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My Traditional Irish Christmas Cake

Christmas cakes are made in many different ways, but generally they are variations on the classic fruitcake. They can be light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy etc. The cakes are made in many different shapes, with frosting, royal icing, a dusting of icing sugar or simple and plain.

The spices and dried fruits in the cake are supposed to represent the exotic eastern spices brought by the three Wise Men to the newborn King! The fruit is all soaked overnight in the whiskey, in a covered bowl, before use.

I always make three cakes - one for Christmas Day and two to eat every day for tea until then!

My Christmas Cake Ingredients:
150g (5oz) raisins
125g (4½oz) stoned dates
125g (4½oz) sultanas
100g (4oz) glace cherries
100ml (4 fl oz) Irish whiskey
(all of the above are soaked together overnight before making the cake)

225g (8oz) real butter
extra butter for greasing
200g (7oz) caster sugar
4 eggs
grated rind of 1 lemon & 1 orange
2tbls black treacle (or molasses)
225g (8oz) plain (all purpose) flour
½ tsp salt
1 rounded tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove
50g (2oz) ground almonds
50ml (2 fl oz) extra whiskey 

My Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F), Gas mark 2. Grease a 20cm (8") cake tin and line it with greaseproof paper. Wrap some Newspaper around the outside and tie it with string. This will help the outside of the cake from browning too much during the cooking and prevent it from drying out.

2. Beat together, in a bowl, the sugar & butter until creamy. Gradually add the eggs, dusting a little of the flour in with each egg added. Add the treacle & grated fruit rinds and mix well.

3. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl of soaked fruit and add the salt, spices and almonds. Stir all of this together, mixing well.

4. Fold the fruit mix into the egg mix, stirring evenly. Spoon the completed mix into the cake tin.

5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 3 hours. If it is browning a little too much cover it loosely with tinfoil. Cook for another ½ hour. The cake is cooked when a fine skewer, inserted into the centre, comes out clean and dry.

Make small holes all over the warm cake with a skewer and spoon the extra 50ml whiskey over the holes until it has all soaked in. Leave the cake to cool in the tin. 

When the cake is cold, remove it from the tin, peel off the lining paper, then wrap it first in clean greaseproof paper and then in foil.

A small amount of brandy, sherry or whiskey (depending on your favourite drink) should be poured onto the cake every week until Christmas. This process is called “feeding the cake”. 

You also should turn the cake over, each week, before you pour another little bit of your favourite drink over it. This ensures that all that lovely alcohol penetrates to the very middle of the Christmas cake and definitely creates that "Yum!" factor on Christmas Day. Enjoy!

Zack

Chef Jean Michel Chevet takes over as Executive Head Chef at The IVY at Dunboyne Castle Hotel

The IVY at Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa have announced the arrival of their new Executive Head Chef, Jean Michel Chevet. Dunboyne Castle Hotel is located at Castlefarm, Dunboyne, Co. Meath, just 18 km from Dublin City Centre and 20 km from Dublin Airport.


Jean Michel takes the helm at the award-winning IVY restaurant where he will lead the culinary team and plans to bring Dunboyne Castle’s restaurant offering to new heights. He has designed a new autumn/winter menu that is sure to tempt the taste buds - Click Ivy Menus. Jean Michel’s says his menu is "defined by innovative and wonderfully flavoursome dishes, along with his ability to preserve the original flavours of fresh, local ingredients."

Chef Jean Michel Chevet takes over the kitchen at IVY Restaurant in Dunboyne Castle, County Meath
 French born and classically trained Jean Michel’s food philosophy champions the use of the finest selection of seasonal, Irish produce to create quality cuisine. Having developed his skills in Michelin Star restaurants across the globe as well as in some of Ireland's top establishments like Ballyfin House and Lough Rynn Castle, Jean Michel brings with him over 20 years of experience.

Pan Fried Scallops, Cauliflower Couscous, Bacon Crisps, Juniper, Orange
Some of the gastronomic highlights featured on the brand new á la carte menu includes fresh crabmeat rolls, served with avocado purée, grapefruit and apple or fillet of brill, served with asparagus risotto, brown shrimps in a red wine beurre blanc, along with a selection of mouth-watering desserts including a pistachio and strawberry mille feuille with pistachio sponge and strawberry sauce.

The IVY Restaurant at Dunboyne Castle, County Meath
The IVY at Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa prides itself in producing an exquisite menu and pushes the boundaries to deliver an experience like no other. Having showcased its enticing menus throughout the years, the restaurant was awarded 2 AA Rosettes in 2013 and has since retained the coveted accolades that recognise culinary excellence. Dunboyne Castle also boasts 145 luxury rooms, along with an exclusive spa where guests can relax and rejuvenate.

Rhubarb Parfait, Brioche Crumb, Roasted Apricots, Raspberry Coulis
Speaking at Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa, Gráinne Ross, Managing Director, commented, “We are thrilled to welcome Jean Michel Chevet to Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa as our new Executive Head Chef. His culinary skills and passion for food are unparalleled. Our guests are at the heart of our business and we are delighted to treat them to an experience that is sure to warm their stomachs and hearts, throughout the winter months and beyond.”

