Tag Archives: Christmas dinner

Time To Make & Steam The Christmas Pudding. Nov. 12, 2017ūüéĄ

It’s time for you to get your Christmas Pudding made and steamed if you want it to taste luscious on December 25th! This has been a fun little process of building up to the actual making of the pudding (check out this and this and this and this).

chocolate toffee pudding with fresh cream and toffee sauce

Christmas Pudding with rum butter sauce and Fresh Cream

This is what I did yesterday at about 5pm. It is totally easy (even though the list of ingredients and instructions look crazily daunting!) and requires only that you stick around as it steams. I made dinner (and ate dinner) while hanging around the stove last night.

The recipe is below and it has some options. I decided to be a little adventurous and added an element of chocolate to my pudding mixture this year. I have no idea how that will turn out but it’s chocolate: how can I go wrong!

DSC_0383

 I chopped 4oz of a good quality dark chocolate bar in my food processor

I also used a sherry I never tried before ( pedro Ximénez) and as one of my dried fruits, I used blueberries. 

I cannot wait to see how it turns out and I love and hate that I will not know the answer to that question until I bite into my dessert on December 25th! I will be sure to write about it and let you know!

Walnut-Nutella Torte for Christmas Party

Totally tacky and wonderful Reindeer!

 

You will need:

  • 3¬† cups dried fruit of your choice: I used 1 cup each of dried blueberries, cherries and currants. But you can also use, figs (cut up), prunes (cut up), raisins etc
  • 1/2 cup of liquor such as good quality sweet sherry or golden rum
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • t tbsp unsweetened cocoa (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp All spice or mixed spice or Pumpkin Pie Spice mix
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (you don’t have to go out and buy breadcrumbs. simple toss a slice of bread in your food processor and blitz into crumbs or great the bread by hand with a cheese grater)
  • 1 medium apple – peeled (grate into mixing bowl when instructed below)
  • zest of an orange (zest the orange straight into the mixing bowl when it’s time to add it)
  • 4 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa), crumbled in a food processor and chopped into little pieces (Optional)
  • 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp brown sugar (dark brown sugar is best, but don’t go buying it if you have the lighter version)
  • 10 tbsp (5oz) vegetable shortening (such as Crisco) OR Beef Suet
  • 3 large eggs, beaten in a separate bowl (just beat together with a fork)
  • Vodka (about a 1/2 cup but you only need this on the day you serve the pudding¬† – it is to flamb√© to serve)

Method

Soak the fruit in the liquor overnight but for up to a week. cover the bowl and store in a dark cool spot. (look here if you want more detailed instructions on this)

Dried Fruit for Pudding

Enter a caption

  1. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon or a hand whisk (flour, baking powder, breadcrumbs, spices, sugar, salt, cocoa powder (if using), chocolate bits (if using)
  2. grate in the apple and zest the orange into the mixture and mix

    DSC_0376

    Add the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients

  3. mix in the shortening in little blobs, along with the eggs into the bowl. Stir everything together really well

    DSC_0387

    I asked my daughter to stir the ingredients together just so she was part of this grand event.¬† And she, like most young people think this pudding is disgusting. Ah…they have a lot to learn about true deliciousness

  4. Butter the inside of your pudding basin/tin and add the pudding.
  5. cover the top of the pudding with some wax paper (I cut a bigger round than the diameter of the top of my pudding tin and made a fold in the middle and it also went up the sides a bit. Put the pudding lid on securely.

    DSC_0396

    Cover pudding with Wax paper before adding lid

  6. Cover the pudding basin with tin foil to seal it completely.
  7. Place a large pot on the stove top  (big enough to hold the pudding basin with about an inch to spare at the top) and put the pudding basin into the pot. Add water until it comes about 1/3 way up the pudding basin( a little higher is fine too) and turn heat to high until the water comes to a boil.
  8. cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and turn heat down until water is at a gentle steady boil.

    DSC_0397

    Cover pudding basin with foil and place in pot, top with pot lid and boil gently for 4 hours

  9. Boil for 4 hours, topping up the water level as needed. You will need to keep checking this and add water at least every hour.
  10. Turn off heat and remove pudding basin from water and when it has cooled completely, unwrap the foil and remove the wax paper. Put the lid back on and store in a cool dark spot until Christmas day.CHRISTMAS+PUDDING

ON CHRISTMAS DAY YOU WILL NEED TO DO THE FOLLOWING (about 5 hours or more before serving):

  1. Re-steam the pudding for three hours – look above for steaming instructions, as a reminder (it is not as stressful as it seems as it needs no real attention).
  2. When it has steamed again, let it cool and then remove it to your serving plate.
  3. Right before serving, pour about a 1/2 cup of vodka into a pot and bring to a low boil. when it is boiling, set it alight and when it is flaming, pour it over your pudding.

