Posted in Christmas

Christmas Dinner – A Plan

Christmas Dinner – Turkey Dinner Planner

Note: This is from my first recipe book : ‘Gimme the Recipe’ and is aimed at the novice who just wants to HAVE A Plan TO get a simple, tasty Christmas Dinner on the table.

As one of the most anticipated meals of the year, a little bit of planning will help to relieve the stress that surrounds producing the Christmas Dinner. What will also make a big difference is to delegate the jobs that you don’t have to do yourself. Kids are great at peeling vegetables and setting the table etc. Get some Christmassy music going in the background, light some cranberry or mulled spice scented candles and sip a Bailey’s on ice to get you in the right frame of mind. It shouldn’t be all about slaving and sweating in the kitchen on your own so make sure everyone knows it’s Christmas for you as well. I think of a Christmas Turkey Dinner as an over-sized roast chicken dinner with a few airs and graces.


Work out what time you want to eat at and put that into the timing planner (below), then work backwards adjusting the times and writing them into the adjusted column as per suggested times.

If you are planning to eat at 2.30, tell everybody it’s 3 p.m., every little helps to take a bit of pressure off.

The timings recommended for cooking an unstuffed turkey on the Irish Safefood website is 19 minutes per kg + 124 minutes in a fan oven at 180oC and a Gas oven at 5. They recommend covering the turkey with tinfoil for a juicier turkey and basting it every hour, removing the tinfoil half an hour from the end to brown the skin. The ham will require 20 minutes per 450g and 20 minutes extra.

Based on this, the suggested timings would be for a 5kg turkey (10 servings).

As you can see I keep my vegetable options simple: boiled and roast potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts and sweet corn. Substitute these with whatever vegetables you fancy. When preparing the potatoes I peel them and leave them in cold water until required. This isn’t ideal from a nutritional point of view but with so much going on, they do need to be prepared in advance.

For a starter, I usually make Darina Allen’s refreshing Grape and Melon with mint from her A Simply Delicious Christmas book. Simple and tasty.

Christmas Eve

Cook the spiced beef (a Cork tradition spiced beef is bought pre-spiced by the butcher) – takes 2 to 3 hours of simmering depending on weight of joint.
Soak the ham in pot in fridge overnight if it’s very salty otherwise a couple of hours on Christmas morning will do.  (Change the water before boiling on Christmas Day.)
Make cranberry sauce if you’re making it – I buy mine. (Cranberries, sugar, water, orange zest. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer until cranberries burst – 10 minutes. Cool and refrigerate)

 Christmas Day – Timing Planner

Good Luck. It will be fine! xx Sheila

Posted in Baking Day, Christmas, Recipes

White Christmas Biscuit Cake- Recipe 12 of 12 from Enjoy!

White Christmas Biscuit Cake

Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi (from cookbook Enjoy!)
Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi (from cookbook Enjoy!)

Ta Dah! Recipe 12 of 12.  So I set myself the task of sharing 12 recipes from ‘Enjoy!’ over 12 weeks until Christmas and here we are!!!! It really does just sneak up in the end.  I love it.  I love the lights.  I love the buzz.  I love the frenzy in town and even the panicky feeling that you’ve forgotten something.  I did tweet during the week about something that bugs me though, the idea of the ‘PERFECT’ Christmas, that’s absurd.  We’re being sold perfection as something achievable and desirable and if it does exist then it would imply that there is just one version, the ‘perfect’ version of Christmas.  But Christmas is a unique experience to us all, the things that make us buzz, the movies that we want to watch, the rituals of gift-opening etc.. they vary in every household.  I’m wishing you all a unique and real Christmas.
In light of uniqueness here’s a recipe for a Biscuit Cake instead of traditional fruit Christmas Cake.  There’s still plenty of time and if you’ve kids they’ll love getting involved in the decoration.
A ‘springform tin’ is one used for cheesecakes that has a spring release on the side so that you can remove it easily.
White Christmas Biscuit Cake
You will need:
For the biscuit cake:
110g unsalted butter, softened
110g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
110g caster sugar
225g McVitie’s Rich Tea biscuits
Assortment of finger biscuits and sweets, to decorate
For the topping:
5 x 58g Mars bars
3 x 100g bars of white chocolate
Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper . Place the ring of a springform tin on the paper – you aren’t using a cake tin, just the ring with the base removed to shape the cake.
Beat the butter until it’s smooth, then beat in the caster sugar.
In a separate bowl, break the biscuits into almond-sized pieces.
Melt the dark chocolate (I use the microwave) and gradually beat it into the butter mixture until smooth. Add the broken biscuits and stir well to cover with the cake mix.
Spoon the chocolate biscuit mix into the cake ring. Press it down and out to the sides with the back of the spoon until it’s even. Place the cake in the fridge to set overnight.
The next day, remove the cake ring from the set cake. Turn the biscuit cake upside down and place it on a wire rack – the bottom will be smoother, and it will now be the top. Put some parchment paper underneath the wire rack to catch the drips from the melted chocolate.
Cut the Mars bars into small pieces and melt them in a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of water, mixing well to form a smooth topping. Pour the melted Mars bar topping onto the biscuit cake and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour. You can keep the piece of parchment paper to use it again for the next layer of melted chocolate.
Break the white chocolate bars into small pieces and melt them in a bowl in the microwave. Remove the cake from the fridge and set the rack back over the piece of parchment paper. Pour the melted white chocolate over the chilled biscuit cake, then carefully transfer the cake from the wire rack onto a cake stand or serving plate.
Have fun decorating with Christmas-themed sweets on top and white chocolate finger biscuits around the side.
& Have a wonderfully unique Christmas!! Sheila.

