Friday Food Forum

Our final Food Month Q&A with Rachel Collins and our panel of food and drink experts

Rachel Collins Fri, Nov 29
LIVE: Friday Food Forum

Sort by:

  • Latest first
  • Oldest first
  • This event has now ended
  • 13:02
    Good afternoon and welcome to our Friday Food Forum. This is our last Q&A of Food Month - which finishes tomorrow - so make sure you get your questions in before 2pm.
    Answering your culinary conundrums today we have TV chef and cookbook author Donal Skehan, food writer Imen McDonnell, our Irish Times food and drink team, including Eunice Power, Marie Claire Digby and John Wilson, and Alanna Gallagher is here to help with your kitchen gadgets and equipment questions.
    So settle in and spend lunchtime with us, hopefully you’ll learn something new

  • 13:05
    Ana: I would love to be able to make a Hollandaise Sauce! Any suggestions?
    Donal I love Hollandaise sauce, especially on Eggs Benedict.  It can be very easily made and here's my recipe:
    2 large egg yolks
    150g butter, cold and cut into cubes
    Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
    Place the egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water.
    Whisk the yolks and slowly add the butter, bit by bit after each one melts, whisking continuously until it is completely combined and the sauce has thickened.
    Add the lemon juice and stir through. Turn off the heat, but keep the sauce warm over the pan of water.
  • 13:08
    Bobby: What to do with leftover cooked broccoli?  
    Imen: Hi Bobby, When life gives you leftover broccoli, make broccoli-cheddar soup! Or, simply cream of broccoli soup. Or, if you have more leftover veggies, make vegetable soup. If you want to get more creative, these broccoli parmesan fritters are pretty incredible too 
  • 13:09
    Jacqui Keogh: my sponges never rise to big and fluffy...even with lots of 'aerating' mixing...what am I doing wrong?
    Eunice: The reasons sponges don’t rise are: 
    1. You haven’t beaten the eggs and sugar for long enough    the mixture should hold a figure of 8.
    2. The flour must be folded in GENTLY with a metal spoon. 
    I also usually sieve the flour twice
  • 13:11
    Rachel: Don't forget, you can ask us a question by clicking here - or through the comment field at the top of the page
  • 13:12
    Jennifer: How do I make cronuts at home?
    Donal: Who knew Cronuts would be such a big deal - but since New York chef Dominique Ansel introduced them at his bakery earlier this year, they have gone viral across the internet with many people wanting to recreate them.  In Ireland, chef Gareth Mullins from Dublin's Marker hotel was one of the first to introduce them here  and having had one only recently, I can say they are absolutely delicious!  To make them at home is simple enough, it's just a basic croissant dough recipe and then you deep fry them as you would a doughnut.  
    There are plenty of good recipes on the internet on how to do it and I particularly like the look of Great British Bake Off Winner Edd Kimber's simplified version which are filled with a vanilla creme patisserie and topped with a lemon glaze. 
    Imen adds: Cronuts are so fun to make at home, just make sure you have a entire day free to prepare. And, be prepared to eat them all in one sitting, they are SO good. I swear by this video by Food Wishes 
  • 13:14
    Amanda: What is the difference between a food processor and a blender? Do they not do the same job basically?
    Alanna: A food processor is designed to cut through the dirty laborious work of chopping, slicing kneading, grinding, shredding or grating and pureeing depending on which attachment or blade you use. 
    A blender's main function is to blend or mix soft foods and liquids so while it might puree it won’t be able to perform the other tasks.
  • 13:16
    Elizabeth: I don't like beer, so when I have a curry I struggle to find wine to match. Can you suggest wines to go with Indian food and also Thai food please? 
    John: Aromatic whites from the New World go well with spicy fish and chicken dishes - Sauvignon, Pinot Gris and Riesling are all good. With powerful meat curries go for something equally powerful; an Aussie Shiraz a Malbec or a Southern Rhone.
