Mac and cheese

BY now the Christmas frenzy is building up. Hopefully the cake and plum pudding are made and you’ve decided whether it’s turkey or goose. Maybe you’ve plumped for a fine roast chicken, maybe a pheasant or a nice glazed ham. One way or the other you’ll probably have some little scraps left over that can be added to salads, a gratin or even a bubbly ‘mac and cheese’. The latter is delicious cooked in tiny muffin tins lined with parchment till the edges get crispy — serve with drinks.

Fresh Brussels sprouts make delicious salads, peel off the outer leaves and mix with a good dressing and maybe some pumpkin seeds. The classic Croque Monsieur is a posh cheese and ham sandwich — a real favourite with the French and a brilliant way to use up some thin slices of left over ham, everyone including kids will love it.

Offer to take your friends turkey carcasses, they may pity you but you’ll have the last laugh. The carcass makes a brilliant stock, good enough to sip as a soothing broth but also great as the basis of a light soup embellished with shreds of leftover turkey, pheasant, or chicken.

Left over pannetone or even barmbrack makes a terrific bread and butter pudding, you may want to add a few more sultanas and perhaps a scattering of diced ginger.

Mincemeat keeps well but it can used in so many yummy ways, with apple in tarts or tartlets, in a crumble or tray bake or even as a stuffing for a baked apple. Here’s a few suggestions to use up left overs in dishes I enjoy.

A Happy Christmas and hope 2013 brings much joy and the blessing of many delicious meals with family and friends around the kitchen table.

nI was delighted to be one of the judges for the Irish Examiner Christmas Cake Baking Competition. To see the finalists’ recipes, log on to

Mac and Cheese

Serves 6

Macaroni cheese is all over menus in the US, once again, comforting and delicious. We often add some cubes of cooked bacon or ham or a dice of smoked salmon or mackerel to the sauce with the cooked macaroni.

8ozs (225g) macaroni

6 pints (3.4 litres) water

2 tsp salt

2ozs (50g) butter

2ozs (50g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1½ pints (850ml) boiling milk

¼ tsp Dijon or English mustard

1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley, (optional)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

5ozs (150g) grated mature Cheddar cheese

1oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top

¾ — 1lb (350 – 450g) diced cooked ham, turkey, chicken, pheasant or a mixture

1 x 2 pint (1.1 litre) capacity pie dish

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook until just soft, 10-15 minutes approx. Drain well.

Meanwhile melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the diced cooked meat, mustard, parsley if using and cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately.

Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully, provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place. Turn into a pie dish, sprinkle grated cheese over the top. Reheat in a preheated moderate oven — 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. It is very good served with cold meat, particularly ham.

Top Tip: Macaroni soaks up an enormous amount of sauce. Add more sauce if making ahead to reheat later.


Turkey, Orzo, Pea and Spring Onion Broth

Serves 6

Super light and refreshing, a particularly delicious way of using up scraps of cooked turkey or other poultry.

1 litre (1¾ pints) turkey, chicken or pheasant stock

50g (2oz) orzo pasta

2 tender stalks celery, finely sliced at an angle 

Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

150 – 175g (5 — 6 oz) shredded cooked turkey, chicken or pheasant

110g (4oz) frozen peas

Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 – 6 spring onions, sliced at an angle (depending on size)

Lots of fresh coriander and/or fresh mint leaves

Bring the stock to the boil; add the orzo, celery and chilli flakes. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the pasta is just cooked, add the peas and shredded chicken. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with spring onions and lots of fresh coriander and/or mint.

Roast Apples with Mincemeat

Serves 4

Use Irish Bramleys and make sure to cook them until they burst.

4 large cooking apples, preferably Crimson Bramleys

4 tbsp of homemade mince meat

A little water

Softly whipped cream or crème fráiche

Core the apples and score the skin of each around the ‘equator’. Put the apples onto an ovenproof dish large enough to take them in a single layer without touching. Fill the centre of each apple with mincemeat.

Pour a little water around and roast in a preheated moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4 for about one hour depending on the size. They should be fluffy and burst slightly but still be fat and puffy not collapsed. Serve as soon as possible with softly whipped cream or crème fráiche.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Avocado and Toasted Pecans

Pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts would be good here also. If separating the leaves of the Brussels sprouts is too much of a mission, just shred them finely instead, however the individual leaves look and taste great.

(450g) 1lb fresh Brussels sprouts, leaves separated

2 ripe but slightly firm avocados

1 – 2 blood oranges (depending on size) 

25 – 50g (1 – 2oz) pecans, toasted

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Flat leaf parsley sprigs


Finely grated zest of 1 preferably organic lemon

2 tbsp squeezed lemon juice

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp honey

½ tsp Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all the ingredients for the salad dressing together.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Mark 4.

Toast the pecans in a single layer for 8 – 10 minutes. Peel the outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts (keep the centres for another dish). Put into a bowl. Segment the blood oranges, add to the bowl. Whisk the dressing, add any spare orange juice and sprinkle some over the salad and toss gently.

Turn out onto a wide platter, halve, stone and slice the avocado, arrange haphazardly on top. Sprinkle with warm toasted pecans, hazelnuts or pumpkin seeds and lots of flat parsley sprigs. Taste and correct seasoning.


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