Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Happy Chinese New Year


Happy Chinese New Year! Are you ready for yet another celebration? These festivities go on for almost a month and red is the magic colour.
This is the ‘Year of the Pig’ which symbolises wealth. In China, every year has a zodiac animal, the cycle repeats every 12 years, making it easy to figure out whether it’s your year or not. Just check your age in multiples of 12.

For the Chinese, the Spring Festival is the most important celebration of the entire year, similar to Christmas for us westerners. It marks the coming of Spring and all the excitement and joy of new beginnings. Unlike Christmas in this part of the world, Chinese New Year is a movable feast, predicated by the Lunar rather than the Gregorian calendar. Technically it’s the longest Chinese holiday, celebrated by over 20% of the world’s population – how amazing is that!

Image credit: rd.com
The most significant element of the holiday is the family reunion which triggers the largest human migration in the entire world. Millions of diligent hard working people, young and old, who now live in cities, travel home to rural areas to get together with their elderly parents.

Apparently, desperate singles often resort to hiring a fake boy or girlfriend to take home to allay their parents’ concerns - continuing the family name is one of the most important elements of Chinese culture, a reason why the Chinese have such a huge population…
Lively music and dance plus copious quantities of delicious food are important elements of the festivities. There are spectacular parades in Chinatowns all over the world - traditional lion and unicorn dances, dragon parades, bell ringing and lots of fun and fireworks. Children receive gifts of red envelopes stuffed with lucky money.

The feasting and excitement will continue until the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the Chinese New Year – the first new moon of the Lunar year so you’ll see lots of red lanterns in all shapes and sizes, widely available in Asian shops, if you want to have fun and enter into the spirit….

A myriad of superstitions are attached to the New Year…People ‘spring clean’ the house on the day before Chinese New Year to sweep away bad luck and make way for good vibes.

Showering is taboo on New Year’s Day, as is throwing out rubbish. Hair cutting too is out, so hair salons are closed…
There are celebrations in Dublin, Cork, and Belfast. Cork which has been twinned with Shanghai since 2005, hosted its first Chinese New Year Festival on February 4th. Many iconic buildings around the world, including the Mansion House in Dublin and City Hall in Cork are illuminated in red to mark the beginning of Chinese New Year.

Lots of foods are associated with Chinese New Year, particularly dumplings. Spring rolls are universally loved, easy to make and when fried resemble gold bars. Each food is symbolic in some way, long noodles symbolise longevity…Citrus are also considered to be lucky.

Several festive desserts are also much loved, Tangyuan a type of rice ball, sounds like reunion in Chinese so they are favourites. As is Nian Gao, a type of rice cake which symbolises success. Fa gao – is a hybrid of a muffin and a sponge cake, the name means ‘get rich’ so everyone wants some of those too. Some of these desserts can be an acquired taste for non-Chinese but if you get an opportunity, do taste them. 


I’ve been to China several times, so I’m even more excited about Chinese New Year and am planning a little Chinese feast to celebrate.

Those who are born in the Year of the Pig, may want to check out the Chinese zodiac. Your lucky numbers are 2, 5 and 8, Lucky colours are yellow, grey, brown and gold and lucky directions are southeast and northeast…how about that….

Seek out your local Chinese restaurant, better still invite a few friends around to enjoy a home cooked Chinese meal, and don’t forget to wish our Chinese friends ‘In Nian Kuai le’ – ‘Happy New Year’.

Enjoy and Happy New Year of the - Pig the symbol of wealth.

Friday, 1 February 2019

St Brigid's Day


My year is punctuated by little highlights, occasions to look forward
to and celebrate. I particularly love St Brigid’s Day, it’s now just
around the corner, on February 1st, so I’m all set to celebrate and to
share the story of this feisty woman with my students from all over
the world and everyone else around me. This is a quintessentially
Irish celebration, St Brigid’s Day or Lá Féile Bríde also marks the
beginning of Spring, the season of hope and new life and comes
about half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox,
when days begin to lengthen. In Pagan times it was referred to as
Imbolc or Imbolg which translates literally
to ‘in the belly’. Imbolc is one of the four major fire festivals referred
to in Irish mythology, the others are Bealtaine, Lughnasa and
Samhain.

