Archive for December, 2009

Jamie’s Family Christmas – Channel 4

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

We’re currently enjoying Jamie’s Family Christmas on Channel 4. It has some nice recipes and tips on all things Christmas, and some not so Christmas. All of which I thought would be available on the official web site but it seems that only a selection from the show are posted at the moment, HOWEVER what is great is that the shows are on YouTube until mid-Janurary.

During each episode Jamie cooks with different members of his family which gives a nice informal feel. I enjoyed the segment of Jamie cooking with Gennaro in Episode 3.

While the recipes are not overly complicated they are made to look quick and easy due to the amount of pre-preparation done e.g. all the veg is washed, chopped and par-boiled when he does the roasted veg mix. Obviously nobody wants to see him wash and chop veg but but don’t be fooled that these things are as quick as they look.

Enjoyable show.

Web Site


Top ten tips for a stress free Christmas dinner

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

The countdown is upon us and daytime TV is full of TV programmes telling us how to have the best Christmas dinner ever and how to make your dinner table look like something Harry Potter would be proud to sit at during a Hogwarts feast. Nothing wrong with that if you have all day to do it but the preference at Messy Towers is on getting the job done and doing it well with the minimum of fuss. You may find this approach leaves time to actually enjoy yourself rather than spending your day sweeping up the tiny little stars you have scattered over the table and getting butter out of your pine garland…or the pine needles from your butter, whichever. Here are ten tips for a stress free day.

  • Don’t go overboard on expensive Champagne to greet guests with, try a Cava or Prosecco. Add a Cherry and/or a tiny dash of Creme de Cassis to give it the special look.
  • Instead of buying luxury Christmas crackers stick with the “fortune teller fish” variety and place a lottery scratch card on each setting. Pre-dinner card scratching is a great ice-breaker.
  • May be obvious but serve a cold starter, this can be prepared hours before kick off and put aside. Prawn cocktail or smoked salmon are the classics. Don’t buy farmed smoked salmon, use the money you saved on Champagne to buy wild salmon.
  • Don’t worry about matching the wine to the course or having to buy the traditional Christmas wines. Everybody is flogging ChâteauneufduPape and Chablis at the moment but there is no rule to say what you have to serve or there is no rule to say that expense is a measure of quality. Some of the lesser Chateauneufs, for which you will pay €15-20, can be overly aggressive.
  • Do your roast potatoes in duck fat. Par boil the spuds for a few minutes, let them cool slightly, score the outside and roast. This is one fancification that is worth doing but make sure you put aside some regular roasters for your vegetarian sister.
  • If you are not a Turkey fan, or do not care about having a giant carcass on the table for show, then get a scaled down version from your butcher. You can get a breast, crown or a rolled and boned version. These will actually fit in the oven and prevent you from having to get up and 5am to turn the oven on.
  • Prepare the veg beforehand. Even better prep and cook the veg beforehand. Red cabbage or ratatoullie are great candidates to cook the night, or even a few days, before. Both will actually benefit from a few days in the fridge to give the flavours time to infuse. Do the stuffing the day before. Do the ham the day before.
  • If people don’t like brussel sprouts then dispense with them. No amount of 7-Up or Cider or bacon or wood shavings will disguise the fact they are still sprouts.
  • Same goes for Turkey. Turkey is turkey and no amount of brining, marinading, basting or whatever will disguise the fact. Do your best to keep it moist but dispense with overly complicated techniques. If you have enough stuffing and nice veg to go with it nobody will bother about three or four slices of turkey being a little dry. Effort versus return. This one is a bit subjective and really depends on how much value you put on the turkey.
  • Don’t invite Tiger Woods if your porn star auntie is attending.

To sum up in three words, “keep it simple”.

Happy Christmas.

Roasted Red Onion with Bacon, Garlic and Herbs

Monday, December 7th, 2009
Roasted Onion

During the winter when our thoughts turn to roast dinners we rarely entertain the idea of including roast vegetables preferring instead to boil the arse out of our veg in a pot and consume them through a straw. Roasting veggies seems to be somewhat of a Mediterranean concept and one that seems yet to catch on elsewhere so lets get the ball rolling with some roasted onion. In its most basic form add a few whole onions to the tray next time you are doing a roast but you can also do them on their own with the recipe below. Steak and onions go together like … ehh whatever … but usually fried steak with fried onions. Roast beef with roast onion (and all the other trimmings) is a real treat.

Ingredients for one
One onion
One clove of garlic
One knob of butter
Two rashers of streaky bacon
1/2 Teaspoon dried Thyme

Slice the top and bottom off the onion and peel away the outer layer. Slice a deep “X” on the top and message in the butter, cover with the herbs and a loosely crushed (or quartered) clove of garlic. Wrap the bacon around the onion. If cooking the onions on their own then add another knob of butter to the roasting tray and roast at 180F for 90minutes. Alternatively add the onions in with whatever you’re roasting. Provided the temperature is not too high the longer the better, the onion and garlic should nice and mushy and sweet.