskey and put a generous dollop on top.

By the way there’s no rush to use up the plum pudding it will keep perfectly well wrapped for several weeks at least.

How about all those miscellaneous root vegetables, I’ve got the perfect solution, why not make one of my favourite things in the whole world  – Picallilli. This recipe was given to me by Gary Masterson one of the senior lecturers at the Ballymaloe Cookery School – it’ll keep for months and will enhance so many meals and serve as a coveted present for your friends.

Perhaps you have some croissants left over, why not try this Ham and Cheese Croissant Pudding – Serve it with a salad of green leaves and the last of the soft herbs lurking in the corner for your fridge.

Little ends of cheese can be grated, rind and all, and added to sauces, into gratins, biscuits and scones…..scraps of blue are best added to soft butter to melt over steaks or burgers.

So enjoy the satisfaction of emptying your fridge and pantry in a delicious way so there’s zero waste – one of our big new year resolutions!

Chilaquiles Verdes o Rojos

A delicious way to use up stale tortillas.

Serves 4

6 –8 corn tortillas (stale is fine)

12fl oz (350ml) Tomato and Chilli Sauce (see recipe)

8fl oz (225ml) chicken broth approx.

1 large chicken breast, freshly cooked and shredded with fingers

salt and freshly ground pepper


4 tablespoons sour cream

8 tablespoons crumbled Queso fresco or grated Mozzarella and Cheddar mixed

1 onion, thinly sliced (optional), rinsed under cold water and drained

fresh coriander leaves

Ovenproof dish 8 x 5 inches (20 x 10 cm)

Cut the tortillas into eights.  Dry them out in a moderate oven if they are moist, they are best stale and leathery for this dish.

Heat oil in a deep fry and cook the tortilla chips in batches until crisp and light golden.  Drain on paper towels.

Just before serving, spread half the tortillas over the base of a deep sided serving dish.  Cover with finely shredded chicken, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Thin out the sauce with a little chicken broth if it is too thick.  Put another layer of tortillas on top. Cover with the hot sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.

Heat through in a preheated oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 5-10 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serve immediately with sour cream, more grated cheese for sprinkling and fresh coriander leaves.

Tomato and Chilli Sauce

1 1/2lbs (700g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled OR

2 x 14oz (400g) can good quality tomatoes, drained

hot green chillies to taste (2 – 4 Serrano chillies or 2 – 3 Jalapeño chillies)

2oz (50g) onion, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tablespoon sunflower or peanut oil

salt and sugar to taste

Roughly chop the tomatoes and whizz in a blender or food processor.

Seed the chillies if you wish. Chop and add to the blender or processor along with the onion and garlic.  Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan.  When hot, add all the pureé at once and stir constantly for about 5 minutes.  The pureé will cook into a thick, more orange-coloured sauce.  Season with salt and if necessary add a little sugar.  Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Turkey and Coconut Laksa

Serves 6-8 as a starter

2 red chillies, chopped with seeds

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2,5cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

150g (5oz) fresh coriander, leaves and stalks coarsely chopped

juice of 1-2 limes

50ml (2fl ozs) toasted sesame oil

250g (8oz) leftover turkey (cut into thin shreds)

2 x 400ml (2 x 14ozs) tins coconut milk

generous 700ml homemade chicken stock

1 tablespoon Nam Pla, fish sauce

150g (5oz) fine rice noodles

8 spring onions, finely sliced at an angle

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour boiling water over the bowl of rice noodles and allow to soak until soft – 10 minutes approximately. Drain and cut into 5cm (2 inch) lengths. Put the chilli, garlic, ginger, coriander and juice of one lime into a food processor and pulse to a coarse paste.

Thinly slice the cooked turkey meat at an angle (1/8 inch wide) and set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan and fry the chilli paste for 3 minutes. Add the whisked coconut milk and turkey or chicken stock. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the thinly shredded turkey, bring back to the boil and barely simmer for a further 3-4 minutes or until the turkey is warmed through. Add the fish sauce and taste and add more lime juice, salt and pepper if necessary.