Commenting on his new position Chef Jean Michel Chevet said, “The IVY at Dunboyne Castle has a superb reputation and I'm excited to come on board in the role of Executive Head Chef here. I hope not only to uphold the quality of the IVY offering but also to give it my own personal touch and take it to a new level that will really wow guests of the hotel and diners at The IVY.”

For more details and bookings see: www.dunboynecastlehotel.com and
you can Follow Dunboyne Castle on Twitter here:


Zack

Food On The Edge calls for Food to be a compulsory subject in all Irish Schools

The two-day international food symposium Food On The Edge finished up in Galway on Tuesday last, the 10th of October. More than 400 people attended on each day of Food On The Edge, Social Media Hashtag #FOTE2017, which was held in the Black Box theatre in Galway city. More than 50 of the world’s best international and Irish chefs and food leaders took to the stage to share their food stories and debate topics. Over 70 Irish food producers showcased their produce, to some of the world's best chefs, in the Artisan Food Village at the event over the two days.



The major theme of Food On The Edge 2017 was Action & Reaction and a number of speakers presented personal stories about how they have been inspired to take action in reaction to issues spoken about in previous years at Food On The Edge.

The actions that high-profile chefs have taken to address Hunger and Nutrition was a key theme, with Daniel Burns of Torst and Luksus in Brooklyn saying, “As chefs we can influence social change, act locally and spread the word globally.”  South African chef Margot Janse, founder of the Isabelo charity, and Spanish chef Quique Dacosta (Quique Dacosta Restaurant), ambassador for Action Against Hunger, also devoted their food stories to the topic of hunger and nutrition. 

CEO of Concern Worldwide, Dominic MacSorley, opened this year’s Food On The Edge with a talk on the topic of Reaching Zero Hunger.

The Food On The Edge team: (L-R) Edel McMahon, Event Administrator & Graphic Design,
Ruth Hegarty, Sponsorship Manager, JP McMahon, Symposium Director, Drigin Gaffey, Event Co-Ordinator
and Olivia Collins, Communications Manager, at Food On The Edge 2017
Tuesday the 10th of October was also World Mental Health Day and Mental Health in the Hospitality Services was another key theme. It was addressed by Irish-born, London-based chef Anna Haugh (Bob Bob Ricard), North American writer & author Kat Kinsman (Chefs With Issues) and North American chef Elise Kornack (from the former Brooklyn restaurant Take Root).

Another key theme was Work-Life Balance in the life of the chef and restaurateur, which was addressed by Norwegian chef Esben Holmboe Bang (Maaemo), who spoke about how he is taking steps towards creating a more healthy work environment for chefs and staff by having introduced a three-and-a-half day week followed by a four-day week.

Magnus Nilsson of Faviken, Sweden, said he believes that innovation and creativity can be increased by time out from work. “No one in the team should be indispensible and everyone should want to be there and not to have to be there,” said Nilsson and he encourages a policy of five weeks’ holidays per year and a healthy work-life balance.

“Head chefs forget to look after themselves,” said Nicolai Norregaard (Kadeau, Copenhagen) who also advocated for a better work-life balance in the industry.

Chef JP McMahon, Director of Food On The Edge, with Chef Magnus Nilsson, Faviken, Sweden
and Netflix's Chef's Table and Chef Robin Gill, The Dairy, Clapham and Masterchef Ireland
Education was another key theme and JP McMahon shared his “action & reaction” story about his new Education Agenda campaign to get food introduced as a proper subject in schools in Ireland. JP said, “I want to emphasise the importance of food and food education in Ireland. It’s essential to have food as a mandatory subject on the school curriculum. I think it’s really important that we do that. Food education can help combat childhood obesity, poor eating habits and it teaches the importance of Irish food culture.”

Four sixth class children from Galway Educate Together National School (where JP’s two daughters attend) concluded Food On The Edge by going on stage to read out essays they had written on the subject of the future of food.

JP McMahon closed the event by asking each person in attendance to sign a letter he had written to Ireland’s Minister for Education, Mr Richard Bruton, requesting that a Food Subject be made mandatory on the school curriculum.

Over 450 participants at Food On The Edge signed a similar Letter to Minister Bruton

After the two days of talks, the organisers of Food On The Edge took the speakers on a two-day trip to visit Irish food producers. Last year the trip saw the group explore Connemara, while this year they visited The Burren, taking in Kelly’s Oysters, Dunguaire Castle, The Burren Smokehouse and St. Tola Goat Farm, among others.

Super Congratulations to the passionate and dedicated team behind Food On The Edge and I'm certainly not going to miss Food On The Edge 2018! #FOTE2018


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The Irish Food Guide Blog www.IrishFoodGuide.ie includes news, foodie chat, recipes, award results, links and other general information on the Food & Tourism Industry in Ireland.

It is written & curated by Zack Gallagher, Donegal Town, Co Donegal, Ireland.

“My Blog is a slice of the Irish Food ‘Network’. I’m a Chef with over 27 years experience and also have a background in media. I’m passionate about Irish Food Tourism and I believe that a rising tide really can lift all boats!”

Supporting Irish Food created by passionate producers and encouraging the Irish food & hospitality industry to use modern social media methods to increase their business.

Zack is building an all-Ireland Food Tourism network to assist Tour Operators bringing guests into Ireland to connect easily with artisan Irish food producers, so as they can experience the provenance and personality behind our Irish food Visit www.IrishFoodTours.ie

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