Donal Skehan

December 2012 Update!

Hi guys,

As you can probably tell from my Christmas jumper, Christmas is here! This weekend we have transformed our little cottage into a Christmas wonderland.

For the last four weeks rather than beautiful Christmas decorations and a tree, my kitchen and living room have been filled with props, wooden backgrounds and kitchenalia. The reason being, we have been shooting the images for my fourth cookbook, which will be out next year. You can see some behind the scenes images from the shoot below.

Kitchen Hero: Great Food For Less has just finished it’s current series on RTÉ One but you can catch up on episodes over on the RTÉ Player (also available to international viewers). Earlier this month I headed to Austria to record the Kitchen Hero Christmas Special and you can see some of the behind the scenes images below. Tune in on RTÉ One at 8.15pm!

This year I’m cooking Christmas dinner for 12. Beetroot cured gravadlax with Swedish crisp bread, maple and orange glazed turkey, and plum and star anise ham are all on the menu and I can’t wait to get cooking!

Check out lots of festive recipes below!

Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!

Donal x

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Plum & Star Anise Christmas Ham

Sweet, sticky and aromatic, this Christmas ham comes with serious sophistication. Like most good Christmas ham’s this recipe is ALL about the glaze. The combination of sweet orange, sticky plum jam and Asian star anise ticks all the boxes in terms of Christmas tastes.

Serves 8-10
4.5kg of ham
2 liters of water
1 large onion
1 tbsp black peppercorns
8 whole cloves, plus extra for garnish
3 star anise

150g plum jam
100g brown sugar
Juice of 1 orange
5 star anise

Place the ham in a large pot and pour in the water along with the onion, star anise, cloves and peppercorns. If the water doesn’t cover the ham, add more.

Bring to the boil and them simmer steadily for 40 minutes per kg (3 hours) After the cooking time, turn off the heat and allow to cool in the liquid.

In a small saucepan, add the orange juice, jam, sugar and star anise and cook gently until the sugar has dissolved and you are left with a slightly thick glaze. Leave to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

When the ham has cooled, remove from the liquid before removing the skin, exposing the fat and scoring diagonally with a small sharp knife. Place the ham in a roasting tray and brush the plum glaze over the top of the ham. Push the cloves into each cross.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden on top.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing thinly to serve.

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Orange and mint crispy duck rolls

If you’re planning a party or get-together, these little duck rolls not only make great canapes, they are also a fantastic starter if you want to do something a little different.

Makes 12 pancakes
1 whole Silverhill duck
12 Chinese pancakes
6 spring onions, finely sliced
Handful of mint, leaves picked
Handful of coriander, leaves picked
1/2 red chilli, finely sliced for garnish
Zest of 1 orange, for garnish

For the dressing:
Juice of one orange
1/2 red chilli, finely sliced
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp sunflower oil

Cook the duck in an oven at 200˚C until crisp and cooked. Mix the honey, orange juice, chilli, dark soy sauce, rice wine and sunflower oil and set aside. When the duck has cooked and rested for a bit, cut it into small pieces and mix it with the dressing. Warm the pancakes wrapped in tinfoil through on a pan over a low heat.

Assemble the pancakes by putting a little bit of duck, spring onion, mint, coriander, orange zest and chilli on each pancake, roll up and enjoy!

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November 2012 Update!

Hi guys,

Christmas is just around the corner and I for one cannot wait!  In the lead up to December, this month is all about slow cooking, cosy baking days and winter ingredients.

At the moment, my kitchen is packed with pomegranates, clementines, root veggies and I have just stocked up on my festive spices, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom!

There’s lots to be excited about this month as Kitchen Hero: Great Food For Less is back on screens over on RTÉ One, make sure to tune in Wednesdays at 7.30pm.

I will be joining fellow Junior MasterChef judge, John Torode on BBC Breakfast on BBC One this Wednesday morning the 21st of November, to speak about the competition.  Junior MasterChef has been airing all this month and the final takes place this week on Friday the 23rd of November.  Make sure to tune in weekdays at 4.30pm on BBC One and the CBBC channel.

I can also reveal that I am busy working away on my fourth cookbook and third cookbook in the Kitchen Hero series, which will be due out next year.  I hope that can explain my silence on the blog a little, as I have been writing away like a busy bee, before my deadline in December!

This month also marks the 6th annual Great Irish Bake in aid of Temple Street Childrens Hospital. This month we’re encouraging the nation to get baking, to raise funding for this great hospital.  I’ve provided some delicious baking recipes and videos, to inspire you, to get baking and to organise cakes sales at home, in work or at school.  See details below.

