Smoked oyster and bacon stuffing

I couldn’t resist this recipe and will definitely be making it for one of the Holiday meals this year. You’ll need about 4 cups of unbaked stuffing for a 12-pound bird if you’re stuffing the bird, but personally, I like to roast the stuffing separately.

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Serves 8
1 loaf crusty white bread, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (8 cups)
3 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
2 large celery stalks, diced medium
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 cup packed drained smoked oysters (from three 3-ounce cans)
1 cup crumbled cooked bacon (from about 8 slices)
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On two rimmed baking sheets, arrange the bread in a single layer. Toast until dry and pale golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion and celery are softened, about 7 minutes. Add the oysters, bacon, thyme, and vinegar and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Add the parsley, eggs and bread; stir to combine. Add the broth in two additions, stirring until absorbed after each addition. Season generously with salt and pepper and transfer stuffing to dish. Bake on middle rack until deep golden brown on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

** Tip.
Toast the bread up to 2 days ahead and store in airtight containers or zip-lock bags.

Stuffed pumpkin filled with “everything good”

You can do more with a good quality pumpkin than carve it and stick a candle in it — you can also stuff it, bake it and eat it all up.

That’s what cookbook author Dorie Greenspan suggests in her new cookbook,  “Around My French Table”. Greenspan says she loves her recipe “Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good” because it has “almost no rules.”

“So you can play with it. You can change the filling a million different ways, once I used some leftover cooked rice in place of the bread. It became almost like risotto. You can put in nuts, you can put in apples … you can put in chestnuts.”

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Makes 2 very generous servings but can be augmented to serve more

1 pumpkin, like a Hubbard, about 3 lbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 lb stale bread, sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 lb cheese, such as Gruyere, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2–4 garlic cloves (to taste) coarsely chopped
4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme
About 1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that’s just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin.
** If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you’ll have to serve it from the pot — which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn’t so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I’ve always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I’ve been lucky.

Using a very sturdy knife — and caution — cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween jack-o’-lantern). It’s easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle.
You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin.

Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.
Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper — you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure — and pack the mix into the pumpkin.
The pumpkin should be well filled — you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it.
Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little — you don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (But it’s hard to go wrong here.)

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours — check after 90 minutes — or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully — it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly — bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.

When serving
You have choices: you can cut wedges of the pumpkin and filling; you can spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful; or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I’m a fan of the pull-and-mix option. Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls or wedges, it’s just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.

Avocado toast with cilantro-lime-cashew cream

A wonderful light meal. Avocado on toast is one of my favorite things and this Cilantro-Lime-Cashew cream is perfect to drizzle over it.

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Serves 4

4 pieces of bread
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup Cilantro Lime Cashew Cream (see below for recipe)
freshly squeezed lime juice
sea salt & coarse ground pepper
crushed red pepper {optional}

Toast your bread.
Slice your avocado in half, lengthwise and remove the pit. Scoop out the avocado flesh and spread it or slice it onto the toast. Each piece of toast takes roughly 1/4 of the avocado. Squeeze some fresh lime juice on top of the avocado to prevent it from browning.
Drizzle the cilantro-lime-cashew cream generously over the avocado and top with a pinch of sea salt, pepper and crushed red pepper.

Cilantro Lime Cashew Cream

This creaminess literally takes 5 minutes to whiz up and you’re going to want to put it on everything. It makes about 1 cup, so make extra you’ll want it.

1 packed cup of fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lime, all the juice + zest

Blend everything together on high until smooth. Store it in an air-tight container, refrigerated, for up to a week.

Roasted cauliflower with toasted garlic breadcrumbs, saffron and dried cranberries

My favorite vegetable and the most versatile and low calorie one around. This is sort of like a Sicilian recipe but replaces the raisins with the dried cranberries to make it a little different.

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Serves 4

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
A few tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
pinch saffron
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Small handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 F
In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower together with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.
Spread out on a baking sheet into a single layer. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until brown at the tips.

In the meantime,in a small saucepan, bring the stock up to the boil, add the saffron and cranberries and remove from the heat.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the foam starts to subside, add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant.
Add the capers for another 30 seconds and then the breadcrumbs. Toast for a minute or two, until golden brown and then remove from the heat.

Toss the cauliflower together with the saffron/cranberry mixture and the toasted pine nuts.
Top with the capers and breadcrumbs and some chopped parsley and serve immediately.

NB You can substitute the cauliflower or add Brussels sprouts or broccoli florets to it and treat it the same way as the cauliflower.

Roasted tomatoes with garlic, Gorgonzola and herbs

I absolutely love these, and they’re super to serve with drinks, as a starter or as a side to some grilled meat or poultry. Thank you to Giada de Laurentiis.


