Cooking the books
Many people who never darken the door of a bookshop at any other time of year make it their first port of call when shopping for Christmas presents. And, for many, there's no more welcome gift than a good cookbook, so the foodie sections are especially well stocked.
A bumper crop of food books has come in for review this autumn and the titles recommended here include plenty of interesting choices for the Irish market.
Today, we cover the full range of Christmas dinner favourites, gleaned from recipes in some of these wonderful books that would make great gifts too.
To begin, we look at main courses, courtesy of Neven Maguire's latest publication. Then we have warm smoked salmon on a potato cake with sour cream and chives for starters. Smoked salmon is one of the most useful products you could have in the house over Christmas, especially if you buy well -- you will only need the simplest of presentation to allow the goodness of the flavour and texture to do the talking.
This versatile dish from St Ernans House, in Donegal, can be used as a starter or a light meal. It's from Irish Country House Cooking: The Blue Book Recipe Collection, a handsome miscellany of dishes from over 40 highly regarded Irish kitchens which has been a popular cooking-and-travel gift book ever since the first edition came out in 1995. The latest version (a major revision and expansion of the 2005 edition) is hitting the shelves just in time for Christmas.
Warming the smoked salmon gives it more subtle flavour in this dish. It serves four or more, if you want to make smaller portions as part of a big meal.
To finish, we look at desserts from Annie Bell and Maguire's take on the traditional mince pie.