Local produce gave us a Christmas dinner to remember


SUCCULENT SECRET Brining the chicken overnight before roasting produces a succulent, flavoursome bird.


Redmond Cabot

On Christmas day we began proceedings with a couple of Clew Bay oysters from Padraic Gannon before enjoying a soup of roasted parsnips and apple from the Ryder family in Kilmeena and our own apple tree. Sprinkled with roasted and crushed walnuts from my brother’s neighbour in Slovenia.
Main course vegetables were superb sprouts, slow cooked long-cut leeks and delicious chucky carrots, and our best version yet of roasted Kerr’s pinks from the Ryders again. By bringing the peeled and cut potatoes to a boil, draining and bashing them around in the pot with a lid on and then roasting the fully dried potatoes in olive oil, we had our best result in years.
Meat was provided by a roasted organic chicken from Western Shore farm in north Mayo. We sat for three hours, time slipping away to eternity, and it felt good. Non-traditional dessert was homemade brownies provided by sister Louise. Simple foods, local foods, natural foods. All contributing in no insignificant way to our feelings of well being. Fresh foods have higher nutritional values too.
For 2021 the message remains the same: Eat fresh, and eat local where possible. Buy with your eyes, and don’t be afraid of trial and errors with recipes. Avoid processed foods or those not in a natural state. Find your local producers and prepare as much as you can yourself. You will not go too wrong with that. Happy New Year wishes from all of my family to one and all.

Brined Roast Chicken
So, it’s Christmas Eve, and the Brunette arrives back from the last of the messages, telling me how some of her friends were preparing a brine to soak their poultry in over night. I had no definite plan for my cooking (surprise surprise) so I said ‘If it’s all about brining the birds this year I’d better give it a go!’ A quick Google and I tried this method, which I have to say was an absolute winner, easy to comprehend and implement, and definitely producing a top-class dish. Here you go. We used a chicken because a turkey would have been surplus to our needs, so it’s a chicken-brining recipe here.
Brining works by submerging the chicken in a salty and sugary water solution overnight. This tenderises the meat and infuses flavours, leading to a tasty and succulent result.

What you need

  • 1 free-range chicken
  • 2-3 litres Water
  • 160g sea salt (we used delicious Achill Island Sea Salt)
  • 250g light brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 tbsp each coriander seeds and fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp each black peppercorns and allspice

What you do
Simply add all ingredients for the brine into a large pot. Clean and wash the chicken if required, place in the brine solution and cover overnight, stirring on occasion.
The next morning, remove chicken, allow to dry or pat dry, no need to wash. I like to rub oil on the outside of the skin and then season, or push melted butter between the skin and body before roasting.
This year we used a roasting dish with a lid, so cooked the whole bird that way sitting among leeks, onions, and carrots with a big glass of wine thrown in (water is fine either). We slow cooked it for three to three-and-a-half hours, at 140°c, while at Mass. We then removed lid for ten minutes and heat turned the heat up to 170c, to brown outside of the chicken. Remove the bird and allow to rest before serving. If you are cooking with an oven tray, make sure to keep some liquid around the bird, and maybe cook it covered in foil first, and then remove to brown.

Red Cabot has had a lifelong interest in food. In 2010 he began selling fresh food sauces at Westport Country Market, open every Thursday at the Old Railway Hotel, North Mall, Westport, 8.30am-1pm.