Divide the noodles into serving bowls, ladle in the hot soup and garnish with spring onion and coriander leaves.


Do not allow the soup to boil once the chicken is added, otherwise the meat will be tough. 

Gary’s Piccalilli

Good with Cheddar cheese, ham, oily fish, terrines, Paté, pork pies, cold meats etc.

Works well with different vegetables and vinegars, find your best combination

1 cauliflower (700g/1 1/2lbs)
3 large onions (600g/1 1/4lbs)
8 shallots (300g/10oz)
25g (1oz) salt
1 cucumber
300ml (10fl oz) malt vinegar
600ml (1 pint) white wine vinegar
1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
350g (12oz) castor sugar
50g (2oz) English mustard powder
25g (1oz) turmeric
3-4 tablespoons corn flour (70g)

Break or dice the cauliflower into small florets about 1 cm, chop the onions and shallots into small 1cm (1/2 inch) dice. Place all in colander over bowl and sprinkle with salt and leave 24 hours or minimum overnight. Rinse in cold water and dry.

Peel (optional) and deseed the cucumber and sprinkle with a little salt and leave to stand in sieve for 10-15 minutes, rinse, dry and add the cauliflower onion mix.
Put the 2 vinegars and chili flakes and bring to a boil to infuse and leave to cool. Strain if required to remove chili flakes.

Combine the sugar, mustard powder, turmeric and cornflour in a bowl and make a paste with 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of cooled vinegar mix, bring the remaining vinegar back to the boil and pour in the mustard paste and whisk till blended, bring back to boil and cook for 3 minutes then pour over the vegetables and mix well and pour into hots jars. Best left to mature for a few days but is good eaten straight away.

Will keep for at least a month refrigerated.

Turkey, Watercress, Pomegranate and Pecan Nut Salad

Use up leftover morsels or turkey in a delicious way, it’s your call but I prefer not to refrigerate leftover turkey. Just wrap in a tea towel and keep in a cool place to use as required.

Serves 8

1 1/2-2 lbs(700-900g) unrefrigerated leftover turkey

Watercress or a selection of salad leave, frisée and rocket leaves


6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil

2 tablespoons best quality wine vinegar

1-2 teaspoons honey

1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard

salt and freshly ground pepper

1-2 pomegranates depending on size

3-4oz (75/110g) fresh pecans or walnuts

If the turkey has been refrigerated, bring back to room temperature.  Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together. Cut the pomegranate in half and flick the seeds into a bowl – careful not to include any of the astringent pith.

Roast or toast the walnuts or pecans briefly, chop coarsely.  Just before serving, sprinkle a little of the dressing over the salad leaves in a deep bowl.  Toss gently.  There should be just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten.  Taste.  Add a little dressing to the pomegranate seeds, toss and taste, correct seasoning if necessary.  Slice the turkey into chunky pieces.  Sprinkle a little dressing over and toss gently.  Combine the three ingredients.  Divide pleasingly between 8 large white plates.  Sprinkle with roughly chopped pecans or walnuts and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Cheese and Ham Croissant Pudding

Serves 6 People

6 croissants

125g cooked ham or bacon

250g  gruyère and cheddar mixed, thinly sliced or grated

2 -3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard


5 eggs

100ml whole milk

50g grated parmesan

30g gruyere

Freshly chopped parsley

Cut the croissants crossways. Fill each one with a slice of ham, a slick of mustard and a generous layer of grated cheese, reserving half the cheese for adding to the ‘custard’ mix.

Butter an ovenproof gratin dish, arrange the croissant sandwiches in the base in a single layer. Whisk the eggs well with the milk. Fold in half the grated cheese, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour evenly over the croissants. Allow to sit for 30 mins or longer if you have time.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top. Bake for 25 – 30 mins or until the ‘custard’ is set and the cheese is melted and golden on top. Flash under the grill if necessary.

Serve with a salad of organic leaves with lots of sprigs of flat leave parsley.

