Feeding friends - what these foodies have on the menu for New Year's Eve
There’s more to New Year’s celebrations than champagne and cocktail sausages — these foodies like to offer their guests something a little different.
While there are those whose idea of a perfect New Year's Eve is to hide under the duvet until it's all over, it's also a night on which many of us like to get together with friends and family. It used to be that New Year's Eve food was all about canapés and champagne, but there are other ways to celebrate.
Dee Kelly and Matteo Griscti, Grálinn
Dee Kelly and Matteo Griscti are the couple behind the Grálinn (loosely translated, the name means Love With Us) pop-up at MVP on Clanbrassil Street. You may also have encountered their food truck at festivals such as Another Love Story and Electric Picnic.
At MVP, their menu focuses on seasonality and they work with suppliers such as Scéal Bakery, McNally's Farm and Lilliput Stores to create food that's distinctively Irish, yet a happy 'mish mash' (their word not mine!) of influences from all over the world.
Matteo is the cook, while Dee looks after front of house and coffee. "Matteo calls me the wagon that welcomes," she laughs.
Matteo is Maltese and grew up in a food culture where the influences of Italy, Sicily and Britain were all present.
"Malta is a real melting pot of cultures," explains Dee, "so Matteo has a huge knowledge base in terms of flavours. Pumpkin with agrodolce for instance - Irish vegetables with Italian dipping sauce."
On New Year's Eve, the couple will be in Donegal.
"Our ideal New Year's Eve is very food-orientated," says Dee. "We'll start off with trays of bite-sized food, and then everyone will sit at a long table and share a number of dishes, family-style. There will be plenty of bread to tear, and dips. There won't be starters and main courses as such.
"In Ireland, we feel that vegetables are not given the platform they deserve so our focus is very much on exploring vegetables and what can be done with them. Some of the dishes that we will serve on New Year's Eve are vegan, but there will also be charcuterie.
"Generally, everyone builds his or her own plate, so it's not really a big deal what anyone's diet is. There's enough variety to accommodate everyone, whether they are vegan, dairy-free or anything else - we don't think about it too much, it happens organically. We'll definitely have whole pumpkin with miso and butter, and kaibroc with smoked almond cream… and we are both learning more about wine, so we'll have some interesting bottles."
In the New Year, Dee and Matteo will be setting up a kitchen at the Elmhurst urban farm in Glasnevin and will cook for small groups of guests there.
"We always wanted to learn more about the seasons, so we'll be able to share the food we cook with other people who are interested," says Dee. "We're looking forward to being able to demonstrate what farm to fork really means."
Soft Polenta, Tomato Ragu and Braised Pork
soft polenta ingredients
80g parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
1. Soak the polenta overnight in the water.
2. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
3. Once thickened, add the butter, cheese and salt.
4. Keep warm, or let cool and reheat to serve.
Tomato sauce ingredients
2 finely-chopped onions
Hefty pinch of fresh thyme leaves
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 x 28-ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes
Salt to taste
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1. Sweat the onions, thyme and garlic in oil with a pinch of salt.
2. Add the tomato purée and cook for 5 minutes, until orange in colour and some browning appears on the bottom of the pot.
3. Add the tomatoes and break apart with a wooden spoon.
4. Simmer for about 30 minutes until thickened.
5. Season with salt and pepper.
Braised pork ingredients
3kg bone-in pork shoulder
3 tbsp flaky salt such as Maldon, plus more
8 fresh bay leaves, divided
Small bunch sage leaves finely chopped, plus 4 large sprigs
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
9 juniper berries
4 black peppercorns
700ml dry white wine
60ml red wine vinegar
1. Salt the pork with 3 tbsp of salt. Tear 4 bay leaves and scatter them on top along with the finely chopped sage. Cover loosely with clingfilm and chill overnight.
2. Let the pork come up to room temp (about 1 hour).
3. Preheat the oven to 2000C.
4. Preheat 2 tbsp of oil in a large, oven-safe pot and sear the pork on all sides.
5. Set the pork aside on a plate.
6. Wipe out the pot and sweat the garlic, juniper, sage sprigs, peppercorns and bay leaves.
7. Pour in the wine and the vinegar.
8. Return the pork to the pot, cover in parchment paper, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven.
9. Cook for 30 mins, then reduce the temperature to 1500C and cook 2½-3 hours until the meat is very tender.
1. All elements can be cooked the day before.
To serve, reheat the polenta, stirring constantly over gentle heat and adding a bit of water to loosen.
