I love cooking for big family occasions and when better to do this than during the Christmas season. The house is constantly busy and good humour is guaranteed when family and friends all come together. Often a lot of planning and shopping is needed to organise a successful family get together, but with the fridge packed with lots of lovely leftovers I normally try to include some of these ingredients when planning what to cook. I know that in recent years many people often opt for the 'anything but turkey' for their Christmas feast, but I must admit that I'm a traditional girl at heart and still have the urge to buy a turkey that can just about fit in the oven and enough ham to keep us in sandwiches for at least a good week after the big day. With the inevitable bowls of leftovers a little thought has to go into the post Christmas meal planning.
For the past number of years I have served a Turkey and Ham Pie for St. Stephen's Day. It's perfect for using up any of the previous days leftovers, which can include vegetables and stuffing. Alternatively some cooked chicken would also be perfect in place of the turkey and ham. If I have some mash potatoes they work wonderfully as a pie topper otherwise a sheet of puff pastry goes nicely with the sauce.
I would have cream in my fridge almost every day of the week, as a little dash of it goes a long way in so many dishes. However around the Christmas season I'm sure there's not a fridge in Ireland that hasn't a pot of creamy goodness tucked away in there somewhere!
This is a really delicious wholesome dish which is sure to warm you up over the holidays. It is scrumptious served with a plain green salad and I'm sure this pie would be welcome at any family meal.

Creamy Christmas Leftover Pie
roux(to thicken)
25g (1oz) butter
25g(1oz) plain flour

For the filling
50g (2oz) butter
200g(7oz) mushrooms, sliced
1 leek, sliced
salt and pepper
800mls(1.5 pints) chicken/turkey/vegetable stock
200mls (7floz) cream

10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
sprig of fresh thyme

2 teasp wholegrain mustard
100g(4oz) frozen peas
500g(16oz) cooked turkey
250g(8oz) cooked ham

For the topping
400g(14oz) puff pastry rolled to 5mm thick
1 egg, beaten, to glaze
1.5kg(3.5lbs) mashed potatoes

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°f/gas 6.
2. First make the roux by melting the butter in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the flour and continue to stir for 2 minutes until the mixture comes away from the saucepan. Pour into a bowl and leave to one side.
3. Add half the butter to a large oven proof dish or saucepan and over a high heat fry the mushrooms for 4 minutes until soft. Remove to a plate.
4. Add the rest of the butter and add in the sliced leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 15 minutes until soft but not coloured. Once cooked add to the mushrooms on the plate.
5. Using the same saucepan add the stock, cream, sage, thyme leaves and wholegrain mustard.
6. Bring to a boil, then whisk in the roux. The liquid must be boiling while you add the roux for the sauce to thicken without getting lumpy.
7. Return the cooked mushrooms and leeks to the saucepan. Add the peas, turkey and ham.
8. Either top with the puff pastry and glaze with some beaten egg or top with mashed potatoes.
9.  Place the dish/saucepan on a baking tray in the preheated oven for 30 mins until the top is golden brown and the mixture bubbling hot.

So Thanksgiving will be celebrated in America, later this week. Each year I always feel that we are missing out on a truly wonderful holiday. I understand that the origins of the American & Canadian Thanksgiving are to do with the anniversary of their pilgrims settling in their countries, but the whole idea of having a holiday dedicated to giving thanks, I feel, is something really special. To be aware of all the good around us is paramount for day to day life and to give thanks for this good is ever important. Giving thanks and appreciating others good will, is something that I stress heavily with my children. I always remind them that as a family we have so much to be grateful for. Overall I'd consider myself a positive person. My mother oozed positivity and no matter what happened in life, she would take something positive from any situation. When ever I had a problem she was first I would call, and her ability to rationalise any dilemma always astounded me. I certainly miss my chats with her but her positivity rooted deep and has given me a fantastic outlook on my life. I have so much to give thanks for but most of all I am grateful for my happy and healthy children and a great husband.

I wanted to share with you a sandwich recipe that has become one of my annual favourites. As some of my readers are American I thought these ingredients may already be in your fridge, so that is why I'm posting this recipe early in the season.
I think to pan fry any sandwich makes it automatically tastier than it's grilled alternative. Of course it's not exactly healthier but I still always enjoy it as a real treat and this version would have to be my pan fried sandwich of choice. The kids also love all sorts of pan fried sandwiches, however their ultimate pan fried sandwich would be this smore like treat, which is only made on very special occasions.
The ingredients that are packed inside this sandwich are ones that are typically left in the fridge after Thanksgiving or Christmas. This is a useful recipe to create something delicious from your leftover cheese board, cooked ham and cranberry sauce.