Brigid, an icon for women was born near Faughart just north of
Dundalk in the 5th Century. She is the goddess of fertility in Celtic
mythology, patron saint of dairy and founded the first monastery in
Ireland in Kildare.

Many legends are associated with Brigid who by all accounts was an
extraordinary woman – a force to be reckoned with, a feminine role
model, well before her time. So I’m overjoyed that at last there is a
movement to elevate St Brigid to here rightful place beside St Patrick
as our female patron saint.

Last year, and once again this year, there will be a celebration of Lá
Féile Bríde at the Irish Embassy in London, a gathering to celebrate
not just St Brigid but the achievements of Irish women around the
globe.

Image result for st brigids cross

Just as the shamrock is associated with St Patrick, the little woven
cross, made of rushes is associated with St Brigid and was chosen as
the RTE logo when the station launched in 1961, and it was used

until 1995. Let’s bring it back and display it proudly as a beautiful
symbol of our culture.

Last year, St Brigid’s cross maker extraordinaire, Patricia O’Flaherty,
came over from Ireland clutching a bag of freshly cut rushes to
demonstrate how to make the traditional St Brigid’s cross at the Irish
Embassy in London http://www.naomhpadraighandcrafts.com/ . She
makes many versions and I was intrigued to learn from her that
originally all counties in Ireland had different patterns which
sometimes even varied from parish to parish.

To invoke Saint Brigid’s blessing we have a little cross made of local
rushes hanging over the door in our micro dairy to protect our small
Jersey herd which produces the most delicious rich milk.


My research into St Brigid, mentioned not only dairy but also honey
and the tradition of eating a big plate of floury boiled potatoes
slathered in rich homemade butter on St Brigid’s Day or St Brigid’s
Eve.

So here’s a recipe for how to make your own home churned butter… It’s super easy. We use our own cream, but one can of course make
butter with any good rich cream. Just pop it into a bowl, whisk until it
becomes stiff, continue until the butter globules separate from from
the buttermilk. Strain, wash well, salt generously, and pat into little
slabs or butter balls – easy-peasy. Impressive and delicious, even for
chefs, to slather over potatoes or a thick slice of warm soda bread or
spotted dog. 
So let’s all make or buy a little St Brigid’s cross and make St Brigid’s
Day into a real celebration, sharing a traditional meal around the
kitchen table with family and friends.



Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Hot New Food Trends for 2019


I’m always excited about the start of a brand New Year, new resolutions, new opportunities, new challenges, lots of fun. So what might be coming down the line in 2019, what do we think is hot and what’s not?

Trends are notoriously volatile but in any business, it’s super important to keep an eye on the indications relevant to your area, analyse them but beware of following them slavishly.

In my business, keeping an eye on what’s happening on the food, farming and beverage scene is essential to staying on the cutting edge and attracting both customers and students from all around the world to Ballymaloe and Ireland.


I travel quite a bit. In 2018 I travelled to China and the US…New York, Florida, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles... Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, Turin, London... Food is my subject and so I consider travel to be a vital element in my research. Everywhere I go, I meet artisan producers, farmers, fishermen, cheesemakers, visit Farmers Markets, seek out food trucks, taste street food and eat in a wide variety of cafes, neighbourhood restaurants, and fine dining establishments. I keep my eyes and ears open, ask lots of questions, take lots of photos and lots of notes.

So, here are some of my predictions for food trends in 2019 based on my observations …


The ‘clean eating fad’ it seems, is waning but has been partly subsumed into the vegan food movement. The number of people choosing a plant based or vegan diet continues to grow exponentially. Countless others are becoming flexitarians and are choosing to eat less meat and are actively seeking meat and poultry that has been ethically and humanely reared. Meat-free days are on the increase and multiple restaurants are now offering an optional Meat-Free Monday menu. Believe me this ‘meat-free movement’, now linked to climate change, is no ‘flash in the pan’. Pasture-raised is the buzz word here, rotating animals through lush grasslands can dramatically improve their health, the health of the soil, trapping CO2 in the soil where it belongs, helping with water reduction and reducing erosion – good news for Ireland.


