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How to Cook a Turkey & my Favourite Stuffing Recipe

The turkey is the centre-piece of the traditional Christmas Dinner and it's also great for any other special occasion, like Thanksgiving in the USA, which is why cooking it properly is so important. 
Mess it up and not even the best side dishes will save you! 

Turkey is becoming very popular because it is relatively low in cholesterol and high in vitamins that boost the immune system. It's also very juicy and tasty if cooked right! 

So here are some tips on how to prepare & cook your perfect Turkey! 

A juicy & tender whole roasted turkey really does add to the sense of occasion at Christmas or Any time!

1. First things first. Buy a Fresh Turkey if you can. Don't buy a turkey that has been pre-stuffed as mishandling or incorrect cooking can cause bacteria to multiply inside the stuffing.

2. It's so important that if you are buying a frozen bird, that you thaw your turkey completely before cooking. If it’s done improperly, bacteria can multiply to a point where even oven temperatures won't be able to kill all of them off. This can cause food poisoning. 
The safest thing to do is to thaw your turkey in the fridge, but if you don't have the room, put it into a roasting tray in a cool room, covered with a dry cloth until it defrosts. You should leave the turkey in its original wrapper until you're ready to cook it.

3. If you're placing the turkey in the fridge (raw meat should always go the bottom shelf) also put it on a tray to catch all the juices that may leak out.  It takes approximately 2 days for a 15 pound turkey to fully defrost.

4. Don't wash your Turkey. The water splashing around will spread more bacteria than you are washing off it.

5. Add some extra flavour by loosely filling the cavity of the bird with some peeled vegetables like carrots, celery, onion & garlic which work great together. 

6. Before roasting, coat the outside of the turkey with real butter and season it with sea-salt and ground black pepper. Cover the complete bird with streaky bacon to add more flavour and to keep it from browning too much. Don’t forget to cover the legs too! Add a mug of water to the tray. 

7. Loosely cover the complete bird with tin foil and scrunch it up around the edge of the tray. Once you get the turkey in the oven, resist the temptation to open the oven door! Every time you open the door the temperature drops and all the moisture escapes increasing the likelihood of a dry bird.

8. Have your oven pre-heated to 180°C (170°C for a fan oven), 365°F, Gas mark 4, so that the turkey is going into a hot oven.

The easiest way to calculate Turkey Cooking Time is to convert the weight to Pounds (lbs) and Cook the bird for 20 Minutes per pound with another 20 minutes Extra added to the total cooking time. 
To convert from kg to pounds multiple the kilogram weight by 2.2 

Example:
A 5kg Turkey x 2.2 = 11 pounds
11 pounds x 20 minutes = 220 minutes 
PLUS add the 20 minutes Extra
equals 240 minutes (4 hours) Total Cooking Time

9. About half an hour before the turkey should be done, remove the foil from the breast to crisp up the skin.

10. Test the turkey using a sharp pointed knife by inserted the knife the meaty area above the top of the leg. Push in the blade and the gently ease down on it. Juice from the turkey will run down the blade.
If the juices run clear then it is cooked. If there are traces of pink in it give it another half an hour in the oven and test it again.


If you have a cooking thermometer ensure that the centre of the thickest parts return a minimum temperature of 65°C.

11. After you take the turkey out of the oven let it rest, under tinfoil, for about 15 minutes before carving. This lets the hot juices relax and spread evenly through the meat, giving a moist and juicier bird.

12. Relax, Don't Panic and Enjoy!

My Favourite Stuffing Mix

This is a stuffing recipe that I have used for years. It is versatile and adaptable and can be used with any type of meat. This makes enough for 8 people - generous portions!

This is my recipe but you can add whatever herbs you like to your stuffing!

My Ingredients:
250g (10oz) butter
200g (8oz) diced onion
100g (4oz) diced red onion
100g (4oz) grated carrot
1 tblsp chopped thyme
1 tblsp chopped parsley
1/2 tspn cracked black pepper
2 cloves garlic diced
1 tablespoon of Mixed herbs
300g (12oz) white breadcrumbs made with crusts and all
300g (12oz) wholemeal breadcrumbs made with crusts and all
Use Gluten Free Bread if you wish

My Method:
1. Simply place the butter and all other ingredients, except the crumbs, on a medium heat and cook gently, stirring, until the onions and other veg are soft.

