It's almost Christmas and people around the country are frantically cooking up a storm in preparation for their festive feasts.
Instead of panicking about the big day, why not relax and enjoy the experience of cooking a delicious meal? We enlisted the help of Alex Nahke, executive head chef at The Europe Hotel & Resort in Killarney, to guide us with some festive recipes for you to try.
The Europe mince pies
"The perfect festive treat, dessert or mid-day pick-me-up, mince pies are a classic for a reason," Alex says. "Fragrant seasonal spices, a crumbly crust and a sticky sweet filling - this tried and tested recipe is sure to get the seal of approval this Christmas."
Makes 24 mince pies
For the pastry cases:
- 250g plain flour, plus extra to dust
- 25g icing sugar
- 125g chilled unsalted butter, diced finely
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
- 1–3 tsp ice cold water (if needed)
- 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water for eggwash
- Icing sugar or caster sugar, to dust
For the filling:
- 450g plums, halved and stoned
- 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
- 30ml water
- 2 large cooking apples
- 35g currants
- 35g raisins
- 35g sultanas
- 35g mixed peel
- 35 nibbed almonds
- 120g sugar
- 1.5g ground ginger
- 1.5g ground cinnamon
- 1.5g ground cloves
- A dash of Brandy, optional
- First, make the pastry. Put the flour, icing sugar, butter and orange zest into a food processor and whizz to fine crumbs. With the motor running, add the egg and whizz for a few seconds until the mixture forms clumps and you can press it together into a ball. If necessary, add 1–3 teaspoons of ice-cold water to bring the dough together.
- Turn onto a very lightly floured surface and knead briefly until smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes, or until firm. The pastry can be made up to 3 days ahead or frozen for up to a month.
- For the mincemeat, cook plums with lemon and water until tender, but not falling apart. Blend, then peel and grate the apples and add to the plum mix along with the remaining ingredients. Cool before filling the tartlets.
- To prepare the mince pies for cooking, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of 4mm. Using an 8cm fluted cutter, cut out 24 rounds and use to line two 12-hole non-stick mince pie tins.
- Put two teaspoons of filling into each pastry case, then press the tops in position. Chill for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
- Re-roll the trimmings to the same thickness and stamp out 24 stars or Christmas trees, with an appropriate cutter, for the tops.
- Brush the tops with the egg wash, then bake the mince pies for 15–20 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from the tins and transferring to a wire rack to cool. Store an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. Warm slightly before serving, with a dusting of sugar.
Guinness & Walnut Bread
Makes three loaves
- 625g brown flour
- 310g plain flour
- 75g caster sugar
- 15gt salt
- 20g baking soda
- 125g porridge oats
- 125g walnuts, roughly chopped
- 750ml milk
- 110g golden syrup
- 220g black treacle
- 75g butter, melted
- 200ml Guinness
- Preheat the oven to 150ºC.
- Sieve the plain flour and baking soda in a large bowl. Add brown flour, sugar, salt, oats and walnuts. Mix it well and form a well in the centre. Add milk, golden syrup, black treacle, melted butter and Guinness.
- Knead a nice soft dough which should have a porridge-like texture.
- Grease three loaf tins well and dust with flour. Divide the mix between the tins and fill three-quarters of the way, as this will allow the bread to rise.
- Place the tins in the centre of the oven. Cook for 45 min at 150ºC, then increase the to 180ºC and bake for another 25min.
- After baking let it rest for 10-15min before removing from the tin, it should have a clear hollow sound if you knock on the base - that means it is baked correctly. Let it cool down and wrap in cling film to keep it moist.
TIP: To keep your bread from drying too much while baking, place a shallow pan of water on the bottom of the oven, this will add a little steam to the oven and helps the bread to stay moist. This can be served with oak-smoked Salmon, honey-glazed ham, various cheeses, fresh Atlantic Crabmeat or delicious Kerrygold butter.
The Europe Hotel & Resort is now closed for the remainder of the 2020 season and looks forward to re-opening its doors on Thursday 4th February 2021.
Gift Vouchers & Hotel Merchandise are available to purchase during the hotel's current closed period by visiting our online Gift Shop or by contacting the team on 064 66 71300 or via email to [email protected]
For more information visit www.theeurope.com.