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Serves 6

12 Roma tomatoes, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise
1/4 cup olive oil
2 big cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
3/4 cup finely crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, or grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 F

Using a teaspoon remove the seeds from the tomatoes.Place the tomato halves, cut side down, on paper towels to drain, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together 2 tbsp of the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Using clean hands, gently toss the drained tomato halves in the oil mixture until coated. Marinate the tomatoes for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl mix together the breadcrumbs and Gorgonzola (or Parmesan) cheese.

Place the marinated tomato halves cut side up on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Fill each tomato half with the breadcrumb filling. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until slightly softened and the underside of the tomatoes are brown.

Arrange the tomatoes on a serving platter, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Easy no knead Guinness bread

This is another great moist, dense and very tasty bread we had in Ireland. The addition of Guinness beer whether draught or canned, makes it so rich and flavorful. All it needs is some salty Irish Kerrygold butter and some smoked salmon!


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This recipe makes one loaf and is better served fresh and slightly warm, especially as it’s a no-knead recipe.

5 ½ cups plain wholemeal / wholemeal all purpose flour
1 ¼ cups plain white / white all purpose flour
½ cup oatmeal
2 ½ teaspoons of baking soda or bicarbonate of soda
2 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cups black treacle or molasses
½ pint draught or canned Guinness

 Preheat the oven to 350 °F and lightly grease a standard loaf tin with butter.
Place all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub into the dry ingredients until it resembles fine breadcrumbs – I recommend working quickly as the mixture can easily become greasy if over mixed, or mixed using too warm hands.
Add the milk, black treacle or molasses and the Guinness. Mix to create a wet dough.
Grease a standard loaf tin, add the wet dough and bake in the oven for 40 – 45 mins or until the bread is well risen and cooked through.
Leave for 10 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Eat while slightly warm if you like, or leave to go completely cold. Delicious with salty butter and Irish smoked salmon, cold meats or cheeses.



Val’s Ballinkeele brown soda bread

At the beautiful manor house of Balinkeele, County Wexford, Ireland, where we stayed for a night on our two week driving trip of Ireland, we got to know the young owners of this stunning property, Laura, Val, and their four young children. They live in the house, run a bed and breakfast in it and do all the cooking and cleaning themselves. At breakfast we were served this delicious  bread warm from the oven. The recipe, which is easy to make, is Val’s handed down over the generations and it was to die for.

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This was our bedroom and the view across the lakes and gardens was stunning.


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After breakfast we strolled around the property, taking as many pictures as possible of the gorgeous lakes, pathways and gardens.

Ballinkeele lake.

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Dry Ingredients
14 oz wholemeal flour
3 oz plain flour
4 tbsp mixed seeds & nuts, (like pumpkin, sunflower, pine nuts, golden flax seeds, chopped nuts, or whatever you fancy)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Wet ingredients
14.5 fl oz buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp honey

Heat the oven to 450 F. Grease the inside of a 2lb loaf tin – cut a piece of baking parchment to fit the base.
Mix the dry ingredients together except for 2 tbsp of the nuts/seeds mixture, in a large bowl. In another bowl or a pitcher, mix the wet ingredients together, using a whisk, but don’t beat the mixture too much.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the wet ingredients in and mix well.
Turn the bread mixture into the loaf tin and pat down on the top with a fork or spatula. Scatter the remaining 2 tbsp seeds and nuts along the middle of the length of the loaf tin.
Cook at 450 F for 15 mins then turn down the oven to 375 F for the remaining 35 to 40 mins. Leave the loaf in the tin to cool a little and when cool enough to remove from the tin, it should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Zucchini timbales

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A lightly poached puree of zucchini which can be served as an attractive side dish with meat, poultry or fish.

Serves 4 to 8

1lb zucchini sliced
2 oz toasted breadcrumbs
3 oz butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
a good pinch freshly grated nutmeg
4 oz  Gruyere cheese, finely grated
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper
1/2 pint whole milk
parsley, chopped fine, to garnish

Steam the zucchini slices until tender, then blend to a puree. Grease 8 individual ramekin dishes, 3″ diameter max, and coat with the breadcrumbs.
Melt 1oz of the butter in a small pan and fry the onion for 5 to 10 mins or until soft. Cool, then transfer to a bowl.
Add the nutmeg and cheese and season. Beat in the eggs. Heat the milk gently with the remaining butter until it has melted, then pour it into the egg mixture in a steady stream beating constantly. Fold in the zucchini puree.
Evenly divide the mixture between the prepared ramekins. Place in a roasting tin, half filled with water.
Bake at 325 F for about 30 to 45 mins or until the custard is lightly set. Cool for 5 minutes, then loosen the edge of each ramekin with the point of a knife. Carefully turn out onto a warm serving dish, garnish with some parsley and serve.