Pan Fried Brie and Baked Ham Sandwich

2 slices of thick white bread
wedge of Brie or Camerbert
slice of Baked Ham
 1 teasp Cranberry Sauce
few drops of Balsamic Vinegar

 1. Butter the slices of bread. Slice the brie and place on the unbuttered side of one slice of bread. Top with a slice of ham.
2. Add a spoonful of cranberry sauce. Drizzle with a few drops of balsamic vinegar.
3. Put the second slice of bread on top, buttered side out. Fry in a hot pan, pressing down with a fish slice, for two minutes on each side, until golden brown and the cheese is melting.
4. Cut in half and enjoy with a little cranberry sauce on the side.
It's an absolutely beautiful day here in Moate, which makes it hard to believe that we are only a few weeks from Christmas. I've been busy for the past while with cookery demos, but I'll have a new recipe posted in the next couple of days! Thanks to all who enter the competition last week for the Taste Of Christmas tickets. All names were put into the hat and the winner is Rolling Pin Claire. {Photo of the winning 'ticket' is on my facebook page!} I'm sure you'll have a fantastic day!

Today I made a Baked Lemon Cheesecake for dessert. It's been ages since I made one and I forgot just how good it is. Creamy, zesty and so delicious!
It's competition time yet again on the blog and I must say that I'm terribly excited about this one. The team who are working hard behind the scenes of Taste of Christmas, have made two tickets available for me to give to one of my blog followers. The tickets are for Sunday 27th November at 12m/d. The tickets are valued at €24.50 each plus booking fee {and if you have children, under 12's go free to the event}.
Tickets include complimentary mouth-watering mince pies on arrival, full access to the event featuring the chance to browse artisan exhibitors, find gifting ideas, indulge in foodie features, enjoy cooking demonstrations from Ireland’s finest chefs plus take a seat at the MasterChef Ireland Live Theatre Show and receive a Restaurant Loyalty Card. The Restaurant Loyalty Card is a new addition to Taste of Christmas this year, thrilling customers with €100 worth of discounts to enjoy in selected Taste restaurants from January to April next year.  In addition, all Florin booklets include a fantastic €20 off your Christmas shopping at Superquinn.  

Here I am with Edward Hayden at Taste of Dublin, last June.

I always enjoy Taste of Dublin, each summer, and naturally it was extra special for me this year as I won a competition on TV3 and got the amazing opportunity to do a live cookery demonstration with the lovely Edward Hayden. I haven't before had the chance to make my way to Taste of Christmas but that will change this year! The weather won't cause any problems either as the festivals is all indoors at The Convention Center in Dublin. Edward Hayden, Catherine Fulvio and Oliver Dunne will be there sharing their recipes and tips for the perfect Christmas. This year they will be joined by a new attraction, Masterchef Live where Dylan and Nick will host an interactive cooking experience with the audience. Some of the Masterchef contestants will also be donning their aprons and demonstrating a few dishes. There are a large list of food & drink exhibitors that will be there to tempt you into buying lots of foodie presents this Christmas. A full list of can be viewed here. With the Taste tradition there will be some of Dublins top restaurants there to offer you a taste of their menu for a fraction of the price. Taste of Christmas promises to be a fantastic event with so much happening under the one roof. I'm really looking forward to it!

How to enter - The competition is easy to enter just answer the question in the comment box below.
The Question: Which celebrity chef would you most like to meet?
To be eligible to win the tickets you must be a follower of the blog, {if you are not already following,  click follow on the toolbar on the right} then leave your answer under this post.
* Like Nessa's Family Kitchen on Facebook.
* Follow on Twitter.

Please only leave a comment if you are available to travel to Dublin on Sunday 27th November. Closing date for the competition is next Sunday 20th November at 6pm. The winner will be picked at random and I will then forward your name & address to the Taste Team who will send you on your tickets.(No cash alternative is possible)
Best of Luck!

