Two top chefs serve up ideas for an alternative Christmas dinner

Turkey is for a crowd – these classics deliver real wow factor for a smaller group


Though simple to cook and easy to prepare in advance, this roast fish from Ian Doyle of Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Co Waterford is elegant and stylish enough for Christmas Day. Ask your fishmonger to de-scale, gut and bone out the trout, leaving head and tail on.

Serves 2-4
1 whole trout (500-600g), descaled, gutted and boned out
For the mussel cream sauce:
1kg mussels, approx.
250ml white wine
150ml water, approx
400ml cream
For the herb stuffing:
2 bunches of spring onions, whites only, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
200g butter
5 tbsp chopped mixed herbs (chervil, dill, parsley, lemon geranium, sage etc)
Juice of ¼ lemon
300g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbsp sunflower oil


For the stuffing, gently sweat the onion and garlic in the butter until soft. Add the chopped herbs, breadcrumbs, lemon juice and mix well. Stuff the cavity of the fish and refrigerate until ready to roast.

For the mussel cream sauce, heat a large pot, add the mussels and wine. Bring to the boil, then top up with water to cover the mussels and simmer for 40 minutes. Strain the cooking liquid (the mussels can be refrigerated for adding to salads or chowder) and simmer for about 10 minutes until reduced by half. Add the cream and reduce until thick. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Remove the stuffed trout from the fridge. Rub the skin with oil and season with salt.

Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cook in preheated oven for 20 minutes. The flesh of the fish should no longer be translucent, and it should flake easily.

Meanwhile, gently reheat the mussel cream sauce. Place the cooked fish on a warmed platter and carve and portion at the table and serve with the mussel cream sauce on the side.


Adapted from Rory O’Connell’s new cookbook and TV series, The Joy of Food, any leftovers of this seasonal dish will make the most glorious sandwiches, so consider increasing the quantities accordingly!

Serves 3-4
500g loin of venison, trimmed of all grizzle
½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp brandy
150ml red wine
150ml beef or chicken stock
30g cold butter
½ tbsp chopped fresh chives

For the juniper salt:
1 tbsp juniper berries
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the horseradish and walnut sauce:
25g shelled walnuts, finely chopped
30g peeled fresh horseradish, grated
35ml cream
35ml crème fraîche
½ tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
½ tsp caster sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the juniper salt, grind the juniper berries in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder to a coarse powder. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.

For the sauce, gently mix all ingredients to combine and season to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (or for up to two days).

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Rub the venison with olive oil and then with the juniper salt.

Heat a heavy-based sauté pan until quite hot. Add the venison to seal and colour on all sides, then place into a snug-fitting roasting tray and roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked venison to an upturned plate sitting inside a larger one to capture any escaping juices and rest in a warm oven.

Place the roasting tray over a medium heat. Add the brandy, allow to bubble up and evaporate almost completely, then add the wine. Allow to boil, stirring the bottom of the pan to loosen any caramelised meat juices. Reduce the wine by three-quarters, add the stock and allow to boil. Strain into a small saucepan, return to the boil and reduce the sauce to thicken very lightly.

Taste to check the intensity of flavour, and keep reducing if needed. Otherwise, reduce the heat to a bare simmer and add the cold butter. Shake the pan gently to create little waves as the butter melts gradually. The resulting sauce should be glossy, lightly thickened, flavoursome and rich.

To serve, carve the meat (adding any meat juices to the sauce) into slices 1cm thick. Arrange on hot plates with some very cold horseradish and walnut sauce on the edge of the meat. Sprinkle the plates with finely chopped chives or greens and serve immediately.

The Joy of Food: A Celebration of Good Things to Eat by Rory O’ Connell (Gill Books) available in bookshops and online, €24.99

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