Irish chef's favourite recipes
Mulled wine jellies
A few experts give recipes for some of their favourite standbys to get you through the season, writes CATHERINE CLEARY
YOU HAVE A fridge full of food, but there’s nothing for dinner. It’s a conundrum many households face in the time around the big day. The Christmas dinner is such a main event it’s hard to keep coming up with festive food in the run-up or the aftermath.
We asked some of the country’s top cooks to come up with inspiring, simple things any of us can do, to make the most of a groaning fridge. Many can be made in the quieter days of December and frozen or stored in jars. There’s a compôte, and a fruit relish that will make a plate of cheese and cold meat sing. Others are good for a supper, snack, lunch or spontaneous party that can be put together in less time than it takes to dial the takeaway.
The Tannery Restaurant and Cookery School in Dungarvan, Co Waterford
Warm salad of Cashel Blue, apple and nuts (serves four)
250g Cashel Blue broken into bite-size pieces
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into eight pieces
2 apples, cored and cut into 12 pieces
2 handfuls of washed baby spinach
2 tbsp whole peeled almonds, or walnuts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp red or white vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil and butter in a good frying pan until foaming. Add the onions and apples, followed a minute later by the nuts.
Meanwhile, arrange the spinach in the centre of your plates and scatter the blue cheese on top.
Turn the apples and onions when they start to colour. Add the almonds to the pan. Sprinkle the sugar in, and shake the pan to coat everything evenly. Cook for a further two minutes then add the vinegar and allow it to bubble a little.
When the apples are soft and golden, spoon the mixture on to the prepared plates and serve immediately.
Bon Appétit, Malahide, Co Dublin
Smoked salmon and prawn tart
200g smoked salmon, finely sliced
200g fresh prawns
1 leek, diced
1 celery stick, diced
zest of half a lemon
1 tbs capers
1 whole large egg
1 tbs grated Parmesan
1 tbs chopped parsley
1 pack of shortcrust pastry
Melt the butter in a small sauce pan and fry the diced celery for two to three minutes, then add the leek and cook for a minute more. Add the prawns and cook until they are white on the outside but still pink in the centre. Add the diced smoked salmon, capers, parsley and lemon zest. Stir everything together and remove from the heat.
In a separate bowl beat the egg and add the cream and Parmesan. Roll out the pastry and blind bake at 180 degrees/gas mark four for 25 minutes.
When the pastry is cooked mix the eggy cream and the fish together. Pour this mix into the tart base and bake for 30 minutes at 160 degrees/gas mark three. Serve with side salad.
Belle Isle Cookery School, Lisbellaw, Co Fermanagh
Chestnut stuffed onions (makes six)
6 onions, red are good, but you can use any onions
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
225g cooked chestnuts, peeled
Freshly chopped parsley
4 rashers of bacon, finely chopped
50g breadcrumbs, toasted
Pre-heat an oven to 180 degrees/gas four. Peel the onions and level off the root end so that the onions stand straight. Cut off the top of the onions and remove the inner layers using a teaspoon and a small knife. Cover any holes with another piece of onion. Finely chop any left over bits of onion.
Place the onion hollows in a greased ovenproof dish. Whisk together two tablespoons of the olive oil with the vinegar, salt and pepper. Drizzle this over the onions then cover with foil and bake them for 30 minutes.
Sauté the finely chopped onion in the remaining oil with the celery and the bacon for five minutes. Add the garlic and the chestnuts (finely chopped) and cook for a further five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs and parsley. Season well. Spoon this mixture into the onion shells and return to the oven for 20 minutes. Serve hot with turkey, ham or fish.
These can be made the day before and reheated before serving. For something different, change the onions for hollowed out oranges or lemons.
Ryeland House Cookery School, Kilkenny
If you have vegetarian friends calling at Christmas, this risotto is a winner
Tomato risotto (serves six to eight)
700g tomatoes, preferably plum
8-12 garlic cloves
350g onions, preferably red
2 level tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
350g risotto (arborio) rice
900ml–1.1 litres vegetable or chicken stock
75g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 level tbsp roughly chopped, flat-leafed parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
Deep-fried basil leaves to garnish
De-seed and chop the tomatoes (skin them first, if you want). Place the unpeeled garlic in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until it is very soft. Drain, and peel and crush the garlic.
Chop the onions. Heat the butter in a large pan and fry the onions gently until they’re soft. Add tomato paste and cook for a minute then add the garlic and rice. Fry for a minute or two.
Bring the stock to the boil then stir a little at a time into the rice mixture, adding more stock when it has been absorbed, until the rice is just cooked. Stir in the tomatoes, Parmesan and parsley. Season the risotto, garnish with deep-fried basil leaves and serve.
Jewelled mulled wine jellies (makes about six depending on the size of your moulds)
These are food stylist Sharon Hearne-Smith’s stress-free Christmas desserts, which can be made ahead and stored in the fridge. Put them on a high shelf as they’re laced with alcohol, so unsuitable for kids. (Warn drivers about their alcohol content.) Black grape or cranberry juice can be used instead of wine to make them children- and driver-friendly. She recommends experimenting with other festive flavours such as fresh ginger, bay leaves, allspice berries, clementines, vanilla, cardamom, mace or a good glug of brandy.
