Category: Archive

Tips for a tasty Irish Christmas

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Margaret Johnson

I love Christmas — every last bit of it — and I refuse to let the chaos of the season turn me into a Grinch. I shop and wrap early, decorate gradually, and when it’s not my turn to host a family gathering on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, I feel deprived. For me, holiday entertaining is a challenge, not a chore, and each year I try to combine traditional Irish favorites like turkey, ham, and Christmas pudding with new dishes that add flavor and surprise to the season.

Traditional black and white pudding, for instance, once only thought of as a breakfast food, makes a delicious hors d’oeuvres when it’s cooked and served on slices of hot crostini and topped with a spoonful of applesauce, or a tasty salad when it’s paired with smoked bacon and drizzled with sherry vinaigrette dressing. For a stunning black and white terrine, combine both puddings with chicken and serve with cranberry chutney, or combine the two with wild and white rice and use as a stuffing for poultry.

Spiced beef, too, a long-standing favorite as a main dish at Christmas, takes on a new identity as a party bite, sliced thin on brown bread that’s been spread with apricot and almond chutney. Even oak-smoked salmon, which hardly needs tampering with, becomes absolutely elegant when it’s blended into a savory cheesecake, or folded over an herbed potato cake. Add a dollop of creamy horseradish dressing and you’ve got a Christmas canapé or starter that’s a delightful combination of tradition and innovation.

Tired of the long hours it takes to steam a Christmas pudding? This year try microwaving the puddings in individual teacups, or making an ice cream pudding with fruit soaked in port. Easier still is a festive bread and butter pudding made with bakery fruit brack and prepared mincemeat. These recipes, from the Irish Food Board, the National Dairy Council, and the West Cork Leader, offer some interesting tastes of the season and a taste of Ireland as well.

Christmas greetings and a Happy New Year. Nollaig shona agus, Ath-Bhliain faoi shéan is faoi mhaise duit.

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Crostini With Black Pudding and Applesauce

6 tablespoons olive oil

12 slices Galtee Traditional Black Pudding, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 baguette, cut into 12 slices

1 jar chunky applesauce

In a large frypan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoon of the olive oil. Fry the pudding slices in the oil until cooked (3 to 5 minutes). Remove to a paper towel to drain. Brush the remaining olive oil onto each side of the baguette slices and brown under the broiler until toasted.

To serve, top each slice of bread with a slice of pudding and put a spoon of applesauce on top. Serve hot.

Makes 12.

Black Pudding With Smoked Bacon Salad

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces Shannon Traditional Bacon

12 slices Galtee Traditional Black Pudding

2 tablespoons sherry or balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Mixed baby lettuce, or baby spinach

In a large frypan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and cook the bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towel to drain. Add the pudding slices and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vinegar to the juices left in the pan and boil, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens (2 to 4 minutes).

Adjust seasonings. Arrange the lettuce or spinach leaves onto four salad plates, place the warm bacon and black pudding on the plate, and spoon the dressing over the top.

Serves 4 as a starter.

Terrine of Chicken and Black and White Pudding

4 chicken breasts

1 Galtee Traditional Black Pudding

1 Galtee Traditional White Pudding

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch nutmeg

Mixed lettuces


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine two chicken breasts and the black pudding with one egg. Process until smooth. Season to taste. Add half the cream and continue to blend for 10 to 15 seconds. Remove from the processor and repeat the process with the white pudding and chicken.

Line a terrine mold with plastic wrap and spoon half the black pudding mixture into the bottom. Smooth with a spatula. Spoon half the white pudding mixture over and smooth. Repeat with remaining mixtures. Cover with buttered aluminum foil. Place the terrine into a roasting pan filled with water that comes two-thirds of the way up the side of the pan. Cook until the terrine is set, about one hour. Remove from water bath and cool completely before refrigerating.

To serve, slice and arrange on top of mixed lettuces. Serve with a spoon of chutney. Serves 8 as a starter.

Note: Galtee Traditional Black and White Pudding and Shannon Traditional Bacon can be ordered from Dairygold U.S.A., 1 (800) 386-7577.

Traditional Dry Spiced Beef

5 to 6 pounds eye round, topside, or silverside of beef

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 ounce black peppercorns

1/2 ounce allspice berries

1 ounce juniper berries

1/2 ounce ground cloves

1/2 ounce salt

1/2 ounce saltpeter (available from pharmacies)

Trim the beef of all visible fat. Rub the beef all over with the sugar, place it in a covered bowl, and refrigerate for two days.

Grind the peppercorns, allspice, and juniper berries together, add the cloves, salt, and saltpeter, and rub into the beef. Return to refrigerator. Turn the beef

daily for a week.

To cook, place the beef in a deep casserole dish as near to its size as possible. Add 1 1/4 cups water, cover tightly, and cook in a 275-degree oven for 5 hours, turning once. Remove from oven and let the beef cool in the liquid for 2 to 3 hours. Remove and wrap first in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve (up to a week). To serve, slice thin and serve on brown bread spread with apricot and almond chutney.

