Posted in Dinner Party

Christmas Day Nibbles – Pate with Beetroot Relish or Pickled Cucumber & Cranberry

What do you want from Christmas nibbles?  You want something easy, tasty and quick to prepare that is going to take the edge off the hunger of the gathering hordes. Even if you simply want to invite people over for some Christmas drinks you’d better be prepared for the fact that at least one of them will arrive absolutely staaaarving and will hoover up a plateful of nibbles as if vying for a Guinness book of records placing.  Have a few platters of nibbles set up and be prepared to refill the plates with these easy to put together bites.
Beetroot Relish Pate Crackers
You will need some good quality crackers, some great locally produced pate and then some tasty topping alternatives.  I suggest either Beetroot Relish (above) or Pickled Cucumber with pate and cranberry (below).

Chicken Liver Pate, Pickled Cucumber & Spiced Cranberries Don’t be put off by what you are about to see here because you are not expected to grow your own beetroot for this recipe as you can pick them up at the supermarket and I am merely showing off.  I was aghast to see that I could buy a bunch of three beetroots for a euro and wondered at the effort it had taken to grown mine and in terms of labour (weeding) was it worth it?  It is of course satisfying to grow and eat your own vegetables and I will be doing it again purely for the satisfaction and pleasure of eating what I’ve grown.  My beetroots were small but adequate enough and taste sensational.
Beetroot from the garden
Beetroot harvest
Beetroot Relish jarsAs well as buying the beetroots you can also skip the preparation step and buy your beetroot relish pre-prepared though do try to source locally if you can.  This recipe is from one of my ‘go to’ food magazines which bills itself as  ‘Ireland’s food and drink bible’ – Food & Wine Magazine.  A subscription to this would please anyone with an interest in food.  So to give proper credit to the provenance of the recipe it is from Maire Jones of GIY Rush/Skerries who in turn passed it on to Michael Kelly who writes for the magazine. (not exactly rewritten – as I cut corners when I can and prep. as I go)
Beetroot relish:
You will need:
1.3kg cooked beetroot
540g onions
720ml red wine vinegar
450g cooking apples
1 tsp salt
900g granulated sugar (yes, that is a lot isn’t it!)
Peel and finely chop the onions.
Peel, core and roughly chop the apples
Peel and cut beetroot into cubes.
Splash a little of the vinegar into a large pan with the onions and soften them over a medium heat for a few minutes.
Add the apples and 4 tbsp of the sugar and cook until apple is easily squashed with a spoon.
Add the cubed beetroot, salt and half of the vinegar.  Simmer until thick.
Stir in the sugar and remaining vinegar and continue until thick.
Pot in sterilised jars.
Use within six to eight weeks.

Pickled Cucumber:
Again this can be easily bought and I love the one from the Just Food range available in my local SuperValu.  If you fancy a go at making your own it is incredibly easy and very satisfying.  I did so last year and you can click here for that recipe.
Christmas Canape 2

Christmas Nibbles:
With your beetroot relish or pickled cucumber either made yourself or shop bought the assembly of this nibbles is just a simple smear of pate on some delicious crackers topped with the relish or cucumber and maybe a blob of cranberry sauce if desired.
x Sheila

Posted in Dinner Party

Christmas Day Starters – Mini Crab Cakes and Grape & Melon with Mint

Anticipating a long sprawling day of easy entertaining we’ll begin our Christmas feasting with some nibbles and bubbles to ease us in.

Nibbles will be followed (after a break) by two starters.  First up will be these delicious mini crab cakes……
Crab Cakes
…made using Tim Browne, Dingle crab meat

Ted Browne Crab Meat

….to be followed by  the perennial favourite in our house that I always make from Darina Allen’s book ‘A Simply Delicious Christmas.’  The combination of Grape and Melon with Mint make this a refreshingly light palate cleanser leaving taste buds tingled before the mains.  Get that classic ‘Grape and Melon with Mint‘ recipe here.

