I met with my Irish friend Faela a little while back and asked her about the way her and her family spend Christmas, and about the many food delights they will have.
She usually spends Christmas with her husband (and now cute little baby boy) at her parents' house an hour from Dublin.
On Christmas Eve, the last of the shopping is done and everybody stops somewhere for a drink. Then, back home, they all have another drink with some homemade brown bread with smoked salmon on top, a drizzle of lemon juice and a sprinkle of chopped spring onions. Her mother will also have made a delicious beef and Guinness casserole the day before to have on Christmas Eve (I believe that this year's hot dish will be a lovely seafood chowder).
After the meal, they all go to the pub for a little while and then head to midnight mass.
On Christmas morning, some freshly baked cranberry muffins are popped out of the oven and served with a cup of coffee. Everybody has to wait until they each have a muffin and a hot drink before sitting by the Christmas tree and open the presents. (Faela's mother makes the muffins batter the day before so it just needs to be spooned in the cases and baked.)
Afterwards, they have a breakfast of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon served on toast or bagels, accompanied by a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
Then, it is time to get the food ready for the big Christmas dinner.
As an appetiser, Faela's family eats some more smoked salmon on homemade brown bread and drinks a glass of Prosecco or a Gin and Tonic.
For starter, they have foie gras on toast (brought back all the way from the South of France for the occasion) and for those who do not like eating foie gras, there are also prawns served with chilli and garlic.
For the main part of the meal, they eat turkey (stuffed with a bread, onion and sage stuffing), Christmas ham (that will have been boiled the night before), accompanied by side dishes of potato croquettes, Brussels sprouts, carrots and parsnips (roasted with honey, or mashed), sausage meat stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce and gravy.
Then, they wait several hours before dessert.
For dessert, they will eat the traditional plum pudding (made mid-October) - served with brandy butter and cream - and Christmas cake. They also have a pavlova and mince pies (Faela told me she likes opening the top of the mince pies, add some brandy butter in it and put the top back, it sounds delicious!).
The wines they drink at dinner time are all French and come from the Languedoc region in the South of France.
After dinner and desserts, they all rest and spend time together. Around midnight or 1am that night, they all go and get the leftovers to make some huge Christmas sandwiches (let me tell you they sound absolutely fantastic!).
On St Stephen's Day (26th December), Faela and her brother like to use the leftovers to make themselves a second Christmas dinner; sometimes, they also make a pasta dish with the leftovers too.
And the day after, they will all enjoy a delicious turkey soup made using the bones for the broth.
After my interview with Faela, I was really starving and dreaming of a beautiful Irish Christmas dinner. I am spending Christmas in Ireland this year, and from the sound of it, I should prepare my stomach for many extraordinary delights.
I used two of the recipes that Faela gave me and tweaked them a bit to share with you. So keep scrolling down and you will find two recipes: sausage meat stuffing and stuffed potatoes, and cranberry and white chocolate mini Christmas muffins.
(Adapted from Faela's family recipe for sausage meat stuffing.)
1kilo rooster potatoes (or potatoes that are good for mashing and roasting, and of a size that can be stuffed)
500g pork sausage meat
1 onion (chopped finely)
6 sage leaves (chopped finely)
60g salted butter
salt and pepper (for seasoning)
1. Starting with the potatoes, take one or two potatoes out of the lot (with an equivalent of about 250g). Peel and cut into chunks and put in a large saucepan.
Cut the rest of the potatoes in half lengthways. Scoop the inside with a teaspoon and add it in the saucepan.
Lay the scooped potatoes (scooped face up) on a large baking tray (I cut the bottom of the potatoes slightly so they sit nicely - see the picture above). Also get a small baking dish ready (20cm x 20cm) to cook some of the stuffing separately.
Cover the potato flesh in the saucepan with cold water (just over the top of the potatoes) and add a pinch of salt.
Put the saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover the saucepan and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (or until it is done; I usually check with a fork or a sharp knife blade to see if it goes through the flesh smoothly).
2. Now that the potato flesh is simmering and the other potatoes are waiting to be stuffed, preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Put a small frying pan on medium heat. Add 10g of butter. When it starts sizzling, add the chopped onion and cook gently until it has softened. Add the chopped sage leaves and stir, let it cook for another two minutes.
Turn off the heat and put the onion and sage in a large bowl. Let it cool down for 5 minutes.
When the potatoes are ready, drain them really well. Add 50g of butter to the flesh and mash roughly (you are not looking for a super creamy mash here as it will be added to the stuffing).
Pour the mashed potatoes in the bowl with the onion and sage. Add the sausage meat and mix well together with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Spoon the mixture in the scooped potatoes and put the rest of the stuffing in the baking dish (in the dish, smooth it evenly on top with a spoon and make a few lines with a fork).
Put the tray and the dish on the middle shelf of the oven. After 40 minutes, the stuffing in the baking dish should be ready (check that it is cooked through). If so, remove it or wait until it is done. At this stage, cover the potatoes with aluminum foil so it does not burn on the top. Cook for another 20 minutes.
Check that the potatoes are ready by putting a metal skewer or knife blade through the flesh.
It should then be ready, lovely and golden on top.
Serve as a side dish with your favourite Christmas meats.
Cranberry and White Chocolate Mini Christmas Muffins Recipe (Gluten Free, Vegetarian)
(Adapted from Faela's family cranberry muffins recipe.)
200g buckwheat flour
100g brown rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g caster sugar
100g unsalted melted butter
2 free range eggs (beaten)
150g roughly chopped fresh cranberries (or frozen if you cannot find them fresh)
100g chopped white chocolate (you can also use white chocolate chips)
1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
Get 30 mini muffin cases ready (I cooked the muffins in two batches - if you want normal size muffins, the recipe will make 12 of them).
2. Put the gluten free flours, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the beaten eggs in it. Whisk everything together and add the melted butter and the milk progressively.
When you get a smooth batter, pour in the cranberries and the white chocolate and fold it in gently with a wooden spoon.
3. Spoon the mix into the mini muffin cases and let it bake on a tray on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes (or until golden and cooked through - leave it in the oven for 25 minutes when you are making the bigger version).
When ready, take the mini muffins out and let them cool down (rest on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes).
Serve them with a lovely cup of tea or coffee on Christmas morning while everybody is sitting by the tree and opening the presents.
Bon appétit and Nollaig Shona Duit!