Macaroni with Cheddar Cheese

Serves 6

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

8ozs (225g) macaroni

6 pints (3.4 litres) water

2 teaspoons salt

2ozs (50g) butter

2ozs (50g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 1/2 pints (850ml) boiling milk

1/4 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

5 ozs (150g) grated mature Cheddar cheese (We use our local Cheddar which is made at Mitchelstown and matured at Imokilly Creamery)

1 oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top

1 x 2 pint (1.1 litre) capacity pie dish

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

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

Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place.  Turn into a pie dish, sprinkle grated cheese over the top.  Reheat in a preheated moderate oven – 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. It is very good served with cold meat particularly ham.

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

Macaroni Cheese with Christmas Ham Leftovers

Add 8oz (225g) diced ham and lots of chopped parsley to the macaroni cheese as you put it into the dish.

Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Salmon or Smoked Mackerel

Add 8ozs (225 g) of smoked salmon or smoked mackerel dice to the macaroni cheese.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat Ruggelach

Makes 16


110g (4oz) cream cheese

110g (4oz) softened butter

150g (5oz) flour


1/4 – 1/2 lbs Ballymaloe Mincemeat


1 egg, beaten

castor sugar

Beat the cream cheese vigorously with the butter until well mixed and softened.  Stir in the flour gradually.  Gather into a ball and wrap in cling film or parchment paper.  Chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, roll the pastry out into a 33cm (12 inch) circle.  Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle the mincemeat evenly over the pastry.  Cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and run the rolling pin over it a couple of times to fix the filling firmly into the pastry.  Lift off the paper.

Divide the circle up like a cake into 16 triangles.  Roll up each one, starting with the wider end, as if you were making a croissant.   Arrange on a baking sheet, brush with egg, and sprinkle with castor sugar.  Bake at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Turkey and all the trimmings…

Once again the Christmas lights are twinkling in the high streets. Somehow it feels as though the festive season comes round earlier and earlier each year. Santa and his elves have elbowed the harvest pumpkins and Halloween ghouls well out of the way until next Autumn.  

Children of all ages are being whipped into a frenzy of excitement by ads for this year’s new big thing and parents are feeling emotionally blackmailed into fulfilling their little dotes unrealistic expectations. Is it any wonder that we are seeing more and more column inches about the growing number of people who ‘hate Christmas’ and just want to bury their heads and groan every time they hear Bing Crosby or Michael Bublé crooning over the airwaves.

It’s not just the unwanted presents and added expense coupled with the extra work and sheer exhaustion. The mere thought makes some people long to go to curl up and snooze until early January. Spending Christmas with their nearest but ‘not so dearest’ can cause acute anxiety in itself. Let’s spare a thought though for the many who have actually lost dearly loved ones. Christmas, when everyone around seems impossibly cheery, seems to accentuate the heartbreak and loneliness and bring memories of happier times flooding back.

Time to remind ourselves of the spirit of Christmas and to remember that it should be a time of caring and sharing, comfort and joy and dare I say ‘simplicity’. So after all that, let’s ‘Have ourselves a Merry, little Christmas’.

As ever, a bit of advance planning will mean that everyone’s more relaxed and able to enjoy the fun….so let’s make a plan. Regular readers will know I’m a great list maker, for me, lists and lots of them are the answer. I think we all now realise, that Christmas is not just a one-day event but closer to two weeks. If you’ve got a big family, don’t feel you have to do everything yourselves – it’s good to begin by allocating some fun roles to as many family and friends as you can cajole or shame into taking on some tasks.

Decide on the menu for the big day, whether it’s turkey and ham or maybe a goose, order the very best you can afford. Beautifully reared organic birds tend to get snapped up early…. Hurry, hurry. . . .

We tend to be total traditionalists – The Christmas dinner menu is sacred, no one seems to want to change a single iota, we must have a gorgeous plump really well hung turkey. I order it ‘New York dressed’ and hang it for 4 or 5 weeks for maximum succulence.

Start with a two week planner, fill in the basics and create a shopping list. It’s easy to overestimate the amount of food we need but a well-stocked larder means one can whip up simple meals in minutes. I know turkey sandwiches are delicious but if there are just 2 or 4 in your family, ask yourself do you really need a turkey or goose, how about a plump pheasant, a crispy duck or a really beautiful organic chicken?

