My Christmas 2011 food highlights

Good food’s not just for Christmas you know. With this in mind, I thought I’d share my fond reminiscences of some of the highlights of a quite delicious fortnight. You might like to seek out some of the flavours herein. Bloody good they were too.

  • Pre-Christmas Sunday lunch in Camden Kitchen with gang of mates kicking off with amazing smoked haddock croquettes with chorizo vinaigrette and finishing with a Christmas song sung to us by one of the lovely waiters.
  • Dunnes Stores minced pies, surprisingly good when oven-heated and served with creme fraiche and a pot of Barry’s Tea.
  • Christmas Eve breakfast of scrambled eggs and Burren Smoked Salmon with the mammy and sister in the ever-lovely Pepper Pot Cafe.
  • Christmas Eve toasties in Grogans washed down with one of the best pints going (actually, that was the white-out Christmas Eve 2010, but the fact that they were willing to serve their seminal toasties when most city centre pubs were shutting up shop and turfing people out to the burbs still warms my heart a year on).
  • Christmas Eve dinner of Yawl Bay Seafood’s luscious crab toes atop a lemony fennel and radicchio risotto served with a glass (or two) of Chateau Minuty rosé.
  • Christmas Day fry of Jane Russell’s sausages and Gubbeen Smokehouse rashers served with Maguire’s Irish Mustard (a seasonal special of Mulled Wine Mustard from Troy Maguire, he of l’Gueuleton–Locks–Coppinger Row fame, which promises exciting things from him in 2012).
  • Christmas dinner starter of smoked oyster pate on toasted bacon and onion bread served with apple-smoked oysters and a salad of diced apple, fennel and tarragon-pickled beetroot (featuring oysters from Stephen Kavanagh’s oyster stall at Meeting House Square’s Saturday food market in Temple Bar).
  • Christmas dinner of whole roast fillet of beef rolled in juicy porcini and wrapped in prosciutto, a la Jamie Oliver, served with my mammy’s amazing Vermouth braised fennel finished with Parmesan and my sister’s balsamic-roast baby beets.
  • Christmas pudding from Country Choice served with brandy butter from Jenny McNally’s market stall in Saturday’s market in Meeting House Square.
  • Cheeseboard featuring Bellingham Blue, Cratloe Hills and Glebe Brethan amongst other star Irish farmhouse cheeses.
  • Post-Christmas meal in M&L Szechuan of braised hot and spicy seabass and fried green beans with dried chillies.
  • The Winding Stair’s platters of smoked fish and charcuterie, including James McGeough’s amazing range of air-dried lamb, pork and beef, and Fingal Ferguson’s venison salami and chorizo.
  • Last night’s Zaytoon special of Barg kebab featuring saffron-marinated beef and red cabbage in freshly baked, airy flatbread straight from their ovens: worth every penny spent on the rake of pints leading up to it. Though these kebabs are so good I’d eat em sober too.
  • Tonight’s hangover cure of patata maneas, Spanish mashed potatoes with garlic, olive oil and Pimenton de la Vera usually topped with crispy chorizo but in my case topped with some jamon Iberico de belotta I’ve been saving for months for the right occasion, with a glass of aged Amontillado from Byas Gonzalez (makers of Tio Pepe). Magic. Seriously. Give it a go…

RECIPE: Patatas Meneas

[Serves one for supper, or increase quantities for more]

2 large potatoes, peeled

2 bay leaves

1 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 teaspoons sweet pimenton de la Vera (or regular paprika)

1/4 teaspoon hot pimenton de la Vera (optional)

Salt, to taste

150g pancetta, diced; or chorizo, sliced into chunks; or jamon Iberico, at room temperature

  1. Chop the potatoes into large chunks and bring to the boil in salted water. Add bay leaves, reduce to a rolling simmer and cook until tender. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water, and remove the bay leaves.
  2. Mash the potatoes roughly but leaving rustic chunks, and moisten the mash with a little cooking water, about 3–4 tablespoons.
  3. Heat the olive oil and garlic together in a frying pan over a low heat, and fry very gently until golden, taking care not to burn it.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the pimenton to the garlic and oil. Stir for 10–15 seconds to release the pimenton aromas before adding in the potato mix. Season with salt to taste.
  5. If using pancetta or chorizo, fry in a hot pan until crispy.
  6. Serve the potatoes garnished with the crispy pancetta or chorizo. Alternatively do as I did tonight and just drape it with moist slices of nutty, oily, room-temperature jamon Iberico.
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