Posted in Baking Day, Christmas, Recipes

Golden Granola – Recipe 11 of 12 from Enjoy!

Golden Granola
Treat yourself over Christmas to a delicious crunchy start to your day with this scrumptious golden baked granola.  Thankfully most of my kids don’t eat it & I’ll have a jar of it to sprinkle over yoghurt etc. during the holidays.  Makes for a beautiful gift if you get hold of a nice jar.

Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi (from cookbook Enjoy!)
Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi (from cookbook Enjoy!)

You will need:
150g porridge oats
150g combination of mixed dried fruit, nuts and seeds (you choose)
50g desiccated coconut (leave it out if you’re not a fan)
4 tbsp golden syrup or runny honey
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
Preheat a fan oven to 160°C.
Mix the oats, mixed fruit, nuts and seeds and the desiccated coconut on a baking tray.
Drizzle the golden syrup or honey and the oil over them and mix thoroughly with a fork so that nothing is left completely dry.
Toast the granola mixture in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, tossing it with a fork at 5- or 10-minute intervals as it cooks to ensure even toasting.
Leave to cool on the baking tray, then store in an airtight container.
To serve for breakfast, layer up the granola with some natural yoghurt and fruit.
Enjoy! ’til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Christmas, Dinner Party, Recipes

Red Onion Relish – Recipe 10 of 12 from Enjoy!

Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi
Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi

Simple to make.  Just add time!  As below in the picture you can see how a dollop of red onion relish can lift a simple crostini.  Great in any sandwich or even as a pizza topping and perfect on a cheese board, a jar of this would make a very welcome gift for the foodie in your life.

Caramelised Red Onion Relish
 You can store caramelised red onion relish in a jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks to use whatever way you fancy.
Makes 2 medium jars (2 x 350ml Kilner)
You will need:
6 medium red onions
2 tbsp rapeseed or coconut oil
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar (or any dark brown sugar)
Peel, halve and thinly slice the red onions. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a low to medium heat and gently soften the sliced onions for 35 minutes.
Raise the heat to medium and add the balsamic vinegar and muscovado sugar. Stir well and cook for 3–4 minutes, then set aside to cool before spooning into sterilised jars.
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Christmas, Recipes

Warm Maple Pear with Black Pudding & Crumbled Cranberry Wensleydale – Christmas Starter

Warm Maple Pear with Black Pudding & Crumbled Cranberry Wensleydale – A Christmas Starter


This is a Christmas Day starter that you could partly prepare the day before if you wish. If you cooked the pears and black pudding and refrigerate them, then reheat with a quick microwave blitz on the day, all you’ll have to do is assemble on a large platter for self-service, finishing off with crumbled cranberry Wensleydale.



Make it even more Christmassy with a garnish of walnut pieces – not pictured here because I’d run out!

Inspired by a friend of mine who described pears cooked in brandy I decided to make it more kid friendly by going with sweet maple syrup instead.

Crumbly black pudding, creamy cheese and sweet warm fruit make for mixed mouthfuls – one sweet another savoury – pure food heaven.

I’m thinking of having a second starter – this citrusy, mint, grape and melon one is so refreshing it will cleanse like a sorbet and it too can get prepared the day before.

For dessert I’m contemplating this black forest chocolate roulade however what’s putting me off is the storage nightmare.  Where will I put it until ready to consume? Would extra fridge rental be a good business idea for this time of year I wonder?  I really could do with one of those giant American fridges outside the back door plus a Nigella Lawson style pantry but just for a couple of weeks.  I couldn’t be keeping those stocked all year round.  Besides the storage nightmare I’m not looking forward to trolley wars & brussels sprouts panic very much either.  I am looking forward to my dinner though.  There will be brussels sprouts and there will be turkey.  Though not a whole one.  I’ve succumbed to turkey crown over the past few years, pre-prepared and pre-stuffed.  My kids aren’t that gone on turkey so we’ll do a moderately sized duck or goose as well but I have to have turkey and leftovers.  There shall also be a pineapple & brown sugar glazed baked ham and spiced beef (a Cork tradition) both cooked the day before. I’ve been warned to make plenty of stuffing and as I’d eat a stuffing sandwich for breakfast myself I have no problem making an abundance of it.  The shopping & storage will be the hard part but I can’t wait for the cooking and feasting part.  And the no cooking for at least 2 days afterwards while we empty the fridge!


Warm Maple Pear with Black Pudding & Crumbled Cranberry Wensleydale – A Christmas Starter

Serves 4
You will need:
2 ripe pears
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp maple syrup
Baby spinach leaves
Half a Black pudding
Wedge of cranberry Wensleydale cheese
Walnut pieces – optional
Peel the pears and chop into bitesize pieces removing the hard centre.  Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium to high heat in a small frying pan and add the pears.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium to high heat in another small frying pan and add chopped up black pudding.
Once the pears are warm add in 3 tbsp maple syrup mix well and reduce the heat to low until you are happy that the black pudding is sufficiently warm/cooked too.
Assemble baby spinach leaves on a large platter.
Scatter over the warm pear pieces and crumbled black pudding and then crumble the Wensleydale cheese with a fork and scatter on top.
Garnish with some walnut pieces (optional) and serve.
‘Til next time, Sheila