The Christmas countdown has begun in our house. This chicken liver pâté is a recipe of my mother’s. I like to make my own pâté and it is lovely to have when friends call around. It will keep for three or four days in the fridge.

You need to soak the liver in milk first, as it removes any blood and bitterness. Use a good balsamic reduction - add a little port and you will have a wonderfully rich tasting syrup.

This cranberry and fig jam is one of my favourite chutneys. We serve it in the restaurant with cheese. It also makes a lovely homemade gift.

The smoked salmon and crab tian is the perfect quick starter. It is nice and light and a great combination of tastes. You could use trout instead of salmon, if you like. I am a great fan of Goatsbridge Trout outside Thomastown in Co Kilkenny, and I love Castletownbere Irish brown crab. I was filming in Madeira recently and ate the most fantastic avocados. The programme will be on RTE1 in January.

Happy cooking,


Chicken liver pâté with cranberry and fig jam

Serves 8-12

400g (14oz) fresh chicken livers

300ml (½ pint) milk

100g (4oz) unsalted butter, softened

3 shallots, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tbsp port

5 eggs

1 tbsp cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

balsamic and port syrup

Cranberry and fig jam:

3 tbsp olive oil

3 red onions, thinly sliced

175g (6oz) ready-to-eat dried figs, finely chopped

50g (2oz) dried cranberries

1 garlic clove, crushed

150ml (¼ pint) red wine

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 To make the cranberry and fig jam, heat the olive oil in a large pan and tip in the onions, then cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened but not coloured. Stir in the figs, cranberries and garlic until well combined, then pour in the red wine and balsamic vinegar.

2 Cook for about 10 minutes, until thickened slightly and the alcohol has cooked off, stirring occasionally. Stir in the sugar and thyme, then season to taste. Blend in a food processor for 1–2 minutes, until smooth, then leave to cool completely. Store in an airtight container or sterilised jar in the fridge and use as required. This will keep happily for up to two weeks in the fridge.

3 To make the pâté, soak the chicken livers in the milk (in a nonmetallic bowl) overnight to remove any traces of blood. The next day, drain off the milk and pat the livers dry with kitchen paper.

4 Melt 25g (1oz) of the butter in a sauté pan and gently sweat the shallots, garlic and thyme for 4–5 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Pour over the port and cook for another minute, until it has evaporated. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.

5 Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4). Line a 1.2 litre (2 pint) loaf tin with a double layer of cling film.

6 Place the chicken livers in a food processor and blend for 2–3 minutes, until very smooth. Add the shallot mixture with the remaining 75g (3oz) of butter, the eggs, cream and plenty of seasoning. Blend again for about 30 seconds, until well combined.

7 Pass the chicken liver mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large jug, then pour into the lined loaf tin – the mixture should come two-thirds of the way up the sides, as it does rise up to the top during cooking. Cover with tin foil and place in a bainmarie (a roasting tin half-filled with boiling water) and cook for one hour, until set but still with a slight wobble in the middle. Remove from the bain-marie and take off the foil, then leave to cool completely and place in the fridge until needed.

8 When ready to serve, invert the chicken liver pâté onto a flat plate or board and carefully peel away the cling film. Heat a large knife and cut the pâté into slices. Arrange the slices on each plate and spoon some cranberry and fig jam to the side of each one. Drizzle around a little of the port and balsamic syrup to garnish, if liked. Serve with toasted crusty bread and some lightly dressed salad leaves.

Smoked Salmon and Crab Tian for Neven Maguire / Janine Kennedy

Smoked salmon and crab tian

Serves 4

350g (12oz) smoked salmon strips

2 firm, ripe avocados

4 ripe tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and diced

1 tbsp snipped fresh chives, plus extra to garnish

A little extra virgin olive oil

Dash of balsamic vinegar

350g (12oz) fresh white crab meat

4 tbsp crème fraîche

1 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp chopped fresh dill

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

baby salad leaves, to serve

brown wheaten bread, to serve

1 Place 4 x 8cm (3¼in) cooking rings in the centre of serving plates and arrange half of the smoked salmon strips in the bottom of each one, cutting them down to size as necessary. Cut the avocados in half and remove the stones, then peel and cut each half into slices. Put a nice overlapping layer of avocado slices on top of the salmon.

2 Make a quick tomato salsa with the tomatoes and chives and dress with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then season with salt and pepper. Use to cover the avocado, then add another layer of the smoked salmon, using it all up. Cover with the crab in a nice even layer.

3 Mix together the crème fraîche and mayonnaise with the dill and place a quenelle on each tian, then garnish with chives and scatter some small baby salad leaves dressed with the olive oil around the edges of the plates.

4 Serve immediately with some slices of brown wheaten bread. CL