Season’s eatings: Five of Ireland’s top chefs share their favourite Christmas recipes

Crab claws with clementine, pomegranate and rosemary butter; Lobster Bisque; Auntie Maureen’s plum pudding and more delicious recipes for the Christmas table


Paul Flynn, The Tannery, Dungarvan, Co Waterford

I’m a big fan of Christmas. This year there’s a big gang of relations coming from Zurich, including four very enthusiastic children, so we are going all out at home with the decorations and the food. So it’s turkey and ham all the way. I can’t wait.

I love this starter – it’s so easy to prepare. I put a big bowl in the middle of the table and everyone helps themselves.

Crab claws with clementine, pomegranate and rosemary butter

320g crab claws

Zest and juice of 2 clementines

1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

Seeds and juice from 1 ripe pomegranate

125g butter

Salt and pepper

Melt the butter and add the rest of the ingredients to it except the crab claws. Tip these into a casserole dish, season and spoon the butter mixture over the top (this can be done two or three hours in advance).

When serving, preheat an oven to 180°C/gas 4. Put the crab in the oven for eight minutes. They should not be piping hot!

Serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Sean Smith, Cliff Townhouse, Dublin

Christmas is always a great family gathering in our home in Donegal. Each year, my mother Mary feeds our entire family on Christmas Day, a beautiful roast dinner with all the trimmings.

I work every Christmas Eve in the restaurant. It’s one of our busiest days and nights of the year and it is full-on from early morning in the kitchens.

I get away around midnight and hit the road for Donegal with my lobsters in tow. It takes about four hours to get to my mother’s and when I pull in, the house is fast asleep.

It’s straight into the kitchen for me and I set about making this lobster bisque, my contribution to Christmas dinner and one of my mother’s favourites.

A couple of hours and a few gin and tonics later, it’s ready and I get the head down in my old bedroom for a few hours’ sleep.

Sean Smith’s Lobster Bisque

Serves 6

2 lobsters

A good pinch of salt

2 bay leaves

25g butter

150ml white wine

2-3 sprigs of fresh parsley

750ml chicken stock

3 shallots

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 large chopped carrot

2 chopped celery sticks

75g butter

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs of thyme

2 tbsp tomato puree

40ml brandy

Splash sherry

80ml double cream

Juice of half a lemon

Chopped chives and fennel fronds to garnish

Boil two litres of water in a large deep pot. Add salt, bay leaves and both lobsters. Boil for six minutes. Remove the lobsters from the water with tongs and place in cold water to cool down. Reserve one litre of the cooking liquid. If using pre-cooked lobsters, you can substitute an alternative fish stock

Place the lobster on its back and, with a chef’s knife, carefully cut the lobster from underneath, all the way from head to tail. Rinse away any bits from the head cavities. Remove and refrigerate claw and tail meat. Repeat with second lobster.

Crush the lobster shells roughly, making sure the pieces are no bigger than a square inch.

Heat a little butter in a large soup pot. Add the crushed shell and fry at a medium heat for about five minutes, until the colour and smell is well developed. Deglaze the pot with a white wine, leaving the shells in the pot. Add the fresh parsley, reserved salted boiling water and the chicken stock.

Leave to boil slowly for 45 minutes. Place a lid on the cooking pot when half the cooking time has passed.

Meanwhile, prep your shallots, garlic, carrot and celery and sauté in the butter.

Once the stock is ready, drain, taking care to remove all shell and parsley. Put the stock back in the soup pot and add the sautéed vegetables, the bay leaves, thyme, tomato puree, brandy and sherry. Cover with a lid and boil slowly for another 50-60 minutes. Set aside until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, remove the bay leaves and thyme, blend the bisque with a hand blender, add the cream and reheat gently.

Heat a tiny knob of butter in a pan with half the lemon juice. Add the reserved lobster meat and fry over a moderate heat for one minute. Add the rest of the lemon juice to the bisque. Place the lobster meat in a heated soup bowl, pour over the bisque, and garnish with some chopped chives and fennel fronds.

Neven Maguire, MacNean House and Restaurant, Co Cavan

For me ,Christmas is all about celebrating with family and enjoying great food. We never open the restaurant at Christmas, so I like to cook for my family. Auntie Maureen’s pudding recipe has been enjoyed in our home for as long as I can remember. It is the most delicious, moist and light pudding you will ever taste. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it. I serve mine with a rum and brandy custard and some Christmas pudding ice cream. I hope you enjoy this as much as my family and I do.

Nothing beats the flavour of homemade Christmas pudding, but it’s important to get good-quality fruit and it’s best made at least one month in advance. A big thank you to Auntie Maureen for this recipe.

Auntie Maureen’s plum pudding

Makes 2 x 1.2 litre (2 pint) puddings

50g plain flour

½ tsp ground mixed spice

½ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

225g sultanas

175g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

175g fresh white breadcrumbs

175g light brown sugar

175g raisins

50g currants

50g candied mixed peel

50g blanched almonds, hopped

Half an eating apple, peeled, cored and diced

Half a small carrot, grated

Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

2 eggs, lightly beaten

300ml stout

Fresh redcurrant sprigs, to decorate (optional)

Icing sugar, to decorate (optional)

Sift together the flour, mixed spice, cloves and nutmeg. Add the sultanas, melted butter, breadcrumbs, sugar, raisins, currants, mixed peel, almonds, apple, carrot and the lemon rind and juice and mix until well combined. Gradually add the beaten eggs, stirring constantly, followed by the stout. Mix everything together thoroughly and cover with a clean tea towel, then leave in a cool place overnight.