2. Remove the bones from pork and shred with a fork or your hands, or chop coarsely if you prefer.
3. Reheat the pork in tomato sauce.
4. Spread polenta on a large platter and top with saucy pork.
5. Share with crusty bread.
Jordan Bailey and Majken Bech-Christensen, Aimsir
In the spring of next year, Jordan Bailey and Majken Bech-Christensen will open their restaurant, Aimsir, at Cliff at Lyons in Co Kildare. To say that this event is eagerly anticipated would be something of an understatement, especially since word filtered out from the lucky few who got a taste of what to expect during a series of pop-up dinners last month. The food is sophisticated, elegant and wholly based on Irish ingredients.
Cornish-born Jordan was the head chef at 3-star Michelin restaurant in Maaemo, Oslo, where the couple met. The newlyweds are both in their 20s, and are enjoying meeting with producers and growers, exploring the bounty of the Irish larder that’s available to them in their newly adopted home while they wait for their new restaurant to be built.
Unlike many chefs, Jordan says that he hasn’t worked on New Year’s Eve for many years. “The restaurants that I’ve worked in have chosen not to open over the Christmas and New Year period. It’ll be the same at Aimsir. We’ll only open four days a week, and just for dinner. We’ll close for at least three weeks over Christmas, and not re-open until mid-January, and for a week at the beginning and end of the summer. It makes the restaurant sustainable in the sense of lifestyle for the people working there, we won’t get burn-out.”
Jordan and Majken spend Christmas and New Year with family, moving between Cornwall, Denmark and Oslo. “This year we’ll be with my family in Cornwall for Christmas, and for New Year we’ve rented a lodge that sleeps 12 near Brighton. We’ll celebrate the way the Danes do — everyone gets dressed up, it’s a proper occasion. There will be lots of drink and food, and we’ll serve it sharing-style.
“I’ll do the cooking — it’s the unspoken rule, I don’t mind. The kitchen is my happy place. I’d find it weird to be sitting down having a drink and watching someone else cook; I’d feel awkward and uncomfortable. So it will be a team effort, but under my guidance.”
Jordan says that he won’t plan the menu until he sees what ingredients are available locally.
Meanwhile, Majken will make sure that the table is decorated to look suitably festive.
“She can’t help herself,” says Jordan. “She’ll go the full nine yards, she can’t do anything by halves. It’s funny, we automatically slip into our roles — me in the kitchen, and Majken out front. We’ll have a glass of champagne to start, with some kind of herring. And there will be at least one red and one white with the meal, and more champagne at midnight.
“I think cooking for New Year’s Eve is less stressful than Christmas dinner, when you can’t deviate from the classic. At New Year, you can make it easier on yourself and just make something that tastes delicious.”
Pan fried potato bread, Goatsbridge trout roe, horseradish sour cream and Dill
600g Ballymakenny Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled and washed weight)
60g plain wheat flour (sifted)
60g salted butter (melted)
200g sour cream
15g fresh horseradish (finely grated) or 50g creamed horseradish
200g Goatsbridge Trout roe
Dill, to garnish
1. Once the potatoes have been washed and peeled, gently boil them in salted water until tender. Strain off the water and let them steam dry for 5 minutes. While still hot, mash the potatoes as finely as possible. Return to a clean dry pan and cook the moisture out of the potato until no steam is visible.
2. Take the potatoes from the pan and place in a large bowl. Add the sifted flour, melted butter and salt to taste. Knead the dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured bench.
3. Roll the dough into 20g balls and then with a floured rolling pin roll out the balls until 5mm thick.
4. In a bowl combine the sour cream and grated horseradish with a pinch of salt.
5. Cook the dough in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for roughly 3 mins each side and until golden.
6. Place the trout roe and horseradish sour cream on top of the warm potato bread and finish with sprigs of dill.
Photography by Gerry Mooney