Christmas Cooking with Catherine Fulvio


While most of the time it seems that the only benefit to writing about food is an ever expanding waistline there is also the occassional invite to a food event that allows you to meet and mingle with other food writers and is a good reminder that there is a great community of people out there, writers, chefs, restauranters and food producers that are working away to constantly improve and bring attention to the quality of food available in Ireland.


This week I swaped out my office for an evening spent with Catherine Fulvio in the cookery school at Ballyknocken House in Co. Wicklow, Catherine has partnered with Whirlpool and her school is now a showcase of the new generation of ovens, hobs and most fascinating to me Microwaves that can bake. As soon as I graduate out of rented accomodation I will definitely start looking in to these fancy kitchen appliances, particularly a nice wall fitted waist high oven, the day I no longer have to contort myself to try and look through an oven door or wrench my back while trying to lift a hefty roast out of the oven will be the day I feel I have finally arrived!


We were greeted with prosecco and talked through the menu we would be prepping with Catherine’s guidance, Tomato &Yellow Pepper soup, Mango & Salmon Salad, Cranberry & Mozarell Scones, Turkey & Ham Risotto and Amaretti Biscuits. Catherine also prepared a three tired, chocolate cream and fruit filled meringue with a red wine sauce. I will include two of the recipe’s here and when I get a chance to try the cranberry and mozarella pinwheel scones with gluten free flour I will write about those as I think they would be a lovely option for a festive brunch.


The first recipe is the Yellow Pepper and Tomato Swirl Soup and the second is for the Three Tiered Meringue, both of these are simple, delicious and best of all very impressive looking.


Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup & Tomato Basil Soup


By Catherine Fulvio
Serves 4-6

For the yellow pepper soup
4 yellow peppers
1 onion, finely diced
1 tsp thyme, chopped
250ml vegetable stock, plus extra to thin soup if required (Gluten Free for a GF soup)
3 tbsp cream
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tomato soup
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 potato, peeled and diced
300ml vegetable stock, plus extra to thin soup if required
2 tsp basil leaves, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4

  • To make the yellow pepper soup, place the peppers on a roasting tray, rub with olive oil and roast until the skin has browned. Remove immediately from the oven, place in a plastic bag and seal.
  • After 30 minutes, remove the peppers and peel away the skin.
  • In a large saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion until soft.
  • Deseed and roughly chop the peppers. Add the peppers, thyme and stock to the onion and heat through.
  • Using a hand blender, puree the soup.
  • Add the cream and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as required.
  • To make the tomato soup, heat some oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and sundried tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, potato and stock, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potato is cooked through.
  • Add in the basil and remove from the heat.
  • Puree the soup and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as required.

To serve,  fill to jugs, one with tomato and one with pepper soup and gently pour the yellow pepper and tomato soup into a bowl at the same time. They will stay separate for an amazing looking and even better tasting yellow pepper and tomato soup. Use a knife or the handle of a spoon to swirl the two soups for a lovely pattern

Blueberry, Strawberry & Pomegranate Meringue Tower


By Catherine Fulvio
Serves 10–12

For the meringue:
6 egg whites
360g caster sugar

For the filling:
350g dark chocolate
90g butter
150ml double cream, whipped

For the strawberries and blueberries:
300ml red wine
4 tbsp honey
2 sprigs of thyme
300g Strawberries
300g blueberries
2 tsp arrowroot mixed with a little water, to thicken the sauce
1 Pomegranate
Thyme sprigs, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 140°C/fan 120°C/gas 1.