It will be lit up and you need to rush it to the table so everyone can see its grand entrance!

 

 

Christmas Dinner prep October 10, 2017. What is a Pudding Basin and Where can I get One?

 

Well, if you live in Ireland, England, Australia, India even, or wherever the English have influenced culture, you probably do not need me to tell you what a Christmas pudding basin is. However, the majority of the United States (where I live now) is pretty much clueless, and that’s not me being mean. It is the cooking pot used to make a dessert made once a year, (literally).¬† Beyond that, unless you are some pudding-making addict, this object sits in the nether regions of your cupboard until around this time of year (I usually have to hunt for it because I never remember where I stash it).

chocolate toffee pudding

Christmas Pudding with Brandy Butter (Hard Sauce), and Fresh Cream

This is a pudding my mother made each and every year when I grew up and it was always a bit of a mystery to me. I never helped her make it. The kitchen was not very big and with six children ( yes, six!) underfoot my mother didn’t have the time or the patience to squeeze in cooking lessons on top of everything else she had to do. But I watched my mother cook for years and when she did let me cook (and it was pretty often after the ripe old age of seven), I had full reign of the kitchen. It was all or nothing: I suppose she rightly figured that two was too many cooks at one time, so she would plant me in our tiny kitchen and walk away.

I would try my hand at anything, and everything I made was my attempt at trying to make things that were staple meals my mother made or I would find a recipe somewhere and follow it to the letter. At that time there was no such thing as computers and I don’t think my mother even owned a cookbook, so I used to find recipes in my mother’s weekly magazine (I think it was called Woman’s Own?) and later I used my Home Economics school book as another source of inspiration and instruction (and in those days only girls were taught that subject, the dark ages indeed)

batter for christmas pudding

Mixing Pudding Batter

But I never got the pudding recipe. This time of the year would roll around and I would see my mother mixing flour with spices and various dried fruits, and there was that sweet smell of cinnamon, mixed with ground cloves and other mysterious sweet things that wafted through the whole house when this laden pudding cooked for hours on the stove. The only hand I had in it was every couple of weeks she would give me a bottle of sherry and I had to pour a little of it over each pudding (since she went to the trouble of making one, she decided it was just as practical to make 3 or 4!) to “cure it”. I didn’t even know what that meant…what was wrong with it that it needed curing?

I wasn’t really in love with Christmas Pudding when I was young. It was thought of as a grown-up dessert. I hated the candied mixed-peel fruit that my mother used in the batter, and the addition of sherry made me winch. No child likes the taste of alcohol and so as far as I was concerned, the sherry was the nail in the coffin. I never bothered to ask how it was made as I never though I would ever want to make it.¬†

Trifle for  Crappy Kitchen Goes to Italy

Trifle was my favorite Christmas Dessert growing up (this is the version I make)

Well that turned our to be wrong, so a little word of advice here: ask as many questions as you can of your parents and relatives about everything and anything, because one day they will be gone, and like me, there will be moments when you say to yourself, “why didn’t I ask about that when I had all the opportunity in the world?”

Not that I wanted to make my pudding the same way as my mother. I still do not like sherry in desserts and store-bought candied mixed peel is still a tragic way for any fruit to end its life! Suffice is to say that I have been making Christmas pudding for several years now in the spirit of my mother but with my own sensibility.

I will talk about what this pudding consists of¬† later but first you will need to get yourself a pudding basin! This pudding is steamed and it needs to be in a tight-as-a-drum container and withstand four to five hours of low bubbling in a pot of water, that constantly needs to be topped up. It’s a simple thing but kind of hard to find if you decide to trek around town looking for it. And forget about asking for help as no one will know what you are talking about.¬†

You are looking for something like this (above is a metal basin. I have this kind and it lasts forever). This one is from Fox Run Craftsmen: Pudding basin/mold

https://i2.wp.com/www.jarrold.co.uk/userdata/root/images/products/kitchen-craft/17/142/kc-basin-1pt570ml-1.jpg

Or like this. This is a Plastic Pudding Basin and is just as effective.