We are edging ever closer to lab-grown meats becoming mainstream. Jaw-dropping amounts of money have been invested in ‘motherless meat’ in the past couple of decades. The Impossible Burger is now a reality, it can even bleed like a real burger if carefully cooked, however the jury is still out on the flavour. I’ve tasted three different versions of what are described as ‘insanely delicious’ plant based burgers and I’m here to tell you that ‘insanely delicious’ they are not, despite the considerable hype to the contrary. Look out for sushi grade ‘not tuna’- made from tomatoes… It’ll be interesting to watch this space, a phenomenal investment has already been sunk into this plant-based burger…

Expect to see more shopper support and shopping brands committed to good animal welfare practices and environmental stewardship. Businesses and farms that support programs to relieve poverty throughout the world are also influencing consumers and have become a definite global trend. Mindful choices, ‘waste not want not’, is a growing preoccupation, consequently some supermarkets are now selling ugly and misshapen but perfectly delicious and nutritious fruit and vegetables at a lower price point.
There’s a growing annoyance among consumers about the excess packaging they are forced to accept. There is a definite awareness of the damage that plastic is doing to our oceans and planet and that it is gradually leaching into our food. We will see an increase in more eco conscious packaging, single use plastic is being replaced by multi-use and compostable. We are all addicted to plastic so it will be a difficult habit to break. B.Y.O.V.B (bring your own vegetable bag) and coffee cup are becoming the norm. Waxed canvas or silicone alternatives for sandwiches and snacks is a significant growth area for manufacturers.

A growing body of research confirms that all disease starts in the gut… The realisation that both our physical and mental wellbeing depend on the health of our gut biome has prompted a huge increase in the number of probiotic foods that contain gut friendly bacteria to improve the immune system. Even granola bars, nut butters and soups are fortified but my advice is to eat real food, seek out raw milk, raw butter, good natural yoghurt, original cheeses, organic vegetables….and ditch ultra-processed food altogether.
Gut awareness continues to drive the interest in fermentation. Cool restaurants and hotels are serving house made kefirs, kombucha, kvass, drinking vinegars, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods. Bone broths are also having a tremendous revival, a very welcome trend.

Nootropics – brain food is coming to the fore, Crickets and other insects, (a ‘new’ inexpensive source of protein) are being added to processed foods.
In the US dietitians are becoming celebrities as the health crisis deepens and the rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disease continue to increase at an alarming rate. We are moving towards more personalised food experience. Once again let's eat real, chemical-free food rather than ‘edible food-like substances’ that are unquestionably fuelling the health crisis. In the world of medicine, young doctors are calling for training in nutrition to equip them with the necessary knowledge to advise their patients on diet.

At last some good news for farmers and food producers, new routes to market have been developed where consumers / members order their food on-line, not from the supermarket, but directly from the farmer or food producer who gets 80% of the retail price as opposed to 25-35% through the current retail system. Farmdrop in the UK www.farmdrop.com  is a brilliant example as is NeighbourFood launched in Cork city in late November. It’s already increasing  membership and producers week by week – a very welcome development, check it out on www.neighbourfood.ie

On the global restaurant scene, molecular gastronomy appears to have peaked, top chefs are moving away from using spheres and extreme molecular elements and are putting down their paint brushes and tweezers and chucking out their palette knives – I’m told smears on plates and skid marks are out… It seems like growing numbers are annoyed by the favouritism shown by restaurant critics to avant-garde molecular food. More diners would like to see restaurants concentrating on flavour and not overly complicating dishes, just to make them look pretty. Apparently we’re also over frilly foliage and limp pea shoots but lots of edible flower petals are still in evidence. Small plates are a definite trend.


In the US, UK and several other countries, more people are eating at home, the millennials are cooking again. How cool is that? If you’re not convinced, pay a trip to a Farmers Market here in Ireland, London, New York or the Flea Market in Dublin and watch the action. Farm to Table and Root to Shoot eating continues to gather momentum and drive purchases. Urban vertical indoor farming in cities is exploding, reducing expensive and environmental impact. Amazon’s takeover of Wholefoods in the US is having a profound impact on retail. There are greenhouses on supermarket rooftops in Japan, talk of being able to pick your own tomatoes straight from the vine when shopping…. And Bill Gates has bought 25,000 acres to develop a new ‘smart city’ from the ground up.

