Cookery Feature - Celebrating Kilkenny’s Festive Traditions

For all its challenges, many interesting projects came out of 2020 and creating a group cookery book, as Visit Kilkenny have done with their online Kilkenny Christmas Traditions collection of festive recipes, was one of the best for morale.  

Keeping local people in food and hospitality connected and purposeful while working towards a common goal must have been a very enjoyable project for Visit Kilkenny and the result is a balanced collection of 30 pretty irresistible recipes for Christmas or New Year and other times. There’s Chestnut Parsnip & Bacon Soup, Spiced Roast Christmas Goose and Decadent Christmas Pudding, for example - and other versatile dishes, such as Courgette Fritters with Smoked Trout and Leek, Chorizo & Goat’s Cheese Tart, that will become go-to favourites over the festive period. Reflecting the range and diversity of the superb ingredients produced in Kilkenny, there’s a wide choice, including plenty for vegetarians, or that can easily be adapted to create vegetarian versions.

Contributors are equally diverse, including the Yew Restaurant at Lyrath Estate, The Lady Eleanor Restaurant at Butler House; Goatsbridge Trout Farm; Ryeland House Cookery School; Rive Gauche Restaurant; Lil’s Restaurant at Avalon Hotel; Fennelly’s of Callan; Arán Bakery and Edward Hayden's School of Cookery, to name just a few – and, after cooking up a few of their creations, planning a visit to Kilkenny as soon as possible is bound to be top of many a wish list list, to try them (and many others like them) on home ground.

KILKENNY RECIPES - some samples to try:

Courgette Fritters with Smoked Trout

This smoked trout recipe from Goatsbridge Trout Farm is one of Joanne Donohue’s (AKA Fishwife Number 25) favourite quick fish recipes. It’s in the Starters section of the online Kilkenny recipe book but would also make a lovely brunch, light lunch or supper dish.

400g/6oz courgettes, grated
1 tsp of salt
I00g/40g flour
3 large eggs
50g/2oz spring onions sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
100g/4oz cold smoked trout
Chives, chopped, to garnish

Step 1. To make the courgette fritters, place the grated courgette in a colander or sieve, set over a bowl and sprinkle tightly with one teaspoon of salt. Allow to stand for ten minutes,. Using your hands, squeeze out as much liquid as possible and transfer to a large bowl; add the flour, one egg, and the spring onions. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Step 2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, scoop four tablespoons of the courgette mixture into the pan, pressing them lightly into rounds and spacing them at least two inches apart. Cook the courgette fritters for two to three minutes, then flip and cook for another two minutes until golden brown and cooked throughout Transfer to a paper towel and immediately sprinkle with salt.
Step 3. Meanwhile poach the two remaining eggs for approximately four minutes, until runny, or to your preference. To assemble, divide the fitters between the plates, top with the smoked trout, the poached egg and the chives. Season with salt and pepper.

Leek, Chorizo and Goat’s Cheese Tart

This substantial starter or main course recipe from The Edward Hayden School of Cookery is a favourite of Edward’s. The pastry recipe for this dish can be doubled and frozen in advance. Try experimenting with other varieties of filling also.

10oz/300g plain flour
5oz/150g hard ?butter
Pinch of salt
Ice cold water (6-8 tbsp approx.)
2 leeks thinly sliced
8 mushrooms sliced
5oz/150g chorizo cut into slices
3 large free range eggs
7 fl oz/200ml milk
2fl oz/50m pouring cream
1oz/25g butter
5oz/150g goats cheese, crumbled

Step 1. Begin by making the savoury pastry. Sieve the plain flour into a large mixing bowl. Add in the pinch of salt. Cut the butter into pieces and add this to the flour and salt. Using the tips of your fingers rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Next mix in the water, gradually, until the mixture all comes together into a ball. Knead lightly to achieve a smooth pastry and then wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for at least 1 hour but for longer if time will allow.
Step 2 Preheat the oven to 190C/350F/Gas Mark 4
Step 3. Roll out the pastry into a large circle and use it to line a 9int /23cm loose bottomed flan ring or a large ceramic quiche dish. Lightly blind bake the pastry for 10-12 minutes.
Step 4. Meanwhile wash and thinly slice the leeks. Heat the butter in a medium sized frying pan and add to the butter the leeks and mushrooms and cook on a gentle heat until they have softened down, This will probably take in the region of 5-6 minutes on a low heat. Season with salt and black pepper and transfer to a bowl and allow the mixture to cool down.
Step 5. At this stage you need to take a large mixing bowl and whisk the eggs, milk and cream together.
Step 6. When the leeks have cooled sufficiently spread them over the pastry lined mould. Neatly arrange the sliced chorizo on top. Pour the whisked egg custard on top of the creamy leek mixture end sprinkle with the goats cheese. Transfer the entire dish to the preheated oven,
Step 7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and the egg custard has set sufficiently around the leeks.
Step 8. Remote from the oven end allow the tart to rest for at least 10-12 minutes before cutting and serving. Garnish with some chopped herbs and some additional crumbled goats cheese.

Boozy Christmas Trifle

Christmas celebrations are not complete without a trifle and this recipe from the Lady Eleanor Restaurant @Butler House and Garden is guaranteed to be the crown jewel of the table. A swiss roll twist soaks up the sherry and adds a special decorative touch to this party-time classic and the custard is egg-free so there’s no risk of it curdling - although, if you have no fear of traditional egg custard, it would make an even more luxurious version.
750g frozen summer fruit (raspberries, blackberries, red and black currants)
250g caster sugar
9 sheets leaf gelatin
75g custard powder
1.2 L milk
1 Swiss roll
4 tbsp sherry or cassis
300-450ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 tbsp icing sugar
2 crushed amaretti biscuits, to serve
Whole fresh strawberries or raspberries for garnish

Step 1. Put 750g frozen summer fruit in a pan with 200g caster sugar and 1 litre water and bring to a gentle simmer.000
Step 2. Cook for 2 mins, then scoop out 6 tbsp fruit and 150ml juice. Now carry on cooking the fruit in the pan for 5 mins.
Step 3. Meanwhile, soak 9 sheets leaf gelatin in cold water to soften it. Blitz the cooked fruit with a hand blender or mash with a potato masher, then strain through a sieve into a large bowl and push through the pulp so just the skins and seeds are left.
Step 4. Squeeze excess water from the gelatin, add to the hot fruit syrup and stir to dissolve. Cool, then chill until on the point of almost setting.
Step 5. Make the custard according to pack instructions with 75g custard powder, 1.2 litres milk and 50g caster sugar to create a thick custard. Cover the surface with baking paper while it cools a little.
Step 6. Cut the Swiss roll into slices. Carefully arrange some of the slices, closely together, around the sides of a straight-sided glass bowl, with the cut, rolled sides facing outwards.
Step 7. For the filling, arrange the remaining slices in the base of the bowl Spoon over the reserved juice and berries, then 4 tbsp sherry or cassis.
Step 8. Pour over a thick layer of custard, pushing it against the side of the dish to seal in the cake below, leave to cool and set with a skin - this makes a barrier for the jelly,
Step 9. When the custard ts cold and set and the jelly is on the point of setting, spoon the jelly over the custard and chill until ready to complete.
Step 10. Whip 300- 450ml double cream with 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tbsp icing sugar until just holding its shape, then spoon round the bowl over the set jelly. Scatter with 2 crushed amaretti biscuits and strawberries or raspberries and chill until ready to serve.

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