Why I’m going all out to celebrate Thanksgiving

There are many reasons to be thankful, says KATE RYAN who is planning a special Thanksgiving celebration on November 25 to mark what’s been a special year
Why I’m going all out to celebrate Thanksgiving

Hasselback Butternut Squash. Picture: Kate Ryan

THANKSGIVING may be an American tradition but, like our St Patrick’s Day, it is celebrated around the world.

There are many ways to celebrate Thanksgiving and many things to be thankful for – especially now.

The interconnectedness of our families and friendships today can find us often celebrating social, cultural, and religious events that reach across old boundaries: Día de Muertos, Chinese New Year, Diwali, Eid, Hanukkah, etc.

In doing so, we find something in sharing each other’s traditions that speaks to our own personal experiences, and we enjoy celebrating that.

Just like everyone else, the past two years have been tumultuous; living through, and continuing to live through, Covid is just the tip of the iceberg. As we move closer towards the end of another year, I’m taking stock and realising that, despite everything, there is so much to be thankful for.

Taking everything into consideration, 2021 has been pretty good to me, that’s why this year I am making plans for a Thanksgiving celebration.

It all kicked off in April when I was elected as Secretary of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild. It’s a role that promotes high professional standards of knowledge and practice among writers about food, nutrition, food history and related matters, and to assist in the formulation of links and networks amongst all involved in the food industry.

To call the likes of Darina Allen, Georgina Campbell, Aoife Carrigy, and Joe McNamee - to name but a few - colleagues and friends is something I will never take for granted.

Adrienne Harrington, Bernard Whelan, Rachael Kealy, Kate Ryan, Ruth Healy, Miriam Murphy, Fallon Moore, graduates of the Postgraduate Diploma in Irish Food Culture - the first course of its kind in the country and the first students to complete the course of study.
Adrienne Harrington, Bernard Whelan, Rachael Kealy, Kate Ryan, Ruth Healy, Miriam Murphy, Fallon Moore, graduates of the Postgraduate Diploma in Irish Food Culture - the first course of its kind in the country and the first students to complete the course of study.

Back in 2019, I decided to go back into further education, and at the end of May I completed my Postgraduate Diploma in Irish Food Culture. In July, I learned I would receive a First Class Honours, and in November I walked across the famous Quad at UCC in cap and gown to collect my parchment.

To me, this achievement is enormous, especially as much of the course ran through the worst parts of Covid. Sometimes a whiff of pride is justified, you know!

Then, I received confirmation my application for Irish citizenship had been approved. The process took two and a half years; I tweeted about it; that tweet went viral, and I ended up on the radio talking about it. A surreal week!

Ireland has been my home since 2005, and I am honoured to be an Irish citizen. The Minister’s letter said many truly lovely things, but this means the most: “Today marks the start of a new chapter in your life, one that you have chosen to share with us, your fellow Irish citizens. We will […] ensure that you always have a place to call home.”

A reason to be thankful? No doubt.

The year wasn’t done with me yet. In September came news I was shortlisted in two award categories for the inaugural Irish Food Writing Awards: Cookery Writing and Writing on Irish Food Producers.

I must be dreaming! Eight years ago, I began my food writing career with a single Facebook post – a recipe for a Wild Mushroom Risotto - and now I find myself shoulder to shoulder with some of the most incredible food writers in Ireland today. There was a shindig in Dublin for the awards announcement last week - an actual party – remember those?

Yes, it’s been an amazing year and I do feel truly thankful. I guess I could wait until New Year’s Eve to celebrate, but where’s the fun in that? And anyway, if the last two years have taught me anything, it’s to seize any and every opportunity to show thanks that I am still here, I am healthy, and I am happy! Reasons to be thankful: one, two, three.

Join me in a celebratory Thanksgiving dinner and toast all your victories this year – whatever they may be!

Oysters. Picture: Kate Ryan
Oysters. Picture: Kate Ryan

Kate’s Thanksgiving Menu

Oysters and Fizz - Minimum three oysters per person, no arguments!

YOGURT AND SPICE ROAST CHICKEN

Ingredients

1 whole chicken

250ml natural yogurt

Zest of 1 lemon, juice of half

Thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated

1 tbsp Garam Masala

1 tsp ground Cayenne pepper

2 tsp sea salt

Garnish: Fresh coriander leaves and pomegranate seeds

Method:

  • In a bowl, mix yogurt, lemon zest and juice, ginger, garlic, spices, and salt.
  • Place chicken into a roasting tray and brush over yogurt mix. Cover, and leave to rest in the fridge for minimum two hours, or overnight.
  • Heat the oven the 190 degrees Celsius, uncover the chicken and roast in the oven until the juices run clear, (between 1.5 and 2 hours depending on the size of the chicken). Garnish and serve at the table.

Hasselback Butternut Squash. Picture: Kate Ryan
Hasselback Butternut Squash. Picture: Kate Ryan

HASSELBACK ROASTED SQUASH

A perfect accompaniment to the roast chicken.

Ingredients

1 Butternut Squash

1.5 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 clove garlic

1 tsp ground cumin

Salt, pepper

Garnish: feta cheese, coriander.

Method:

  • Pre heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
  • Peel the butternut squash, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut the butternut squash into thin slices only to three quarters of the way through- don’t slice all the way, the squash needs to hold its own shape.
  • In a bowl, mix together olive oil, pomegranate molasses, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Brush most of the mixture all over the squash. Reserve some for basting halfway through cooking.
  • Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Take out of oven, baste with the remaining mixture.
  • Put back in the oven and cook for a further 15 minutes or until the squash is cooked through.
  • Garnish the squash with crumbled feta cheese and coriander.

Baked Apples. Picture: Stock
Baked Apples. Picture: Stock

BAKED ROSEY APPLES

So easy to make and yet indulgent tasting. Serve with vanilla ice cream or custard.

Ingredients

4 Bramley cooking apples, cored

2 tbsp raisins

1 tbsp hazelnuts

1 tbsp pecan nuts

2 pieces of crystalised ginger (optional)

1 tbsp brown sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

30g chilled butter.

Method:

  • Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius fan, butter a baking dish.
  • Using a knife, score around the circumference of each apple. This allows the apple to expand while cooking and preventing it bursting open.
  • Chop to roughly equal length raisins, ginger, and nuts. Place into a bowl with the butter, sugar, and spice.
  • Use your hands to bring together. Stuff as much of this mixture into hollow where the core was removed.
  • Top with a small knob of butter and bake for 20 minutes.


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