This year I’ve included our new favourite Scrunchy Spiced Winter Vegetable Pie for those who enjoy a lighter meat free meal.

It’s time to get cracking, so let’s plan a couple of batch cooking sessions. We love to make lots and lots of soup, such a brilliant standby to have in the freezer in small containers, perfect to quickly defrost when you need to produce a comforting meal in a hurry.

I also love to have some bags of pre-weighed soda bread mix ready to pop into a bowl. Just turn on the oven then add  a level teaspoon of baking soda and some buttermilk, cut the dough into scones and hey presto, you’ll have a bowl of chunky soup and freshly baked scones in less than 15 minutes. Some cured meats, farmhouse cheese, membrillo, a few tangerines and you have a perfect little feast.

Most of the accompaniments and sauces both sweet and savoury can be made weeks ahead, make more than you need as gifts for your friends, cranberry sauce, brandy butter and lots of chutneys and relishes.

Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup with Parsley Oil

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

150g (5oz) rindless streaky bacon cut in 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

110g (4oz) onions, chopped

110g (5oz) potatoes, diced

350g (12oz) swede turnips, diced

salt and freshly ground pepper

900ml (1 1/2 pints) homemade chicken stock

cream or creamy milk to taste

Parsley Oil

50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

50g (2oz) parsley, chopped


fried diced bacon

tiny croutons

flat parsley sprigs or coarsely chopped parsley

First make the Parsley Oil.

Whizz the parsley with the olive oil until smooth and green.

Next make the soup.

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the oil.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked.  Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary. 

To Serve.

Serve with a mixture of crispy bacon, tiny croutons and chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

Scrunchy Spiced Vegetable Filo Pie

This root vegetable pie can also be made in individual ‘snails’, but this delicious flaky version comes in a sauté pan. This version is good for a feast as it serves 12–15 people. You can halve the recipe if you’re serving smaller numbers.

Serves 12-15

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

500g (18oz) chopped onions

450g (16oz) peeled and chopped potatoes

500g (18oz) chopped carrots

450g (16oz) peeled and chopped celeriac

220g (8oz) peeled and chopped parsnip

4 teaspoons cumin seeds

6 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds

2 teaspoon turmeric

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

220g (8oz) sliced and sautéed mushrooms

4 tablespoons flour

salt and freshly ground pepper

600ml (20fl oz) vegetable stock

9 – 10 sheets of filo pastry, 30 x 43cm (12 x 17 inch) (about one packet)

45g (2oz) melted butter, for brushing

egg wash, made by beating 1 organic, free-range egg with 1 tablespoon whole milk

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 4.

Cut the vegetables into uniform sized cubes about ¾ inch.  Heat the olive oil in a 26cm (10 inch) ovenproof sauté pan, add the onions, potatoes, carrots, celeriac and parsnips.

Season with salt generously and freshly ground pepper, stir, cover the pot and sweat on a gentle heat for 4 or 5 minutes.  Meanwhile heat the cumin, coriander and cardamom seeds on a pan until they smell aromatic – just a few seconds.  Crush lightly, add to the vegetables stir in the sautéed mushrooms.  Cook for 1 – 2 minutes.  Take off the heat – sprinkle over the flour, turmeric and a pinch of sugar. Stir well.

Return to the pan to heat and add the vegetable stock gradually, stirring all the time. Bring to the boil, cover the pot and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes or until the vegetables are almost tender but not mushy. Remove from the pan, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Allow to cool

Brush the sauté pan with melted butter. Brush each sheet of filo with melted butter, fold over width wise, layer up the pastry in the base of the sauté pan or roasting dish so that it comes up the sides, allow enough pastry to hang over the sides to fold over and encase the filling.

Brush another sheet of filo with melted butter, divide into quarters, scrunch each piece lightly and arrange on top.

Spread the filling evenly over the pastry and bring up the sides of the filo to enclose the filling. Scrunch 3 sheets of filo and place on top of the pie.