In this month’s update, there’s a selection of Swedish baking, Winter salads, and comfort food recipes, two Asian inspired cookbooks, baking videos, a visit to the Wild Honey Inn, in the Burren on Ireland’s west coast and three incredible food blogs, I’ve been drooling over.

Have a wonderful November!

Donal x

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Swedish Apple and Almond Cake

Where we stay in Sweden the gardens are filled with apple trees heavy with fruit every Autumn. Although I love the summer in Sweden, the Autumn is quite unique and equally special. This apple and almond cake is a wonderful way to celebrate the seasons fruit and is heavily spiced with comforting cinnamon and cardamom.

Serves 6-8
110g butter plus extra for greasing
150g soft light brown sugar
2 large free range eggs
210g plain flour, sifted
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
300g peeled, cored and sliced cooking apple (Shouldn’t be more than one large one)
50g flaked almonds
3 tbsp apple or apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 180°C, grease and line a 20cm cake tin with a removable base. With an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until they are incorporated. Fold through the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom and cinnamon until you have a thick cake batter. Stir through the apple and pour the batter into the cake tin. The batter will be thick, so use a spatula to spread across the base of the tin.

Spread the almonds of top of the cake and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Cover with tin foil if the almonds brown too much. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. As the cake is cooling, heat the jam in a saucepan until runny and brush over top of the cake.

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Deep South Gumbo!

I don’t think you can visit Louisiana without trying Gumbo. It’s on most menu’s and is wonderful hotch potch of ingredients combined in a rich and thick liquid served with white rice. During my stay in New Orleans we visited the New Orleans Cooking Experience where the self proclaimed High Priestess of the Bayou and incredible character Boo taught us her recipe for Gumbo. It’s made by making a roux from oil and flour and then adding onion, celery and green pepper. Like most home cooking there are many variants on this classic recipe but it is well worth a try for a true taste of the South!

Serves 8
1 1.2kg whole chicken, in portions
75ml of vegetable oil
100g of plain flour
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 sticks of celery, chopped
200g of roughly sliced andouille sausage (or mexiacan chorizo or qualbasa as substitute)
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 litres of chicken stock
2 sprigs of thyme
4 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
16 shrimps
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Cooked white rice to serve
Toasted Sour dough bread to serve

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

Place the chicken portions on a large shallow baking sheet and drizzle with a little oil and season with sea salt and ground black pepper.

Roast in the oven for 45 minutes until cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, whisk together the flour and oil in a large pot  over a medium heat.

Continue to cook, whisking continuously until the mixture turns a rich brown.

Add the pepper, onion and celery and cook until tender. Stir in the sausage and tomatoes and then pour in the stock.

Add the thyme, bay leaves, black pepper, cayenne and garlic.

Bring to the boil and season with sea salt.

Add the chicken, shrimps and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve in bowl with a tablespoon of white cooked rice in each.

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Rich Frosted Chocolate Brownies

This brownie recipe makes wonderfully dense and fudgey chocolate brownies which are delicious all by themselves, but with addition of a chocolate cream cheese frosting, they are taken to a whole new level!

Makes 24 brownies
225g good-quality dark chocolate
225g butter
300g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g plain flour
1tsp baking powder

100g butter, softened
450g cream cheese
320g icing sugar, sifted
50g cocoa, sifted

Preheat oven to 180°C, line a 22 x 30cm baking tin with baking parchment.

Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir constantly until melted and smooth. With a hand-held electric mixer, whisk the sugar and eggs together for 2-3 minutes until pale and fluffy. Slowly add the melted chocolate and butter then add the vanilla extract and continue to whisk until thickened.

Lastly, sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in gently.Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the middle shelf of the oven for 25 minutes until the top is firm and the cake has come away slightly from the sides of the tin.

While the brownie is cooling, prepare the frosting by placing the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 4 minutes or until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar and cocoa and fold through with a spatula until thick and spreadable. Spread the brownie with the frosting and cut into squares. You’d be welcome at anyone’s house with these!

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Triple Chocolate Muffins

These muffins are simple to prepare and easy to adapt. Try other variations using ingredients like fruit or nuts. The muffins can also easily be frozen once cooked.

Makes 12 muffins
100g butter, melted
200nl buttermilk
2 large free-range eggs
150g caster sugar
250g self-raising flour
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
3tbsp good quality cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a muffin tray with paper cases.

