THE excitement gathers, only ten days to Christmas.
Hopefully you got the opportunity to make a Christmas cake and a pudding and some mincemeat over the past few weeks. The base of Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce and Brandy Butter can also be made now (these recipes are featured on the Irish Examiner website).
You’ll probably have opted for a turkey or a goose. Here is my favourite recipe for goose — a potato stuffing that is a fantastic match. The most dramatic improvement for a turkey, particularly if you can’t get your hands on a free-range bronze turkey, is to brine it. The way this simple procedure enhances the flavour is dramatic.
It couldn’t be simpler. Just soak the bird in a brine mixture of salt and water (preferably for 48 hours); the electrically charged ions of the salt plump up the muscle fibres, allowing them to absorb water. This changes the structure of the proteins, preventing the water from escaping during cooking. In addition to keeping the meat moist, the salt intensifies the flavour.
This brine can also be used for chicken and pork with spectacular results; spread the left over brine on your garden paths, it’ll kill the weeds.
For the first time this year Sharon fruit or persimmon are coming into the shops ripe — they are just so gorgeous in the Winter Salad of Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pecans
This would be a totally delicious starter salad before Christmas dinner — it only takes a couple of minutes to make, light and lipsmackingly good.
If you would like to ring the changes with goose try serving it with a kumquat compote or a combination of kumquat and apple. Both can be made ahead and reheated.
Have a wonderful Christmas and many blessings for 2014.
Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing, Rose Geranium and Bramley Apple
A goose looks enormous because it has a large carcass. Ensure that you allow 450g (1lb) in cooked weight per person.
Goose, about 4.5kg (10lb)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Roux for the gravy (optional)
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
A sprig of thyme
4 parsley stalks
3 celery stalks, sliced
6 black peppercorns
25g (1oz) butter
450g (1lb) onions, chopped
450g (1lb) cooking apples e.g.
Bramley Seedling, peeled and chopped
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp lemon balm
25ml (1 fl oz) fresh orange juice
900g (2lb) potatoes, in their jackets
¼ tsp orange rind, finely grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Rose Geranium and Bramley Apple Sauce To prepare the goose, gut the bird and singe off the pin feathers and down if necessary. Remove the wishbone from the neck end.
Combine the wishbone with the other stock ingredients in a saucepan, cover with cold water and the lid of the saucepan and simmer for 1½–2 hours. Season the cavity of the goose with salt and freshly ground pepper; also rub a little salt into the skin.
To make the potato stuffing, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for about five minutes.
Then add the apples, herbs and orange juice. Cook, covered, until the apples are soft and fluffy.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in their jackets until cooked, peel, mash and add to the fruit and onion mixture. Add the orange rind and seasoning.
Leave it to get quite cold before stuffing the goose. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
Stuff the goose loosely, then roast it for about two hours or until the juices run clear. Prick the thigh at the thickest part to check the juices. If they are still pink, the goose needs to cook a little bit longer. When cooked, remove the bird to a serving dish and put it in a very low oven while you make the gravy.
To make the gravy, spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting tin (save the fat for sautéing or roasting potatoes — it keeps for months in a fridge). Add about 600ml (1 pint) of the strained giblet stock to the roasting tin and bring to the boil.
Use a small whisk to scrape the roasting tin well to dissolve the meaty deposits which are full of flavour. Taste for seasoning and thicken with a little roux if you like a thickened gravy. If the gravy is weak, boil it for a few minutes to concentrate the flavour; if it’s too strong, add a little water or stock.
Strain and serve in a hot gravy boat. Carve the goose. Serve it, the rose geranium and Bramley Apple Sauce and the gravy separately.
Winter Salad of Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pecans
At last we can source ripe persimmons; they are wonderfully versatile and also great with goats cheese or mozzarella and rocket leaves.
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar, Sherry vinegar or wine vinegar. I use Forum
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 ripe persimmons
3 ripe d’Anjou or other pears
1 lime, freshly squeezed
Seeds from ½ pomegranate
A selection of frizzy lettuce, watercress and rocket leaves
1 lime freshly squeezed
3-4ozs (75g — 110gs) fresh toasted pecans
First make the vinaigrette.
Mix the Balsamic or sherry vinegar, mustard, shallots, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Slice the persimmons and pears into slices about 1/4 inch (5mm) thick. Put into a medium bowl and sprinkle with freshly squeezed lime juice. Add the pomegranate seeds. Toss gently.
Wash and dry the greens, store in a clean towel in the fridge until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4 Put the nuts onto a baking sheet in a moderate oven for 5 -6 minutes, tossing gently from time to time. Alternatively toast under a grill.
Toss the greens in some of the vinaigrette and arrange on eight plates. Toss the fruit mixture lightly in the remaining vinaigrette. Arrange on top of the greens and sprinkle with the toasted pecans.
Brining a Turkey
A brilliant way to guarantee moist tender flavourful meat.
To make basic brine, mix together 8 quarts (12.8 pints) water and 2 cups (16fl ozs) salt in a stainless steel 5 gallon bucket or a large container with a cover. A little sugar may be added to the brine, even a few spices. Add the raw turkey, cover and chill overnight.
NB: If you want to brine the bird for just 24 hours, reduce the amount of salt to 8fl ozs
A gem of a recipe, this compôte can be served as a dessert or as an accompaniment to roast duck, goose or glazed ham. Also delicious with goat’s cheese or yoghurt, it keeps for weeks in the fridge.
Serves 6-20 depending on how it is served
235g (8½ oz) kumquats
200ml (7fl oz) water
110g (4oz) sugar
Slice the kumquats into four or five rounds, remove the seeds. Put the kumquats into a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender. Serve warm or cold.
The award-winning Tinahely Farm Shop is open every day until Christmas Eve when they close for Christmas at 2pm. They stock 32 Irish and European farmhouse cheeses and make up some fantastic cheese hampers for gifts. The shop sells freshly baked gluten free cakes and fresh white and brown soda bread every day. Rebecca Hadden makes soup from whatever fresh vegetables she can find in the garden daily and she also makes beautiful Christmas wreaths. Tinahely Farm Shop, Cool-russ, Tinahely, Co Wicklow, Ireland, on the Shillelagh road. Contact 087 8168457, email@example.com, www.tinahelyfarmshop.com
Mahon Point Farmers Market will be open as usual on Thursday, Dec 12 and Thursday, Dec 19, plus two additional Saturday markets on Dec 14 and 21 from 10 — 3pm. On Saturday Dec 14 there will a wonderful festive atmosphere with four local choirs performing, www.mahonpointfarmersmarket.com
Midleton Market will be operating every Saturday until Christmas and will run for an extra day on Monday 23rd from 9am to 2pm – www.midletonfarmersmarket.com
Fans of Iago (of which I am most definitely one) should know they are moving from the English Market to 9 Princess Street in Cork into a great new premises, the new shop is brimming not just with beautiful cheeses but a whole range of gastro temptations, 021-4277047.
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