Archive for the ‘Winter Veg’ Category

A Christmas Carol Feast

Roscommon’s best book club ate at my supper club last night for a festive feast.   Earlier this year I cooked the feast from Marlena di Blasi’s The Lady in the Palazzo for the same group.   For their final meeting of 2011 they read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  I was given free reign to choose a menu from foods mentioned in the book.

Negus & Roast Chestnuts

Turkey liver pate, figs & oranges


Bob Cratchit‘s Prize Turkey

Sage & onion stuffing

Roast & mashed potato

Cranberry & apple sauce

Fresh apples & oranges, plum sorbet

Mince pies

Christmas pudding lit with brandy

‘Negus’ is hot port or wine, sweetened and spiced.  I served hot port with sugar, cloves, mace and orange slices as the book worms arrived.  Hot roast chestnuts were served at the table along with tiny turkey liver and fig canapes.

For “gruel”, I ladled a smooth, creamy mushroom soup over cooked and toasted barley and topped all with toasted golden oats and a swirl of cream.  It had the effect of looking like porridge but tasting like a comforting mushroom soup.

Main course was the turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  Scrooge buys the prize turkey on Christmas morning for his employee Bob Cratchit as a gift.  In the famous Christmas feast there’s goose.  We opted for the bigger bird to feed all 12 of the diners.  I bought the turkey from Castlemine Farm, who source it from the Friendly Farmer.  It was free-range and dry plucked.  Tasted amazing and well worth it!

Fresh and exotic fruit features a good bit in A Christmas Carol – piles of them in the green grocers and at the feasts.  Fruit was a treat – try convincing people this now!  T’would be a dietitian’s dream.  I featured slivers of apples and orange segments with a spicy fruit coulis and damson sorbet.

The fruit preceded the traditional mince pies, Christmas pudding and brandy cream. Coffee, tea and chocolates were distributed.  The book club ladies (all ladies) continued to digest and talk books for another while.

It’s said that with A Christmas Carol, Dickens put the Merry into Christmas.  What a feat.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Turkey Liver Pate

My turkey came with the liver, heart and neck.  I made enough pate for about 24 canapes with 1 liver.

1 small shallot, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 turkey liver

150ml red wine

salt & pepper

1 tbsp fresh herbs -e .g. parsley, thyme, sage

85g butter


  1. Melt 25g of butter in a frying pan over a low heat.
  2. Add the shallots and sweat gently until soft – 5 minutes or so.
  3. Add the turkey liver, garlic, pinch salt and pepper.  Increase the heat slightly and cook for 5-10 minutes until the liver is cooked through.
  4. Add the red wine and herbs and simmer until it reduces by three quarters.  Place the whole lot in a jug and blend with a hand blitzer.  Add the butter in small knobs, blitzing between each bit.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Allow to cool fully before serving on bits of toast.
I served the pate with pieces of dried figs that I rehydrated in a simmering, spicy liquor of fresh orange juice (2 oranges), fresh lemon juice (1 lemon), sugar (to taste), mace and cloves.  It took about 10-15 minutes over a low, simmering heat to plump the figs up sufficiently.





Viking Bowls for French Onion Soup (And Shepherd’s Pie Recipe)

Last year I posted a recipe for French Onion Soup – a real favourite with us this time of year.  With a great supply of onions hanging in the shed and longer nights, it’s the perfect comfort evening meal.  Yes, a meal – if I make this for dinner that’s it!  A hearty bowl of this soup and a nice warm glass of red wine.

I’ve never found just the right bowl for this dish and been on the lookout for years.  Standard bowls are too wide on top and may not withstand the hot grilling at the end.  The perfect vessel for me would be a fairly narrow earthenware bowl where the base is roughly the same width as the surface but with a tulip narrowing towards the surface.

Last year at the Roscommon Lamb Festival a Historical Reinactment Group camped on the grounds of Roscommon Castle.  They were dressed in costume, slept in canvas tents, show-cased some medieval skills and battles and we, the public, were invited to wander around their camp.   A small camp that got my attention was inhabited by potter Jaqui Wright.  She makes replicas of archeological pottery discoveries.  It was here I came across her “new” range of pottery made with black Viking clay.  They are hand-shaped and then fired.  She glazed the inside of the bowls and mugs, although the glazing step wouldn’t have happened back with the hardy Vikings.  In fact, they would have eaten/drunk everything out of the one vessel and were not fussed, I’m sure, about cross-contamination.

I ordered 6 bowls from Jaqui that day.  She said it would be a few months and she would phone me.

So I was very excited a couple of months ago when she phoned me to say they were ready.  She lives in quite a rural part of the country – in county Sligo but very near the Roscommon border.  Jaqui does not do mobile phones, email, or websites so she gave me good, old-fashioned directions to her house.  I got lost on the way (my fault, because I do find, if you really take instructions litereally, people generally give perfect directions to their houses – I did a lot of home calls in my previous job as a community dietitian) but did find her secluded dwelling where she creates all this fabulous pottery.