Whether we like it or not, increased automation is coming our way – and fast. Robots are already making pizza in France and coffee in San Francisco. They are taking orders and delivering room service. Hotel employees are becoming increasingly concerned about their new rivals – certainly not good news for the job market. Smart fridges that will automatically replenish when you are out of the branded products you can’t live without, are already a reality. There is every conceivable type of meal kit and ready meal….Home delivery of restaurant meals, soon by drone rather than bike, it’s a brave new world out there…



Hot Ingredients
1.    Chefs and home cooks are becoming more adventurous with chilli pepper flakes, Aleppo Pepper or Pul Biber, Piment d’Espelette, Timut pepper from Nepal and Korean Gochugaru.
2.    
    Bitter greens of all kinds are on the best menus, Radichios, Chicory, Sorrell, Tardivo Dandelion leaves... Amaranth is the new Kale…

3.    Marine Munchies –Seaweed and sea vegetables, all more nutritious than anything on land and intriguingly delicious – dried seaweed sprinkles, kelp noodles, samphire, dillisk soda bread... Dillisk has three times the nutritional value of kale.

4.    More unusual herbs, Lovage, Claytonia, Hyssop, Shiso
Wild and foraged, Pennywort, Purslane, Winter Cress, Tagetes, Ground Elder, Chickweed….
5.    Artisan Bakeries - Real natural sourdough fermented for at least 24 hours, better still 48 hours, made with flour from heritage grains.
6.    Specialist Teas – Tea bars are springing up serving exquisite (and super expensive) teas like we can’t imagine, Pu-erh tea has changed my life. Check out a little Taiwanese tea bar in New York called Té on 10th Street. There are even tea cocktails now.
7.    Good fats are back, not just butter but ghee from grass-fed cows, organic pork lard, goose and duck fat…
8.    Argan oil and MCT oil
9.    Organic raw milk and raw butter ($19.99 a pound in San Francisco) much more nutrient dense and delicious.
10.   Puffed and popped snacks - organic popcorn with many flavours, sweet and savoury.
11.     Faux meat snacks, a big trend… Yuck!
12.     Alcohol-free spirits, booze-free cocktails, flavoured whiskeys, artisan gins, beers and ciders…
13.     Natural wines and organic wines are a particularly welcome trend for those who can no longer drink the chemical-laden cheap wines.
14.    Hemp-derived products are exploding…
15.    Doughnuts are still huge in every sense of the word, remember the excitement when Krispy Kreme opened in Dublin…
16.    We’ll see more African flavours, in particular Ethiopian food
17.    Flavours of the Pacific Rim (Asia, Oceanica and the Western coasts of North and South America) are also a strong trend so stock up on fish sauce, wasabi, lemongrass, star anise, pandan leaves, black sesame, soy sauce...
18.  Mushrooms, particularly the wild varieties are naturally rich in umami flavours so are being used in ever more creative ways to create ‘a meaty bite’.
19.  Pulses (peas, beans and lentils) are really having their moment, an important and inexpensive source of protein, there’s a growing choice of pulse-based snacks.
20.    Dried, pickled and smoked foods are ever more evident - smoked butter, salt, chill flakes, garlic, potatoes, carrots, black pudding – even porridge…
21.     Riced and diced as a carb substitute…cauliflower, Romanesco, broccoli…
22.   Stracciatella is everywhere, where can we get it here? – https://www.toonsbridgedairy.com/ .
23.   Cold brew coffee – nitro coffee…

That's just a taste of what's hot and what's emerging in 2019.

Monday, 14 January 2019

The Rise and Rise of Meat-Free Eating


Our eating habits have changed drastically in the last few decades. One in eight Britons are now vegetarian or vegan according to a recent report on food shopping. A further 21% claim to be flexitarian eating a predominantly ‘plant based’ diet, occasionally supplemented with a little meat or fish. That amounts to a staggering one third of UK consumers that have reduced or removed meat entirely from their diet. 




