What do Ireland's top chefs like to eat and cook for Christmas dinner?

Starters and desserts are where you can give your culinary imagination free rein on Christmas day. Take some advice from these top chefs

 

JP McMahon, chef proprietor Michelin-starred Aniar in Galway

Where and with whom will you be celebrating Christmas 2018?

At home in Galway with my wife Drigin, daughters, Heather and Martha, and any of our staff who are unable to get home for Christmas.

What will be on the menu and who will be doing the cooking?

I will be cooking and as well as traditional turkey and ham, we will have oysters, and I make tiramisu every year.

What is the best part of a traditional Irish Christmas feast, for you?

Eating together as a family – it does not happen enough these days.

Any tips on taking the stress out of the kitchen on December 25th?

Make as much as you can in advance; try to simplify things, have your potatoes only one way – roast or mashed.

Christmas pudding – an annual treat, or the devil’s work?

The devil’s work! My wife makes Christmas cake with the girls and my father-in-law ices it on Christmas Eve.

Barry Fitzgerald, chef proprietor Bastible, Dublin

Where and with whom will you be celebrating Christmas 2018?

Normally, we all get together at my folks’ house but as they are away this year, I’ll be spending Christmas in our family holiday house in beautiful west Cork. Claremarie, our two little boys (Finn and Cian) and I will make a dash for it on Christmas Eve.

What will be on the menu and who will be doing the cooking?

I’ll do the cooking as I quite enjoy it. Claremarie is so good at playing with the kids and keeping them entertained. We each have our roles. As there will be just ourselves to feed, I think I’ll roast the best-quality chicken I can find and lay on a big spread of vegetarian side dishes, including a mountain of the best roast potatoes and two types of gravy to keep everyone happy.

What is the best part of a traditional Irish Christmas feast, for you?

The sandwiches the next day, of course. I always enjoy observing the various creations people make.

Any tips on taking the stress out of the kitchen on December 25th?

If cooking for a crowd, be the master of delegation. Don’t be a hero. Get your family involved in the prep so you can enjoy a pre-dinner glass too.

Christmas pudding – an annual treat, or the devil’s work?

My mum makes a mean plum pudding with brandy butter. Truth be told, I’ve never made one, but perhaps this year I’ll have to. Got to keep the tradition going. The Christmas cheese board will be not be forgotten either.

Paula Hannigan, sous chef of Michelin-starred House restaurant at the Cliff House hotel in Ardmore, Co Waterford

Where and with whom will you be celebrating Christmas 2018?

I’ll be spending Christmas at home with my family, who live only 20 minutes from the hotel. I was working on a cruise liner for Christmas last year, so it is so special to be together this year.

What will be on the menu and who will be doing the cooking?

I come from a farming background so the menu never changes – turkey, smoked bacon, potatoes prepared in as many ways as you can imagine and mushy Brussels sprouts, which I love. This will be followed by Bailey’s cheesecake or trifle for dessert.

What is the best part of a traditional Irish Christmas feast, for you?

The potato stuffing. Mashed potatoes, lots of butter, smoked bacon, onion and herbs. Savage.

Any tips on taking the stress out of the kitchen on December 25th?

Cook within your comfort zone. It’s Christmas for everyone, including you, so don’t try recipes you don’t enjoy cooking. And cooking with wine helps.

Christmas pudding – an annual treat, or the devil’s work?

Christmas treat for sure, but once a year is enough.

JP MCMAHON’S HAM HOCK TERRINE WITH PICKLED CUCUMBER

Serves up to 8

Ingredients

2 ham hocks

2 bay leaves

2 carrots

2 sprigs fresh rosemary and thyme

2 onions

500ml cider

Chopped herbs, such as chive, chervil, parsley, fennel

For the pickled cucumber:

1 cucumber, thinly sliced lengthways

250ml malt vinegar

125g caster sugar

50ml water

Some juniper seeds

Method

For the terrine, place the ham hocks into a deep saucepan with one of the onions (halved), the carrots (whole), the bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme. Cover with water and cider and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2½ hours or until you can pass a knife through the hocks with ease.

Take the ham hocks out of the pan and set aside. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve and pour 250ml of it into a saucepan (the rest could be saved and used as a soup or a stew base).

Remove the ham from the bones and flake into a large bowl. Mix with chopped herbs. Add the liquid.

Line a terrine mould with a large piece of clingfilm and add the ham mix into the mould. Alternatively, you can roll the terrine into a sausage shape with the aid of come clingfilm.

Fold the clingfilm over the terrine and place two tins on top to weigh it down. Place in the fridge for at least two hours, or until set.

For the pickled cucumber: place the vinegar, sugar, water, and juniper into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely, and then add the cucumber.

To serve: remove the clingfilm from the terrine and cut the terrine into slices. Place onto serving plates with the cucumber (drained of their vinegar) and some strong Irish cheddar, such as Mount Callan Cheddar (Co Clare). The terrine also goes well with radishes, pickled onions or gherkins.

BARRY FITZGERALD’S HAY-SMOKED TROUT, PICKLED RED CABBAGE AND WATERCRESS

This recipe makes for a light starter with minimal preparation time on the big day as all of elements can be made a day or two before. Although it won’t be as fun, if you don’t have the time to smoke the trout yourself, a good-quality store-bought product will do just fine.