If you want to make this completely amazing and different Christmas dessert, this is the first step The other thing you will need and is not a common ingredient anymore), is SUET, and I will talk about that next. When you are schooled in these two not-so-common things, we can make our pudding together.

*AND I RECOMMEND A 3 PINT PUDDING BASIN*

 

 

 

 

 

Let Me Focus on Something Else: Christmas Pudding. Please Please Make One with Me!

I was driving home the other day with my daughter when she started to sing Jingle Bells out loud! “Oh my God”, I said, “please not Christmas songs already!” She said she knew it was a little ridiculous but that the song just popped into her head. She loves Christmas for all the reasons one should (okay, I know it is a religious holiday too, but am not focusing on that right now) : Family, Food, Wintry Weather and a mountain of Presents under our over-decorated garish Christmas tree.¬†

Christmas tree 2014

Jingle All The Way

We have had a bit of a tough year and it seemed like if I focused on this lovely final event of the calendar year, it could be a time when everything is put to rights. I think my daughter was thinking the same thing when she said right after her belting out Jingle Bells, “I want this to be a good Christmas”. I think we both simultaneously decided to pin our hopes on a time in the year that has always been magical for us all, and we could use all of that good stuff to propel us into a great 2018, or something like that…

Baby Back Ribs For Tom's Christmas Party

Evidence of Santa’s existence

For that to happen, something else would need to happen! There is a line that I have always loved and quoted (half-joking, half in earnest to get my point across during one of those annoying motherly conversations when I’m trying to make my kids understand¬† that nothing in life is free, or is just handed to you) from the movie Julia and Julia where she, Julia Child, and her two partners are sitting together discussing how one of the partners is not pulling her weight but is still demanding equal share when the book they are writing is published. Julia and Simone Beck, (one of the partners), are politely trying to tell Louisette Bertholle, (the other partner), that she is not doing enough to merit a third of the share of the profits. But, as Julia is talking, and being way too politic about it, Simone Beck gets exasperated and cuts through all the bull and yells in a very polite but firm tone, “YOU DON’T DO THE WORK!” Well , that ended that conversation and everyone was crystal clear.

christmas crackers

dessert would not be complete without Christmas Crackers!

So…If I didn’t feel motivated to write about anything all year, focusing on something that my daughter wanted badly, A Good Christmas, was motivation enough for me to “DO THE WORK!”

And this is the perfect time to make that very traditional dessert that you absolutely love or you absolutely abhor: Christmas Pudding. I will use food, as I have done so often, to inspire me to plan, make, and write my way to Christmas Dinner, December 25th, 2017. Stay tuned for Pudding recipe (now I need to go out to buy ingredients that I certainly never have on hand!)

getting the christmas tree

Time to Work

 

 

 

Succulent Short Ribs on the Christmas Table (serves 10-12) Super Easy to make!

I know that most households have a big Juicy Turkey on their table on Christmas day but I confess I have never adorned the center of my table with it. My mother never liked Turkey and even thought she always cooked one, the feeling of her not being excited over it rubbed off on me.

Braised Short Ribs

Braised Short Ribs

She grew up on a farm and had an aversion to poultry because she had to kill and butcher so many chickens as a young girl, which in turn led to her aversion to cooking it for her family. Turkey was her least favorite and I think when I ate it at Christmastime I could taste that bad memory of her childhood.

yfkuyg

Every year we get our tree at the same Christmas tree farm (our kids wouldn’t have it any other way!)

Turkey does make an appearance on my table each year but it is always some version of a stuffed and roasted turkey breast. This year I stuffed it with a savory sausage and it was very delicious, however the star of the table was the short ribs braised in a robust flavored red wine.

up close look at this deliciouly decadent dish

Up close look at this deliciously decadent dish

I must admit that I don’t cook red meat as often as fish or chicken (I’m not too fond of the beef industry so I only buy when I can afford organic, grass-fed free range meat. Also, we seem to prefer a “lighter” less complex protein on a daily basis). However, on special days, as in December 25th, the feast demands a richness and decadence that makes the meal stand out above all other days in the year. The unctuous short ribs I cooked was the stand-out dish this year, and as far as my son was concerned was the only thing that needed to grace the table.¬†

our Tree with its mish mosh of every ornament we have collected ober the years

Our tree with its mish-mash of every single ornament we have collected over the years that absolutely must find a place somewhere!

 They are not particularly Christmassy, so you can make them any time there is a need for something overtly extravagant!