  • 13:19
    Lucy: we're a group of 6 working shift work on Christmas Day and so can't go home to our families for dinner. We'd still like to have a meal together but don't have the time or energy to make a traditional roast turkey and trimmings. Any suggestions?
    Donal: Rather than getting into cooking up a big turkey you can still get the flavours of Christmas with a cheat's recipe here! Cranberry stuffed chicken breasts wrapped in pancetta and served with pan fried Brussels sprouts does the job 
  • 13:21
    Jude: My neighbours all come to my house on Christmas morning. There are usually 12-20 people. I'm fed up making the same old cheese, smoked salmon, etc. Do you have any suggestions please?
    Imen: What a lovely tradition Jude. Maybe try smoked trout or this gravadlax instead of the smoked salmon? Or what about Goatsbridge Trout Caviar blinis—little pancakes with a dollop of crème fraiche topped off with a spoon of caviar? I love serving festive coffees on Christmas morning, essentially cups of strong coffee with a pour of eggnog or Bailey’s Irish cream for a festive start to the day! Here's my eggnog recipe Happy Holidays to you
  • 13:25
    Omar  I'd like a really good chilli recipe please 
    Imen: Hi Omar,  Chili is one of our favourite, easy meals. There are so many recipes I love, but here is one of my all-time favourites: Chipotle Chicken Chili
    And you can source chipotles in adobo sauce + masa locally on My Mexican Shop
  • 13:25
    Brian: Do you have a perfect mulled wine recipe? 
    Eunice: Yes I do!
    Mulled wine syrup
    1 large orange
    500g caster sugar
    10 cloves, plus extra for garnish
    2 cinnamon sticks
    Half a nutmeg, freshly grated
    1 litre of water
    Peel the rind off the orange with a potato peeler. Juice the orange, sieve the juice and add it to a large saucepan along with the water, sugar and spices. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for five to eight minutes until you have a thick syrup.
    Allow the syrup to cool down, then pour it into bottles.
    When making mulled wine, I usually add about 50cl of syrup to a 75cl bottle of wine. Heat until almost simmering point - don't allow the mulled wine to boil as you don't want to burn off the alcohol. If you would like to make a non-alcoholic punch, add the syrup to a good quality bottle of apple juice such as Crinnaghtaun apple juice from Cappoquin.
  • 13:28
    Laura asked us about how to do a budget Christmas dinner. Both Imen and Donal had some great ideas for shopping and recipes 
    Imen: Hi Laura, Happy Holidays! Christmas dinner shouldn’t break the bank. Go ahead and strip away stuff that is not essential because it’s really all about spending quality time with family and friends, right? A budget-friendly meal is what we try to do here on the farm. Here are a couple thoughts: 
    1. Talking turkey: A whole turkey is less expensive per serving than a turkey roll or a turkey breast.
    2. Alcohol makes up a big portion of holiday meal spending. Assign guests to bring the wine. Serve plenty of water to drink along with other beverages. Take advantage of holiday wine deals (such as Lidl, O’Briens, Aldi) when alerted. Buy beverages in bulk. 
    3. Always Make It Yourself. This applies to just about everything from stuffing and sauces for vegetables to cranberry sauce and desserts. In almost every case, it   cost more if you buy the frozen convenience food or package mix. 
    4. Split it up. Do something really different and host the dinner as a pot-luck, where everyone brings a course. Will save money and be a really fun, convivial way to celebrate together. 
    5. Use Less. When it comes to holiday meals, many families have a tradition of having more food than is needed and food can go to waste. Think about having less food, less meat (usually the most expensive), less of other expensive items and a smaller quantity of foods served. Hope this is helpful! 

