Gaz Smith, Michael’s, Little Mikes and Big Mikes, Dublin

“I’ve got this lovely dream of having a quiet Christmas. Because we work full-on in the restaurants until last minute, the last thing I want to do is have anyone over. As it gets closer though and the end is in sight, we start to change our minds. Then we might hear about friends on their own, and they join the table.

It’s a very relaxed affair. We wake up, not too early as the kids are older, and we have a really nice, relaxed, but dirty, fry-up around 11.30am. It’s a huge buffet of breakfast bits. We’re all full after that so we don’t have our dinner until the evening.

My favourite part of the day is sneakily eating the Christmas sambo in the kitchen at about 11pm. It is huge, could be half a metre tall. The special thing about the sandwich is I like a few very specific garnishes in it along with the meat: cauliflower cheese and a slick of strawberry jam, which I normally like in any savoury sandwiches to be honest. I’m actually convinced people lie that they like cranberry jelly. It’s watery and horrible. For me, it has to be strawberry jam.

It can be hard to get fresh bread on Christmas Eve, so it might be made with sliced pan, but preferably a nice batch loaf. Then, butter, roast lamb slices – this is normally our main meat at dinner rather than turkey – slices of ham, squash some Yorkshire puddings in there, cauliflower cheese, and a sneaky roast potato or two, plus the stuffing. My two important condiments have to be mint sauce – a nice shop-bought, vinegary one – and the strawberry jam. I will be thinking about the sandwich all day long. I even sometimes hide some Yorkshire puddings so the kids don’t eat them all on me.”

Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School, Cork

“We usually start our dinner with a grape and watermelon cocktail dish that we have made forever. It’s such a retro 80s dish. You have to peel the grapes and take the pips out of the watermelon with a hair pin, so it’s really quite a labour of love. We scoop the melon into balls. In fact, we sometimes sit down the day before or after with a few people around the table and still laugh at the fact we make the dish – we say, “life is too short to peel grapes”.

However, it’s such a delicious combination and we often serve it with fresh mint, which can be difficult to get at Christmas. That’s pretty much always what we have before the big roast and heavy dinner.

The recipe is in my Christmas cookbook, which would you believe is still in print after all these years? It was published originally in 1989 and republished in 2014. I feel privileged to be part of so many people’s Christmases. It seems like half of Ireland cook out it every year. People tell me funny stories about it and their experiences with recipes.

Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce is always a big favourite and many are surprised by how simple it is to make cranberry sauce and bread stuffing. The latter was something Myrtle showed me how to make. Not forgetting the Chocolate Christmas Tree, that is a popular one. Imagine people who made that as children now make it with their own children? It’s very special to me.”

Stevie McCarry, Native Seafood and Scran, Coleraine Marina

“In our house, we’re obsessed with stuffing. We actually make three different types. The first is made with breadcrumbs, seeds, and butter – that’s the crumbly one. Then we make a more traditional one with butter, sage and sausage meat. The third one is a riff on the traditional one and no surprise I guess, because we’re a seafood restaurant, it is a fish version of it.

It came about because we have a fish sausage roll on our tasting menu. The fish meat that we use for that is what we use in the stuffing. You make it the same way you would sausage meat – we take all of the trim of the fish and fish belly and that makes our fish meat mixture. We usually use coley and monkfish because coley has a lot of fat and monkfish is meatier so you get that texture you’re looking for. Add loads of shallots, garlic and butter to this. The stuffing is made the same with breadcrumbs, tarragon or sage, lemon zest and heaps of butter, of course.

I trialled it this year and it’s actually good as a standalone dish too.

To make a pescatarian option for Christmas, you can use Gurnard red fish, bone it out and use the upper half like a crown. You wrap it together to cook it like a whole roast. It eats the same way. Make gravy, using red wine and the heads of the fish, like a jus, but instead of beef or chicken stock, it has fish stock instead.

When people normally substitute meat for fish dishes, they are light and dainty, but at Christmas you want it to be more robust and moreish. You want to be able to unbuckle your belt after eating it.”

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