Chill in the fridge. Just before baking, brush all over with the egg wash.  Put the sauté pan onto a gas jet at medium, cook for 3-4 minutes or until the pan heats and the base begins to brown.  Transfer to the oven and bake for about ½ an hour until puffed up and golden.

Serve, cut into wedges, while still warm and flaky.

Roast Potatoes and Jerusalem Artichokes with Bay Leaves

Do you know about Jerusalem artichokes, they are in season from November to March and look like knobbly potatoes.  Avery important source of inulin which enhances the growth of beneficial bacteria in our systems, particularly important after a course of antibiotics.

Jerusalem Artichokes are called sunchokes in the US, they are a member of the sunflower family

Serves 8

450g (1lb) potatoes

450g (1lb) Jerusalem artichokes                                 

12 unpeeled whole garlic cloves

flaky sea salt and cracked pepper

50g (2oz) duck fat or extra virgin olive oil

1 large sprig of bay leaves – about 20 leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6

Peel the potatoes, I like smaller potatoes best for this, but the large ones can be cut in to two, four or even 6 wedges depending on size. Scrub and cut the unpeeled Jerusalem artichokes in to similar size pieces.

Heat the duck fat or the extra virgin olive oil in a roasting tin.  Dry the potatoes and artichokes  well, toss in the fat or oil, add several sprigs  of bay, about 20 leaves. Season well with flaky sea salt and lots of pepper, and toss again.

Cook for 20 minutes, tossing occasionally, increase the heat to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8, add the garlic cloves and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes.  Turn into a hot dish and serve.

I like the edges of the potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes to be a little caramelised.

Christmas Salad Wreath

We serve this salad family style in the middle of the table.

A delicious festive starter, light, refreshing and fun to serve.

Serves 6 – 8 or more depending on size

24 fresh walnut halves

175 – 200gr (6-7oz) of mixed small salad leaves

2 – 3 ripe juicy pears

300 – 350g (10-12oz) ripe Crozier blue, crumbled (Use your favourite blue cheese)

Pomegranate seeds from 1/2 -1 fruit

Fresh sprigs of chervil and mint if available


1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Pre heat the oven to 180°C/350°/Gas Mark 4.

Taste the walnuts and make sure they are not rancid.

Spread them out on a baking tray and roast in a preheated oven until nice and toasty (8-10 minutes), allow to cool.

Whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing, season with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Just before serving

Arrange the salad leaves in a wreath shape on a large round plate.

Peel and core the pears and cut into wedges.

Arrange around the top of the salad wreath, sprinkle the crumbled blue cheese, toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds over the top.

Drizzle with a little dressing of put a little bowl of whisked dressing into the centre and serve immediately.




Two-Bite Parmesan Scones

The soda bread base only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make. Teeny weenie brown or white scones only take 10 – 15 minutes to bake, depending on size and are irresistible to children and adults alike.

Makes 41

450g (1lb) plain white flour

1 level teaspoon  teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 350-400ml (12-14fl oz/1) approx.

50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan or 110g (4oz) finely grated cheddar cheese

Cutter 4cm (1 1/2 inch) approximately

First fully preheat your oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured board.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up then flip it over. Flatten the dough into a round about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and stamp out into teeny weeny scones. Brush the top with a little buttermilk or egg wash, dip each scone into grated Parmesan.  Allow 2.5cm (1 inch) or so between each one on a baking tray.

Bake in a hot oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 10 minutes (approx.) or until cooked through. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom, when cooked they will sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

Chopped fresh herbs e.g. rosemary, thyme or olives may be added to the dry ingredients to make delicious little herb scones.

A Tear and Share Christmas Tree

Have fun building the teeny weeny scones into a Christmas tree shape.  Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

It’s also fun to cook three in a line and serve pierced with a rosemary or thyme sprig.

Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheese Gratin

Serves 6-8

1 medium sized cauliflower with green leaves

1 head of broccoli


Mornay Sauce

600ml (1 pint) milk with a dash of cream

a slice of onion

3-4 slices of carrot

6 peppercorns

sprig of thyme or parsley

roux (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground pepper

150g (5oz) grated cheese, e.g. Cheddar or a mixture of Gruyére, Parmesan and Cheddar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard


Chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.