Serves 6

Ingredients

For the smoked trout:

600g of a thick fillet of Irish sea trout with the skin on but pin bones removed. Your fishmonger can do this for you. Salmon will also work perfectly for this.

1 large handful of hay (buy a bag in the pet shop). You could use applewood chips instead.

80g Irish Atlantic or Maldon sea salt

20g brown sugar

Zest of 2 clementines

For the pickled red cabbage:

Half a small red cabbage, finely shredded

400g white wine vinegar

200g caster sugar

100g water

5 cloves

10 coriander seeds

2 star anise

For the smoked trout and caper mayonnaise:

100g smoked trout

1 egg yolk

20 capers

25g sherry vinegar

10g Dijon mustard

Lemon juice to taste

250ml rapeseed or vegetable oil

For the salad:

200g watercress or baby watercress

1 shallot, sliced into rings

1 small bunch of chives, cut into 1cm batons

Capers to taste

Sourdough croutons

Method

The red cabbage can be pickled any day leading up Christmas. Place the shredded cabbage in glass jars or a large bowl. Boil the remaining pickle ingredients in a pan to dissolve the sugar and pour this over the cabbage while it is still hot. Make sure to fully submerge the cabbage in the pickling liquid.

Allow to cool and seal the jars or bowl. You can store the cabbage in the fridge for up to three months.

Next, cure the trout. Mix the salt, sugar and zest together and sprinkle heavily all over the trout. Place in a container in the fridge for one hour. Wash off the cure under a cold tap and dry the fish in a clean towel. Set aside to come to room temperature for 30 minutes.

To make your smoker: take an old, deep roasting tin. Lay your trout fillet skin-side down on a metal rack that is approximately the same size as the tray. Have your extraction fan on high during this process.

Place the hay in the tray and begin to heat directly over the gas flame on your cooker. Allow the hay to begin to burn and create some smoke and heat. Quickly place the rack with the trout on top and continue to cook the hay until it becomes quite smoky. Cover with a double-layer sheet of tinfoil and seal tightly. Cook for just a couple of minutes.

Be careful it doesn’t catch on fire, but if it does, just allow it burn out and begin the process again. Once you have given the fish a good smoke, set it aside and allow it to cool for a good 15 minutes. Open the foil and check the fish is done enough to your liking. I would suggest leaving the fish nice and medium rare, but just flaking to the touch. If the fish is still a bit to raw, give it another smoke with the same hay. Once cooked, the smoked trout can be stored in the fridge for up to three days.

To make the trout mayonnaise: place all of the ingredients in a blender except the oil. Blitz on high to make a smooth paste. If it is too thick, just add a splash or two of cold water. Slowly trickle in the oil to make a velvety and light sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Store in the fridge until required.

Before serving, allow the smoked trout to come up to room temperature for an hour and then flake it into large pieces.

To assemble the salad: mix a few handfuls of washed watercress, the sliced shallot, capers and croutons in a large bowl. Dress lightly with a pinch of salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and a splash of rapeseed oil. Place a bit of salad on everyone’s plate and top with the flaked trout and some of the pickled cabbage.

PAULA HANNIGAN’S GLUTEN-FREE SPECULOOS AND EGGNOG TRIFLE

The trifle is made up of four layers – fruit set in an orange jelly, gluten-free speculoos sponge cake, a set eggnog cream, and Italian meringue. It can be presented in individual bowls or a single large one.

Serves 6

For the jelly layer:

600ml orange juice

3 leaves of gelatine

120g cranberries

2 apples cut into chunks (I also poach mine in some mulled wine for an added kick)

2 oranges, segmented

Method

Place the gelatine in some iced water until soft, and then dissolve it in half the orange juice, before pouring in the remaining orange juice.

Arrange the fruit in the bottom of the glasses and pour in the orange juice. Leave to set.

For the gluten-free speculoos sponge

:

Speculoos spice mix:

4tsp cinnamon powder

1tsp ground nutmeg

1tsp ground cloves

½tsp ground ginger

¼tsp ground white pepper

¼tsp ground cardamom

¼tsp ground star anise

Gluten-free speculoos sponge

3 eggs

100g castor sugar

40g gluten-free flour

40g cornflour

1tsp speculoos spice mix

Method

Whisk your eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.

Sieve remaining ingredients. Fold into egg mix. Spread mix on a lined, flat baking tray and bake at 175ºC for 12-15 minutes.

When the sponge is cool, cut out rings which fit perfectly over the first layer in the glass. This helps to keep the layers well-defined.

Eggnog

125g egg yolks

2 whole eggs

200ml rum

350g sugar

150ml cream

3 leaves of gelatine

Method

Soak the gelatine in cold water until soft.

Cook egg yolks, eggs, rum and sugar in a bowl over a pot of boiling water, stirring continuously.

When the mixture begins to thicken, add gelatine and mix.

Finally, add the cream and leave to cool slightly before pouring into glasses.

Italian meringue

250g sugar

75ml water

4 egg whites

Method

Whisk egg whites in a mixer. While they are whisking, bring the sugar and water to 120ºC in a pot.

Pour sugar mix over egg whites, leave to cool and then whisk.

Pipe the meringue onto the trifles the same day you are going to serve them.

Garnish as desired. I use slices of kumquats, dried cornflower petals, orange zest and/or grated chocolate and also vary how I pipe my meringue, just for fun. I use individual glasses, but it also works perfectly in a bowl.

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