    Donal adds: Preparation is key when it comes to Christmas dinner.  Getting as much done in advance and sharing out the smaller jobs are the key factors in getting it right!  Even though you might be on a budget there's still ways to enjoy the meal without compromising on flavour.  Smoked salmon is a favourite starter for many but try something new this year and make up a smoked mackerel paté and serve with salad leaves and crusty bread as a cheaper alternative starter.  Make sure to choose your turkey wisely, shop around for the best price without compromising on quality and work out how many people you will serving and also allow for leftovers which can extend the meal out to Stephen's day and beyond.  I've been getting bronze turkey's from Gerry McEvoy in Sallins for the last few years:  Rather than spending too much on shop bought items like puddings, Christmas cake, crackers, mince pies, spend some time before the big day and make your own, you will get much better flavour and it will be kinder to your pocket.
    Also, make use of your leftovers, plan what you will do with them so you have ingredients in the house to make use of them.
  • 13:30
    Maeve: What are some good recipes/cookbook for a student wanting to start some Indian cooking? 
    Marie Claire: Hi Maeve, You won’t go wrong with any of Madhur Jaffrey’s books, particularly Curry Easy, published by Ebury.  You might also find Indian Food Made Easy, by Anjum Ananad, published by Quadrille, a good introduction. Online, you could read the blog Curry In A Hurry by Maunika Gowardhan, which has lots of fast, modern Indian recipes.
  • 13:32
    Fran: Goose fat or duck fat? Any difference? which is better?
    Donal: Goose fat for me I've tried both and taste is definitely better with goose fat!
  • 13:34
    Pat: do you have suggestions for wine to accompany the Christmas Dinner? We're having a traditional turkey - white and red ideas would be great thanks
    John: Hi Pat, turkey will partner up with all sorts of wine so long as it isn't too tannic or too light. I would go for a nice unoaked Chardonnay (Chile makes some good inexpensive examples) or maybe a Viognier. For reds, pinot noir is good as is Shiraz Southern Rhine or Zinfandel.
  • 13:36
    Deirdre: I love beetroot but other than roasting it or making soup I can't think of anything else to do - do you have some recipes please?
    Donal: Yes a shaved raw beetroot salad will change your life! I grow these fantastic candy stripe beetroot in my garden and shave them very thinly for a crunchy salad.  Dress them with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, sea salt, ground black pepper and some freshly chopped oregano.
  • 13:39
    Kate: What ideas would you have for edible Christmas gifts? There is the usual sloe-gin and mince pies etc, but have you any different ideas? 
    Imen: Hi Kate, my favourite edible gift is the gift of homemade butter! Using organic cream from the supermarket and a whisk, you can easily make country butter at home (and have a surplus of buttermilk for soda bread too!) Once you have the butter made, you can mix in fresh herbs or spices, wrap festively for a lovely gift of flavoured butter. Here’s instructions on how to make butter, so easy!
    This year, I am also planning on giving prepared frozen (chocolate) bread loaves as holiday hostess gifts. My friends have written a fantastic book on artisan bread baking which gave me the idea of bringing frozen loaves to our friends, who can then bake them when they want. Who doesn’t love fresh baked bread? Really lovely to have on hand in the freezer. If you don’t feel comfortable bringing a frozen gift, then this Holiday Gingerbread always goes down a treat too 
  • 13:40
    Lynda: What should I do with parsnips to make them more interesting?
    Parboil the parsnips and then coat them in oil and toss in grated Parmesan and roast - you get left with beautiful crispy parsnips
  • 13:41
    Jenny: I've gone through two knife sets so far, and neither has been great. Any recommendations for a decent, reasonably priced set? 
    Alanna: There are two options that kitchen buyer at Arnotts Liz Matthews recommends. She has a Henckels International Fine Edge Professional seven-piece set that includes a three-inch vegetable knife; a four-inch paring knife, a seven-inch slicing knife, an eight-inch chef knife, an eight-inch bread  knife,  a kitchen shears and a nine-inch sharpening steel. It is reduced from €219.95 to €85.95.
    The second option is a Swilling Pro six-piece set that includes a five-inch paring knife, a six-inch slicing knife, an eight inch chef knife, an eight inch bread knife and a twin sharpening steel and block, reduced from €289.95 to €146.95. She says chef Nevin Maguire is a fan of both brands and has bought the latter as a gift for friends.