Prepare and cook the cauliflower and broccoli.

Remove the outer leaves and wash both the cauliflower and the leaves well.  Put not more than 2.5cm (1in) water in a saucepan just large enough to take the cauliflower; add a little salt.  Chop the leaves into small pieces and cut the cauliflower in quarters or eighths; place the cauliflower on top of the green leaves in the saucepan, cover and simmer until cooked, 10-15 minutes approx. Test by piercing the stalk with a knife, there should be just a little resistance.  Similarly cut the broccoli into small pieces place the broccoli in simmering, salted water for 8 – 10 mins approx. or until tender when pierced with a knife.

The secret of maximum flavour is minimum water.

Meanwhile make the Mornay Sauce. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with the onion, carrot, peppercorns and herb.  Bring to the boil, simmer for 3-4 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.

Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and whisk in enough roux to thicken to a light coating consistency. Add most of the grated cheese (reserving enough to sprinkle over the dish) and a little mustard. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning, it should good and perky. Spoon the sauce over the cauliflower in an ovenproof gratin dish, and sprinkle with the remainder of the grated cheese. The dish may be prepared ahead to this point.

Put into the preheated oven or under the grill to brown. If the cauliflower cheese is allowed to get completely cold, it will take 20-25 minutes to reheat in a moderate oven. 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.  Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Old-Fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing

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.

Brining the turkey makes a phenomenal difference to the flavour, either dry or wet brine. (See below on Wet and Dry Brining).

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

Fresh Herb Stuffing

175g (6oz) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16oz) approx. soft breadcrumbs (or approximately 1lb 4oz 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 (8oz) butter

large square of muslin (optional)


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/Gas Mark 4, for 2 ¾ – 3 ¼ hours depending on the weight.  A brined turkey takes a shorter time to cook. There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin.  The turkey will brown beautifully. 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 dampened parchment paper.  However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word. 

To Test:  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 and grandest 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

A Simple Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce is also delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. We enjoy this simple Cranberry Sauce best.  It will keep in your fridge for several weeks.  It is also great with white chocolate mousse or as a filling for a meringue roulade. I like it pure and simple but of course you can add some grated orange rind or a splash of brandy if you wish!

Serves 6 approximately

175g (6oz) fresh or frozen cranberries

4 tablespoons (60ml/scant 2 1/2fl oz) water

75g (3oz) granulated sugar

Put the fresh cranberries in a small heavy-based stainless steel saucepan with the water – don’t add the sugar yet as it tends to toughen the skins.  Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries pop and soften, about 7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.

Serve warm or cold.

Note: Fresh cranberries keep for weeks on end but also freeze perfectly.

Note:  It should be soft and juicy, add a little warm water if it has accidently over cooked.

Bread and Parsley Sauce

I love Bread Sauce but if I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it – the recipe sounds so dull!  Serve with roast chicken, turkey and guinea fowl. I’m loving the addition of some freshly chopped parsley at the end.


600ml (1 pint) whole milk

110g (4oz) soft white breadcrumbs

2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 cloves

35 – 50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

75ml (3oz) thick cream

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

2 good pinches of ground cloves or quatre epices

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the onion and add the cream just before serving. Correct the seasoning and add a little more milk if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot.

Note: The bread sauce will keep in the fridge for several days – the remainder can be reheated gently – you may need to use a little more milk.

Quatre Epices is a French spice mix made of equal amounts of ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

How to Brine a Turkey

Wet Brine

Brining hugely enhances the flavour of poultry and pork. Both add flavour. For wet brine, you’ll need a large enough container to fully submerge the turkey in the brine for 24 hours. Some people brine the bird in their stainless steel sink.

Use 100g salt to every 1 litre of water, stir to fully dissolve. Drain and dry well before stuffing and covering with butter soaked muslin.

Dry Brine

Rub pure salt all over the surface of the turkey. Leave overnight, next day pat the bird dry and proceed as above.

