First of all I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to the staff of the Irish Farmers Journal for their work on my column through the year - I appreciate it - and to you, our readers, for your support.

Today I have some side dishes that you can pick and choose from. A tip for Christmas - don’t overcomplicate things. Two potatoes and two vegetables is always enough. And make sure you get the roast potatoes right. Try to use beef dripping for the best flavour. Check out James Whelan Butchers online for an award-winning dripping that can be delivered straight to your door. Or, if you have kept some goose or duck fat, that will be beautiful.

For something a bit different, and to jazz them up a bit, once the roast potatoes are cooked, sprinkle them with a couple teaspoons of truffle oil. Then, scatter over some freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve.

A lot of people tell me they love this mashed potato recipe. I sometimes replace the milk with crème fraîche or cream for a richer version. I like this way of doing Brussels sprouts. You can prepare it on Christmas Eve, or leave out the bacon to make it vegetarian. Roasting vegetables is a fantastic way of feeding a crowd with little effort. These carrots would also be delicious with red onion wedges and a sprinkling of chopped fresh rosemary.

Happy Cooking and Happy Christmas,


Golden Crunch Roast Potatoes

Serves 8 -10

1.5kg (3¼lb) floury potatoes (like Rooster, Desiree, King Edward or Maris Piper)

4 tbsp beef dripping, goose or duck fat

sea salt

handful of fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)

1 Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/gas mark 5).

2 Wash and peel the potatoes, reserving the peel. Cut the potatoes in half or into quarters, depending on their size. Put them in a large pan of salted, boiling water. along with the peel (it’s easiest if you can put the peel into a muslin infusing bag). Parboil the potatoes for eight minutes.

3 Meanwhile, put the beef dripping, goose or duck fat in a large roasting tin and put it into the oven to heat.

4 Drain the potatoes and discard the peel, then put them back in the pan and gently shake to rough up the edges.

5 Take the roasting tin out of the oven and put on the hob over a gentle heat. Put the potatoes in one by one – they should sizzle as they hit the pan – and baste all over. Season with salt.

6 Roast in the oven for about one hour, until golden and crunchy. Keep an eye on them and baste with a little more fat if they begin to look dry.

7 Add some fresh rosemary sprigs (if using) about 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Serve immediately.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Serves 8–10

1.5kg (3¼lb) floury potatoes (like Rooster), peeled and cut into even-sized chunks

120ml (4fl oz) milk or cream

75g (3oz) butter

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

snipped fresh chives, to garnish

1 Put the potatoes in a large pan of salted water. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat.

2 Simmer for 15–20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, but aren’t breaking up. Drain and return to the pan set over a low heat to dry out.

3 Mash the potatoes (or pass them through a potato ricer or vegetable mouli if you want a really smooth finish).

4 Heat the milk in a small pan or in the microwave. Using a wooden spoon, beat the butter into the potatoes until melted, then beat in the warm milk until you have a smooth, creamy mash.

5 Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve at once garnished with snipped fresh chives.


Colcannon: Traditionally made in Ireland with kale and was always served at Halloween with a lucky charm wrapped up and tucked in the centre for one person to find. Put a knob of the butter and a tablespoon of water in a pan with a tight-fitting lid over a high heat. Add 225g (8oz) of finely shredded cabbage or kale with two finely chopped spring onions and a pinch of salt. Cover, shake vigorously and cook for 1½ minutes. Shake again and cook for another 1½ minutes, until the cabbage or kale is tender but still crisp. Beat into the mashed potatoes with the warm milk.

Champ: Melt 75g (3oz) of butter in a sauté pan set over a medium heat and sauté a bunch of spring onions that have been finely chopped for 2–3 minutes, until tender. Beat into the mashed potatoes with the warm milk and season to taste.

Brussels Sprouts, red onion and bacon crumble

Serves 6-8

675g (1 1/2 oz) Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half

1 tbsp butter

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

2 slices of smoked bacon, cooked and chopped

200ml (7fl oz) cream

50ml (2fl oz) milk

A good pinch freshly grated nutmeg

50g (2 oz) fresh white breadcrumbs

25g (1 oz) walnuts, chopped

1 tsp chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

2 Half fill a pan with water and bring to the boil. Add the Brussels sprouts and simmer for 4-5 minutes, until just tender but not soggy. Drain and refresh under running cold water.

3 Butter a baking dish and tip in the blanched Brussels sprouts. Scatter over the red onion and bacon.

4 Mix the cream with the milk and nutmeg in a jug and season to taste, and then pour over the sprouts.

5 Mix the walnuts and parsley with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the Brussels sprout mixture.

6 Place in oven for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.

Roasted carrots with garlic and parsley

Serves 6–8

500g (1lb 2oz) carrots, scrubbed

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

pinch of caster sugar

pinch of sea salt

1 garlic bulb, broken into individual unpeeled cloves

a drizzle of balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/gas mark 5).

2 Cut the carrots into 1cm (½in) slices on the diagonal and place in a roasting tin. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle lightly with sugar and salt. Toss well to coat and roast for 15 minutes.

3 Remove the carrots from the oven and scatter over the unpeeled garlic, tossing until evenly combined.

4 Roast for another 30 minutes, until the carrots and garlic are tender and lightly golden.

5 Drizzle over a little balsamic vinegar and scatter over the chopped parsley, again tossing until evenly coated.

6 To serve, tip into a warmed dish and use as required.

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