2. Add the breadcrumbs and mix in well until the crumbs have absorbed all the butter and juices.

3. If the stuffing feels a little dry (depending on the type of day, the weather, the heat of the kitchen or one of another hundred amazingly uncontrollable conditions) I tend to add a little splash of my favourite white wine at this stage and mix well and then add a little of the cooking juices from the cooked turkey just before serving.

Enjoy your Turkey!

Zack

Make Your Own Christmas Pudding and Whiskey Custard

Christmas pudding is also known as plum pudding because of the abundance of prunes in it! This rich tasty pudding is made of a mixture of fresh or dried fruit, nuts and suet (beef or mutton fat) and traditionally boiled or steamed. Vegetarian suet may also be used.

The pudding is dark and can be saturated with whiskey or brandy, dark beer, or other alcohols. They used to be boiled in a "pudding cloth," but today they are usually made in pudding bowls.



People have always stirred lucky charms into their Christmas pudding mixture for good luck, similar to those in Halloween Barmbracks. These charms included silver coins (for wealth), tiny silver wishbones (for good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), a gold ring (for marriage) or an anchor (for safe harbour) and whoever got the lucky serving, would keep the charm!

Ready-made and cooked puddings are available in the shops but they will never compete with the pleasure that comes with making your own Christmas Pudding!

So, here's my easy to make Christmas Pudding recipe with a whiskey (or brandy) custard cream too!

My Ingredients:
125g ready-to-eat prunes, chopped
225g raisins
225g currants
225g sultanas
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
50g chopped almonds
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
225g demerara sugar
225g suet (I use vegetable suet rather than beef suet)
125g fresh white breadcrumbs
125g plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
3 eggs
150ml Stout
1 tbsp black treacle
35ml Irish Whiskey

It sounds like a lot of work - but the Christmas Pudding is very easy to make!
My Method:
1. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.

2. Whisk the eggs, stout, whiskey or brandy and black treacle together and stir into the mixture.

3. Cover and leave to stand overnight in a cool place.

4. Butter three x 600ml pudding bowls and put a circle of grease-proof paper in the base.

5. Pack the mixture into the bowls and smooth the top. Leave about 2.5 cm space to the top of the bowl.

6. Cut a double layer of grease-proof paper into a 30cm circle. Cover each pudding with the paper and tie with string around the edge. Tie another piece of string across the top of the pudding so that it can be easily lifted in and out of the pan.

7. Put the bowls into a heavy-based saucepan (placing an up-turned plate in the bottom of the pot first, to raise the pudding bowls off the bottom of the pot). Pour boiling water around the edge until it comes two-thirds of the way up the sides of the bowls. Cover with a lid and simmer for 3 hours. Top up the pot with boiling water to the starting level every hour.

8. Lift out the puddings after 3 hours and let them cool. Put on a new grease-proof or parchment cover and then cover tightly with foil.

9. Store in a cool dark place until Christmas. The puddings will keep for up to six months.

10. To serve cut into portion sizes and heat in a microwave, on full power, for 1 minute until piping hot. Warm two tablespoons of whiskey or brandy in a small saucepan. Set alight and carefully pour over the pudding. Serve with my flavoured custard cream (see recipe below).

Christmas Pudding with a Brandy Custard Cream!
Whiskey Custard Cream
This is a very simple and tasty Christmas cream that I prefer to serve with my Christmas Pudding more than anything else!..

Whip 250ml cream until it holds a figure eight shape and stir it into 250ml of cold custard. You can make this yourself or buy it pre-made. Pour in 35ml (one shot) of Irish Whiskey (or brandy) and add a pinch of grated nutmeg and stir until smooth.

This can also be served over warmed mince pies for a delightful change to the usual! Enjoy!

How to Make a Real Irish Coffee

I thought you'd like to have this recipe for my Irish Coffee, as Christmas is around the corner and you might have far too much Irish Whiskey lying around the house but they're delicious at any time of year!

