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Nollaig Shona

Recipe by Sara Gibbings

In Irish “Nollaig Shona” means Happy Christmas and for most of us Paddies the festive season involves being with friends and family, eating and drinking way too much, watching tons of rubbish TV and rarely going to the gym or go for a run because a)it’s too cold b) you’re too drunk and c) you’re in a carb coma.

My family Christmas is always in the Alt Empordà here in Catalonia. We mix traditions, picking and choosing the best of both worlds.

The weather is much better here and we definitely go for long walks every day on the beach or in the mountains or natural reserves, but we do stick to a traditional Irish meal for the day itself.

Here’s the recipe if you want to try it yourselves:


The Turkey
1 large free range Turkey (have your butcher take out giblets, clean the inside thoroughly and cut off head but keep the neck long. Keep the giblets and head for stock)
2 x large tubs Flora
1 large lemon
Maldon salt and fresh black pepper

The Ham
1 large ham or jamón canario with the fat still on
2 x litres of cider
4 large apples cut in half
5 tablespoons Brown sugar
½ bottle dark brown soya sauce

The Stuffing
1 slightly stale large white loaf made into breadcrumbs
1 large onion- finely chopped
1 large tablespoon dried sage (or a healthy bunch of fresh if you prefer)
Maldon sea salt & fresh black pepper
Milk to bind

Roast Potatoes
Good boiling potatoes- calculate about 3 per adult and 2 per child.
Vegetable oil

Mushy Peas
1 x pack of mushy peas per 4 people.
Water (as per instructions)
1 teaspoon Sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Maple Glazed Carrots
1 large bag of carrots, peeled, halved and quartered (calculate about 3 carrots per adult, 2 per child)
Olive oil
Big squirt of runny honey
Big dollop of Canadian maple syrup
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper

The Gravy
Scrapings from the turkey tray (fat and caramelized bits that fall off)
Scrapings from the roast potato tray + ½ small roast potato to thicken
1 cup Stock (made from the head and giblets of turkey- can make day before to save time)
1/3 glass red wine (you can drink the rest later!)

Get the (oven) gloves on and go!

The most difficult part of doing Christmas dinner is the timing so decide what time you want to eat and work backwards from there.

We usually eat about 5pm- so it’s a late lunch/early dinner. It’s all about multi-tasking so don’t drink too much too early or you’ll veer off schedule!

The Ham
08:00 Boil the ham in cider with the 4 cut up apples in a huge pot. Add water if it’s not completely covered. It will take 20 mins per pound (0.5kg) + 20 mins over. So a 2.5 kilo ham (average size) will take 2 hours(20min x 5 + 20min)

It’s a great way to start the day as immediately the house starts to smell gorgeous!

10:00 Take the Ham out of the cider and set on a tray to cool. Mix the soya sauce and brown sugar in a small bowl.

10:30 remove the excess fat on the ham and score the top. Rub the soya sauce and brown sugar all over the top and sides, making sure to get it in the scores to it sticks. The mix should be thick but pliable so that it spreads easily but sticks to the ham without running off. Pop into the pre-heated oven (about 200ºC) until the topping is well cooked. This usually takes about 30 mins.

11:00 Take ham out of the oven and leave to cool completely before slicing. Once cooled, cover and keep at room temperature.

The Turkey
Christmas turkey - Pavo de navidad10:30 Make sure the inside is clean, the next is closed up and tucked under and shove a lemon in the Turkey’s bum to seal.

This will be give a lovely fragrant tone and help keep the bird moist. Sprinkle the top and sides with salt and pepper and lather on a full tub of Flora (or similar product), making sure not to leave off the legs, wings, etc… you don’t want them to burn.

11:00 Pop turkey into preheated oven. Allow 20 mins per pound (0.5kg and 20 mins extra) so an 8kg bird will take about 5 hours, depending on your oven.

Remember to baste the turkey on and off- every 20 min or so. Use a long handled spoon so you don’t burn yourself. You need to keep the skin moist. If you see it’s burning on the high parts, just cover them with tinfoil.

16:00 Take the Turkey out of the oven. You know when it’s done when you can spear it and the juices run clear. Leave to cool completely on a tray before slicing. Cut both white and dark meat and don’t forget some of that sinfully yummy skin on the side!

16:00 Peel the potatoes and cut in half. Par boil them for 15 mins. Drain and allow to cool and dry.
16:20 Pop a baking try with vegetable oil (sunflower) into the oven to get piping hot.
16:25 place the potatoes in the tray of hot oil, turning them over to get covered in the oil. Place in high shelf of oven turning once.
16:55 take out of oven. Transfer to dish and serve immediately.

15:45 Peel carrots and place in small baking tray with olive oil, salt, pepper, maple syrup and honey. Turn to coat thoroughly. Place in high shelf of oven. Cook for about 45 mins on top shelf, turning once midway.
16:30 Cover the tray in foil and move to the in lower shelf of oven to keep warm. But remove and cover if getting dry or overcooked.

Mushy Peas
Your peas may need soaking overnight so please check packet and soak accordingly.Gravy - Salsa

16:15 Place peas in saucepan of boiling water with sugar and salt. Bring to boil and then return to simmer. Cook for about 45 mins, stirring occasionally to avoid the peas sticking to the bottom of the pot.
17:00 take off heat. Cover to keep warm and serve immediately.

16:55 Take scrapings from turkey tray and roast potato tray (2-3 spoons) and place in a saucepan. Heat gently. Add turkey stock (hot) and red wine. Bring to the boil for a few minutes to allow reduction. Add ½ roast potato (mashed up) to thicken and simmer for a couple of minutes.

17:00 Take off heat, sieve and serve in gray boat, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Tuck in to your feast and enjoy!

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