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 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 What's for Dinner Mom?

Christmas Day – Side Dishes – Red Cabbage & Stuffing

Braised Red Cabbage.  As a supposed ‘foodie’ I should perhaps be slow to admit that I have never had red cabbage as an accompaniment to Christmas Dinner.  I’ve listened over the years as friends and acquaintances raved and swapped recipes and decided at last to give it a go.  As yet I am undecided it as I have to try it with the turkey and trimmings and have only tried it solo so it’s not fair to judge just yet.
Braised Red Cabbage
Red Cabbage Ingredients_01_opt
Chopped Red Cabbage_01_optSo for now this jury is out and I will post back the verdict in a comment after Christmas.  I’d love to know if you think it’s worth the effort?
Here’s a link to a recipe in Red Magazine on-line (I used Joanna Weinberg’s from the December edition of the magazine but that recipe is not available on-line.
I will definitely be looking forward to a traditional parsley, thyme and onion bread stuffing too and I may do another version spruced up with some orange zest and cranberries too.  Here’s an interesting Cranberry, Orange and Walnut version from Goodall’s of Ireland and here’s another alternative recipe for stuffing (there’s a turkey gravy recipe there too) from my blog – Mushroom & Pinenut
On mentioning Goodall’s of Ireland I must also plug their charity cookbook contributed to by Irish Food Bloggers, the digital version is available for download here and would make a welcome stocking filler for your foodie friends at a very unbeatable 2.99!! It’s for charity so go on, go on, go on 🙂
Also please let me know if you’re a red cabbage fan as I’m curious and also what side dishes you’ll be having with your Christmas Feast.
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