The important rules for making a perfect Irish Coffee are:

1.  Whip the cream before you start!
2.  Make sure your Coffee is hot and strong.
3.  Heat the Glass with boiling water before you assemble the drink, but place a teaspoon into the glass before you add the hot water and this will stop the glass from cracking.
4. Pour out the water and 3/4 fill your glass with hot strong coffee.
5.  Stir in the sugar until dissolved, but don't take too long doing it!
6.  Add the whiskey and stir it well so that the coffee is still turning gently when you are putting the cream on top.
7.  Never mind about pouring the cream over the back of a spoon or any of that nonsense! Simply dip your teaspoon into a glass of hot water and quickly, but carefully, scoop the whipped cream and place it on top of the hot coffee. The hot spoon will make it slide on to the Irish coffee.
8.  Three or Four teaspoons of lightly whipped cream will be sufficient and it will float perfectly on top of your Irish Coffee if you have followed all of the above simple steps.


You can right-click on this picture below, save it as a image, Print it out on card and stick it on your fridge for Christmas. By New Year's Day you should have perfected the recipe and method for making a yummy Irish Coffee!




Enjoy!

Zack

Kitchen of Hope Charity Cooking Fundraiser

A Kitchen of Hope is coming to Bray on the 7th November 2022. 

This is a charity event to raise money for Beaumount Hospital and The Royal Donnybrook  Hospital.  

These hospitals have saved the lives of both James Maguire, son of Kenny Maguire of Kenny Maguire Demos, (he's a nephew to Neven Maguire) and also Cathal Morahan, son of chef Rory Morahan. 

There is no such thing as a free lunch and both families are so thankful  for the positive result. It is time to give something back 



They are all bringing together a night of culinary magic to Colaiste Raithin, in  Ravenwell in Bray, County Wicklow.

Grainne Seoige is the MC for the evening with chefs Neven Maguire, Paul Kelly and Bray local, Charlo, with Greystones Simon Hudson (Sysco) and a few other special guest on the night.

Please support and join us.

Tickets are available picked €22.50 at https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/kitchen-of-hope-tickets-441469445997

An Irish Whiskey Pumpkin Pie for Halloween

The original Jack O Lanterns were carved from turnips, potatoes or beets and has been a popular tradition here for centuries! Immigrants from Ireland brought the Jack O Lantern tradition with them when they went to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America,  were easier to carve into the perfect Jack O Lanterns and they made great pies too!

In recent years, Pumpkin Pie is becoming a popular Halloween dish here in Ireland, as coffee shops and restaurants have been adding this sweet, mousse-like dessert dish to their seasonal menu. I'm adding another little piece of Ireland to the Halloween story, by flavouring my Pumpkin Pie with a little Irish Whiskey. You can use whichever brand is your own favourite!





The first recorded recipe for pumpkin pie was published as a 'Pompkin Pudding' in 1796, in a book called American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. This cookbook is considered to be the first Cookery Book to be published by an American, in America. Only four copies of the first edition are known to exist!


The first American Cookbook: American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons, 
published by Hudson & Goodwin of Hartford, Connecticut, USA, in 1796

Pumpkin Pie is made in the same way as a Baked Cheesecake or a Custard Tart and is flavoured with cinnamon, cloves and ginger. If you've never eaten some, you could be excused for thinking that it might taste like a savoury vegetable quiche - but it's really more like a sweet cheesecake in a pastry crust! The Gingernut biscuits add flavour and also help to make the base crunchier. The evaporated milk gives a richness to the pie and the Irish whiskey works just perfectly with the spices to give it a yummy taste sensation!

You can make this recipe at any other time of year by substituting Butternut Squash or Sweet Potato instead of pumpkin. Their texture and taste are almost the same when flavoured and cooked. In the US, you can buy canned puréed pumpkin for use in cooking.

Becky Pumpkin - Butternut Squash - Sweet Potato


This recipe makes one 10" x 1.5" Pumpkin Pie

To Make the Pumpkin Puree:
Cut a medium-sized pumpkin into wedges and discard all the seeds. Cook the pumpkin in a 160*C oven for 30 minutes or in the microwave on high power for 12 minutes. Scrape off all the cooked flesh and purée it quickly in a blender until smooth. (If you are using canned pumpkin purée you'll need to spoon it onto a clean tea-towel and squeeze away as much liquid as possible.) You'll need 400g prepared Pumpkin Purée for the pie.  

The Puréed Pumpkin, a Splash of Irish Whiskey & Crushing the Gingernut Biscuits

Sweet Pastry and Base
250g Plain Flour
100g Butter
75g Light Brown Sugar
1 medium egg
a little Cold Water
100g crushed Gingernut Biscuits

1. Rub the butter into the flour until it's like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix in. Break in the egg and quickly pull the pastry together adding a little cold water if needed. Roll it out and line a floured  10" Pie Dish (about 1.5 " deep). Trim off any extra pastry.