This rapid and dramatic change is being fuelled by the perception that farm animals are one of the major contributors to CO2 emissions… However it is important to realise that those statistics were based on ‘feed lot’ systems rather than grass fed or pasture raised cattle.

Animal welfare issues are high on the list of concerns that have swayed the 18-34 year olds. This age group particularly are becoming much more curious and concerned about how their food is being produced.


Many have lost trust in multinational food companies, supermarkets, governments and the health service. They are confused by food labelling and are becoming more and more desperate as food allergies and intolerances grow exponentially. Consumers are demonstrating increasing concern about the impact of our food choices and behaviour on the environment.

Haulie ploughing our organic glasshouses
The focus on the effect of plastic on our oceans (see BBC’s Blue Planet 2) and the fact that up to 9 different types of plastics were found in human stools in a recent study conducted by the Environment Agency Austria, has shocked people into action.
We want our governments to legislate for less plastic packaging and we want our supermarkets to be proactive about reducing plastic.
For the first time this year The Good Food Guide highlighted restaurants with vegan menus. The UK supermarket group Waitrose, have created vegan sections in 134 of their stores and launched a range of more than 40 vegan and vegetarian meals. This is not going to change anytime soon. My gut feeling is that a plant based diet with lots of fresh organic vegetables, fresh herbs and grains, organic eggs, dairy and some meat and fish is the best for humans, animals and the planet.

In the sage words of Michael Pollan, “Eat food, mostly plants and not too much”.



Our Dynamic Vegetarian Cooking course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School runs on 27th February this year.

See details and book here. 

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Little Women's Christmas


Nollaig Na mBan…

That’s the enchanting Irish name given to Women’s Little Christmas on the 6th of January– the feast of the Epiphany.
It’s the traditional end of the Christmas season, the day we take down the Christmas tree and pack the baubles and tinsel into the attic for another year. But most importantly, it’s the day when the women of Ireland get to have time off from household chores after all the festive cooking.

A special day to get together with friends, sisters, mothers and aunts…The men, cheerfully take over the household for the day so the women can gather together to party and have a glass of fizz.
I was surprised to discover that many other countries have a similar tradition although the date sometimes varies. 

The Nordic countries have many customs, as have Ukraine, Slovenia, Galicia and closer to home there are high jinks and ceilis in the Scottish highlands it’s called, Là Féill nan Rìgh, The Feast of the Kings in Gaelic. La Fête des Rois is also celebrated in France with the delicious Galette des Rois as the centre piece of the table. Every boulangére offers their version of the flaky pastry galette, with a little trinket known as a ‘fève’ hidden deep inside the marzipan filling. Each comes with a golden paper crown which the lucky person who finds the fève in their slice will wear when they are crowned king for the day.

Here in Ireland the custom had almost disappeared, apart from in the counties of Cork and Kerry but there has been an enthusiastic revival of Women’s Little Christmas in recent years. Many restaurants and hotels are offering jolly Nollaig na bMan celebrations with exciting entertainment, dancing and music as well as afternoon tea or dinner so the womenfolk can enjoy a night out.
Just found this funny poem on social media penned by Nuala Woulfe @NWoulfeWriter – a few lines to whet your appetite.

Mammys on the Dance Floor
Mammys on the dance floor, let out for the night,
Dancing round their handbags, whooping with delight,
Mammys on the dance floor, kicking up the dust
Checking out the six packs, overcome with lust!
Mammys on the dance floor, one more round of beer,
Eyeing up the bouncers, giving them the leer…


Monday, 31 December 2018

Best Cookbooks of 2018


Well Christmas is well and truly over for another year, not sure about you but I’ve already managed to break several of my New Year resolutions but despite the dark evenings I do love this time of year. Lots of chunky soups, comforting stews, steamed puddings and the smell of Seville orange marmalade bubbling in the pot. The bitter oranges are in the shops now, so rush out to buy more than you think you need, freeze some and use my Whole Orange Marmalade recipe (see Examiner website), whenever you are running out of Seville orange marmalade during the year.
Meanwhile how about some fresh new ideas to liven up your cooking for 2019. Here are some of my favorite new cookbooks to use up your Christmas book tokens:

