Darina Allen shares some of her favourite recipes from a selection of cookbooks

Buying a cookbook this Christmas for your foodie friend this Christmas? Darina Allen shares her suggestions
Darina Allen shares some of her favourite recipes from a selection of cookbooks

I’ve been inundated with a whole new crop of cookbooks just in time for Christmas, something to tempt aspiring, experimental, and accomplished cooks. Every time I think I’ve reached ‘peak’ cookbook, along come some new temptations. So what has peaked my fancy…

Jamie has done it again. Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook is full of gorgeous photos of tempting foods and delicious recipes for edible gifts, party foods, and new ways to love leftovers. I loved his smoked salmon toasts and Boxing Day Quesadillas.

Do you know what ‘Hygge’ means? I had no idea until relatively recently when I noticed that it seemed to be popping up all over the place. Well apparently it means in essence — ‘living cosily’ — enjoying life’s simple pleasures with friends and family, creating a warm atmosphere, fire and candlelight…

It’s a Danish and Norwegian word that’s difficult to translate, it seems to be a feeling of comfortable wellbeing — savouring the moment. Several cookbooks have been published with Hygge in the title including a young Norwegian cook, Signe Johansen who sent me her book How to Hygge: The Secrets of Nordic Living. Nigel Slater described it as “uplifting heart-warming, life enriching. I wish I could have read this book years ago”. Signe is a woman after my own heart, in a recent interview in the Guardian, she told Dale Berning Sawa “everything tastes better with butter. It is generally my fat of choice when cooking. I make my own but I also buy some too — both salted and unsalted. I go through so much of it”.

Admirers of Michelin-starred chefs may be delighted to get a copy of The Five Seasons Kitchen by Pierre Gagnaire who was voted Best Chef in the World by his peers in 2016 and whose restaurants worldwide boast two or three Michelin stars each.

The recipes are surprisingly easy to reproduce, try this cream of pumpkin soup with coconut milk – it’s easy and super delicious. Use a Red Kuri or pumpkin butternut squash.

Gather by Gill Meller is a beautiful book that will excite your hunter gather friends — you may not be familiar with Gill’s name partly because he stayed behind the scenes at River Cottage with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for years but is now head chef, has been for some time and is definitely a name to note — I love Gill’s simple food based on superb ingredients from seashore to woodland, orchard to garden, field to farm, moorland to harbour, the very best kind of honest cooking and gorgeous flavours.

I’ve chosen fried pheasant with quince and bay for you to try, there are beautiful food photographs also.

The British Table by Colman Andrews is also quite a production . The photos are by two of my most admired food photographers, Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton.

Many of the recipes from all four corners of the UK have been shared by some of my favourite chefs – Jeremy Lee, Mark Hix, Sally Clarke, Fergus Henderson It’s meticulously researched, beautifully written, and published by Abrams.

There are so many tempting recipes but try this cockle popcorn which Mark Hix freely admits he stole from his local fish merchants Samways who originally served them at a local festival.

Check out the English Market in Cork for a terrific selection of fish and shellfish but we also get a fantastic selection from Michael Kelly (kellyoysters.com), Carlingford Oyster Company (carlingfordoystercompany.ie) and Quinlans (kerryfish.com).

Rachel Allen has just published yet another gorgeous book, Recipes from my Mother, full of recipes from her mum and grandmother with a few of my mum’s favourites as well.

Whisky Soaked Raisin and Orange Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 6-8

145g sultanas (golden raisins)

60ml good quality Scotch whisky, plus more if needed

300ml whole milk

300ml heavy cream

Pinch of salt

2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

5 large eggs

50g sugar

90g mixed candied citrus peel

1 large brioche loaf bread or challah, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices

285g butter, softened

480ml orange marmalade

Vanilla ice cream for serving, optional

Put the sultanas in a small bowl and cover them with the whisky (add a little more if necessary to completely cover them).

Soak for at least 2 hours, then drain them and set aside (reserve the whisky for cocktails).

Preheat the oven to 300F (150C).

Combine the milk, cream, salt and vanilla beans in a medium pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, then take the pot off the heat and set aside to infuse for at least 15 minutes.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a medium bowl, then strain the milk mixture into the eggs and stir well.

Mix the sultanas and the citrus peel together, then spread them evenly over the bottom of a 4.5 litre baking dish.

Butter each slice of brioche or challah on one side, then cut each one at an angle into two triangles each. Arrange the slices, overlapping on top of the citrus and peel.

Pour the custard mixture evenly over the bread, then bake the pudding, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Just before the pudding has finished baking, put the marmalade into a small saucepan and heat it over a low heat, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pudding from the oven and spread the heated marmalade over the top. Bake for 10 minutes more.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream if you like.

From The British Table by Colman Andrews

Rachel Allen’s Custard Creams

These are what they say on the tin, but they are a really good buttery, crumbly version of those you get in a packet.

Makes about 24 biscuits

200g (7oz) soft butter

150g (7oz) caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla sugar

200g (7oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

100g (3½oz) custard powder

For the Butter Icing

125g (4½oz) soft butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g (9oz) icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Line two or three baking sheets with baking parchment.