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You will need:

1/4 cup ( and more as required) extra-virgin olive oil

4lbs boneless beef short ribs  Рcut into large chunks

salt and pepper for seasoning meat

1 lb pearl onions (white, yellow or red will all work)

1 large (or 2 medium) sweet onions – large dice

1 large carrot – thickly sliced

3 celery ribs with leaves – thickly sliced

1 bottle hearty red wine (I used an Italian Chianti)

4 cups red sauce (recipe HERE or if you are in a pinch for time, use a good quality jarred version – I find that Newman’s Own brand Marinara Sauce is very basic and good for something like this, but feel free to buy whatever you find appealing OR you may have your own basic recipe for a red sauce which you can go ahead and use)

Water as needed

Method:

Preheat oven 375*

1 – Cut meat and dry it with paper towels and place in a large bowl or a cookie sheet. Season well with salt and freshly ground (if you are using a fine ground salt, be careful not to over season).

Season meat with salt and pepper

Season meat with salt and pepper

 2 РUsing a large saute pan on high heat, sear the meat in batches in olive oil, adding oil as needed. Do not crowd the pan or the meat will not brown nicely. Remove to a heavy casserole as you go.

Sear the meat in an uncrowded pan

Sear the meat in an uncrowded pan

3 – After the meat is seared, turn the heat down to medium and pour out excess oil. Add the prepared vegetables and saute for about 10 minutes, until beginning to soften.

Add carrots

Saute veggies after searing the meat

4 – Add the wine and the red sauce and bring to a boil. Pour over the meat (or add the meat back to the saute pan if it is big enough. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 3 hours. Add the blanched and peeled pearl onions 1 hour before the meat is finished cooking. If the sauce is very thick you can thin it out with water until you are satisfied with the consistency.

Serve with whatever you like: mashed or roasted potatoes, roasted or sauteed greens beans or a hearty pasta noodle such as rigatoni.

Serve with whatever you like: mashed or roasted potatoes, roasted or sautéed greens beans or a hearty pasta noodle such as rigatoni.

Prepping Pearl onions for your dish

(you can do this the day before or while your ribs are in the oven). Put a pot of water on to boil. When it has boiled, add the onions and cook for 4 minutes. Drain and when cool enough to hand or cold, remove the skin. Set aside until ready to add to your dish.

blanch onions

Blanch onions  Рit is easier to remove the onion skin if you cut the skin in the middle somewhere and then peel it off.

We will hopefully do this al over again next year

We will hopefully do this all over again next year

A Winning Irreverent Bread Stuffing (serves 12)

Here we go again! This Christmas was no different from any other in that the house was crowded with family and friends, there was mountains of delicious food and there was yet again another stab at reinventing my mother Maureen’s stuffing!

bread stuffing

Irreverent bread stuffing

It has to be reinvented because as I have said before, I have come to the very sad conclusion I will never replicate the taste she seemed to magically create with what I always hope are the exact same ingredients she used. It has proved to be true time and time again that everyone who cooks puts their own mark on the end result – watch the movie Like Water for Chocolate if you don’t believe me! Alright, I am certainly not saying that my mother’s stuffing had the effect that Tita’s Rose Petal Sauce had on Pedro, but it most definitely had a taste that makes my siblings swoon every time we mention “Ma’s stuffing”

The bread stuffing was plain looking on the Christmas tble but was not short on flavor

The bread stuffing was just one of the many dishes piled down the center of my Christmas table!

¬†When my mother was alive and well, I would call her to guide me through the steps, but even then, with her voice in my ear, I couldn’t get it right.¬† It probably had something to do with the fact that when she made it, she didn’t think at all. She just threw it together as if guided by the cooking god inside her, and stopping to think about it and tell me what to do felt unnatural. My sister June makes a “Chicken Dinner” that my kids beg me to cook, but I cannot seem to manage that one either. I have watched her make it several times, but like all wonderful recipes, this one also comes from the heart and will only reach sublimity if she is the one at the helm, not me.