In a bowl, whisk together the butter, buttermilk, orange zest and set aside. In a standalone mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the butter mixture and whisk until combined. Gently fold in the flour and cocoa powder until just combined. Now, stir through the white and dark chocolate until combined.  Be sure not to over mix the batter.

Spoon the mixture into the papercases and place in the oven to cook for 15-20 minutes until brown on top.Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before transferring to a wire wrack to cool further.

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Duck Pomegranate and Mint Salad

The combination of rich duck meat, a salty dressing, the sweet tang and texture of pomegranate seeds and the hit of freshness from the mint and coriander make this salad particularly special. You can easily make this recipe with pan fried duck breasts, but I have cheated slightly and used those wonderful Silverhill duck breasts, which simply need to be crisped up in the oven. This is a super little winter salad which is wonderfully aromatic.

Serves 2
1/2 Silverhill crispy aromatic duck
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 large handfuls of winter salad leaves
A good handful of fresh mint leaves
A good handful of fresh coriander leaves
1 pomegranate, halved

For the dressing:
1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon of rice wine
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 small thumbsized piece of ginger, finely minced
Zest of 1 orange

Cook the duck in a hot oven, until crispy, remove and shred the meat.

Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.

Hold the pomegranate cut side down and bash the skin with a wooden spoon to remove the seeds to a large mixing bowl.

Mix all the ingredients for the salad and the duck with the dressing in bowl with the pomegranate seeds.

Pile onto large serving plates and serve straight away.

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Swedish Cinnamon Buns

Of the many different types of baking recipes from Sweden, the cinnamon bun is perhaps the most famous. In Sweden you can buy them everywhere from cafe’s to supermarkets and even petrol stations. It’s a sweet bread dough rolled up with a swirl of sweet buttery cinnamon throughout. The Swedes sprinkle these with pearl sugar which doesn’t melt at high temperatures and creates those wonderfully distinctive white dots on top of the buns.

Makes 24 Buns
400ml milk
110g butter
2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
110g caster sugar
750g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tsp ground cardamom
4 tablespoons of pearl sugar
1 egg, beaten

For the filling:
110g soft butter
90g sugar
2 tablespoons of cinnamon

Melt the butter in a large pot gently on a low heat and then add the milk.
When the mixture is lukewarm, remove from the heat and add the two sachets of dried yeast, whisking to incorporate.
Mix the flour, sugar, salt and cardamom in a large mixing bowl. Make a well and pour the wet ingredients in. Using a wooden spoon mix until you have a rough dough.

When the dough has taken shape and is no longer sticky, turn out onto a clean floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes. Dust with a little flour if you find the dough is too sticky.
Transfer the dough to a floured bowl, covered by cling film and a towel and let it rise for 45 minutes in a warm dark place.
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
To prepare the filling, in a bowl, beat the butter, sugar and cinnamon together until you have a smooth paste.
When the dough has risen, punch it down in the bowl and cut it in half.  Roll one of the halves into a rectangle about 3mm thick, and then spread the filling all over.

Then, from the long side, roll the dough so you get a snail effect and slice into approx 12 pieces. Place the slices in a non stick mini pie tray with six holes, (you could also lay them flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper) face up and coat with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the buns with pearl sugar.
Reduce the heat to 190˚C and then bake the rolls in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

Repeat the process with the second half of the dough.
The buns are incredible eaten just warm from the oven.

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Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2012…

I’m so excited that Kitchen Hero: Great Food For Less has been shortlisted in the inaugural Avonmore cookbook of the year category at the Irish Book Awards 2012.  There are some truly wonderful cookbooks in the category from Rachel Allen, Aoife Carrigy, Catherine Fulvio, Domini Kemp and Neven Maguire which are all a real testament to the great selection of cookery writing Ireland has to offer.  I’d be thrilled if you’d support my book by voting for it over here!  The winner will be announced at the ceremony on the 22nd of November.  Fingers crossed! :)

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Sweet Pumpkin Baking…

It’s definitely all about pumpkins this week with Halloween just around the corner.  We have a lovely homemade Halloween wreath on our door made from decorative gourds, hay and lots of string and there are four big pumpkins which are sitting on the kitchen table waiting to be carved.  One of my favourite things growing up was carving pumpkins and we used to plead with my dad to bring home the biggest ones we could find.  I love the whole process of cutting the top open, diving into the squelching flesh and seeds and then ripping and scooping them out.  Once the seeds are clean I toss them in a little melted butter sprinkle over some sea salt and then pop them in a hot oven until golden and crisp, they make the perfect little Halloween snack.

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