Christmas StarterI have a recipe for fish cakes in my book ‘Gimme the Recipe” (now available to download in various e formats – get your kindle one here – unashamed plug) which you can adapt by using crabmeat instead of salmon or there’s a great free alternative here with a fantastically tasty lime and chilli vamped mayonnaise.
This year I’m going to prep. the starters the day before – well that’s the plan – the truth will out! …and no, I will not be peeling the grapes 🙂
x Sheila

Posted in Dinner Party

Christmas Day Dessert – Mini Chocolate, Coffee & Baileys Pots

Dessert!! There may not be room after a Christmas Day feast and if that’s the case then these chocolate pots will sit perfectly well in the fridge for a day or two longer if needs be.
Choc Coffee Baileys Pot_opt
I do like the word ‘mini’ though which would imply that you might be able to squeeze one in and the trick will be to make them in tiny little tasting pots e.g. egg or cappuccino cups or sherry glasses.  With a shot of coffee they will hopefully give you the perk up to see you awake through the Christmas movie.

Choc Pots

For the recipe I adapted this one by cutting back a little on the coffee and adding Bailey’s instead.
Alternatively I have another tried and tested recipe here on my blog called Chocolate, Coffee & Almond Mousse which again I recommend making in mini vessels.
Chocolate, Coffee & Almond Mousse
For those who want to go completely into food coma land there’s also this savage Black Forest Roulade – Christmas Log.
Black Forest Roulade
Regardless of what you choose, relax enjoy and please don’t mention calories.  This is Christmas!
x Sheila
Posted in Dinner Party, What's for Dinner Mom?

Moroccan Chicken

So disappointed that I haven’t done this dish justice with the photos because it is amazing.  It is truly one of those roll your eyes to the back of your eye-socket dishes.  It is simple to make, sounds sophisticated and might have looked sophisticated too if I hadn’t left out the scattering of red onion, lemon zest, mint leaves and crumbled feta that the original recipe in BBC Good Food magazine (October) called for.  But please believe me, there is no need for extra flouncing and flippery and the dish is perfect served with a simple side of coriander flecked couscous.
Morrocan Chicken in Large Bowl
I’m not sure if I have borrowed ‘flouncing and flippery’ from Nigel Slater as I’m sure there are many of his descriptive nuggets lodged in my thought-space, speaking of whom I know he has released a new book ‘The Kitchen Diaries Volume ii’ of late and I am truly looking forward to his new TV series.   I believe Nigella’s book ‘Nigellissima’ hit the shelves on the same day as Nigel’s and I’ve seen much promise of spoon licking from her in the snippets of advertisements for her new programme too and with a book so named there has to be at least a smidgen of narcissism at work.  Don’t get me wrong though she is a cook that I greatly admire and I’ll be cosied up on the couch to watch her this Autumn too.  While we are waiting I am not missing out on viewing Lorraine Pascale’s ‘Fast, Fresh and Easy Food’ programme showing on BBC2 on Mondays.  I just love that show, Lorraine has such a genuine, no-nonsense approach to cooking and she isn’t shy of the microwave when it comes to melting chocolate – my kind of girl.
On this side of the water I’ve been admiring the food-styling of Rachel Allen’s ‘Cake Diaries’ programme on RTE1 on Wednesdays and think I’ll have to try out this Strawberry Cupcakes recipe as they are just too pretty to resist.
Leaving you on a savoury note though and please do try this Moroccan Chicken recipe sometime – you will love it.
Moroccan ChickenMoroccan Chicken
(recipe based on BBC Good Food magazine – October 2012)
Serves 6
You will need:
4 large chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
2 medium onions
4 medium tomatoes
100g ginger (this was approx. entire supermarket pack=good to use it up!)
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp cinnamon (yes I know it’s a lot!)
2 medium butternut squash
500ml chicken stock
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large saucepan/casserole pot over a medium to high heat and brown/golden the chicken breasts on all sides.
Meanwhile roughly chop 1 onion and the tomatoes and thinly slice the other onion.
Peel and roughly chop the ginger and garlic cloves.
Use a food processor/mini-chopper to bltiz the chopped onion, tomatoes, ginger and garlic together.
Once the chicken has browned remove to a plate and then cook the sliced onions until they being to soften.  Meanwhile chop up the part-cooked chicken on the plate.
Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander and cinnamon to the onion slices and cook for a minute.
Add the blitzed tomato paste and cook for a further two minutes.
Prepare the butternut squash by peeling, de-seeding and chopping into chunks.
Add the part-cooked chicken pieces, butternut squash, stock, sugar and vinegar into the onion mixture and stir well.
Raise the heat to a simmer, leave to cook for 20 minutes.
Serve with couscous.
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Dinner Party

