Regular readers will know that I am a great fan of Irish potatoes. We serve them in a lot of different ways in the restaurant. At home, I serve them regularly with beef or chicken. People have their own favourites, but I particularly like Roosters and always seem to come back to them. Sometimes, with this recipe, I scatter some grated Parmesan over the potatoes, and during the roasting I add in some whole cloves of unpeeled garlic.
Beef dripping has been made fashionable by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. He is an incredible food inspiration to me and the awards for this product are many, including the very prestigious Golden Fork. If you decide to use duck fat, there is the excellent Skeaghanore Duck in west Cork.
Sprouts are a big part of the main event at Christmas. Always take care not to overcook them; they need to hold their shape. This is a very tasty mix with a good range of textures. Leave out the smoked bacon to make a vegetarian dish. Instead of the cream and milk you could use a white sauce. There is very little work in this extra-tasty dish.
Golden Crunch Roast Potatoes
1.5kg (3¼lb) floury potatoes, such as Rooster, Desiree, King Edward or Maris Piper
4 tbsp beef dripping, goose or duckfat (from a jar or left over from a roast)
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.
3 Put them in a large pan of salted, boiling water along with the peel (add the peel to a muslin bag, if you have one, to keep them separate from the potatoes). Parboil for 8 minutes.
4 Meanwhile, add the beef dripping, goose or duck fat to a large roasting tin and put it into the oven to heat.
5 Drain the potatoes and discard the peel, then put the potatoes back in the pan and shake gently to rough up the edges.
6 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 with the fat. Season with salt.
7 Roast in the oven for about one hour, until golden and crunchy; keeping an eye on them and basting with a little more fat if they begin to look dry.
8 Add some fresh rosemary sprigs (if using) about 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Serve immediately, as these do not appreciate hanging around!
Brussels sprouts, red onion and bacon crumble
675g (1 ½ oz) Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
Knob of butter
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 cooked slices smoked bacon, diced
200ml (7 fl oz) cream
50ml (2 fl oz) milk
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 oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Half fill a pan with water and bring to the boil.
2 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 and season to taste, then pour over the sprouts.
5 Mix the walnuts and parsley with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over top.
6 Place in oven for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.