Turkey may be the traditional centre of the Christmas table, but there are times when an alternative main dish is just what the guests want to see. We thought we'd devise an alternative to the traditional fayre which you can use this weekend or keep it for the run-up to the New Year celebrations.
The days after Christmas call for something more thrilling than cold turkey and stuffing sandwiches if you have friends and family calling around, and they are sure to enjoy these pairings of great drinks with handsome food choices.
This week, we picked the brains of David Coffey, head chef of The Sussex, located off Dublin's Upper Leeson Street. The restaurant is famous for its duck main course and, here, David shows us just how to do it. He's also devised some lovely food and drink combinations including a tongue-tingling citrus cured salmon as starter, served with a refreshing G&T with a difference.
A well-chosen starter recipe can set the tone for an entire meal so it is always worth a little extra thought. This fantastic easy and fresh fish starter contains plenty of colours and flavours to whet the palate, and is paired with Dingle gin and tonic. While the English use a long Tom Collins glass to serve gin, the Spanish - said to be the largest drinkers of gin in Europe - developed the 'balloon cup' or Copa de Balon glass which dates back to the 1700s in the Basque region of northern Spain. The glassware became popular over in America during the prohibition era. Go that extra mile and fill it with orange or cranberry-infused ice cubes (see right) and fresh mint. Your taste buds will thank you, and the starter is guaranteed to impress.
Nestling above M O'Brien's, The Sussex is one of Dublin's best known bars and restaurants and David's duck recipe has proved to be a favourite with customers. He serves it with smoked pancetta, mushroom jus, fondant potato, peas and broad beans. A Rioja Reserva is a fantastic pairing with duck and from the restaurant's wine list and David recommends the Coto Imaz Reserva 2011 Vineyard Selection. Supple and expansive on the palate with pitch perfect acidity to match fabulously with the duck, it can be found on mackenway.com.
For the last food/drink combination, we return to an iconic Irish Coffee - which was invented by Limerick chef Joseph Sheridan in 1942 to welcome the Americans arriving into Shannon. You simply must leave room for dessert because it's a steamed ginger pudding with spiced rum caramel sauce. It works an absolute treat with a well crafted Irish Coffee and together, they are pure comfort food with which to see out 2016. On page 36, David shares his tips for making a 'proper Irish coffee' and you'll get the knack if you follow his guidance.
Here's one that you might not have heard of before: be sure to use an empty water bottle with teaspoon inside it to whip fresh cream. Place the desired amount of cream into the bottle and replace the cap. Shake the bottle cocktail-style to get desired consistency, then simply pour the cream from bottle. We like how it saves on the washing up, and the bottle can be placed in fridge until you're ready for making Irish Coffee number two.
800g washed and de-stalked fresh spinach leaves
200g finely diced onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp cornflour
Salt and pepper
50g grated parmesan
200g grated gruyere (cheddar works too if you prefer)
Blanch the spinach in a pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Strain and plunge the leaves into a bowl of iced water. When cooled, fully strain again and squeeze together in your hands to remove as much liquid as you can. Then chop the spinach coarsely.
In a saucepan melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until soft but not coloured.
Add 200ml of the milk and all the cream. Heat until about to boil and turn down heat.
In a small bowl make a smooth paste with the remaining milk and the cornflour. Whisk into the saucepan and continue to whisk as the sauce thickens (three to four minutes).
Add the spinach to the sauce and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and grate in lots of fresh nutmeg.
Butter a baking dish and pour in the spinach mixture. Cover the top with the grated cheese.
Place under a hot grill until the cheese is golden brown and serve immediately.
Alternatively, allow to cool until required.
Cook in a hot oven at 180°C for 20 to 30 minutes.
Citrus Cured salmon with Horseradish Crème fraÎche
A side of fresh salmon (skinned and pin boned and trimmed of belly fat - your fish monger will do this for you)
125g Maldon sea salt
180g demerara brown sugar
2 star anise
½ tsp coriander seeds
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of ½ lemon
Zest of ½ lime
2 fresh beetroot
For the Horseradish crème fraîche
250ml crème fraîche
1 tbsp grated fresh horseradish (use horseradish sauce if you can't find fresh horseradish)
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine all in a bowl
Put all of the ingredients except the salmon into the food processor and blend for one minute. Place one third of this mix on a baking tray and then place the salmon face down on the side skin was removed from. Cover the fish with the remaining mix then wrap in cling film. Cure in the refrigerator for 18 hours. Remove from the tray, wash under cold water then pat dry with paper towel. Cover and refrigerate before use.
For the roast beetroot
Wash 2 fresh beetroot and wrap in foil. Roast at 180°C for 45 mins to 1 hour. You will know they are cooked when a skewer slides easily into the middle. Allow to cool and peel with gloves on. Slice into wedges and refrigerate until use.
Cut the salmon into thin slices. Put three slices on each plate. Drizzle the crème fraîche around and place wedges of beetroot. Finish with a wedge of lemon and some fresh herbs or salad.
Glass Bowl Dingle Gin & Irish Tonic
70ml Dingle Gin
200ml Poachers Orange & Rosemary Irish Tonic Water
200ml freshly-squeezed orange juice
200ml cranberry juice
1 mandarin orange (segmented and skinned)
Sprig of fresh mint
2 x ice trays
1 x 24oz bowl cocktail glass or large cabernet wine glass
Orange Ice Cubes: (makes 4 drinks)
Slice orange segments to fit ice moulds, leaving room for juice. Top up with orange juice and freeze.
Cranberry ice cubes: (makes 4 drinks)
Place 1 cranberry in each mould and fill with juice and freeze.
Place 3 x orange ice cubes and 3 x cranberry ice cubes in a cocktail glass.
Pour 70ml Dingle Gin over the ice cubes. Add 200ml of tonic and mix well. Garnish with sprig of mint. Add two sipping straws, and enjoy.
Duck Breast with smoked pancetta & mushroom jus
Served with fondant potato, peas & broad beans
4 duck breasts, trimmed and skin scored
100g smoked pancetta, cut into lardons
½ shallot finely diced
250g assorted mushrooms, cleaned
1 sprig thyme
120ml red wine
250ml veal stock or brown chicken stock
100g broad beans, peeled
Fresh pea shoots
Season the duck breasts with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Over a moderate heat place the breasts skin side down in a non-stick pan.
Cook for six minutes until crispy and golden brown. Turn the breasts and cook for a further four minutes. Remove breasts and set aside, keeping warm. Remove excess fat from the pan.
Add the pancetta to the pan and cook until crispy. Remove excess fat again. Add shallots, mushrooms and thyme. Sauté for three minutes. Add red wine to deglaze the pan and reduce by half. Add the stock and reduce again by half.
Heat the peas and broad beans in boiling water. Strain, then season with salt, pepper and some melted butter. Place a fondant potato (see recipe right) on each plate. Spoon the sauce onto plates. Divide the peas and broad beans onto the plates. Carve the duck breasts and arrange on the plates. Garnish with freshly-cut pea shoots and serve.
4 potatoes peeled and cut into equal size barrel shape
300ml melted duck fat
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 sprigs thyme
Heat 100ml duck fat over a medium heat in a pan. Add the potatoes and season with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Cook until golden-brown on one side (five to six minutes). Turn the potatoes and cook for further five to six minutes.
Add the garlic, thyme and remaining fat. Bring to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook until the potatoes are tender then carefully remove from pan.
Place on a roasting tray in the oven and roast for 8-10 mins at 180°C. Serve.