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw large, medium and small heart shapes, measuring 24cm, 20cm and 16cm, on the underside of the parchment paper, ensuring that you can see the shape through the paper.
  • Place the egg whites in a spotlessly clean, dry bowl. With an electric hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually whisk in half of the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time.
  • Fold in the remaining caster sugar.
  • Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Following the outline of the heart shapes, fill in the shapes.
  • Secure the parchment paper to the baking sheet with a little of the meringue mixture to ensure the paper doesn’t lift in the oven.
  • Bake immediately for 1 1⁄2 hours, or until set. When they’re done, leave them in the oven with the oven door slightly open so that the meringues can cool.
  • Meanwhile, to prepare the strawberries and blueberries, place the red wine, honey and thyme in a saucepan and warm through.
  • Remove from the heat and add the berries. Cool and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • To make the filling, melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.
  • Allow to cool, then fold in the whipped cream with some of the pomegranate juice.
  • To make the sauce, gently remove the berries from the liquid with a slotted spoon, taking care not to break them, and set aside.
  • Strain the liquid and return it to the saucepan. Add the arrowroot mixture and heat the liquid to thicken it to a light sauce consistency.
  • Spread the large and medium meringue hearts with some of the chocolate mixture and top with the berries & pomegranate seeds.
  • Starting with the largest heart at the bottom, pile the meringues on top of each other.
  • Drizzle generously with the berry thyme sauce & garnish with edible flowers & thyme sprigs.


Begining the evening with Prosecco and finishing with Amaretti and homemade Orangecello, with a lovely meal and some great cooking tips in between, this was a lovely way to spend a grey Tuesday and a good start to the festive season.


Gluten Free Homemade Mincemeat




Now that another Halloween is behind us it is time to start focussing on Christmas! The Christmas lights have started to go up, the window decorations are in and it is time to get going on puddings, chutneys, pickles, mincemeat and Christmas Cake. This recipe for gluten free mincemeat is a repost from last year, I have a few new Christmas recipes to post but this recipe is tried and tested and I love it.

So we are trundling along with festive recipes starting with Gluten Free Pudding last week, soon I will post a recipe for my favourite mince pies but first I want to try and tempt you to make your own mincemeat, I have seen jars of GF mincemeat in a health food shops but I have to say there is nothing like homemade mincemeat, once you try it you may find that you never go back to the shop bought variety.

Making your own mincemeat gives you so much control over what goes in to your pies. If you don’t like currants ( fruit of the devil in my eyes) than you don’t need to add currents, you can substitute another dried fruit instead, if you hate candied peel again you can use something else, in the past I have used dried papaya, pineapple and mango instead of mixed peel and the results were delicious. I use flaked almonds in my mincemeat, my Mum thinks these resemble nail clippings so she uses chopped almonds. As long as the quantities work you can feel free to experiment.
What makes this Gluten Free is that I use lard rather than suet as suet is often dusted with flour to stop it sticking, if you want a vegetarian version of this you could use butter. Prep your jars by washing thoroughly and leaving to dry in a low temperature oven, Gas 1 or the equivalent. Store the mincemeat in a cool dry place.

400 grams of raisins
400 grams of sultanas
115 grams of dried cranberries
115 grams of dried cherries
350 grams of soft dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons of mixed spice
½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
½ nutmeg grated
50 grams of slivered almonds
450 grams cooking apples, peeled, cored and grated.
225 grams of lard, grated
Zest and juice of 2 lemon
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
6 tablespoons of brandy

1. Place the dried fruit, sugar, spices and almonds in a bowl and stir with a fork to combine.

2. Add the grated apple, grated lard, the zest and juice of the lemons and orange and stir through the fruit until thoroughly mixed.
3. Cover the bowl and leave to sit in a cool, dry place for 12 hours or overnight.
4. Heat your oven to Gas ½, 120c / 225, and place the mincemeat in an oven proof dish. Cover loosely with foil and place in the oven for 3 hours. This process melts the lard which will then coat the fruit preventing fermentation taking place.

5. Remove the mincemeat from the oven and leave to cool completely, stirring now and then to stop the lard from setting in pools, you want to make sure the lard is evenly distributed and fully coats the fruit.
6. When the fruit is cool stir in the brandy and spoon in to your prepared jars. Cover with wax discs and seal tightly.

Store the jars in a cool dry place until you are ready to use it. Try to give the mincemeat at least a few weeks to mellow and for the flavour to develop before using.