  • 13:44
    Marie: Can you send me a winning beginner’s recipe for my partner (male) who doesn’t cook? It needs to be easy to shop for, easy to cook & taste spectacular – also must be presentable to friends as his “signature dish”.
    Donal: I think dishes that can all be prepared in advance and then cooked with little hassle are always winners and although Beef Wellington can sound a little overwhelming, my mini version from my new book HomeCooked are very simple to prepare, can be made in advance and always get a great reaction in my house!
    The perfect beef Wellington can be a tricky business, especially when serving to a group who are picky about how their meat is cooked. The solution is mini beef Wellingtons, individually wrapped so your guests can have them cooked exactly how they like.
    SERVES 6
    6 thick beef fillet steaks with a good marbling of fat
    Sea salt and ground black pepper
    1 tbsp olive oil
    English mustard, for brushing the meat
    Plain flour, for dusting
    500g puff pastry
    1 large egg, beaten
    10g dried porcini mushrooms
    1 tbsp butter
    3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
    300g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
    3 thyme sprigs
    100ml brandy
    100ml single cream
    To make the filling, first soak the porcini in boiling water for 10–15 minutes until they are plump and tender. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid, and chop finely.
    Melt the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat until foaming. Add the shallots and fry for 6 minutes until softened. Stir in the porcini and the chestnut mushrooms together with the thyme and cook for a further 6 minutes until tender. Pour in the mushroom soaking liquid, brandy and cream and simmer until the liquid has reduced and the mixture thickened. Put the filling into a clean bowl and cool completely.
    Season the steaks with sea salt and ground black pepper. Wipe the pan with kitchen paper and then place it back over a high heat with a little oil and brown the steaks, in batches if necessary, for about 1 minute on each side. Remove from the heat and rest for at least 30 minutes until completely cool. When cooled, brush each one with mustard.
    Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F), Gas Mark 7. Dust a work surface with flour and roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle measuring about 45 x 30cm and about 3mm thick. Divide the rectangle into six squares, each one big enough to wrap all the way around each fillet.
    Divide the mushroom mixture among the six squares and spread over the pastry, leaving 1cm uncovered all the way around. Place the beef fillet on top. Brush the pastry edges with the egg, then lift the pastry edges over the beef and turn over tucking in the edges neatly. Place the parcels on a baking tray, seam-side down.
    Cook in the oven for 15–20 minutes for medium rare or to your liking. Remove from the oven to rest for 5 minutes before serving on warmed plates with steamed greens.
  • 13:46
    Fred: Are ceramic knives better than stainless steel?
    Eunice: Ceramic knives are super, really sharp initially - the only drawback we find in the kitchen is one they lose their sharpness they are hard enough to sharpen - you really need to get them done professionally.
  • 13:51
    Jojo: can you give me some ideas on an alternative to Christmas cake? 
    Eunice: I will be covering this in the Irish Times Saturday Magazine on the 14th of December....think oranges, almonds, chocolate...
    Donal: In my family not everyone likes Christmas cake so we try and make a second dessert just in case. The trick is to find something that's both easy and can be made ahead of time. This Chocolate tiramisu is a great indulgent dessert and is perfect for the festive season. Make it in a trifle bowl and it's a real showstopper: 
  • 13:53
    Jane: Do you have a really good cranberry sauce recipe please?
    Imen: Hi Jane, Happy Holidays. Yes I have a cranberry recipe! And, you can get amazing Irish cranberries here in Ireland from Slievebloom Farmhouse Foods 
    Here is my go-to cranberry sauce recipe (the allspice makes it taste just like Christmas to me!)
    170g caster sugar
    300ml water
    800g fresh cranberries
    1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    grated zest of 1 small orange or tangerine
    Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and add the rest of the ingredients. Turn the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for about ten minutes or until thick. Let it cool before serving.
  • 13:56
    Sarah: I read Rosita Boland's piece about restaurants not displaying alcohol content on menus. Why do you think it is? Is there any point?