Tickets can be bought here for this year's Taste of Christmas.
Taste on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/TasteofChristmasDublin
Taste on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/TasteofXmas

Last week I headed to the beautiful Co.Wicklow to stay a night at the 5 star Resort & Hotel at Druids Glen. The boys stayed with their Grandparents so it was just Diarmuid, Millie and me. The weather last weekend was extraordinarily good for November and as we drew closer to Wicklow the sights were breathtaking, with trees still displaying their autumn colours. On check-in the staff were warm and welcoming and on arrival to our room a little box of Lilly O'Brien's chocolates with a lovely note welcomed us. As requested we had two queen size beds, which was the perfect arrangement for the three of us. The bedroom and bathroom was spotless and the view from the large window was spectacular.

We decided to get a cuppa before heading out for a walk. To my delight some homemade biscuits accompanied it! They were crumbly and buttery and I must say I was very impressed.

If we're ever choosing a hotel to stay with the children there is a certain criteria that is important. The size of the rooms, if there are adjoining rooms {essential when holidaying with 4 children}, a swimming pool, and if possible  a kids club and playground. Druids Glen resort ticks all of these boxes. On the grounds of the hotel was a newly built playground and it was flawless! Millie certainly enjoyed the roundabout, slides and of course the swings. I know the boys would of loved all of the activity in the hotel.
 To work around Millie's bedtime we choose to have an early dinner. To my surprise there were a large amount of families with young children. To cater for the children was a buffet-style counter which had plenty to offer to the young diners. This is a fantastic option for parents as every parent knows it's very frustrating ordering a dish for a child only for it to be dismissed on arrival to the table. Also once we ordered I could plate up Millie's dinner straight away. With so many families in the one area no parent would feel under pressure to keep the children perfectly quite while out for their meal {which is always an obviously impossible task at a restaurant}. The dining area is large enough to be segregated into two sections. Before leaving I peeped around the corner where the diners where a lot more tranquil! I haven't seen this in any other hotels but thought it a fabulous idea. I'm sure if I was dining with my older children I would choose to eat in the 'quieter' area but while dining with my younger crew I'd absolutely want to be seated in the family area. Dining out with young children can often be difficult and not because the children are particularly naughty but just because they're being children and sitting quietly for a couple of hours is really tedious to them. I loved this idea, the children are happy and the parents get to enjoy a fabulous meal in peace. Another lovely addition to the family dining was that each child received a colouring pack to utilise when their meal was over.
I must say that my absolute highlight of the hotel was the amazing food. Their new menu had just been launched and was devised in partnership with the well known chef, food-writer & cookery school proprietor, Catherine Fulvio. Local lady, Catherine is a great advocater for sourcing local ingredients and her food philosophy is one of 'farm to fork'. This was ever evident in the menu as each dish was a real showcase of the included ingredients. There was so much choice that I had difficulty picking a dish for each course.  Each dish not only tasted fantastic but was presented beautifully. As a Twitter fan I tweeted my way through the meal. It's always nice to share a few photos of a meal enjoyed with other foodies and I even received a 'Bon Appetite' tweet from Catherine herself. I can honestly say that this was the nicest meal we have had out in quite some time.

Kilmore Quey Seared Scallops with a cherry tomato & filo stack, lumpfish roe and basil dressing.
Druids Classic Caesar Salad.
Dunlavin Pork Cutlets stuffed with Fig, Apple & Hazelnut, honey mustard & thyme glaze, Chive mash, Caramelised  Apples{from their own orchard} & cider apple sauce.
Butternut Squash, Sweet Roasted Pepper & Mozzarella Wellington served with purple sprouting broccoli, toasted almonds & sundried tomato sauce.This was the nicest vegetarian dish I have ever had in a restaurant.

 Pear Poached in Saffron & white wine with ginger biscuit, chocolate sauce and Golden Hill Farm praline ice-cream.
Passion Fruit & Orange Tart with Golden Hill Farm white chocolate ice-cream.
There was a great selection of delicious foods and homemade preserves for breakfast.
The boys were well impressed when they heard that delicious pancakes were made to order.