1.    The Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber
2.    Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi
3.    Extebarri by Jon Sarabia and Juan Pablo Cardenal
4.    Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa by Yohanis Gebreyesus
5.    Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan
6.    Jamie Cooks Italy by Jamie Oliver
7.    Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking by Russell Norman
8.    Copenhagen Food: Stories, Traditions and Recipes by Trina Hahnemann
9.    How to Eat A Peach by Diana Henry
10.   Cook, Share, Eat, Vegan: Delicious Plant-based Recipes for Everyone by Áine Carlin
It may not be to everyone’s taste but my book of the year is the Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber. Few chefs know or understand how to use fermented foods to their full potential like René does. For several years now, David Zilber, Arielle Johnston and Lars Williams have been experimenting and perfecting all manner of fermented foods in their bunker turned fermentation lab beside Noma in Copenhagen, and have gone where few others have dared to venture. For those of us who have been experimenting over the years this book is the master class Penny, Marie and all of us in the ‘Bubble Shed’ at Ballymaloe Cookery School have been eagerly anticipating.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s new book, Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook, has taken the US by storm as well as this side of the world. Israeli born Yotam, author of Jerusalem and Plenty already has quite the following for his take on his beloved Middle Eastern food. However, he is not known for simple recipes so in the nick of time, before people get too exasperated, he’s published this volume of enticing dishes, many with fewer than 10 ingredients – and several that take less than 30 minutes to get on to the table. Love this book of quick and everyday recipes from one of the most creative chefs on the current food scene.


Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa by Yohanis Gebreyesus. Always fascinating to learn about the food of an area that is totally unfamiliar, so I was intrigued to find this book published by Kyle Books. I first tasted Ethiopian food in Santa Fe in California and later ate Teff, the fermented flat bread from a stall in Union Square Market in lower Manhattan. Ethiopia, a fascinating country that has never been colonized but it’s intriguing cuisine is enriched with the different religious influences of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, a combination unique to Africa. Chef Yohanis Gebreyesus, takes us on a journey of the essential Ethiopian dishes, interwoven with enchanting stories of local people and customs. He whetted my appetite not only for the food but for the country – must visit soon…

For a taste of Ethiopia here in East Cork, rush to Fizzy’s stall at the Mahon Point and Midleton Farmers Market. She also sells the quintessential Berber spice mixture that you’ll need for many of the dishes.

Trina Hahnemann’s name is not nearly as well known as René Redzepi but in her own way she is a much loved and highly respected ambassador for Scandinavian food. Trina has written ten best selling cookbooks full of gorgeous simple recipes. She is an enthusiastic advocate for sustainable solutions, organic sourcing, and food cooked with love. Copenhagen Food is a love letter to her native Copenhagen and the delicious dishes enjoyed from her home town.

 


Of the new vegan cook books published in 2018, of which there were many here are a few worth a mention: Cook, Share, Eat, Vegan: Delicious Plant-based Recipes for Everyone by Áine Carlin; Veganish by Holly White. The runaway best seller is by The Bosh Boys, Bosh! Simple Recipes, Amazing Food, All Plants. And finally 15 Minute Vegan Comfort Food by Katy Beskow.


Jam makers should definitely seek out 5 Seasons of Jam by Lillie O’Brien of the London Borough of Jam and last but not least a shout out to some Irish titles, Currabinny Cookbook by James Kavanagh and William Murray (alumni of Ballymaloe Cookery School) which recently won the Irish Cookbook of the Year, Donal Skehan’s Meals in MinutesNeven Maguire’s new book Home Economics for Life, Irish Seaweed Christmas Kitchen by Prannie Rhatigan one of the pioneers who highlighted the magic of seaweed long before it became trendy. There are many more but I am out of space however, I can’t forget How to Eat a Peach: Menus, Stories and Places by Diana Henry – certainly one of the great books of the year.



Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Christmas Leftovers


I hope you’ve managed to resist the urge to fill your fridge and pantry to bursting point but having said that I love the fun of using up leftover bits of this and that.


Now for a few ideas…Not sure if there will be any little morsels of turkey or crispy skin left over after everyone has tucked into turkey sandwiches on Christmas evening but, if there are, strip off the carcass to make this delicious pilaff. Then pop the carcass into a pot with 2 or 3 quartered onions, same of carrots and a stick or two of celery, a sprig of thyme and a few peppercorns. If you don’t use the giblets (neck, heart and gizzard) to make a flavourful stock for the gravy, add them in to the pot. Cover the whole lot with cold water, bring to the boil, skim and simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Strain and you’ll have a delicious pot of turkey broth to sip or use as a base for a stew, casserole or to make an unctuous risotto or the pilaff.

Use the turkey liver immediately while it is fresh to make this parfait and serve it in little pots with plump Pedro Ximénez raisins. It’ll make a delicious starter or can be slathered on crisp, hot toast for a snack. (Read on for the recipe).

What other leftovers? Might you have any leftover Brussel sprouts, if so trim the outsides, then half or quarter each one, blanch, drain well, toss in extra virgin olive oil and roast in a hot oven. Then toss with chorizo crumbs – so yummy. I’m loving roasted cauliflower and Romanesco florets too.

Leftover cranberry sauce keeps well so don’t fuss about using it up but do try it with some soft goat cheese. Fresh cranberries also keep well and of course freeze perfectly, otherwise throw a fistful into your salads, scones, muffins or soda bread. Maybe stew them down, add a little chopped rosemary and add them to an apple sauce to serve with a pork chop or make a ‘catch-all’ cranberry chutney.

Sprinkle left over mincemeat into a batch of scones. Serve them warm with the remainder of the brandy butter. 

What else might you have lurking in your fridge, perhaps some miscellaneous morsels of cheese? Well I’ve got just the perfect recipe, a little gem that turns leftover cheese into delicious biscuits. A perfect snack or an irresistible nibble to serve with a glass of wine.

Make breadcrumbs from left over bread and pop them into the freezer. They’ll be so useful for crumbles, stuffing or panagratto to sprinkle over stews or gratins, sweet or savoury or make a Queen of Puddings. Otherwise make a bread and butter pudding, it’s a brilliant, catch-all for all kinds of scraps, morsels of meat or smoked fish, Brussel sprouts, chard, sautéed mushrooms, chopped herbs, grated cheese… just omit the sugar for a savoury version and serve with a  good green salad.

Well, there are just a few ideas to help you to be creative with your leftovers. Meanwhile, a very Happy Christmas and New Year, hopefully you’ll manage to get a few delicious long walks in….

Turkey Liver Parfait with Pedro Ximénez Raisins


Serves 10-12 depending on how it is served.

225g (8oz) fresh organic turkey livers
2 tablespoons
200-300g (8-12oz) butter (depending on how strong the livers are)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 large clove garlic, crushed
225g (8oz) butter, cubed
freshly ground pepper
50g (2oz) of raisins or sultanas
2 tablespoons Pedro Ximénez Sherry
50g (2oz) pistachio nuts, halved

clarified or melted butter to seal

Put the raisins into a small bowl, cover with warm Pedro Ximenez and leave to soak until plump and juicy.

Wash the livers in cold water and remove any membrane or green tinged bits. Dry on kitchen paper.

Melt a little butter in a frying pan; when the butter foams add in the livers and cook over a gentle heat.  Be careful not to overcook them or the outsides will get crusty; all trace of pink should be gone.   Add the crushed garlic and thyme leaves to the pan, stir and then de-glaze the pan with brandy, allow to flame or reduce for 2-3 minutes. Scrape everything with a spatula into a food processor.  Purée for a few seconds.  Allow to cool.

Add the butter. Purée until smooth.  Season carefully, taste and add more butter.