2. Crumb the Gingernut biscuits in a blender or by placing them in a sandwich bag and rolling them with a rolling pin until fine. Sprinkle the biscuit-crumb over the pastry base, pat it down and refrigerate until needed. Crush the Gingernut Biscuits and gently press them onto the Sweet Pastry.

Crush the Gingernut Biscuits and gently press them onto the Sweet Pastry

The Filling
3 Medium Eggs
160g Light Brown Sugar
1x 410g can Evaporated Milk
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Ginger
A pinch of ground Cloves
1/2 tsp Salt
400g Your Pumpkin Purée
35ml Irish Whiskey

1. Break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk them well. Add the brown sugar and mix in for 30 seconds until they're thick and creamy. Add the can of Evaporated Milk and mix well for about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin purée along with the flavourings and mix everything together until smooth. Lastly add the whiskey and stir it into the filling.

2. Carefully pour the mix into your Pie Dish and tap the side of the dish a few times to help raise the air bubbles to the top. Bake in the centre of a pre-heated oven at 160°C for 40 minutes.

3. Check the pie as you would when testing a sponge cake. It should be soft, but responsive to the touch when it's cooked - giving you a little spring in the centre when gently pushed down.  Leave the pie aside, in the dish to set, until cold.

Zack's Irish Whiskey Pumpkin Pie

To turn it out, put a flat plate on top of the pie, turn it over tap the bottom of the baking tin. Lift off the tin gently. Now put your serving plate on the base of the pie and turn it back over! 

It's now ready to serve with a little fresh cream to which another little drop of Irish Whiskey has been added.

Enjoy!

Zack

Picking Blackberries & my Blackberry Madeira Pie Recipe

Everybody loves Blackberries. There are quite a few runs of pretty good wild Blackberry hedges around where I live. As the roads are quiet enough too, they don't get infused with exhaust fumes so much. But this year, while nosing around a few old back roads I hit the jackpot and found a good quarter-mile of the biggest,  juiciest, most bountiful blackberry bushes I've ever seen!


I parked up the car and pulled out the wee bowl my daughter and I had taken with us just in case we found some of these luscious fruits of the forest. It turned out that I needed to use the basin I had in the boot of the car since the last cooking demo I had done! There were blackberries as far as my eyes could see - I was like a wee boy again - smiling to myself as we picked the berries, eating almost as many as we picked! They were so perfectly ripe they almost fell off their husks into our hands. 



I was reminded of when my brother and I used to stay with our aunt, Nora Boyle, a few miles out of Donegal town, for two weeks during the summer months, so that Mum could have another room for the Bed & Breakfast guests. Nora is a great baker and instilled in me a lot of the older Irish recipes that I still love to make. She grew fruit and vegetables at home, baked every day, dried Dillisk on bedsheets in the garden and used to send us out picking blackberries so that she could make her Apple & Blackberry Jam to put on to the yummiest homemade Treacle & Ginger Bread ever.

We'd spend half the day away up fields and back-roads, with our cousins, picking and eating the juicy wild berries until we were sore!


I'm a great believer in 'smell' and how it can trigger memories and transport you to a particular point in your life with the deadliest of accuracy. Well, for me, the smell of blackberries means 10 years old, on holidays, "in the country".


The smell of fresh ripe blackberries is something so heavenly and unique as to enchant even the most distinguished wine connoisseur's scent glands. When it's said that there are "notes of Blackberry" in that Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 or whatever, well they probably haven't had the chance to stick their sniffer into a hand-picked bucket of the real juicy blackberries, just off the 'vine'!


Anyway, so Lily and I picked just under 3KG of these large, shiny, blackish-purple berries in about 40 minutes! On the way home I was wondering what to make first, a Crumble, a Tart, just Jam, some Chutney... but I decided to make a blackberry variation on the classic Irish Apple Cake of pastry bottom, apples and sugar, sponge topping.