Gutsy herbs like thyme and rosemary can be chopped and added to the salt. Not sure why but brining decreases the cooking time so check for doneness at least 30 minutes earlier and allow to rest for a further 30 minutes.

Batch Cooking

The new buzz word in the kitchen is ‘Batch Cooking’. Quite simply, it means cooking double or triple the recipe each time so meals can be planned ahead, mixed and matched and frozen in handy, easy to defrost size portions. Typically, the big batch cooking session is done at the weekend, often on a Sunday.

It not only saves time during the week but also helps your budget

and reduces food waste. Here’s where the freezer, the magical kitchen appliance that almost everyone owns, can really transform busy people’s lives and you’ll also have more special time to enjoy and spend with your family. But you’ll need to use it ‘smartly’ so here are a few tips.

Most foods freeze brilliantly, including sausage rolls, meat balls, breads, soups, stocks, beans, stews, casseroles, tagines, muffins, fishcakes, burgers, cooked rice, cookie dough, cakes … will freeze for ever but as a general rule it’s best to use up within a few weeks rather than months. Of course it will keep frozen but both flavour and texture gradually deteriorate as does the nutrient value. Some foods like lettuce and mayo don’t freeze well – they will wilt and split.

For maximum convenience, freeze food in smaller rather than larger portions unless you plan to serve a whole dish for 4 – 6 people. If not, freeze individual or a two portion serving instead – they defrost so much faster and cut down on waste. Recycled yoghurt pots or muffin tins are perfect for freezing individual portions. Tray freeze whenever possible, meat balls, sausage rolls, homemade fish fingers and chicken nuggets…  Then pop them into a reusable plastic box, interleaved with parchment paper or bag them in reusable bags, defrosting what you want when you fancy it.

Save tetra packs and litre milk cartons for soups. Allow some space for expansion during freezing. Cook the favourite dishes that your family love but more of them.  Here are a few favourite standbys…

Tomato fondue, we are never without this ‘great convertible’ serve as a vegetable, a sauce for pasta, topping for pizza, filling for an omelette, base for a bean stew, sauce for grilled fish or a chicken breast…Peperonata and mushroom a la crème are two other indispensable standbys.

All soup…. I’d never be without a stock of soup both thin and chunky. Cook up a couple of batches of bean stew also and of course some veg and meat stews, gratins and lasagnes.

When you manage to source some really fresh fish, an increasing challenge, tray freeze a few portions and also cook up a batch of fish cakes and a few fish pies with some creamy mash on top. Mash potato or champ and potato cakes are also brilliant to batch cook, freeze both in dishes and individual portions. So here are a few dishes to get started on….

Tomato Fondue x 3

This is triple the recipe that serves 6 so enough to serve 18 portions.

You’ll never be short of a quick meal if you have some tomato fondue in the freezer, Use it as an accompanying vegetable, a base for a bean or fish stew, sauce for pasta, topping for pizza or frittata, filling for an omelette . . . .

3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

350g (12oz) onions, sliced

3 garlic clove, crushed

2.7kgs (6lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled or 6 x 14oz tins chopped tomatoes

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

6 tablespoons of any or a combination of the following: freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil

a few drops of balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat the oil in a casserole or stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and toss until coated. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat until the onions and garlic are soft but not coloured. Slice the tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a generous sprinkling of herbs.

Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes soften.

A few drops of balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhance the flavour.

Homemade Fish Cakes x 3

Fish cakes are absolutely scrummy when they are carefully made and freeze perfectly.

Makes 24

3-3.5 lbs (1.3kg -1.5kg) cold leftover fish, e.g. salmon, cod, haddock, hake (a proportion of smoked fish such as haddock or mackerel is good)

3oz (75g) butter

12oz (350g) onion, finely chopped

3lb (1.3kg) mashed potato

3 egg yolks

3 tablespoon parsley, chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

seasoned flour

2 beaten eggs

fresh white breadcrumbs

clarified butter or a mixture of butter and oil for frying

To make the fish cakes, melt the butter in a saucepan, toss in the chopped onion, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 4 or 5 minutes until soft but not coloured.