    John: Hi Sarah, I think it would be very useful and wish more restaurants would do it. If customers keep asking it might prompt them to do it. However wine labels are allowed a .5% error of margin so a 13.5% wine may in fact be 14% and possibly more.
  • 13:56
    Benny: Any ideas for more interesting sandwiches for my lunch?
    Donal: Roast tomatoes and store them in olive oil and they are great to add to sambos.  Also getting some serious bread will make all the difference. I love a bacon, avocado and roast tomato sandwich at the moment.
  • 13:58
    Leah:  What is your best recipe for brussels sprouts?
    Eunice: This is a super recipe - it has converted many from hating sprouts to loving them. Once you have tried Brussels sprouts cooked this way you will never boil a sprout again!
    Pan-fried Brussels Sprouts & Celery with Hazelnut Butter 
    Serves 6
    500g /1.1 lbs brussels sprouts, washed and sliced
    3 stalks celery, washed and sliced
    50g / 2oz butter
    75g / 3oz hazelnuts
    squeeze of lemon juice
    a little freshly grated nutmeg
    1. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan until golden. Remove from heat then tip the hazelnuts into the centre of a clean tea towel, fold the tea towel over and roll the hazelnuts until most of the skin is removed. Place the hazelnuts between two pieces of grease proof paper and tap gently with a rolling pin to break up the hazelnuts.
    2. Melt the butter in a large hot pan, add the brussels sprouts and celery, stir fry until tender but with a slight bite, add the hazelnuts and nutmeg and stir fry for a further 2 minutes. Check the seasoning and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Tip into a warmed dish to serve.
    Imen: Hi Leah, At the moment I am loving roasting brussels sprouts. Absolutely addicting! Peel the sprout leaves off the stalk (if you cut a V into the bottom of the sprout it will loosen up the leaves and make it easier to peel away leaves). Toss in a bowl with EVOO and minced garlic, sea salt + cracked pepper and roast on a parchment lined tray in a 200c oven for 10-12 minutes. So easy!
  • 13:59
    Kevin: I want to make duck at Christmas, but not a whole roast bird. Can you suggest some ideas for duck breasts please?
    Donal: My favourite way to cook duck breast is with a sticky honey and Szechwan peppercorn glaze.  Mix together 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce, 3tbsp of honey, 1tsp of rice wine, 3 cloves of garlic minced, spread this mixture over the duck and leave for 2 hours in the fridge. Heat the oven to 200˚C and place the duck in a roasting tray to cook in the oven for 15 minutes.  Just when the duck is cooked, flash it under a hot grill to get the skin nice and crisp.  It's delicious!
  • 14:00

    Mary: I can never get yorkshire puddings to work. Any tips and a good recipe please?
    Hi Mary, I love Yorkshire pudding. If you use a combination of milk and water, the puddings will be crunchier. If you use all milk, it will make for a softer, richer pud. The real trick is to have the pudding tin nice and hot, you must preheat your greased muffin or pudding tin for at least 15-20 minutes before pouring the batter. 
    For 12 individual puddings
    250g plain white flour
    150ml whole milk
    150ml cold water
    4 free-range eggs, beaten
    2 tbsp beef dripping or sunflower oil
    Sift the flour into a large bowl with a generous pinch of salt. Combine the milk in a jug with 150ml cold water.
    Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs. Pour in a little milk and water, and then whisk together to make a smooth batter. Mix in the rest of the liquid, until the batter is a creamy consistency.  Once the meat has come out of the oven, turn the temperature up to 230C. Put a 12-hole muffin tin, greased liberally with dripping or oil, on a high shelf and leave for 10 minutes to heat up. Take the tin out of the oven, if it doesn't sizzle when you add the first spoonful, put the tin back into the oven until it does.
    Put the puddings into the oven and cook for 15–20 minutes until well risen and golden. Keep an eye on them towards the end of the cooking time, but do not be tempted to open the door until they're beautifully bronzed, because they'll sink.

  • 14:01
    Eimear: Is there any difference between crushing and chopping garlic?