We had to leave early on the Saturday morning, as I was attending a seminar, so we didn't get to avail of their spa or leisure facilities. These will be on the agenda for next time as both looked amazing. Neither myself or Diarmuid play golf but would be encouraged to after seeing their outstanding golf course.
When one is planning a holiday in Ireland the weather always plays such a big part however this needn't be the case if planning a trip to Druids Glen Resort. There are so many activities to do within the resort. Of course it would be a bonus if the weather was good and a walk in the stunning surroundings could be considered.
I was a guest of Host PR and Druids Glen Resort. Thank you kindly to Gillian from Host PR and the lovely staff at Druids Glen Resort who made our stay so fantastic.

 Druids Glen Resort, 
Co. Wiclow,
T- 00 353 1 2870800
Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/druidsglenhotel
Facebook -http://www.facebook.com/DruidsGlenResortHotel

A few months back I received an email from Eileen at Cafe de Cuba and she asked if she could send me some coffees and teas to try out. As a coffee & tea entuassiast I was more than happy to oblige. Cafe de Cuba/Fixx Coffee are the official sponsors of Cuban coffee for UK and Ireland and also creators of Fixx Coffee. They recently introduced a new Decaf Coffee, an Organic Coffee and some exciting Organic Teas to the market place. 

The name on the packaging of the ground coffee is 'Really Good Organic Coffee' and how appropriately named it is! Imagine the quality of a coffee you get while dinning in a really nice establishment, the sort of coffee youd rarely get from a home brew and this is similar to how good this coffee is but even better as it's organic. It is smooth and rich and it's pungent aroma lingers in the kitchen long after the cuppa is enjoyed. Once I was halfway through my bag I began to save it and limit it for my daily treat. Needless to say I would thoroughly recommend this coffee and even though it is on the higher price margin, of €8.50, it is very much worth it. 
Every so often I like to enjoy a herbal tea. Mostly when I'm reaching for the herbal variety it means I have in some way overindulged and somehow a cup of the herbal stuff can settle the tummy marvelously. There were a nice variety of teas in the pack I received. My favourite had to be the Golden Mango Organic tea. It almost tasted as if a mango had been freshly purrerd to achieve such an exotic flavour and it was so refreshing.
The Decaf Coffee was also quite lovely and there wasn't a compromise on taste either, it proved to be the perfect partner to a biscuit late in the evening. I also received a beautifully presented tin of Pure Green Organic Tea Bags. Green tea is naturally high in anti-oxidants and makes a nice change from regular tea. Another wonderful addition to these superb products is their simple but very attractive packaging
I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed these high quality coffee and tea products. Thank you to Cafe de Cuba for sending them my way.

I will be having a lovely competition here on the blog next week, but for now I'm having a competition on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/Nessas.Family.Kitchen so if you're on Facebook do check it out. The prize is a signed copy of Darina Allen's Simply Delicious Christmas.

I love any dish that all the family will enjoy however when I first made this risotto I expected Millie to be the only taker, but to my delight the boys also really enjoyed it. This is a recipe I submitted for Easy Parenting as a baby meal but if you haven't a baby in the house you could still try this out. It makes a lovely addition to many different meats but is equally delicious on its own.

As a young baby's palate becomes use to the smooth texture of a fruit or vegetable puree sometimes the introduction of lumpier foods can prove a little tricky. It is natural for your baby to spit out the lump or even sometimes gag in the quest to rid their mouth of what they think is a foreign body. I must admit that I was very nervous when it came to introducing lumpier meals and finger foods to my first boy. It always seemed to evoke gagging which not only turned my little man off lumps but also resulted in me being a nervous wreck at mealtimes. However with some persistence I slowly introduced textures into his meals and soon he began to enjoy this new cuisine. With my other children the transition from purees to lumps didn't seem to take as long. Most children develop at different paces and it's always imperative to give them a chance to progress at their own rate. Given some time your baby will begin to control the lumps of food in their mouth and in turn they will learn how to swallow them. It is important to introduce your baby to textured dishes at an early stage, around 9 mths, as it is paramount for the development of their oral skills and also important in the building of muscle tone.
It can be quite labour intensive to cook meals that will suit the babies, children and adults in a house so with this in mind a recipe that suits all is invaluable to the family cook. Risotto is one dish that my whole family enjoy. The risotto is perfect for the baby/toddler, aged 9-12mths, as all of the vegetables are finely chopped and for the older children it makes a perfect accompanient to some roast chicken or a few good quality sausages. Feel free to experiment with this recipe including whatever vegetables are in season.