Serves 10 to 12.

Note: If you’d prefer to buy Traditional Spiced Beef, many Irish butchers have it available during the holiday season. Try The Butcher’s Block, 41-12 Queens Blvd., Sunnyside, Queens ([718] 784-1078).

Apricot and Almond Chutney

1 pound dried apricots, chopped

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 onion, chopped

2 cups red wine vinegar

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped

2 tables grated fresh ginger

11/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and crushed

3/4 cup chopped almonds

Tabasco sauce

Pinch of salt

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and cook gently, stirring constantly, until the sugar has melted. Reduce heat and simmer 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon into warmed, sterilized jars and seal immediately, or freeze in plastic containers until ready to use.

Makes 4 cups.

Savory Smoked Salmon Cheesecake

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cups water or digestive biscuits, finely crushed

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup light cream

2 eggs, separated

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon tabasco sauce

Salt and black pepper to taste

1/2 ounce (1 envelope) gelatine

3 tablespoons hot water

6 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped, or processed in a blender or food processor

For the crust: combine the butter, crumbs, parsley, salt, and pepper in a

small bowl. Press into the base of a greased 9 or 10-inch springform pan. Chill for 30 minutes.

For the filling: combine the cream cheese, cream, egg yolks, lemon juice. tabasco sauce, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth. Mix the gelatine with water and let stand until gelatine is completely dissolved. Cool slightly, and whisk into the cheese mixture. Let stand until it begins to set. Fold in the smoked salmon.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold gently into the cheese mixture. Pour over the crust and refrigerate until set. To serve, remove cheesecake from pan, sprinkle with paprika, garnish with fresh parsley, and slice.

Serves 8 to 10.

Smoked Salmon on Potato Cakes

1 pound cooked, mashed potatoes

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons chopped scallions or chives

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch nutmeg

1/4 cup butter

12 slices smoked salmon

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

Dash lemon juice

Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the potatoes, flour, eggs, scallions or chives, salt, pepper, and nutmeg with half the butter. Mix well and shape into 12 small potato cakes. Heat the remaining butter in a non-stick frypan and cook the potato cakes until browned on each side. Serve immediately with a slice of smoked salmon on top and a spoon of horseradish dressing, or refreigerate potato cakes. Fifteen minutes before serving, reheat cakes in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes.

Horseradish Dressing: combine mayonnaise, wholegrain mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, and pepper in a small bowl. Blend well. Spoon on top of smoked salmon.

Serves 6.

Microwave Christmas Puddings

2 cups raisins

2 cups sultanas

1/2 cup mixed peel

1/4 cup candied cherries, chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and grated

1 cup flour

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoon molasses

1 1/2 cups Guinness Stout

2 tablespoons rum

In a large bowl, combine the fruit, walnuts, lemon rind, lemon juice, and grated apple. Mix well. Sift together the flour, salt, and spices, and add to the fruit. Stir in the breadcrumbs and sugar and mix again. In a small bowl, combine the butter, eggs, molasses, Guinness, and rum. Pour this into the dry ingredients and stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Lightly butter six teacups and line with plastic wrap. Divide the mixture into the teacups and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Arrange the puddings in a circle in a microwave oven. Cook on defrost for 20 minutes, then cook on high for 10 minutes. Unmold immediately and top with whipped cream or a spoonful of Irish cream liqueur.

Serves 6.

Ice Cream Christmas Pudding

1 pound dried mixed fruit (raisins, currants, sultanas, apricots)

Port (enough to cover fruit)

1/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup water

4 egg yolks

2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup almonds, toasted

Put the mixed fruit in a small bowl and pour in enough port to cover. Cover and soak fruit overnight.

In a small pan over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water and cook until the sugar dissolves and it begins to get syrupy. Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl, then carefully pour the syrup onto them. Continue to whisk until it reaches a thick, mousse-like stage. In a small, cold bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Fold the cream and vanilla into the mousse, then fold in the fruit and nuts. Pour into a pudding mold and freeze.

To serve, run the mold under warm water to loosen, turn over onto a serving plate, and decorate with sprigs of holly.

Serves 6 to 8.

Yuletide Bread and Butter Pudding

8 slices of bakery fruit brack

1/3 cup butter

1/2 cup prepared mincemeat

2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks

1 3/4 cups light cream or half-and-half

1 tablespoon superfine (caster) sugar

Butter one side of the slices of brack. Spread the mincemeat on four of the slices. Arrange these in the base of a 1-quart buttered oven-proof pie plate. Arrange the other four slices, buttered side up, on top. (It may be necessary to cut the slices in two in order to fit neatly into the plate.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, cream, and sugar. Pour this over the slices of brack and press down with the back of a wooden spoon. Let the mixture soak for 2 to 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degree F. Bake the pudding for an hour, or until the center is firm and the top is lightly browned. Serve warm with whipped cream or prepared Brandy Hard Sauce.

Serves 6 to 8.

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