    Donal: Yes there is, there are plenty of different theories on this but if I want a stronger garlic taste I mash the garlic on the board with a little sea salt to break it down into a paste.  When I was in Italy this year, I noticed that a lot of the cooks don't use too much garlic in the dishes but instead fry garlic cloves in their skin in olive oil so that the flavour permeates the oil.  This is an excellent way of getting a more subtle flavour without overpowering the dish.
  • 14:03
    Patrick: Finding decent butchers in Dublin city centre open in the evenings is impossible, and I'm not a huge fan of buying meat in supermarkets. Are there any good butchers who offer a decent delivery service?
    Marie Claire: For something a little different, you could also try Irish Piemontese Beef who deliver their low-fat. low cholesterol lean beef produced  in Tipperary and Laois nationwide  
    Donal: Yes, James Whelan
  • 14:06
    Dan: I'm going to a few new houses this holiday season and wanted to bring cheese; are there three cheeses that I could bring that would stand out and still likely appeal to a majority?
    Imen: Hi Dan, Ireland has some of the best cheeses in the world so you won’t have to look far to find a trio of farmhouse cheeses that will be fantastic to bring as hostess gifts during the holidays season. Why not put together a small board of diverse cheeses? For example, (semi-soft, cow) Cooleeny or Coolea cheese, a lovely firm Killeen Goat Cheese with a Coolattin raw milk cheddar (with nettles if you can find it). We also love any of the  Corleggy sheep cheeses. I can’t think of a single Irish farmhouse cheese that wouldn’t be smashing! My go-to cheesemonger is Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, they will put together a nice selection for you based on your guest list and flavour preferences. You can find out more information on Irish cheese here  Also, don’t forget to bring a little jar of quince paste or sloe + crab apple jelly and maybe a box of Sheridan’s Brown Bread Biscuits 
  • 14:07
    Nora: Celariac seems to be really "in" at the moment. what can i do other than soup?
    Imen: Hi Nora, celeriac/celery root is such a gorgeous root vegetable, I love the woodsy, strong celery flavour. How about Celeriac Remoulade? It is lovely as a salad starter or to accompany pork dishes (Celeriac is pretty easy to prepare, but does discolour a bit once you cut into it so it’s best to make the dressing first)
    Celeriac Remoulade 
    Serves 6 
    240 g mayonnaise
    2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
    1 teaspoon of sea salt, plus more, to taste
    2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    freshly ground black pepper
    1 kg celery root/celeriac
    Mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, 1 teaspoon of salt, lemon juice, and a few grinds of black pepper. Peel the celery root and grate it coarsely. Mix the dressing with the celery root and taste, adding additional salt, pepper, mustard, and lemon juice, to taste.
  • 14:10
    Time for one final question from Frank: what is your best recipe ever?
    Donal: My favourite recipe ever has to be my Beef and Mango Salad, I make it far too often, but it's absolutely delicious and hits the spot every time.
    Marie Claire: The recipe that my family ask me to make most often, is grilled chicken thighs with soy sauce and Dijon mustard, coriander and orange zest. It’s a Ken Hom recipe from a very old book of his: Travels with a Hot Wok: 160 Quick and Easy Dishes with East-West Flavours. It’s a sticky, tasty, flavour bomb of a dish.
    Imen: Hands down, my brown bread recipe that I spent many, many hours testing and perfecting...a recipe which also won 2nd prize in an Irish Baking Competition this year. Not bad for a Yank! 
  • 14:18
    Stick a fork in us – we’re done!
    Thanks again to everyone who submitted questions this week and throughout Food Month. You can find all four of the forums on the Irish Times Food and Drink page
    Thanks to our panel today, Donal Skehan, who can be found on Twitter  @DonalSkehan, or his website  and keep an eye out for Donal’s new food magazine,  which is coming out next week.
    Thanks also to Imen McDonnell, who you can find at Farmette  and her column in Irish Country Magazine 
    Thanks also to The Irish Times food and drink team.
    Have a great weekend and thanks for reading