The bowls are just what I wanted.  They’re beautifully rustic, oddly shaped and very pre-old worldy.  They look quite stone-age on my dresser with glassware and delicate china coffee cups but I love them!  Perfect French onion soup vessels, they have the added bonus of being oven-proof and are great for individual pies.

Jacqui Wright, Pottery Design’s contact number is 071-9182022 and here’s a site telling you some more about the Historical Reinactment Group.


Traditional Shepherd’s Pie with Root Vegetable Topping:

For 4-6.  Make individual pies or a large dish of it.


1 tablespoon rapeseed oil

1 large onion, finely diced

2 carrots, finely diced

500g minced lamb

200ml lamb or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons tomato puree

few dashes Worchester sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme leaves

salt & pepper


Root Vegetable Mash:

3 medium potatoes, peeled & halved

1 carrot, peeled & chopped into 2.5cm chunks

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped into 6cm chunks

1/4 turnip, peeled and chopped into 2.5cm chunks

1 tablespoon butter

dash milk

Salt & pepper


Preheat the oven to 190 C.


For the meat:

Heat the oil in a wide frying or sauce-pan.  Add the onions and carrots.  Season with salt and cover to sweat over  a low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes until soft.  Remove the lid and increase the heat to high.  Add the lamb and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring often over a high heat.  Continue cooking until the lamb is browned all over.  Add the tomato puree, Worchester sauce, balsamic vinegar, honey, thyme and stock.  Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer gently for 20 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and add more honey or Worchester sauce as needed.


For the topping:

While this is happening, cover the prepared vegetables for the topping in a large saucepan with just enough cold water.  Bring to the boil with a lid and cook gently until the vegetables are tender.  Drain the water off fully and return the saucepan to the heat.  Add the milk and butter, salt and pepper.  Heat the milk fully before mashing the vegetables together.


To assemble:

Lay the meat sauce in the base of your serving dish.  Spoon the mash on top and spread it out to cover the meat.  You can make a design on the top with a fork and brush with melted butter or top with grated cheese.  Bake until the mash is golden and the meat is bubbling underneath.  Serve with a green salad or extra green vegetables.  …… plus tomato ketchup: “Tacky but good” as Jamie would say.

‘The Hidden Leek’: Game Supper Club Special

This is how our menu is shaping up for the game supper club this Sunday 27th November.  11 guests will be eating wild for 7 courses!

Rabbit & squash canapes with aperetif

Seasonal vegetable broth, pheasant dumplings

Pigeon: confit leg & seared breast, winter greens

Leek study – griddled, crumbled, velouted

Homemade pappardelle with roast wild duck ragu

Damson sorbet

Venison wellington & hotpot, crisp potato, braised cabbage

Apple tart tatin, homemade vanilla ice-cream

Chocolate petit fours & tea/coffee

If you missed this time, we will also be including some game on our next supperclub – 10th & 11th December.

Roast Winter Veg

Remember Christmas?  When we ate too much turkey and vowed never to overstuff ourselves again…… Well around that time I sliced up some stuffed turkey breast and carefully stored it in bags for 2 in the freezer.  It seemed like enough time had lapsed to enjoy a turkey dinner again.

The last squash has been staring at me for some time in the kitchen.  I love the way this vegetable stores so well and still maintains it’s gorgeous orange colour and comforting texture.  It’s perfect for a roast winter vegetable mix.

The Last Squash in Town

I cut my squash in half and then slice it into thick half rings.  I then use a paring/office knife to take the tough outer skin off.  (You could also leave this on for roasting – especially if you’re roasting it alone).  Try this with butternut squash too.

For my roast vegetable mix for 2 I used:

1/2 small squash – peeled, deseeded & left in large chunks

2 carrots, peeled & roughly chopped

4 shallots, halved

1/2 bulb garlic, peeled & cloves left whole

2 medium potatoes – peeled & cut into 2-bite chunks

The trick is to cut the vegetables according to their cooking time.  The squash will take the shortest time to cook so chop this 3 times as large as the carrots.  I just halved the shallots and left the garlic cloves whole – they will become sweet and a little carmelised on the outside.  It’s delicious.  And eating this much garlic is so good for you – it’s full of antioxidants: a real fighter in the body.

Because the potato takes the longest to cook I first covered the potato chunks in cold water in a saucepan.  Bring to the boil and simmer for just 3 minutes.  Drain and air dry for a couple of minutes.  Then mix all the vegetables together with rapeseed oil (our natural resource here in Ireland – and with same heart-healthy monounsaturates as olive oil), sea salt, black pepper and herb of choice – I used a bit of sage to go with the turkey theme but thyme/rosemary would be equally good. Roast in a hot oven (180-200 C) for 20-30 minutes until all veggies tender.

Veg - pre-roasting

Cooked Roast Veg

It was a light turkey dinner – some turkey, roast veg & gravy.  Mmmmmm.