8 gelatine leaves (the small ones)
100g caster sugar
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
½ tsp ground cloves
A good grating of nutmeg
300ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 bottle of fruity red wine
Gold ball cake decorations
whipped vanilla cream
Soak the gelatine in cold water until it is soft, then remove it from the water and shake it gently. Place the sugar, spices and orange juice in a large saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the wine and gently warm through for a few minutes without boiling. Remove and stir in the gelatine until dissolved.
Leave to cool and infuse (but not set) before straining through a fine sieve. Divide among jelly moulds, pretty glasses or tea cups. Refrigerate for at least four hours until set. Sprinkle gold cake decoration balls on top, and serve with cream, which has been softly whipped with vanilla seeds, on the side.
Harry’s Restaurant, Bridgend, Co Donegal
Spiced rice pudding with mulled wine poached pears
Since chef Raymond Moran put this on the menu it has been going down a storm. It’s comfort food, so comforting it nearly needs a tog rating. The mulled wine poached pears are a brilliant combination of seasonal flavours.
½ tsp each of ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and five spice
1 cinnamon stick
100g of pearl rice or pudding rice
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
100g caster sugar
Put the Christmassy spices in a large pan on a medium heat and add the rice and vanilla pod and seeds. Add about half the milk and all the sugar, stirring continually until well mixed in. Turn to a low heat and add the rest of the milk and simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure you don’t catch the bottom of the pan.
Keep simmering for about 20 to 30 minutes until the rice is soft and creamy. Taste, as you may need to add more sugar. Remove the vanilla pod.
Serve with mulled wine poached pears, which are made by adding peeled - and cored - pears to a saucepan of mulled wine and poaching until soft. Remove them from the heat and leave to cool in the mulled wine overnight.
Alexis Bar and Grill, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin
Spiced plum relish
Chef Alan O’Reilly of Alexis Bar and Grill in Dún Laoghaire has created a fruity relish using spices of the season, made to jazz up a plate of cold cuts or a cheese and cracker snack.
knob of butter
1 apple, peeled cored and diced
½ cup sugar
4 tbsp white wine vinegar
½ cinnamon stick
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp mixed lemon and orange peel
2 tbsp currants
2 tbsp sultanas
Stone and dice the plums. Dice the onions and apple. Melt the butter in a saucepan and sweat them off in the butter. Add the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon stick and salt. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and then add the peel, currants and sultanas and simmer, until you have a jam-like consistency. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.
Ballyknocken House Cookery School, Glenealy, Co Wicklow
Christmas Ice-Cream Bombe
Catherine Fulvio says she feels Christmassy when she prepares this recipe, which can be an alternative dessert to Christmas pudding for anyone averse to all that rich fruitiness.
There are no set quantities apart from the ice-cream and you can add as little or as much of the other ingredients as you like.
Take a two litre tub of really good vanilla ice cream and tip it into a bowl, leaving it until it’s slightly soft. Stir in any combination of crystalised fruits such as papaya, pineapple, dried cranberries, morello cherries, and chips of dark chocolate or roughly chopped pistachios. You can stir in a bit of Baileys for an adults-only version. Mix it all together well and tip it into a pudding bowl lined with cling film. Seal the top with cling film and freeze.
You can unmould it 40 minutes before you want to serve it and keep it in the fridge. Serve with a whiskey or brandy sauce or with melted chocolate poured over it.
Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Co Cork
Kumquat compôte (serves 6-20 depending on how it is served)
A gem of a recipe with just three ingredients in it, this compôte is delicious with roast goose, ham, bacon or duck.
Try making a crostini topped with Ardsallagh goats’ cheese and rocket and a spoon or two of this over it.
It can also be served as a dessert accompaniment to vanilla ice cream or a meringue roulade, as its citrus freshness cuts through the richness.
Slice the kumquats up and remove the seeds. Put the fruit into a saucepan with the water and sugar and cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender. Serve warm or cold. This will keep for weeks in the fridge.
What do the experts want from Santa?
Paul Flynn: Anything from Cocoa Atelier, 30 Drury Street, Dublin 2.
Darina Allen: A whole leg of cured ham from Folkes in Wicklow. It gives lie to the idea that you can’t get good Irish prosciutto. The Tamworth pig meat is hung for 10 months. James Folkes, Ballylaffin, Dunlavin, Co Wicklow, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catherine Fulvio: A cheesecake from John Hempenstall. It looks like a wedding cake, but it’s made from their lovely cheeses. See wicklowfarmhousecheeseltd.ie. Also I love getting smoked salmon from the Burren Smoke House, burrensmokehouse.ie or Ummera, ummera.com. Finally, Janet’s Country Fayre relishes make great presents.
Alan O’Reilly: A side of Frank Hederman’s smoked salmon. I get one every year. It’s great to keep in the fridge. I am addicted to this superb product.
Anne Neary: It has to be an Irish goose from Mary Walsh in Shellumsrath in Kilkenny, email@example.com.
Raymond Moran:It’s got to be a shoulder joint of Hamilton Farm rare breed pork, and some of my mother’s old recipe Christmas pudding.
Sharon Hearne-Smith:As I will be seven months pregnant, I won’t be touching a drop. But I would happily pretend I’m sipping on bubbly with the delivery of a crateful of The Apple Farm’s absolutely delicious sparkling Irish apple (or apple and blackcurrant) juice, from Cahir in Tipperary. See theapplefarm.com.