Monday 18 December 2017

Recipes: Brenda Costigan with a lovingly prepared meal for mother's day

Show your mum how grateful you are, says Brenda Costigan, with a lovingly prepared meal of baked fish, mangetout with mint, and chocolate cupcakes or almond pavlovas


There is a popular myth that Mother's Day began when servant girls and boys were allowed to go home to visit their mothers, traditionally bringing a simnel cake with them.

However, it seems that the actual origin of Mothering Sunday, as it's also called, which falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent every year, lies way back in the 13th Century, when it was considered important for people to visit their 'mother' church, that is to say the cathedral of their diocese.

Inevitably, this day became an occasion for family reunions when children who worked away returned home. These days it can be a marketing ploy to increase the sales of flowers and chocolates, but it's good to mark your love for your mother by spending time making her a nice meal.


Two full fillets of salmon or sea trout are used to sandwich a tasty mushroom and bacon stuffing. When you're buying the fillets, it is important to check that they fit comfortably on top of one another; the skin side should be out. The skin is important to prevent the fish fillets from breaking up. For a variation on this recipe, use individual darnes of salmon and just spoon the stuffing on top.

The stuffing ingredients are chopped very small and pre-cooked -- ideally, chop the cooked stuffing in a food processor; the texture should resemble breadcrumbs. Serves 5-6.

For the stuffing, you will need:

About 3-4 tablespoons onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

175g (6oz) mushrooms, chopped

75-110g (3-4oz) rashers, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½-1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated

1-2 teaspoons fresh parsley or dill, finely chopped

You will need:

2 fillets salmon or sea trout, about 500g (18oz) each

For the sauce, you will need:

100ml fresh cream

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

To make the stuffing, fry the finely chopped onion and the chopped garlic together in two tablespoons of the olive oil until they become soft, then add in the chopped mushrooms and fry them until they soften. Lift out into a bowl.

Next, fry the chopped rashers until they are cooked, and add them to the mushrooms in the bowl. Next, add some salt and freshly ground black pepper, the finely grated lemon zest, and the finely chopped fresh parsley or dill, whichever you are using. Mix everything well together. If you have a food processor, put the stuffing into it and buzz for a few seconds to chop everything more finely.

To prepare the salmon or sea trout, whichever you are using, rub your fingers gently over the surface to feel if there are any pin bones present. Use a mini pair of pliers or a tweezers to pull them out, one at a time. Place one large fillet, skin side down, on a foil-lined tin (shiny side upwards). Spoon the stuffing on top, then lay the second fillet on top, with the skin side facing upwards. Brush the top with a little olive oil. Fold the foil to cover the fish and keep the juices in.

Bake in the oven -- preheated to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4 -- until the fillets are cooked. It is hard to be exact about the time because, naturally, fish fillets vary in thickness. Use a pointed knife to check the thickest part of the fillet -- see if the flesh is opaque and the same colour right through.

Like a roast, the fish is best left to rest for 5-10 minutes before you cut it up.

To make the sauce, gather up the juices and mix them with a little fresh cream and some mayonnaise. Whisk everything until it becomes smooth, season to taste and serve with the fish.

Variation: Darnes of Stuffing-topped Salmon

If you prefer, use 4-6 individual darnes of salmon --about 175g (6oz) each -- instead of the large fillets in the previous recipe.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Place the salmon darnes in a preheated, buttered dish, not too close to one another. Follow the instructions in the previous recipe to make the stuffing, and then spoon the stuffing on top of each darne. Season 200-250ml (7-9fl oz) of fresh cream with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, any scraps of leftover stuffing and some chopped parsley or dill, whichever you used in the stuffing. Pour the seasoned cream over the salmon darnes, cover them loosely with foil and and bake them in the preheated oven.

Depending on their thickness, they should cook in about 20 minutes. Check the centre of one darne with a pointed knife to see if the colour and opacity is the same throughout.

Variation: Chicken Breasts with Mushroom and Bacon Stuffing

If you don't fancy fish, the stuffing from the previous recipes works equally successfully with chicken breasts.

Choose 4-6 generous-sized chicken breasts, brown them on each side in some hot oil in a frying pan and transfer them to a hot, ovenproof dish. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4.

To make the stuffing, follow the instructions in the stuffed baked fillets of salmon or sea trout recipe, and then spoon the stuffing on top of each chicken breast.

Season 200-250ml (7-9fl oz) of fresh cream with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, any scraps of leftover stuffing and some chopped parsley or dill, whichever you used in the stuffing. Pour the seasoned cream over the chicken breasts, cover them loosely with foil and and bake them in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes until cooked through.


This is a lovely vegetable dish, quick to prepare, which can be served with the main course. Serves 4-6.

You will need:

225-350g (8-12oz) mangetout

1 dessertspoon olive oil

3 spring onions, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

Cook the mangetout in boiling, salted water for about two minutes, then drain and immediately put the mangetout into cold water to halt the cooking process. Drain well. This can be done in advance.