Millie enjoying a bowl of Risotto.

Nessa's Family Risotto


1 onion, finely diced
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1 small courgette, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tomatoes, chopped
225g (8oz) risotto rice, such as Arborio. (Can also use long grain)
1 litre (2 pints) diluted hot vegetable or chicken stock
50g grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve


1. Saute the onion, pepper, courgette and carrot in the olive oil for 5-6 minutes, until soft.
2. Add the garlic and rice and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes.
3. Slowly add the hot stock and simmer for 20-25 mins until the rice is tender. Adding a little more stock or water if necessary.
4. When the rice is just cooked and tender, add the Parmesan and leave to stand, covered for a minute.
5. When serving grate over a little extra Parmesan.

This article and recipe was published in the Oct/Nov issue of Easy Parenting.
Details are here if you would like to come to one of my demos later this month.
Last week I was invited along to go on a mushroom hunt on the grounds of the very beautiful Kinnitty Castle. Mushrooms are one of my favourite ingredients and I especially love the wild variety. As a child foraging for mushrooms was an annual event, with basket loads of mushrooms collected during the months of September and October. My search for mushrooms hasn't been as successful in recent years, with only ever finding enough to throw in an omelette, so to get the opportunity of a guided tour around the stunning grounds of Kinnitty, with Mushrooms aplenty, sounded fantastic to me.

We arrived at the hotel around midday and were warmly greeted by Gillian and Tim from Host PR, Joanne, the sales and marketing manager and Andrew the general manager of Kinnitty. After a quick chat and a cuppa in the the library we were seated in the Sli Dala Restaurant. We enjoyed a lovely lunch while Bill O'Dea from Mushroom Stuff gave us a very informative chat on wild mushrooms, where to find them and what are and more importantly aren't edible. Bill has travelled world wide in his search for mushrooms and endeared us with many intriguing tales.

There were about twenty of us, so we separated into two groups. There were some of my fellow food bloggers in my group; Donal Skehan, Aoife McElwain and Kristin Jensen. We chose to take the more scenic tour of the grounds and headed into the woods with the hope of collecting a few mushrooms. The grounds of Kinnitty are really stunning with lots of winding walkways through the 650 acres of woodland and forests.

Sofie really had an eye for finding mushrooms and managed to collect most of our groups contribution!

We walked through the forest for about 2 hours and happily managed to find a few different varieties of Mushrooms. Bill had advised us to bring back anything we found and he would then identify them. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon, wandering through the woods and chatting with other foodies. We had a great laugh and naturally the topic of food and photography filled our talk.

On arriving back to the hotel we left the muddy boots to one side for a cosy pair of slippers and took a seat in front of a roaring log fire, where we were given some hot toddys. This was the perfect way to warm up after a stroll in the woods.

Bill then examined the different varieties of mushrooms that were picked. Unbelievably there were over fifty varieties retrieved of which a mere five were edible. Bill stressed the importance of never to forage for mushrooms without the guidance of an expert as so many wild mushrooms are poisonous

A few were brave enough to taste a tiny bit of the more unpleasant fungi. Seemingly it didn't taste too good-I didn't  volunteer!

These may look very beautiful but they are actually quite poisonous.
The edible varieties were then handed over to the chef and he simply fried these with a little butter and tarragon and they tasted gorgeous. 

I know this photo is very dark but I just loved the look of the wellies all lined up in the candle light . I think it gives a real feel for the  exclusive atmosphere that is offered at Kinnitty Castle.
All the others in the group were staying the night and once I saw the bedrooms I most certainly regretted that I had opted for heading home after the meal! The furniture in the bedroom was beautiful and each ensuite featured a stunning roll top bath. Kinnitty offers something so different it  would make an Ideal location for a romantic break.
Isn't this room just amazing!

Dinner was definitely a real treat as There were eight courses and each one was paired with a matching wine. I simply loved the room where we were dining and commented with fellow diners that this room would make an ideal choice for an intimate wedding. The dinner was delicious and the company at the table was marvellous.

Kinnitty Castle hotel is so unique, the grounds are magnificent and the staff are so friendly and welcoming. Even though Kinnitty Castle is less than an hours drive from here, I actually had never been there before. After this trip I most certainly will be making a return visit. The children would really love it and if ever myself and hubby get to head away on our own I know exactly where I'll be booking!