My pre-Christmas tradition: food, friends and late-night dancing

The Irish Times: We Love Food – Majella Gallagher, head of human resources

Majella Gallagher (front, centre) with her friends celebrating Christmas in the early 1990s: back, left to right: Jean Fuller, Bridí McNerney, Ria Dunne, Helen McDonagh, Eimear Holmes; front left: Eleanor Ryan

The Saturday night before Christmas was the high point of our festive celebrations. A group of long-standing friends, we used to meet in Slatterys in Rathmines to enjoy a couple of drinks and a sing song. Liam Ó Maonlaí joined us one year – but even he couldn’t improve the standard of song, although his presence certainly made one of us a very happy girl . . .

The culchies would then head off to Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Tipp, Longford, Waterford and Donegal, leaving the Dubs among the group to enjoy their city in peace. That was back in the day when most of us were young, free and single.

But we’ve keep the tradition going and still meet up.

We are of course now much more sophisticated (read “older and a little more staid”) and the celebrations have become an annual soirée – a real, grown-up dinner party (of sorts).


The night usually starts with a suggestion of Champagne followed by lots of food and wine. Last year, the fare for the evening was a lamb tagine. It went down well served with crusty French bread. Slow-cooked and one-pot dishes leave the cook lots of time to experiment with starters and leads to fairly stress-free preparation.

Jamie Oliver's squid stuffed with black pudding is up for consideration this year, as is Nick Nairn and Paul Rankin's Argyll Marching Prawns, that featured in their recent TV series. The plate looks a treat and the preparation couldn't be easier. For main course, the Simon Hopkinson recipe for lamb shank rendang is looking likely – another dish for the slow cooker.

But it’s not all about the food; it’s still about friends catching up. Lots of laughs and a large helping of red wine usually make for a night to remember. We don’t have the sing song anymore . . . that’s been replaced by late-night dancing in the sitting room. I must remember to close the curtains this year!


Shoulder of lamb
600ml chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp hot paprika
1 can tomatoes
A grating of Nutmeg
1 piece of cinnamon
A drizzle of honey
½ tsp ground black pepper
A few large pieces orange peel

* Sear the lamb in batches in a wok or frying pan until brown. Leave to one side.
* Fry the onion on a low heat for about 10 minutes.
* Add the garlic followed by the ground spices to the pan and fry for another couple of minutes.
* Add the reserved meat and the rest of the ingredients, including the stock.
* Bring to the boil, cover and simmer very gently for approximately two hours or cook it on a low heat in the oven for a couple of hours until the meat is really tender.
* Serve with crusty bread, rice or cous cous.