Place the butter in a bowl or in the bowl of an electric food mixer and cream well. Add the sugar and the vanilla and beat again until soft and light. Sift in the flour and the custard powder and mix well until the dough comes together.

When the dough has come together, roll it out on a floured worktop with some flour dusted on top, to stop it sticking, until it is 5 mm (¼ inch) thick.

You’ll probably need to regularly slide a palette knife under the dough with some flour to stop it sticking. Cut into shapes, squares or rectangles (making sure you have doubles of each shape so they can be sandwiched together) and carefully lift onto the prepared baking sheets, spaced a little apart as the will spread ever so slightly when baking.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until just feeling dry around the edges and light golden in colour. Take out of the oven and leave to stand on the baking sheet for a few minutes before lifting off to cool on a wire rack.

While the biscuits are cooking or cooling, make the butter icing. Cream the butter and the vanilla extract in a bowl with a wooden spoon or in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mix in the icing sugar until it comes together.

When the biscuits are cooked and cooled, spread some butter icing onto a biscuit.

From Recipes from my Mother by Rachel Allen

Signe Johansen’s Salmon Burgers

The Nordic region is famous for salmon, and I have to confess that as a kid, I really hated the taste of cooked salmon. I was fine with smoked salmon, salmon sashimi and pretty much any other cooked fish, but my poor mother had to suffer years of me turning up my nose at her delicious baked salmon. If only she had made salmon burgers like these I might have been converted sooner.

Serves 6

800 g salmon, cut into bit sized chunks

1 tbsp mustard

1 tbsp horseradish sauce

2 anchovies

Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Handful of breadcrumbs

2 tbsp chopped spring onion

1 tsp capers

1 tsp wasabi powder

1 tsp chilli flakes or 1 small green chilli, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Oil for greasing

To Serve

500 ml Greek yoghurt

1 bunch of dill, finely chopped

1 bunch of chives, finely chopped

½ cucumber, deseeded and shredded

Pita breads

Pickled radish, fennel and cucumber

In a blender process a quarter of the salmon along with the mustard, horseradish, anchovies and lemon zest until you have a very smooth paste. This forms the glue for the remainder of the burger mixture. Add the rest of the salmon, along with the breadcrumbs, spring onion, capers, wasabi powder and chilli. Season to taste. Pulse everything together until the mixture is even, but be careful not to overmix the salmon – the fish should still be about 5mm in size.

Shape into burger patties and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 3-4 hours before grilling.

To cook, we panfry them in a little clarified butter.

To serve, simply mix the Greek yoghurt with the herbs and cucumber and serve with the pita breads and pickles.

From How to Hygge: The Secrets of Nordic Living by Signe Johansen

Pierre Gagnaire’s Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Milk

Serves 6 as a starter

700g pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks

700ml fresh milk

400g coconut milk

½ kaffir lime leaf

120g lightly salted whipped cream

40g shredded coconut

Fine salt

Cook the pumpkin from cold in lightly salted milk. Once boiling, add the coconut milk and kaffir lime leaf, then continue simmering for a further 15-20 minutes. Remove the kaffir lime leaf and process the mixture in a blender to a perfectly smooth, creamy soup.

For the whipped cream: carefully fold the whipped cream into the grated coconut. Serve the pumpkin soup in soup bowls. Each guest can serve their own coconut cream on top of the hot soup.

From The Five Seasons Kitchen by Pierre Gagnaire

Hot tips

Midleton Country Market is also celebrating 40 years in business. Each Friday the Midleton Country Market set up at Market Green from 9am-2pm, order your Christmas cake, puddings and mince pies. Contact Siobhan Murphy at midletoncountrymarket@gmail.com

Slow Food Mayo: Celebrate Terra Madre Day on December 8, at 7pm at Belleek Castle, Ballina, Co Mayo. Mulled wine, canapés and three course dinner. Tickets are €35. slowfoodireland.com Tel: Suzanne 087-9170422.

Mella’s Fudge: Mella’s Fudge from Clonakilty has just launched two new flavours: Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Fudge. Both are delicious as is the many other varieties – Irish Cream Liqueur, Christmas Spice with Orange, Rum and Raisin and Vanilla. A delightful Christmas gift in beautiful packaging. Tel: Mella McAuley 086-1595949 or mellasfudge.com

Pre-Loved Kitchen Cupboard Sale: Visit Urru Culinary Store in Bandon on December 8, from 4-8pm. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure or Christmas present. Donate unused or unwanted kitchen items in perfect condition and working order. Proceeds will support 10 Bandon and West Cork Charity and Community Groups. Tel: Ola Fudali on 023-8854731.

In Season Quince: You’ll find quince in greengrocers and at farmers markets. A bright canary yellow fruit resembling a slightly knobbly pear. Use to make homemade membrillo - quince cheese or quince jam, delicious for Christmas presents or adds cubes of quince to pork or lamb stews or tagines.

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