Scrape the contents of the pan into a bowl, add the mashed potato and the flaked cooked fish, egg yolk and chopped parsley or a mixture of fresh herbs. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste. Form the mixture into fish cakes about 2oz (50g) each. Coat them first in seasoned flour, then in beaten egg and finally in crumbs. Refrigerate until needed, then cook on a medium heat in clarified butter until golden on both sides. Serve piping hot with pats or slices of garlic butter, tomato fondue and a good green salad.

 Scallion Champ

Serves 4-6 but will easily double up for batch cooking.

Freeze in portion sizes that suit your situation.

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions with a blob of butter melting in the centre, add the butter just before serving so it melts into the centre. ‘Comfort’ food at its best.

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g

chopped chives

350ml (10-12fl oz/1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups) milk

50-110g (2-4oz/1/2 – 1 stick) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chopped chives.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.  Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions, beat in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  Scallion mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with parchment paper while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin and add the lump of butter just before serving.

Scallion and Potato Cakes

A great use for any leftover mash and easily frozen prior to cooking and defrosted as needed. Shape leftover scallion mash into potato cakes, cook until golden on both sides in clarified butter or butter and oil. Serve piping hot.

Basic Vegetable Soup

Serves 6

Well over half the soups we make at Ballymaloe are made on this simple formula. When following this formula you can easily double or triple your recipe and freeze in batches.

1 part diced onion

1 part diced potato

3 parts any diced vegetable of your choice, or a mixture

5 parts stock or stock and milk mixed


One can use water, chicken or vegetable stock and season simply with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Complementary fresh herbs or spices may also be added.

So one can make a myriad of different soups depending on what’s fresh, in season and available.

If potatoes and onions are the only option, one can still make two delicious soups by increasing one or the other and then adding one or several herbs.  We have even used broad bean tops, radish leaves and nettles in season but kale, cabbage or leek tops would work excellently now.


50g (2oz) butter

150g (5oz) chopped potatoes, one-third inch dice

110g (4oz) peeled diced onions, one-third inch dice

340g (12oz) chopped vegetables of your choice, one-third inch dice

1.2L (2 pints) homemade chicken stock or 1L (1 3/4 pints) stock and 150ml (5fl oz) creamy milk

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and stock. Boil until soft, liquidise, sieve or put through a mouli. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose their flavour. Adjust seasoning.

Shanagarry Chicken Casserole

Another great recipe to double up and freeze for a busy day when you want something nourishing and comforting to eat.

A good chicken casserole even though it may sound ‘old hat’ always gets a hearty welcome from my family and friends, sometimes I make an entire meal in a pot by covering the top with whole peeled potatoes just before it goes into the oven.

Serves 4-6

1 x 3 1/2 lbs (1.57kg) chicken (free range if possible)

a little butter or oil for sauteeing

12oz (350g) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)

1lb (450g) onions, (baby onions are nicest)

12oz (350g) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced (if the carrots are small, leave whole, if large cut in chunks)

homemade chicken stock – 1 1/4 pints (750ml) approx.

sprig of thyme

Roux – optional


2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.

Cut the rind off the bacon and cut into approx. 1 inch (2 cm) cubes, (blanch if salty). Dry in kitchen paper. Joint the chicken into 8 pieces. Season the chicken pieces well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon until crisp, remove and transfer to the casserole. Add chicken pieces a few at a time to the pan and sauté until golden, add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn’t burn yet it must be hot enough to sauté the chicken. If it is too cool, the chicken pieces will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then toss the onion and carrot in the pan adding a little butter if necessary, add to the casserole. Degrease the pan and deglaze with stock, bring to the boil and pour over the chicken etc. Season well, add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, then put into the oven for 30-45 minutes, 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.

Cooking time depends on how long the chicken pieces were sautéed for.

When the chicken is just cooked, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease, return the degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary (see below). Add the meat, carrots and onions back into the casserole and bring to the boil. Taste and correct the seasoning.  The casserole is very good served at this point, but it’s even more delicious if some mushroom a la creme is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and bubbling hot.


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