Mini Quiche Bites

For all you fans of convenience and purchasing ingredients with one quick stop at the supermarket here are some mini quiche bites that are just perfect for a girls night in.  Yes boys, I’m being sexist and going along with the maxim that you don’t eat quiche because you are ‘real men’  I’ve heard the expression ‘Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche’ plenty of times but didn’t realise until now that it was the name of a book that featured on the New York Times best-sellers list for over a year, quite an achievement. It appears to be a humourous read and lads I’m only joking, you can whip up some mini quiches for a boys night in whenever you like:) (not that you need my permission)
Mini Quiche BitesReady made sheets of shortcrust pastry are cut to line cupcake trays and these are blind-baked before filling and returning to the oven to finish cooking.  With the pastry partially cooked this means there is less likelihood of a soggy pastry base.  When you do blind-bake you are supposed to line the pastry with a little grease-proof paper and weigh it down with some pie-weights or dried beans to prevent your pastry from shifting and shrinking too much from the base and the edges.  This is tedious though and not for the time-pressed so what’s the alternative?  The alternative is to sacrifice a pretty looking symmetrical pastry case for one that may be uneven and perhaps even bulging in places but one that will taste just as good.  Their mis-shapeness will be counteracted with the delicious filling and once garnished with a sprinkling of fresh herbs their asymmetry will surely not be commented on in the hurry to taste.  If you are going to cheat like I do and leave out the lining and weight filling, then you will have to interrupt the blind-baking process a couple of times to use the back of a spoon to gently tease back up the sides of the pastry that may be shrinking down into the case and to smooth out the bottom that may be rising and bulging.
Shortcrust Pastry Shaping

The mini-quiches will be sufficiently filling to be accompanied with something light like a side salad and perfect washed down with a nice chilled white wine.  Speaking of wine this lucky girl has been invited to dine out at a ‘See Beyond The Label’ event  courtesy of Jacob’s Creek ‘Wine & Dine Experience” which visits Cork this week.  This roadshow is visiting Dublin, Cork, Galway and Waterford and is encouraging food and wine enthusiasts to ‘See Beyond The Label.’  If you would like to request a reservation at one of these events or to find out more visit the Jacob’s Creek facebook page
Mini Quiche with White WineMini Quiche Bites:
Makes: 18-20
You will need:
A little butter to grease the cupcake trays
2 boxes of 2 round sheets of jus-rol shortcrust pastry (4 sheets in total)
3 spring onions
1 small handful fresh parsley (& extra for garnishing)
250g cherry tomatoes (on vine if possible)
5 eggs
250ml creme fraiche
1 tsp thyme
some hard cheese to grate on top
Pre-heat the fan oven to 180C or Gas Mark 6.
Lightly grease 2 cupcake trays with a little butter.
Open out the defrosted sheets of pastry and use a round cutter or a large cup to cut circles of pastry to line the cupcake trays.
Place the pastry-lined cupcake trays in the oven and bake for 5 minutes, meanwhile do the filling preparation.
Rinse and chop the spring onions and parsley.
Rinse and halve the cherry tomatoes.
Whisk the eggs, creme fraiches, thyme and parsley together in a large bowl and then stir in the chopped spring onions.
After 5 minutes of blind-baking the pastry remove the cupcake trays from the oven and use the back of a spoon to gently smooth out the bases and pull up the sides as they will have begun to shrink away from the edges.  Return the pastry to the oven to cook for 5 minutes more.
Again coax up the edges of the pastry before filling each base with 3 or 4 cherry tomato halves and then use a jug or a ladle to pour over the egg and creme fraiche mixture.
Return the filled pastry to the oven to cook for 1o minutes more.
After ten minutes grate some hard cheese over each pastry case and cook for a final 5 minutes.
Use a spoon to gently prise the mini-quiches from the cupcake trays and serve warm with a garnish of chopped parsley and perhaps a side of coleslaw.
Enjoy with something nice and chilled.
Til next time, Sheila.