My trifle and pudding standing by in the kitchen for desserrt (two more dishes i have had to come to terms with)

My trifle and Christmas Pudding standing by in the kitchen for dessert (two more dishes that my mother made but this “me” version will be the ones my children will struggle to recreate one day)

On important annual occasions like Christmas there is a yearning inside of all of us to get a taste or whiff of the past. We want to experience the joy of being a child again, and eating a dish our mother’s made for us is a huge part of that feeling of comfort. (Remember Ratatouille!). My Christmas dinners are different from the ones of my childhood in that I like all sorts of people around the table, not just blood relatives. I like a big loud-gathered mishmosh of people. The food is always festive but varies from year to year depending my whims and whose around the table. However there is ALWAYS a version of Maureen’s stuffing gracing the table. The meal would not feel like Christmas without it!

Famous Chicken Dinner

My sister June’s “Famous” Chicken Dinner

This year I did something completely unorthodox and instead of using my mother’s mashed creamed potatoes as a binder I used white sweet potatoes; positively sinful! In every other way I did my best to conjure up her flavor but I decided on the sweet potato substitute out of curiosity, and also because I knew I was going to mess up the recipe anyway. It turned out pretty fantastic and was a big hit with everyone. I figure my new mission is to make a “version’ of my mother’s stuffing every year, that way, in years to come, my children will feel that got it right every time!

Time for seconds!

Time for seconds!

You will need:

2 to 3 tbs olive oil

1 Large sweet onion –¬† small dice

3 celery ribs with leaves – finely sliced

2 large garlic cloves – finely chopped

1 lb white mushrooms – diced

3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves – finely chopped

1 cup chicken broth (or 1 good quality stock cube and 1 cup water)

2 tsp herbs de Provence

1 1/2 tsp allspice

10 cups bread crumbs (make in food processor with blade using regular plain old slices of white bread – works best!)

3 small/medium sweet white potatoes – large dice

1 cup milk

2 tbs unsalted butter

1 1/2 tsp med/coarse sea salt

several grinds black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven 400

1 – Put large saute pan on low/medium and add two tablespoons of the oil. Add the onions, garlic and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes before adding the thyme springs and rosemary. Add the diced mushrooms and turn up heat to full medium and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

saute onions, garlic and celrery. add mushrooms and herbs

Saute onions, garlic and celery. Add mushrooms and herbs

2 – Add the cup of broth and turn heat down to low. Cover and cook for another 5-8 or so minutes, until everything is nice and soft. turn off when done and set aside.

Add broth

Add broth

3 – In the meantime put the sweet potatoes into a pot and cover with cold water. Cover and boil until they are very soft (but not falling apart). Drain the water and add the butter, salt, several grinds of pepper and milk. Mash until very smooth and lump-free. Taste and adjust seasoning according to your taste if necessary.

Mash and cream sweet potatoes

Mash and cream sweet potatoes

4 – Put the bread crumbs in a very large bowl and whisk in the allspice. Add the veggies and mix with the crumbs (I use my hands!)

Add cooked veggies to bread crumbs

Add cooked veggies to bread crumbs

5 – Add the mashed sweet potatoes and mix until everything is well combined. Taste the mixture and add whatever you think it needs more of: salt, pepper, allspice etc

Add potatoes and mix together

Add potatoes and mix together

6 – Turn the mixture into two buttered loaf pan (or 1 larger loaf pan) and a couple of knobs of butter to the top. Cook in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a board or work surface.

Place in loaf pan, add knob of butter and place in oven

Place in loaf pan, add knob of butter and place in oven

7 – At this point you can slice and serve or slice and place in foil and reheat before you are ready to serve.

Before reheating, slice and place in foil

Before re-heating, slice and place in foil

It keeps very well in the fridge for a week. It is great fried in the morning with an egg if you are lucky to have any leftovers, or as part of a sandwich.

Barly remenbered to take this picture before it dissapeared!

Barely remembered to take this picture before it disappeared!

Slow-Cooked Pork with Pungent Juniper & Caraway (serves 12-14)

Amazing Pork dish

Amazing Pork dish

Planning the Christmas menu is always a challenge for me. I am a sort of irreverent traditionalist in that I like to refer to the foods that relate to the holiday, while at the same time, serving dishes that are a little unexpected. My idea of the perfect meal is one where the entire length of the table is filled with an astounding sea of platters filled to the brim with the flavors of the season.

Christmas day cooking

Christmas day cooking

I spent at least 6 weeks composing our Christmas dinner. This makes me sound a little intense and a tad overly meticulous, but I assure you most of the planning was done while day-dreaming about food while driving, or when lying in my bed late at night when my brain refused to turn itself off.

dessert would not be complete without Christmas Crackers!

dessert would not be complete without Christmas Crackers!

