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FOOD Smoked-salmon terrine and mince pies


The taste of Christmas

The taste of Christmas

Bookend your Christmas dinner with these treats

Terisina Fitzpatrick

So by now, you are really getting into Christmas – shopping, presents and my favourite (after shopping!), food.
In my house the new tradition is to have a fish starter. This comes from my Achill in-laws. Being from the east, I really wasn’t sure about the notion of a fishy first course in the beginning, but now I am totally smitten by it.
Each year, my father-in-law very kindly brings a side of smoked salmon from Jerry Hasset. I like to make it the centerpiece it deserves to be, using it to create, in advance, a really simple starter, simple to prepare and easy to enjoy.

Smoked salmon terrine with local veg salad
(Serves six)

What you need

  • 600g sliced smoked salmon
  • 500g cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup pure cream
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 bunch watercress, trimmed

What you do
Line six ramekins with some cling flim, allowing for a bit of overhang. Cover the base and sides of the ramekins with some of the sliced smoked salmon, pressing gently around the edges.
Put the cream cheese, cream, lemon rind, lemon juice, dill and capers in a food processor. Blitz, and season to taste.
Scoop some of the salmon and cream cheese mixture into the ramekins, pressing gently and covering with the overhanging cling film. Refrigerate for at least two hours, or until ready to serve.
Then simply unwrap the cling film, and turn the ramekin upside down onto your serving plate, discard the cling film. Arrange a fresh salad around the smoked salmon terrine, and enjoy.

Mince pies
Who can resist the sweet, fruity aroma of mince pies this time of the year? I know that mine go missing almost as soon as they come out of the oven. I like to make a few versions. Once you have the basics, there will be no stopping you! Here’s a delicious recipe for mince pies that will get you on the road.

What you need

  • 400g plain flour
  • 200g margarine (room temperature)
  • Three tablespoons of chilled water
  • Jar of homemade mincemeat (see below), or very good quality shop-bought one
  • Dusting of icing sugar

What you do
Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Lightly grease a 12 portion-bun tin. Rub the margarine through the flour until you create fine breadcrumbs. Gradually add about three tablespoons of chilled water and mix with a knife to a soft dough. Cover with cling film and keep in fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Roll the chilled pastry on a floured board and cut rounds with a cutter to fit the greased bun/patty tins. Put two teaspoons of mincemeat into each portion and cut a star shape from the left over pastry to put on top.
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Once cool, dust with icing sugar and enjoy.

Christmas mincemeat is simply sugar, fruits (both fresh and dried), brandy and suet. I remember as a child watching my granny Nora making mincemeat, and wondering what the strange little white bits of suet were. Of course I didn’t understand fat, but knew that something tasty and magical was happening, as it always did when she baked.
Mincemeat is so easy to make. This recipe takes about 20 minutes to prepare and two-and-a-half hours to cook. In less than three hours, you’ll have three jars of your very own home-made mincemeat.

What you need

  • 6oz/175g raisins
  • 4 oz/110g sultanas
  • 10 oz/275g currants
  • 4 oz/110g candied, mixed peel, finely chopped
  • 6 oz/175g shredded suet (beef or vegetarian)
  • 1/2 lb/250g soft, dark brown sugar
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 Bramley or cooking apple, cored and finely chopped, no need to peel
  • 4 tbsp brandy

What you do
In a large oven bowl, combine all the ingredients except the brandy, stirring really well. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave overnight.
Next day, preheat your oven to 225°F/110°C/¼ gas. Remove the tea towel and cover the bowl with a lid, or foil and place in the warmed oven. Carefully remove from the oven after about 2.5 hours, and put to one side to cool down.
Once cool stir the mincemeat again, add the brandy and stir again.
Fill sterilised jars with the cold mincemeat, cover with a wax disc and a lid. The mincemeat will keep up to one year in a cool, dark place. Now you have the foundation of your mince pies!

Terisina Fitzpatrick is a Westport-based artisan baker specialising in cakes, cupcakes, occasion and wedding cakes. She currently teaches Back to Basics in Bakery classes in the Westport area. For more information, call Terisina on 087 6492754.