‘I drape Christmas decorations on large plants, mirrors and even across the cooker’
Designer Carolyn Donnelly on fairy lights, cookbook experiments and her perfect Christmas
I love Christmas because . . .
“For me it’s a time to calm down, reflect and breathe with big long blustery walks taken on Claremont Beach, which is near my house.”
“I go mad with fresh flowers. I love honest blue hyacinths lined up in little pots and like to buy flowers as gifts.”
Lighting up time
“Decorating for me is draping lots of strings of battery-operated lights around the house. I drape them on large plants, atop mirrors and even across the cooker to add ambiance.”
Dressing the tree
“I like a real tree and will only put it up about a week before Christmas. It tends to have a hand-crafted feel, leaning towards the vintage rather than being overdressed. I like quirky ornaments, like the hand-blown glass caravan and station wagon from this year’s collection to hand-painted ones I bought in India.”
What will you have?
“For me mulled wine is just too much faff. Something nice and sparkly or a fine bottle of red is far more appealing.”
To crib or not to crib
“I don’t do a crib.”
Christmas dinner dos
“I’m a big foodie and love to review my large library of cookbooks for new ideas. Nigel Slater remains a firm favourite. For Christmas I follow Delia Smith to the letter. I wrap the turkey in a tinfoil balloon with rashers on the breast to stop it burning, basting only at the end. I also make her nut-free mincemeat and Christmas pudding. I do some delicious vegetables including roast parsnips coated in a grated Parmesan and flour mix and Brussels sprouts fried with bacon and finished with lemon zest, a Gordon Ramsey recipe. I make a giblet gravy adding a spoon of Marmite, something my mother used to do, to add colour and heaps of flavour. And when it comes to leftovers I do a legendary turkey and leek pie.”
A blaze of fragrance
“I burn turf from my husband, John Spain’s family bog in Co Kildare and like to throw in foraged pine cones as well as orange peels leftover from my morning juicing regime. My own three-wick honey and almond Christmas candle (€25) in festive red is another option.”
The ghosts of Christmas past
“I grew up in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where my parents ran a shop. I spent all my Christmases behind the counter and I was good at selling. It was hectic and I adored the busyness in the run-up to Christmas Eve, the hype of selling and the last-minute panic buying. Then on December 24th it was all over. Personally I’m not very good at embracing that urgency. Small and thoughtful gifts are more my style.”
All I want for Christmas is . . .
Rick Stein’s Long Weekends
Carolyn Donnelly Eclectic is exclusive to Dunnes Stores. Dunnesstores.com