Creamy gratin of roasted tomatoes

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A really delicious, creamy but summery side dish. It’s also great to serve as reheated leftovers with scrambled eggs for breakfast.
I’m addicted to any gratin, but this one uses intense, roasted tomatoes with fresh thyme. Well worth roasting the tomatoes yourself, as they’re so easy to do.
The roasted tomato recipe is below the main recipe.

Serves 6 to 8
30 oven-dried tomato halves
about 1/4 of loaf of bread: French, Peasant, focaccia, rosemary, etc.
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1-2 tsp minced thyme leaves, preferably fresh
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp chopped chives or chervil
1/3 cup shredded Gruyère cheese or Parmesan

Prepare the oven dried tomatoes. See the recipe below called “Oven dried tomatoes” These dried tomatoes can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to proceed with the recipe.
Prepare croutons: Preheat oven to 300ºF. Remove crusts from bread. Cut into 1/3-inch slices, and then cut into 1/3-inch cubes. Spread cubes in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake until cubes are dry and crisp, about 40 minutes. Toss the croutons with a spatula about every 15 minutes for even cooking. Cool completely and store for about a week at room temperature. As an alternative, you can also use homemade croutons for salads.
Prepare gratin: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9×12-inch oven-proof dish with at least 1-inch sides that is large enough to hold all the tomatoes in a single layer.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil, and add the garlic and time, and cook for a couple of minutes until the garlic is softened, but not brown. Add the dried tomato halves and 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook gently for a couple more minutes.
Add the cream and bring to a boil. Add the croutons and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to the prepared gratin dish. Dot with the the remaining butter and bake for about 40 minutes until bubbly and nicely browned. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

Oven temperatures vary, so your tomatoes may bake faster or slower than what’s called for in the recipe. The longer and slower you can dry the tomatoes, the better, because the flavors become more concentrated the longer the tomatoes bake. Through this process, normally bland winter tomatoes become fairly edible and summer tomatoes become super intense, delivering an out-of-this-world taste experience.
39 large fresh plum tomatoes             2 Tbsps kosher salt
2 Tbsp granulated white sugar         1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced             1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Line two cookie sheets with aluminum foil. Place a baking rack on each cookie sheet.
Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the stem core. Gently squeeze out most of the seeds and place the halved tomatoes closely together, cut side up, on the baking racks.
In a small bowl, combine the salt and sugar. Sprinkle generously over the cut side of the tomatoes. Let the tomatoes sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature. The salt and sugar will help draw out the moisture in the tomatoes.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 225ºF. Transfer the cookie sheets to the oven. Bake the tomato halves for 3 to 4 hours, checking about every 30 minutes. Rotate trays half way through for even baking. The tomatoes are done baking when they start to shrivel but are not completely dried.
When cook enough to handle, turn the tomato halves over and gently peel away the skins.
If you like, in a bowl, dress the tomatoes with the olive oil, freshly sliced garlic, black pepper and fresh thyme. Delicately layer the tomatoes in a flat container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Because all the moisture is not extracted, the tomatoes will spoil.

Blueberry and brioche brunch bake

Another fab Holiday brunch dish prepared the night before. This one oozing with sweet blueberries then covered in a warm blueberry sauce for good measure.

Makes 6 servings

For the breakfast casserole

4 brioche (about 14 oz in all)  or 8 x 1” thick slices of brioche or other white bread, cubed
1/4 lb cream cheese, cut into cubes
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/2 tbsp grated orange zest
6 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

For the blueberry sauce

3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tsp unsalted butter
3/4 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 12 x 9 x 2 (approx) baking dish

Arrange half the brioche slices or cubes in the bottom. Scatter the cream cheese cubes, 3/4 of the blueberries and the orange zest over the brioche or bread. Top with the remaining brioche or bread cubes.

In a bowl, stir the eggs, milk and maple syrup to blend. Pour this egg mixture evenly over the entire casserole. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Remove the casserole from the fridge 30 minutes before you cook it.
Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered until puffed and golden, about another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the blueberry sauce;

In a large saucepan, blend the sugar and cornstarch, then stir in the water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture boils, thickens, and becomes clear, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the blueberries. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the blueberries burst, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice and keep warm until the casserole is done.

Cut the baked casserole into 6 squares, and transfer to plates. Pour abut 1/4 cup blueberry sauce over each portion and serve hot.