Catering, Christmas, Cookery Classes, Cooking, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian

Vegetarians deserve Christmas too!

When I was in college and living away from home for the first time I decided I would become a vegetarian. I have to to say it was more from  economic than altruistic reasons … that and the fact I had a major aversion to handling raw meat!
This ‘phase’ lasted for about 14 years – and ended abruptly 3 days into my time studying in Ballymaloe Cookery School when I decided that if I was going to cook for a living I needed to know what everything tasted like  And yes it was a rasher sambo that ‘brought me back’ 😉

During my years as a vegetarian I drove my poor Mum mad every Christmas by refusing point blank to touch turkey or ham and insisting on cooking my own dinner down to the vegetarian gravy!

Over the years this nut roast became a Christmas favourite tradition and even my very carnivorous brother gave it his seal of approval.

So if you’re looking for a veggie option for Christmas Day then your search ends here……….

Best Ever Cashew Nut & Mushroom Roast

No Servings:         6
Oven:             180ºC/ gas 4/350ºF      

What you need:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  •  1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  •  8 oz/225g cashew nuts, roughly chopped
  •  4 oz/110g breadcrumbs
  •  1 egg
  • 3 medium parsnips, cooked and mashed
  • 1 tsp each fresh rosemary & thyme
  •  ¼ pt/ 150 ml vegetable stock
  •  Good knob of  butter
  •  8 oz/ 225g mushrooms, sliced.

What you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté onion for few mins, Making sure to add a pinch of salt. Add the garlic then cook until soft
  • In a large bowl mix nuts and breadcrumbs together with the beaten egg.
  • Add in the mashed parsnips and the herbs, followed by onion and garlic. Make sure you add all the cooking juices in to avoid any dryness in roast
  • Stir in the stock and season to taste. Set aside
  • In your pan sauté mushrooms in butter until soft. I always add a little sherry or vermouth at this stage…. it gives a lovely flavour!
  • Butter  and line 2 lb loaf tin. Put a line of your best mushroom pieces down the middle of the base – this will be the top of your roast when you turn it out so make sure they look good!
  • Then press in half the nut mixture. Cover with a layer of mushrooms and top with rest of nut mixture.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. When cooked remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 mins before turning out.
  • Serve it hot with all the usual Christmas accompaniments or have it cold with salad and chutney.

Note: You can half the recipe and use a 1 lb loaf tin if you want to cook this for 2-3 people

And if you’re looking for a delicious vegetarian gravy …….. all you need to do is put 1 pt/500ml water, 2 tbsp soy sauce and 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the jelly. Blend 2 tbsp cornflour with 2 tbsp orange juice and 1 tbsp sherry. Stir a little of hot liquid into cornflour mix, then add back into saucepan, whisking well to ensure no lumps! Simmer over gentle heat until slightly thickened. Season to taste. 

Enjoy!

Happy Cooking and Happy Christmas!

Christmas, Cookery Classes, Cooking, Recipes

Tips for the Perfect Turkey

It’s that time of year again. Time to plan the Christmas Feast – turkey, ham and all the trimmings.

I don’t know about you but I’ve always found  turkey rather dry  despite trying all sorts of methods including cooking it in buttered muslin, breast side down, basting………….Then last year on our Fáilte Ireland food trip to Canada I had my eureka moment when we were treated to a Thanksgiving dinner in the lovely Elmhirst Resort – Brining!

This is so easy to do and you won’t believe the difference this will make to your bird – ask anyone who’s been to one of my Christmas Cookery Classes 🙂

What you need:

  • ¾ cup  salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 large onion
  • ¼ cup diced celery
  • 2 large sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp. chilli flakes
  • ¼ tsp. fennel seeds
  • 7 litres of water

What you do:

  • Bring the salt, sugar and 1 litre of water to the boil, stir until dissolved, turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients and 6 litres of cold water.
  • Add the turkey to your brine mixture and leave to brine for 24- 72 hours (make sure bird is fully submerged, place a plate on top to help)
  • Remove the turkey and pat dry
  • Cover the skin with softened butter
  • Cook as normal

This brine mix will work for up to a 16 lb. turkey.

I’ve changed the ingredients occasionally to suit what I have to hand. I did two turkey breasts last week using rosemary and pink peppercorns instead of thyme and black pepper and they were gobbled up (sorry I couldn’t resist!)

This year we’re having turkey wellington for Christmas Dinner . I’m going to brine a turkey breast for 48 hours, then remove it from the brine, split it in half (not going quite the way through ) and fill the ‘pocket’ with stuffing.
Then I’ll spread two sheets of puff pastry with cranberry sauce ; place turkey on one sheet and top with the second – sealing the edges together. To finish I’ll brush the pastry with beaten egg and cut a little cross in the top to allow steam to escape. My rule of thumb for cooking this is 20 minutes per pound plus 20 minutes.

This is one I prepared earlier !

Turkey Wellington

I’m still deciding on which stuffing to use on the ‘Big Day’ but at the moment hazelnut & apricot is looking good:

What you need: 

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g hazelnuts, chopped
  • 140g dried ready-to-eat apricots, chopped
  • 200g breadcrumbs
  • Handful parsley, chopped
  • Juice & zest of 1 orange

What you do:

  • Melt butter in frying pan and sauté onions until soft but not coloured (about 5-10 mins).
  • Add hazelnuts and fry until golden
  • Stir in apricots, breadcrumbs, zest, juice and parsley. Remove from heat.
  • Allow to cool completely before using to stuff your bird.

Happy Cooking and Happy Christmas! 

P.S. Here’s a few  tips for safe cooking this Christmas

  • Make sure when you’re brining your bird to keep it in the fridge or somewhere cold.
  • Take turkey out of fridge an hour or two in advance – it will cook more evenly from room temperature
  • Cooking time depends on size and type of bird – see link below for cooking chart
  • Use a meat thermometer if you have one, and test thickest part of breast and leg. You want the temperature to hold at 70 C for at least 2 minutes
  • If you don’t have a meat thermometer use a skewer in the thickest part leg and breast – make sure juices run clear.
  • Allow the turkey to rest – will stay warm under foil for up to 2 hours. Use this time to cook vegetables
  • Save yourself time and prep your veg day before!

You can get more safe cooking tips here:

http://www.safefood.eu/Publications/Consumer-info/Have-a-healthy,-happy-Christmas.aspx