This parfait should taste fairly mild and be quite smooth in texture. Fill into little pots or into one large terrine.   Tap on the worktop to knock out any air bubbles. Spoon a little clarified butter over the top of each little pot of pâté to seal. If serving immediately spoon the Pedro Ximénez soaked raisins and pistachio nuts on top.
Serve with brioche, crusty bread, sourdough toasts or croutes.   This parfait will keep for 4 or 5 days in a refrigerator.

Watchpoint: It is essential to cover turkey liver pate with a layer of clarified or even just melted butter, otherwise the parfait will oxidize and taste bitter and turn grey in colour.

Pilaff Rice with Turkey and Ham and Fresh Herbs

Although a risotto can be made in 20 minutes it entails 20 minutes of pretty constant stirring which makes it feel rather laboursome. A pilaff on the other hand looks after itself once the initial cooking is underway. The pilaff is versatile – serve it as a staple or add whatever tasty bits you have to hand. Beware however of using pilaff as a dustbin, all additions should be carefully seasoned and balanced.

Serves 8

25g (1oz) butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot
400g (14oz) long-grain rice (preferably Basmati)
975ml (32fl oz) homemade turkey or chicken stock
225g (8oz) diced cooked turkey
225g (8oz) diced cooked ham or bacon
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives: optional

Melt the butter in a casserole, add the finely chopped onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and toss for a minute or two, just long enough for the grains to change colour. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the chicken stock, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a minimum and then simmer on top of the stove or in the oven 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 10 minutes approx. By then the rice should be just cooked and all the water absorbed. At this stage stir in the diced turkey and ham/bacon to heat through, ensure it is piping hot. Just before serving stir in the fresh herbs if using.

Note
Basmati rice cooks quite quickly; other types of rice may take up to 15 minutes.


Roast Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo Crumbs
Serves  4-6
I first tasted roast Brussels sprouts cooked in a wood burning oven in a restaurant in San Francisco about ten years ago. My friend Mary Risley told me this new way of cooking Brussels sprouts was causing lots of excitement. I didn’t get it, but now I love them cooked this way, there’s a fine line between sweet roasted and acrid burnt, so watch them like a hawk.

(450g) 1lb Brussels sprouts
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Chorizo crumbs to serve (see recipe)

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Mark 8.
If necessary trim the Brussels sprouts of any tough outside leaves, trim the stalk, cut into halves. Blanch in boiling water for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain well.  In a bowl drizzle the blanched sprouts with extra virgin olive oil. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss to coat. Transfer to a roasting tin, cook for 10 – 15 minutes depending on size, shake the pan occasionally. The sprouts should be pale golden and crisp on the outside and tender within. Sprinkle with the chorizo crumbs and transfer to a hot serving dish.

Chorizo & Parsley Crumbs

Chorizo crumbs are delicious used in so many ways.  We like to scatter them over potato, celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke or watercress soup.  They are particularly good sprinkled over cauliflower or macaroni cheese.  Keep in a box in your fridge for several weeks, or freeze and scatter when you fancy!

Makes 175g (6oz)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
125g (4 1/2oz) chorizo, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
100g (3 1/2oz) coarse breadcrumbs
1 – 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo.  Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to run and the chorizo begins to crisp.  Careful it’s easy to burn the chorizo, drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan.

Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden.  Drain and allow to cool, add to the chorizo, stir in the chopped parsley.

Doune McKenzie's Cheese Biscuits


Any bits of left over cheese eg. Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyére, Coolea, Cashel Blue … a little soft cheese may also be added but you will need some hard cheese to balance the flavour.

Weigh cheese then use equal amounts of butter and plain white flour.

Grate the cheese - rinds and all. Dice the butter.  Cream the butter and stir in the flour and grated cheese, form into a roll like a long sausage, about 4cm (1 1/2 inches) thick. Alternatively whizz in a food processor until it forms a dough, shape using a little flour if necessary. Wrap in parchment and twist the end like a Christmas cracker. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 -2 hours until solid.  

Slice into rounds - about 7mm (1/3 inch) thick.  Arrange on a baking tray, cook in a preheated oven 250ºC/475ºF/regulo 9 for approximately 5 minutes until golden brown.  

Leave to cool for a couple of seconds then transfer to a wire rack.   Best eaten on the day they are made as they soften quite quickly.