The Currabinny Cooks: Festive side plates to dish up this Christmas

For our food special, our Currabinny duo, James Kavanagh and William Murray, dish up their top festive side plates.

The Currabinny Cooks: Festive side plates to dish up this Christmas

For our food special, our Currabinny duo, James Kavanagh and William Murray, dish up their top festive side plates.

At Christmas we both head home to our family homes, reuniting usually in Currabinny a few days later to bunker down for a few nights of rest before New Year’s back in Dublin.

Both coming from families where our mothers can cook extraordinary food, we are spoilt when it comes to Christmas dinner.

We largely get to relax while they hold fort in the kitchen, complaining about having to do everything themselves while simultaneously shooing you out of the way whenever you offer to help.

For both our families Christmas dinner is a homely but largely unpretentious affair.

Sure it is special, decadent and ultimately a treat but it is also pretty humble in that rarely do we indulge in such things as appetisers, starters, amuse bouche or any pre-dinner fancy dishes.

We sit down and there it is, all of the meats, all of the sauces, gravies, accompaniment and side dishes, buffet style, crowded in the middle of the table for us to serve ourselves, piling it all on the one plate.

We always think that people who do starters must absolutely rush through them to get to the main event.

So instead of writing about seasonal starters to have before your Christmas dinner and saving you all from not being able to finish the wonderful turkey ham and spiced beef laid out lovingly before you, we dedicate this article instead to something just as important as the meats, the side dishes which bring everything together.

The recipes we have included are three of our favourites, some from Currabinny and some from the Kavanagh clan in Dublin.

Every good roast dinner needs a bunch of amazing sides to complete it and at Christmas it is no different.

Gags’ Potato Gratin

“My mum used to call into my old workplace, once a week, with a hot dish of this.

"The whole office would go wild for it, and there’d be a dash to the kitchen to get plates and a spatula to divideand conquer.

"It’s an incredibly popular side to have with lots of meals, and it’ll win anyone over as proven time and time again.” — James

  • Serves: 4-6
  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cooking time: 60-75 mins


  • 1.1kg potatoes thinly sliced
  • 110g grated cheddar cheese and 55g grated parmesan cheese mixed
  • 55g butter cut into small pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • Half a litre cream
  • 2 teaspoons of finely chopped garlic


  • Heat oven to 190C / gas 5 and lightly butter a gratin dish.
  • Put a layer of potatoes in the dish and sprinkle on some cheese and pieces of butter;continue until all the potato is used.
  • Mix cream, salt, pepper and garlic in a jug and pour over the potatoes
  • Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, cover with tinfoil and bake for an hour.
  • Remove tinfoil and bake for about 15 minutes until bubbling and nicely browned
  • Leave it set in the dish for about 15 mins before serving.

Sausage & Thyme Stuffing

Every year, we get together with our friends, sometime in the weeks before Christmas, to celebrate the holidays together before we all go back home to our families.

Each of us brings our own dish to add to the middle of the table. I have always brought this sausage and thyme stuffing and despite the fact it’s really meant to be just a side dish, I pride myself on the fact that every time I have to bring a bigger dish to the table.

A stuffing that outshines the turkey, the ham and the spiced beef… now there’s something.

I have now brought this down home as my little addition to the Currabinny Christmas table.


  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
  • 800g of good quality sausage meat
  • 2 tablespoons of thyme leaves
  • 50g butter, melted
  • salt & pepper
  • 50g cooked chestnuts
  • 150g of good quality stale white bread


  • Heat the oven to 180C
  • Make the breadcrumbs by blitzing the bread with salt and pepper in a food processor.
  • In a large bowl mix the breadcrumbs, melted butter, chestnuts and sausage meat. Sauté the onions until soft in a frying pan with a little butter. Leave to cool slightly and add to the mixture. Stir through the thyme leaves and scoop into a ceramic baking dish.

Ginger Braised Leeks

This is a great side dish for a winter meal, where the warming effects of ginger and its obvious curing abilities make for a really comforting dish.

The addition of ginger might seem like this dish is Asian-inspired, but paired with the white wine and sprigs of thyme, the flavours are unmistakably festive.

The ginger gives a really comforting warmth to the leeks which is itself probably one of the most comforting vegetables,especially smothered in lots of butter.

The leeks should be tender enough to easily cut through and if they’re still a little tough, pop them back in the oven for a little while, covering with foil if they are already a little on the brown side.


  • 2 medium leeks
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 80ml of white wine
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 25g of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil


Preheat the oven to 180c.

Remove the green part of the leeks (keep aside for use in stocks and soups). Chop the rest of the leeks into one inch rounds.

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy based pan until sizzling.

Add the leeks and stir to coat in the oil and butter. Gently soften over a medium to low heat being careful to keep the rounds intact.

Transfer to a roasting pan filling the bottom with each round facing upwards.

Cover with grated ginger, the sprigs of thyme, lemon juice and pour the wine in the pan. Drizzle with oil if desired. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the edges of the leeks start to brown and almost all of the liquid has evaporated.


More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up