This year was more ambitious than others, with 15 people to cook for.  Four close friends would be staying at the house, as well as my two brothers, one of whom was bringing his wife, three kids and mother-in-law! They were all traveling from places as close as New York City, to as far away as Colorado and Canada. Right there was pressure to please all of my wonderful friends and family who were making the effort to spend time with us. I wanted everything to be spectacular and fill them with so much goodness that they would think of nothing but that when they remembered the Christmas of 2012!

Everybody has now come and gone, and a quiet has descended upon my kitchen. It was a marvelous whirlwind of conversation, laughter, games, silliness (the silliness part being mostly my brothers’) and a joyously frantic marathon of cooking and eating.

The Christmas table had a parade of food including: slow-cooked pork with root vegetables, (recipe below), turkey breast with rosemary scented gravy, curried meatballs, roasted aromatic bread stuffing, baked rigatoni in a rich beef ragu sauce, Celine’s famous Meat Pie, creamed mashed potatoes, cranberry/orange relish, balsamic dressed green beans, romaine salad, and for dessert, Italian trifle, warm plum pudding, an array of Christmas cookies, and chocolates.

Delectable Christmas Cookies (labourious made by my freind Bird)

Delectable Christmas Cookies (laboriously made by my friend Bird)

I am only posting one recipe, but it was one of the biggest hits and could be made any wintry night. It is rich, mouth-wateringly good and unusual. I was definitely pulling from and inspired by a recipe from one of my latest Saveur magazines, but as with all recipes I believe you should allow yourself the liberty of tweaking it to your own taste and convenience. For instance, the recipe called for juniper berries which I decided to pulverize and make into a paste using extra-virgin olive oil and the other spices. Also I used the vegetables of my choice (what was available in my supermarket) and added more liquid and wine. Feel free to ad-lib from my recipe below to make something that is more you!

________________________________________

Preheat oven 350*

You will need:

6 to 7 lb pork shoulder, de-boned and butterflied (I took this to the butcher right at the supermarket counter and got him to it – all you have to do is ask!)

2 oz pancetta (don’t worry if you don’t have this ingredient)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

10 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 1/2 tbs dried juniper berries (you can find this in well-stocked supermarkets or spice shop)

5 tsp  caraway seeds

1 tbs fresh rosemary leaves

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp course sea-salt (I use Maldon sea-salt flakes)

2 pale green inner celery ribs including leaves, roughly chopped

4 big carrots, peeled & sliced thickly OR 2 cups baby carrots, left whole

3 big parsnips, peeled and sliced thickly

1 very large sweet potato, cut into big chunks

1 good quality stock cub (I use Rapunzel brand, herbs with sea salt)

1 cup red wine

4 to 6 cups water (more instructions in the method)

Equipment: Roasting pan or big saute pan (oven proof), kitchen string/twine

Method:

Preheat oven 350*

1 РPut juniper berries, caraway seeds, garlic, rosemary leaves, salt, pepper  and the 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil in a food processor and grind to a rough paste (pulsing action works well).  Open butterflied pork (like opening a book), and rub paste over every part of the inside. Lay pancetta in a single layer keeping about 1 inch from the edge. Roll the pork up as tightly as you can and lay on cutting board with opening facing down. Firmly tie with string.

Prepare meat

Prepare meat

2 – Put roasting pan or big saute pan on high heat and add the 1/4 cup olive oil. When it is hot, add the pork and brown on all side. This will take about 20 minutes. When done, place on plate and set aside.

cook veggies

cook veggies

3 – Turn heat down slightly and add the root vegetables and thyme sprigs. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 12 minutes. Add stock cube and stir. Add wine and cook on high heat for about 2 minutes. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Turn heat off and place the pork on top.

Cook

Cook

4 – Cover with foil and place in oven until meat is done (until meat reaches 165* This will take anywhere between 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Check each hour and add water if it looks low (about 1 cup each time).

Rest meat, then slice adn serve with veggies

Rest meat, then slice and serve with veggies

5 – When done, rest meat on a plate for about 20 minutes and keep veggies with au jus warm on low heat on stove top.

I cannot tell you how cook this tastes. You may just have to make it for yourself!

I cannot tell you how cook this tastes. You may just have to make it for yourself!