Use the fruit mixture to fill 2 x 1.2 litre (2 pint) greased pudding bowls. Cover with a double thickness of greaseproof paper and tin foil, then tie tightly under the rim with string. Store in a cool, dry place overnight.

To cook, preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2. 4. Stand each pudding basin in a large cake tin three-quarters full of boiling water, then cook in the oven for six to eight hours (or you can steam them for six hours in the usual way). Cool and re-cover with clean greaseproof paper. Again, store in a cool, dry place.

On Christmas Day, re-cover with greaseproof paper and foil. Steam for two to three hours, until completely cooked through and tender. Decorate with the redcurrant sprigs and a light dusting of icing sugar, if liked.

Jenny Flynn, Faithlegg House Hotel, Co Waterford

It wouldn’t be Christmas without trifle. In my house, when I was growing up, everyone had to make something for Christmas dinner to make it a truly family affair. I was usually given the task of preparing all the vegetables.

It was a running joke as to what would happen each year with my sister’s trifle: custard not set, custard too set, too much sponge, not enough fruit, too much fruit, jelly not set and so on.

Every year, the humble trifle would be a big reveal – and such a let down. I even saw a certain bird on the packet once, but still no joy. But then it was my year to have a go at the trifle, and here is my recipe to make the humble trifle into something magical and delicious.


For the jelly base:

1 large tin of black cherries (400ml), strain and keep syrup

A good pinch of ginger and mixed spice

1 clove and 1 star anise

300g chocolate sponge

3 leaves gelatine

For the custard:

1 vanilla pod

600ml cream

150g caster sugar

4 large free-range egg yolks

Zest of 2 oranges (washed to remove any wax)

25g cornflour


600ml freshly whipped cream

Fresh cherries

Chocolate shavings

1 whole orange

For the chocolate and pine mousse (optional, you can just use whipped cream):

110g egg yolks

50g cream

1 gelatine sheet, bloomed in ice water

125g milk chocolate melted

125g dark chocolate, up to 70 per cent, melted

35g sugar

100g egg whites

375g cream, whipped to soft peaks

1 tsp pine tree needles, washed, dried and ground (dried Christmas tree)

To make the pine-scented chocolate mousse: whip the egg yolks and ground pine tree needles with the whisk attachment in a mixer until they are pale yellow and reach ribbon stage. Bring the 50g of cream to the boil, add the bloomed gelatine sheet and stir until dissolved. Pour the mixture over the milk and dark chocolates to make a ganache.

Put the sugar in a small pot and pour in just enough water to cover. Heat and bring to a temperature of 120°C. Whip the egg whites to soft peaks and in a steady stream pour in the hot sugar syrup to make an Italian meringue.

Assemble the mousse by folding the whipped yolks into the chocolate ganache, followed by the warm Italian meringue and lastly the whipped cream. Do not over-mix. Chill until required.

To make the jelly base: allow the gelatine to bloom in ice-cold water. Warm the syrup with the spices. Cube the sponge and put in the base of the trifle mould with cherries. Dissolve the softened gelatine in the hot syrup – do not allow to boil again. Strain over the sponge and allow to set in the fridge.

To make the custard: boil the cream and orange zest. Beat together the egg yolks, sugar and scraped vanilla pod, until light and fluffy. Dissolve the cornflour in a small amount of milk, mix thoroughly to ensure no lumps remain. Pour over some of the boiled cream and continue whisking until all cream has been added, then return to the heat and heat gently until it coats the back of a spoon.

Strain the custard and allow it to cool slightly. Cut the orange in rounds and put them on the inside of the glass bowl. Pour the custard into the bowl, over the set jelly, to hold them in place.

Finishing touches: I like to add a layer of berries cooked with sugar and mulled wine to give it an extra layer. Whisk the cream and it put on top of the custard. Leave in fridge overnight to allow the layers to set. Garnish with fresh cherries, mint and piped chocolate mousse. You can use the mousse as a separate dessert, but I use it to finish the top of the trifle.

Ultan Cooke, Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co Galway

I love cooking goose at Christmas because it’s so traditional, more traditional than turkey. There is nothing more festive than the smell of a goose cooking in the oven on a cold Christmas Day with a big fire lit.

It is, however, a very expensive bird – you’ll be doing well to feed a family of four with a goose, so it’s really important to make the most out of it.

This recipe is so simple, with loads of flavour, and it uses so many ingredients that you would have lying around after Christmas anyway, such as the fresh herbs and cream. It’s perfect for a lazy St Stephen’s Day. Serve it with some leftover ham and cranberry on crusty bread and the whole family will be happy.

St Stephen’s Day Goose Soup

1 carcass of goose (or turkey)

2 onions

Half a head of celery

1 butternut squash

1 bulb of fennel

Rendered goose fat from roasting the bird

Faggot of herbs (bunch of sage, thyme, bay, tied together)

200ml double cream

Salt and pepper

Cover the goose carcass in a big pot of water and simmer for 90 minutes, skimming off the fat regularly. Let cool to room temperature then strain and keep the stock and pick all the bits of remaining meat off the carcass.

With a good spoonful of the “goose grease” (excellent for roasting potatoes and making Yorkshire puddings), sweat off the sliced onion, fennel and celery until translucent, season lightly then add the diced butternut squash and cook for a further three minutes. Add the stock and cook for one hour with the herb faggot.

Remove the herbs and blend the soup with a hand mixer until nice and smooth. Finish with the double cream and add the flaked-down meat, and adjust with salt and pepper. This soup can, of course, be made with a turkey carcass.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.