Christmas Compendium

Christmas Spread - The Twelve Hotel - Barna County Galway IrelandIdeas from events and establishments around the country - Georgina Campbell

The festive season is in full swing and Christmas offers an escape from the everyday state of doom and gloom, so many establishments and companies have suggested ideas to help us make the most of it and enjoy every minute.

Some hotels have come up with ingenious offerings, including The Pins Bakery at The Twelve Hotel in Bearna, Galway, who will prepare and cook a delicious Christmas dinner for you – turkey, ham and all the trimmings – which you can pick up from them on Christmas Eve for effortless service to family and friends on Christmas Day! (Last orders 21st December.) They also offer alternatives that are ideal for small numbers (eg turkey and ham hock wellington dinner with all the trimmings for 2 or 4 people, €38/€68); starters, desserts and matching wines are available too, and they sell extras like mulled wine, stuffing and cranberry sauces, onion marmalades, preserves, organic chocolates etc for your own table, or for stocking fillers or hampers.

Brian McCarthy, Head Chef of Brasserie at Bewley?s Hotels Alternatively, for people in Dublin who would like to go out for Christmas dinner, Bewley’s Hotel Ballsbridge have devised a menu that celebrates Irish produce and takes into account the sustainability of ingredients and welfare of animals, in line with the ‘Kitchen’ initiative which was launched by Moran and Bewley’s Hotel Group last year, to provide a new range of options for those concerned with the provenance of their food.

And good ideas for Christmas have come from some of the many recent food events. Wild&Slow2011, a memorable and inspiring educational two-day event, was held at BrookLodge Hotel, Co Wicklow in November. It was a big success, with over 1,100 guests signing up and attending work shops and demonstrations, over 2,800 enjoying the Street Market (at which a highlight was seeing hanging game in the feather once more, at Mick Healy’s Wild Irish Game stall ( and nearly 200 people enjoyed Ireland’s first ever, complete Wild Foods Dinner (well, except for the potatoes!).

Spinach and roast chestnut tartletSpinach and roast chestnut tartlet

This recipe was part of an organic BrookLodge Christmas menu devised for the Irish Independent some years ago, and it makes a delicious festive starter or could be used as light main course for lunch or supper. Quantities given for the pastry make more than is required, so wrap in cling film and keep in the fridge to use in another tart or pie.

Serves 4

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As the classic instant Christmas starter (or pre-dinner nibble), smoked salmon is hard to beat – providing it’s really good quality. We are fortunate to have a wide choice of excellent producers in Ireland, who use a combination of wild salmon in season (in very limited quantities) and the superb organic salmon that is farmed in tidal waters off the rugged West coast, and then create their own individualistic smoking and curing styles.

Highly respected long-established names include Sally Barnes’ Woodcock Smokery and Ummera Smokehouse in West Cork; Burren Smokehouse, Connemara Smokehouse, Kinvara and Clarkes in the West and North-West, and Glenarm Salmon in Northern Ireland.

Another is the Benoit family’s Kenmare salmon company Kenmare Select (see photo) which is less familiar because, until now, it has mainly been exported to leading hotels and restaurants abroad.

But all that is changing as they now have an ‘online boutique’ on their website and their unusual products are proving winners at competitions such as the Blas na hEireann, Irish Food Awards, held in Dingle each October, and the UK’s Great Taste Awards - most recently their organic smoked Irish salmon with a hint of seaweed (‘a twist on the Nordic gravlax recipe’) took Gold at the 2011 Blas na hEireann awards.

Kenmare Select is available in several styles and in whole sides, sliced or unsliced and, unusually, the preferred serving style is also unique, as it is traditionally served in thick, vertically cut slices, so that the full range of flavours in each piece can be fully appreciated.


Prime smoked salmon makes a hassle-free starter or salad, but the less appealing pieces and offcuts can also be delicious in cooking.

If you’re looking for recipe ideas, check out the new recipe website which currently features over 130 recipes - including Christmas cooking ideas from several chefs, and a full range of starters, soups, sauces, main courses, and desserts – and promotes the message of using Irish ingredients for better quality.

The site, which is designed to evolve and grow as new material is regularly added, also has a new online food video channel embedded within it and the first programme, features three easy-to-prepare recipes presented by Paul Flynn of The Tannery Restaurant & Cookery School – including this tempting Smoked Salmon Dauphinoise which, like all of Paul Flynn’s cooking, is as down to earth as it is delicious.

The amount of smoked salmon needed is not large because, as Paul points out in the video, the strong flavour permeates the dish very easily and you don’t want it to be overpowering.

Serves 4 as a light meal to serve with a side salad.

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Maple Syrup Glazed Turkey Crown with Cranberry StuffingTURKEY: Maple Syrup Glazed Turkey Crown with Cranberry Stuffing

For many Christmas would not be complete without the traditional turkey, and anyone lucky enough to be spending Christmas at Ashford Castle this year will have the privilege of enjoying Chef Stefan Matz’s interpretation of the festive favourites in one of the finest restaurants in Ireland.

Alternatively, those of us who are up for a bit of a challenge could try cooking his recipe at home…The turkey is marinated in a ‘brine’, and the gravy is based on a stock that takes several hours to make, so allow plenty of time for this in advance of cooking the turkey crown.

A 2.7kg/6lb turkey crown serves 6-8

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Chardonnay Glazed Carrots with Chive Butter VEGETABLES & FRUIT are the unsung heroes of the festive season, saving us from ourselves when we eat too many rich foods. Excellent side vegetables served at the Dunraven Arms Hotel in Adare Co Limerick on a recent break were Irish, except for (nicely cooked) green beans; I did wonder where the local green vegetables had disappeared to, but – unusually – the imaginatively presented parsnips and carrots were a talking point and made me think about special occasion recipes for root vegetables.

This appealing recipe is easy to make; it comes from a UK agency dedicated to promoting carrots and I do wish we had something similar here. (More on this in the New Year.)

Chardonnay Glazed Carrots with Chive Butter

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Fig Tart Tatin with Goat Cheese & Mulled Wine SyrupFig Tart Tatin with Goat Cheese & Mulled Wine Syrup

If you’re looking for a festive alternative to the traditional plum pudding, this unusual hot dessert from Eden Restaurant in Dublin’s Temple Bar could be the answer – and it looks after the cheese course too.

It’s part of an imaginative (and, at just €42 for three courses, keenly priced) Christmas menu offered at the restaurant this year, which includes longtime favourite dishes like Eden Smokies and Castletownbere Crab Salad as well as festive main courses such as Fillet of Wild Irish Venison with braised red cabbage and a port and juniper jus.

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Mincemeat TreatsMincemeat Treats

After an exceptionally filling main course, many people don’t really want a dessert on Christmas Day at all and mince pies can be heavy, but it’s nice to have a little taste of Christmas with your after dinner coffee.

These unseasonably diet-conscious little treats from chef and former editor of Good Food magazine, Emma Lewis, are from a set of ten new recipes devised for Canderel and will suit those who consciously try to avoid too much fat or sugar, even at Christmas (others may opt to use real butter, at least). They can be dipped in whipped cream, served with vanilla ice-cream and served as party nibble with a glass of mulled wine.

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Soft Boiled Eggs And Smoked Salmon BagelsSoft Boiled Eggs And Smoked Salmon Bagels

Whether for brunch, lunch or a light supper, this Bord Bia recipe is just the kind of easy ‘between’ meal that’s needed over Christmas when unusually large meals tend to be followed by a long gap.

If you have smoked salmon in the house it is ideal for these bagels, but it could be replaced with slices of cooked ham; or try wilted spinach for a vegetarian alternative.

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