Slice meat and lay onto a serving platter. Pour the pan juices and vegetables over the top and serve. This is great with rice or mashed potatoes and a fresh green salad on the side.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Another Take On My Mother’s Stuffing (8 -10 as side-dish)

 My mother has appeared many times in my blog over the past 2 years, and here again I find it impossible to think about Christmas without thinking about her. She would laugh and disagree if I told her she was a great cook and that the main reason I love food and love to cook is because of her, but it is all true.

She was of the generation in Ireland where all women knew how to cook. Granted some cooks were better than others but dinners in Ireland in the 60’s and 70’s were most definitely eaten at home. People only went to restaurants for very special occasions, and in fact there were no real restaurants. It was either a cafeteria style coffee shop for lunch and if you wanted dinner, you had to go to a hotel. All in all the food scene was non-existent, and where it did exist the majority of the food was anything but delicious or exciting.

This stuffing is great sliced and fried

This stuffing is great sliced and fried

That is not to say that there was no good food to be had in the country, quite the opposite. I remember nothing but wonderful food, but it all came from the kitchen at our house, as did all great food in Ireland at that time. Despite the general ignorance about what healthy food was, we were eating it unknowingly every single day: local meat, organic dairy products and vegetables. Nothing came from far away. Talk about the slow Food Movement  Рit was thriving!

Sake & sake cups chilling in ice - yum

Sake & sake cups chilling in ice – this is nice to sip on while holed up in the kitchen at this time of year – hint, hint

I could get really side-tracked right now and talk about all the great food changes in Ireland since then, as well as make mention of another fact: the introduction of FAST FOOD, leading to a rant about the rise of obesity etc, but that’s a whole other topic.

Right now I am remembering the Ireland of my childhood and my mother’s wonderful bread stuffing. She only made this a couple of times a year (Christmas & Easter) but it was the highlight of the meal and a recipe I have tried in vain to perfect.

My mother would instruct me over the phone each Christmas to get me through her recipe, and I followed her directions so trustingly, and so blindly, that I never really paid attention to what I was actually doing. Since her death, each year I strain and grapple to remember what to do, but it is never the same, not really even close, save for the aroma of cooking onions mixed with the scent of allspice after I have everything mixed together.

Time for Christmas

Time for Christmas

This year instead of getting sad about this I decided to make a stuffing with her recipe in mind, but not try to replicate it. I came up with this one a few weeks ago and think I will stick to it for this year. It was very good, and the addition of mushrooms was one I know she would approve of.

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You will need:

5 medium potatoes, peel and cubed

2 tbs unsalted butter

1/2 cup milk (any %) – (for potatoes)

1/2 tsp salt

several grinds black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium sweet onions, small dice

2  very large white mushrooms, diced

3 inner celery ribs including leaves – diced

1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 tsp chopped fresh oregano leaves

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 1/2 tsp allspice

7 1/2 cups fine bread crumbs (can be made in food processor – use slices of ordinary white bread)

1 cup milk (for stuffing mix)

1 tbs unsalted butter (firm)

Method

Preheat oven 375* (do this 10 minutes before it is ready for the oven)

1 – Prep all veggies as instructed above. Some pictures below to help with any chopping confusion!

peel, then dice potatoes

Peel, then cut potatoes into chunks

diced mushrooms

Diced mushrooms

dicing celery 101

dicing celery 101

2 – Cover potatoes in cold water and boil until soft. Mash and cream with the 2 tbs butter, 1/2 cup milk, salt, and pepper. Cover with a cloth and set aside.

cream potatoes

Cream potatoes

3 – While potatoes are cooking put large saute pan on medium heat and add oil. Add the onions and celery and cook for about 10 minutes.

saute onions and celery

saute onions and celery

4 – Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until everything is very soft (another 10 minutes or so). Add the herbs and stir. Cook for another minute.

add mushrooms, then herbs

add mushrooms, then herbs

5 – Add the milk and allspice and let the whole mixture warm up. Turn off heat and set aside.

6 – Put the breads crumbs and potatoes into a big bowl and add the milk mixture from the pan. Mix everything together until it is one solid ball (I use my hands for the job).

7 – Butter a loaf pan and add the stuffing. Dot with the last tablespoon of butter and cover with foil. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, removing the foil 15 minutes before the end of cooking (helps the top to brown).

This can be turned out onto a board and sliced, giving each person a piece, or sliced and placed on the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves. I like it sliced, then fried in the pan with butter until it is crispy on both sides. It’s also great with a fried egg in the morning or on a sandwich with turkey and sweet relish.

It can also be cooked and then reheated in the oven before serving or even eaten cold.

So many possibilities!