Before serving, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the chopped spring onions and the chopped garlic to soften them, then add in the mangetout. Toss together to heat the mangetout through.

Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir in the chopped fresh mint and serve.



I am using the recipe for my dark and sultry chocolate cake to make these rich, luxurious cupcakes for Mother's Day.

You will need:

200g (7oz) butter

200g (7oz) dark chocolate, minimum 70 per cent cocoa solids

1½ tablespoons dark rum

160g (5½oz) self-raising flour

50g (2oz) ground almonds

20g (¾oz) cocoa powder, sieved if necessary to remove any lumps

4 large or 5 medium eggs, separated

175g (6oz) caster sugar

Chocolate ganache icing, to decorate (see recipe below)

Heat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Use large muffin paper cases in a deep 12-cup muffin tray.

Melt together the butter, the dark chocolate and the dark rum in a Pyrex bowl, either over a saucepan of gently simmering water -- ensure the bowl doesn't touch the water -- or in the microwave on the defrost setting for about six minutes, or until everything has melted. Stir the melted ingredients together and leave on the counter to cool considerably, but not completely.

In a separate bowl, mix together the self-raising flour, the ground almonds and the cocoa powder, and put to one side.

In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with 150g (5oz) of the caster sugar, until the mixture is nice and creamy. Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the beaten egg yolks. Mix well, then stir in the flour, ground almond and cocoa powder mixture. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with the remaining 25g (1oz) of caster sugar until they are fairly stiff, but not as stiff as if you were making meringues. Briskly stir one-third of the egg whites through the egg and chocolate mixture, then add the remainder in two lots, stirring gently but firmly to mix thoroughly through. The volume of the egg whites will collapse quite considerably as you mix it through the chocolate and egg mixture.

Spoon the cake mix into the paper cup cases. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. The top of the cupcakes will be firm and the inside should be set. Test with a skewer -- if dough sticks to the skewer, continue cooking a little longer.

Carefully turn out the cupcakes and leave them to cool completely on a wire tray. When they are cool, top with a dark or white chocolate ganache icing, see the recipe below, and decorate.


Ganache is a French term for a smooth mixture of chocolate and cream. It is very runny when it is hot but it sets as it cools, so wait for it to set firmly enough to spread comfortably. If you use it too soon, it will run down the sides.

You will need:

175ml (6fl oz) fresh cream

200g (7oz) good-quality chocolate, dark or white, broken in squares or small pieces

Heat the fresh cream in a saucepan until little bubbles appear at the edges. Remove from the heat and add the dark or white chocolate pieces, whichever you are using, and stir until the chocolate has melted. If necessary, heat a little more. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the fridge. When the ganache has cooled, whip it until the right consistency is achieved.


Ground almonds in the meringue give them a hint of chewiness. Try mangoes to make a delightful, exotic topping, or use another fruit of your choice. Serves 8.

For the meringue bases, you will need:

4 large egg whites

225g (8oz) caster sugar

1 rounded teaspoon cornflour

1 teaspoon lemon juice

¼ small teaspoon natural almond extract

50g (2oz) ground almonds

About 50g (2oz) chopped or flaked almonds (optional)

For the top, you will need:

3 fresh mangoes, fresh or tinned

2-3 kiwi fruits

250ml (9fl oz) fresh cream

A little Irish Mist or Cointreau (optional)

1 passion fruit

Place a large sheet of baking parchment on two flat baking tins.

Put the egg whites into a very clean bowl and whisk until they are just becoming stiff. Then add the caster sugar, a little at a time, and whisk well until all the caster sugar has been added. The result will be a very stiff mixture that won't move if the bowl is turned upside down. The cornflour, the lemon juice and the natural almond extract can be added to the mixture with the last spoon or two of sugar. Then gently stir in the ground almonds. Don't overstir or the egg whites will lose their stiffness.

Using a large tablespoon, place the meringue mixture, one spoonful at a time, on to the baking parchment. Using a smaller spoon, shape each one into a small fat circle about the size of a small saucer, making it slightly more shallow in its centre. Cook the meringues for about 1-2 hours in an oven preheated to 120°C, 200°F, Gas ½, until they are well crisped on the outside. Ovens can vary a lot at low temperatures, so adjust yours if necessary. The colour of the cooked pavlovas should be nearly white, or, at the very most, a very pale gold.

Cool the meringues on a wire tray and peel off the baking parchment very carefully. Store the meringue bases in an airtight container until required. They will keep for 4-5 days.

To decorate, peel the mangoes, and slice into fans or chop them, discarding the stones. Peel and slice the kiwi fruits. Whip the fresh cream until stiff, and flavour with the Irish Mist or Cointreau, if you are using it. Spread the cream on top of each little pavlova and arrange the mango and kiwi. Cut the passion fruit in half, scoop out the seedy pulp and spoon it over the top.


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