Blackberry Madeira Pie

A 10" Pie Tin
Preheat your oven to 170°C


My Ingredients:

Sweet Pastry
200g Plain Flour
100g Butter
75g Caster Sugar
1 medium egg
a little Cold Water

Madeira Sponge Mix
100g Butter
100g Caster sugar
2 medium eggs
125g Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence
a little milk


Filling:
500g Blackberries
4 tablespoons caster sugar

Glaze:
2 tbls. Honey
2 tbls. Orange Juice
(or Marmalade Jam)


My Method:

1. Wash the blackberries gently, with cold water, in a sieve and let them drain while you make the rest of the pie.
2. For the pastry rub the butter into the flour until it's like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix in. Break in the egg and pull the pastry together using a little cold water if needed. Refrigerate.
3. For the Madeira, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add one egg with a tablespoon of flour and beat well until smooth. Add the 2nd egg with a little flour and beat well until smooth. The little bit of flour helps to stop the mix from curdling as you mix in the egg.
4. Add all the flour and mix in well. Add the vanilla essence and mix in. Add a little bit of milk to bring the Madeira mix to a dropping consistency.
5. Grease the pie tin with a little butter and dust with flour. Roll out the pastry and line the tin. Press it in gently and trim off the extra bit.
6. Fill the lined tin with the blackberries and dust with the caster sugar.
7. Spoon the Madeira mix over the top and using the back of a spoon dipped in cold water gently smooth out the mix to fill all the gaps.
8. Bake in the pre-heated oven for approx. 40 minutes or until the sponge is firm to the touch and golden brown.
9. Heat the honey and orange juice together, for 20 seconds, in a cup in the microwave and brush this glaze (or some marmalade jam) over the warm pie.


10. Stand back and see how long you can wait before you start eating it!

Enjoy.

My post on Making Hedgerow Blackberry & Apple Jam is Here and my Blackberry Ice Cream is Here!

Zack

Zack's BBQ Sauce & Basting Stock!

With this wonderful weather upon us and the whole of Ireland pulling out their BBQs to take advantage of the sunny afternoons, I thought that I’d give you a tip that will help turn your Barbecue into something really special!



The first thing to note is that you should not coat your meat (any type) with the Barbecue sauce until it is almost finished cooking. The reason for this is that the sugars and tomatoes in the BBQ sauce will caramelise and burn on the outside of the meat before it is actually cooked on the inside!

Instead you use a Basting Sauce (aka basting stock) while it's cooking to keep it moist and add flavour. Use a 1” paintbrush to coat the basting sauce over the meat as it is cooking. 


When your food is cooked, brush the BBQ Sauce over the meat and give it another few minutes on the grill to glaze and finish the flavouring.

My Basting Sauce Recipe:
500ml apple juice
100ml olive oil
50ml malt vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Chicken stock cube
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tspn thyme
1 tspn rosemary
½ tspn paprika
½ tspn black pepper
½ tspn salt

Put everything in a pot and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Use this to moisten your meats as they cook.

My BBQ Sauce Recipe:
50ml olive oil
1 medium onion
5 cloves garlic
1 red chilli (deseeded)
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
50g brown sugar
4 tbls honey
50ml soy sauce
300ml tomato ketchup
100ml brown sauce
1 tbls Treacle
1 tbls Sesame OIl
1 tbls Dijon mustard
1 tbls Worchester sauce
juice and zest of 1 lemon
juice and zest of 1 orange
1 tspn Tabasco sauce
½ tspn cracked black pepper
100ml water


Chop the vegetables roughly because your going to blitz the sauce in a food processor when it's cooked. Put them into a large pot and add all the other ingredients. Bring it all to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer the sauce for 30 minutes. Blitz in a food processor or with a blitzing gun, you can make it smooth or leave it a little rough for a bit of bite. You can use this BBQ sauce straight away or you can put it in the fridge overnight to help the flavours develop. 

When your beef, chicken, ribs, lamb, Kebabs, burgers, sausages, fish, prawns, or whatever you're using, is cooked to your liking, simply brush the BBQ sauce over your meat, give it another few minutes on the Barbecue to add a tasty, shiny, crispy delicious glaze that will have your guests licking their fingers with delight!

My BBQ Sauce is also excellent for rubbing on Chicken Wings or Pork Ribs. Cook the meat in a pre-heated oven at 180°C until its done. Take it out and brush with the BBQ Sauce and pop back in the oven for another 10 mins. Delicious!


Both sauces can be made in advance and kept in the fridge. The BBQ Sauce will keep for months, if you jar it when its still hot. 

Enjoy the Sunshine and insist on locally-sourced Irish food for your BBQ!


Zack

The Wild Atlantic Way is the world's Longest Coastal Route