Kicking off our new series, Christmas With The Chefs, Dublin Cookery School’s Lynda Booth shares her Christmas memories and favourite recipes.
What is your first food memory of Christmas?
I grew up in Boyle, Co Roscommon. I am grateful to Chris O’Dowd for making that sound trendy these days. I have great memories of log fires and crazy relations and snow (it really did often snow there at Christmas) and walking in my favourite park in the whole world (Lough Key Forest Park). And friends and family coming back for Christmas, bringing life to a quiet town. Food was very traditional and very good: turkey, plum pudding, mince pies, the works.
Can you tell us a little about your Christmas celebrations, and what it means to you?
I am lucky in that the cookery school gets quieter as December progresses and so this is the month when I try to catch up with friends. That gets me into the spirit and I love pottering around town at this time. Christmas Day is then just for family. Christmas morning we generally head to the Forty Foot. I always bring my togs and then duck out at the last minute – some traditions have to be upheld.
Do you follow your mother’s recipe for Christmas dinner or have you evolved?
My strongest food memory from my childhood was a roast duck dinner which we usually had on Christmas Eve. We all knew it was my Dad’s favourite meal which gave it special significance. My Mum always included “duck cakes” which are a variation of potato cakes with parsley and panfried in duck fat. I always include them at some point over Christmas as they are laden with happy memories.
What unusual addition is unique to your Christmas feast?
I am NOT recommending this but the meal is the best part of Christmas Day for me and I don’t want it to end. I plan it to go on for hours. Kids can race off after each course and then re-gather. We are a mix of foodies and non foodies. I would usually have a few tasting courses such as a mini cup of veloute soup, ravioli (made and frozen a few days earlier) so that we foodies are happy before the rest roll up their sleeves and get stuck into the traditional turkey. Adding courses to the Christmas dinner would sound completely crazy to anyone else but it works. There is usually enough food for the next week which leads to a good easy winding down and recovery.
What are your top three tips for a person cooking their first ever Christmas dinner?
Well I know I am biased but if I had never cooked Christmas dinner before I would go on a course. We run a Christmas course on a choice of Saturdays in December. It makes the whole business so different if you are confident about what you have to do.
Secondly, I would be sure to organise a team so that I am not left with total responsibility. I would worry much less about the result and much more about everyone rowing in and enjoying the process.
And lastly you get no extra credit for being the martyr. Keep reminding yourself that it’s your Christmas too – build your own moments along the way. There will be a lot of demands on you so take the opportunity to refill your tank along the way. Make sure that you too have a Happy Christmas.
What recipe would you recommend for entertaining over the Christmas period?
My chocolate and pistachio cake is wonderfully indulgent. Chocolate cakes that are made with good quality dark chocolate generally last for 5 days to a week and still taste as wonderful as the day they were made. This cake can be made a couple of days in advance of Christmas and so will last for the week of festivities. It has a lovely light consistency which ressembles that of a chocolate mousse.
Chocolate and Pistachio Cake
150g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
150g caster sugar
1 tabsp rum (optional)
5 eggs, separated
150g unsalted pistachios, finely ground
1 tsp vanilla
Equipment: 24cm springform pan or cake tin
Preheat the oven to 120°C, 100°C Fan, 250F, Gas ½
Line the tin with a circle of baking parchment. Grease the sides of the tin with butter.
Place chocolate, butter and rum (if using) in a heatproof bowl. Melt in the microwave in short bursts at 600W, stirring regularly. Alternatively, place over a saucepan of barely simmering water just until fluid. Remove from the heat and mix in the sugar, reserving 3 tablespoons sugar to add to the whipped whites.
Separate the yolks and the whites. Whisk the yolks into the chocolate mixture. Beat the whites with an electric beater to stiff peaks. Add in the 3 tablespoons sugar and whisk again until stiff. Mix a large spoonful of the whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the ground pistachios alternately with the whites.
Scoop the mixture into the cake tin and spread out evenly. Place in a preheated oven for about 55 minutes until the cake is totally set when you press the centre very gently. Remove and allow to cool in the tin.
To slice, dip a chopping knife in very hot water, dry the knife and slice cleanly.
Get Cooking At Dublin Cookery School
January signals the start of Dublin Cookery School’s next professional Three Month Certificate cookery course. The course attracts a mix of ages and abilities from all over Ireland and across the globe. Some students arrive at the school wanting to up their game and take their cooking to the next level and others come to realise their dream of working in a top restaurant or starting their own food business.
Every day of the course involves lots of hands-on cooking with passionate and experienced tutors on hand to help and challenge you to meet your full potential. You’ll learn first-hand from Irish chef and owner of the school, Lynda Booth, and guest chefs including John Wyer (Forest Avenue), Sunil Ghai (Ananda) and Rossa Crowe (Le Levain Bakery) throughout the course. This will be backed up by sessions with wine and cheese experts and workshops with food business and health & safety advisors.
Come the end of the 12 weeks, you’ll be full of confidence, knowledge and ambition.
Dublin cookery school’s One Week Cooking For Friends and Cafe Cooking courses have been in such high demand this year that they will be running more frequently in the New Year, the first of which starts on Monday 30th March.
The school have also chosen to add three new course titles to their schedule for 2015; Hot From The Wok, Store Cupboard Challenge and A Taste of Mexico. These will complement existing courses including the hugely popular Cook Smart, Eat Smart, A Cheat’s Guide To Gourmet Cooking and Get Inspired By Wholefoods courses amongst others.