It’s almost Christmas! I’m so excited. With only two days to go I always start to feel like a kid again and find myself falling asleep with a smile on my face with the anticipation of what’s to come in the next weeks. Long lazy days by the fire, gorgeously wrapped gifts under the tree and of course food. Glorious home cooked meals which are prepared slowly and eaten just as slowly in the company of those you love.
In my house I have somehow slipped into the role of head Christmas chef. I guess it’s because I tend to get super excited and plan elaborate courses which often take ages to prep and plate up -hey I’m a designer! I often make a slow beef roast which my grandfather taught me when I was younger and which features five days of marinading, five hours of roasting and lots of delicious ingredients like bay leaves, roasted red cabbage and filled garden pears but this year I thought I’d try out something new.
While thinking about what to cook, I thought how lovely it would be to base a meal around ingredients from the garden and make sure there is something from my own garden in every part of the meal. At this time of the year ingredients from the garden are certainly limited but there are still plenty of herbs, winter veg and foraged wild goodies to be found if you plan ahead, get creative and go for a wander.
Here are some ideas for some delicious and easy dishes inspired by the garden. They are perfect as a meal served with some roasted potatoes, buttery couccous and also make for nice nibbles to serve for guests-especially the baby beats and the bruschetta. So easy to prep, they look so pretty and taste even better.
3 easy ideas for Christmas food inspired by garden produce
Shells brown bread garlic bruschetta with sugar snap pea, asparagus tips and wild pea shoots with goat cheese crumble
On of my favourite breads is made by the amazing Shells seaside cafe bakery in Strandhill, County Sligo and this bread is the base for this amazingly delicious take on bruschetta- a perfect Irish version using local ingredients and foraged touches.
What you need:
-a good quality brown bread -this one is from Shells cafe
-St Tola Organic Goats Cheese
-Organic Prosciutto Cotto- available from Sheridans cheese mongers
-sugar snap peas
-roasted asparagus tips
-foraged wild pea Vetch shoots-Vicia sativa ssp. segetalis
-place your bread under the grill for 2-3 minutes or grill on a griddle pan.
-chop a garlic clove in half and rub over the tops of the crisp bread
-place some Prosciutto on each bread and add a sliced sugar snap pea and grilled asparagus tips
-garnish with a delicious baby shoot of vetch (they taste like pea!)
-sprinkle with St Tola Organic Goats Cheese, fresh black pepper and serve.
Roasted golden Baby beets with whole caramelised garlic cloves
This one’s all from the garden. The baby beets, the garlic and even the olive oil and lemon juice (though admittedly the olives and lemons were not grown by me!). This is the most simple recipe out of all and makes for a super nibble to serve due to the bite size of the gorgeous beets and the sweetness of the roasted garlic. The key is all about the freshness and quality of the beet and other ingredients.
What you need:
-Yellow Baby beetroots -garlic cloves,
-Organic olive oil,
-Fleur de sel (or coarse sea salt)
-lemon juice (to avoid browning)
–I washed the beetroots just before I cooked them as the soil keeps them fresh after harvesting.
-I then simply placed garlic and beets on a baking tray with a small bit of water on the tray to avoid them drying out while roasting and sprinkled them with coarse Fleur de sel salt. (any coarse sea salt will do but this is the queen of salts!)
-I then baked them in the oven for twenty minutes. You should aways keep the peel on while cooking or baking them as otherwise the nutrients are lost. I actually love to eat them with the peel as this tends to get crispy and delicious roasted but if you prefer you can peel them before serving, revealing the zesty lemon colour.
-I left the leaves on them when I roasted them because I prefer how it looks and they are like little handles to hold them but if you prefer them without simply cut them off at the base.
-serve on a platter with the roasted garlic
Roasted organic Chicken with garden stuffing served with pomegranate seeds
What you need:
-one medium size organic chicken (about 1.5kg)
-Pomegranate and fresh mint and thyme to serve
For the stuffing:
100g Tartine baguette bread – broken into pieces
1 tablesp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablesp. fresh mint, chopped
1 small shallot, cut into quarters
2 cloves of peeled and chopped garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g Irish butter, softened
To Make the Stuffing:
Place the broken up baguette, mint and thyme as well as the chopped shallot and garlic in a food processor. Process it until you have a nice crumbly mix. Then add the butter and whiz again before putting the mix into the cavity of the washed chicken. (I always wash the chicken inside and out with some lemon juice for freshness).
-Place the stuffed chicken in a roasting tin -up side down and sprinkle with olive oil
-roast for about 1 hour 20 mins
-Turn and baste the chicken halfway through cooking and spoon the juices over the chicken
-To check if the chicken is cooked pierce the thickest part of the leg. If the juices run clear it’s done.
-Allow to rest for 10 minutes and carve the meat, adding some delicious stuffing to each for serving
-Serve on a bed of butter couscous and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and fresh mint and thyme and serve
Ingredients from the garden
Heres’ some of the lovely ingredients that made their way into the recipes. Straight from the garden.
Even at this time of the year there are plenty of herbs which you can use. I had thyme and mint in abundance in the garden so these made there way into the chicken recipe. There are plenty of evergreen plants which are wonderful for cooking at this time of the year and herbs such as bay leaf and rosemary are great for roasts and soups. Plan ahead now and grow some in the garden for cooking all year round.
Beetroot is one of the easiest vegetables to grow and what’s wonderful about it is that if you grow them fairly late in the year you can even harvest them now, perfectly in time for Christmas dinner. I sowed my golden beets in Autumn (though admittedly in the glasshouse where they seem to grow well for most of the year). Baby beets are basically just beets picked before the are fully mature, often they are picked out to give more space to areas where too many beets were sowed. I love the flavour of these small brightly coloured beets and while they are not as sweet as red beets, they have a lovely earthy mellow flavour and are perfect for slicing in a salad or roasting.
I love garlic, especially roasted and use it in most recipes. It also happens to be fairly easy to grow and can be planted in autumn or early spring. I plant it both in Autumn and Spring which allows me to harvest garlic throughout the year when the leaves turn yellow.
Sugar snap peas and Wild pea shoots
I grow both of these in the garden and while my outside sugar snap peas have finished, the glasshouse ones are still going strong. The taste of these is sugary sweet as the name idicates and delicious as a snack-especially for kids. I love serving the wild relative Vetch as a pretty garnish and this herb grows wild everywhere. Its curling little shoots make the most pretty garnishes -even at this time of the year the pretty annual is still abundant- and in Summer the flowers add a dash of edible colour to the plate.
Many thanks to the Cat and the Moon Sligo and Martina Hamilton
Shot on location at W8 Village in Manorhamilton