Cork-based chef Rory O'Connell shares his tips for festive brunches and picnics

Two episodes of How To Cook Well at Christmas air on RTE this week
Cork-based chef Rory O'Connell shares his tips for festive brunches and picnics

YULETIDE ADVICE: Rory O’Connell cooks up some more festive recipes in How To Cook Well At Christmas on RTE1

IT’S difficult to mess up a turkey, brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes - though some of us will surely give it a go! on December 25 - so Cork chef Rory O’Connell tucks into some unusual recipes for his Christmas specials this week.

Over two episodes of How To Cook Well At Christmas With Rory O’Connell, the Ballymaloe foodie offers some advice on rustling up a Christmas brunch and a Christmas picnic.

“The notion of having a large group for lunch or dinner can be a bit overwhelming for some,” he explains. “So I am suggesting a brunch rather than the more traditional invitation of lunch or dinner, and all of the pressure that such a meal can bring.”

Rory tackles brunch in the first episode on RTÉ1 today, Tuesday, December 21, at 8.30pm, and says: “Generally, I find brunch to be a more relaxed affair, and in this meal most of the preparations can be done before your guests arrive, allowing you, the cook, to enjoy the event as much as everyone else.”

His Christmas brunch includes bastible bread with various flavours, glazed belly of streaky bacon, and scrambled eggs with roast mushroom and tarragon.

He also prepares potato, roast red onion and thyme leaf fritatta with chipotle mayonnaise, and savoury American popovers with smoked salmon, grilled scallions and creme fraiche.

Rory makes sweet American popovers with raspberry gam and cream for pudding, and frozen berries with white chocolate Sauce.

In the second of his Christmas specials, on RTÉ1 on Wednesday, December 22, at 8.30pm, he looks at picnic ideas.

“One year, my mother announced she would like to have a picnic on Christmas Day, rather than all of us sitting around the dining room table,” recalls Rory.

“A novel idea, and one we were all immediately delighted by.

“I am also suggesting a Christmas picnic, perhaps not to be had on Christmas Day, but at some point over the festive period.

“Getting out of the house to eat is a fun and sometimes liberating exercise, particularly at the darkest time of the year, when so many meals are shared indoors.”

Rory’s Christmas picnic includes leek and potato soup, a chest of Christmas sandwiches, Christmas turkey and mushroom pie, and a salad of winter greens. He completes the picnic with Christmas trifles and soft Irish farmhouse cheese with cranberry sauce, fig and cheese crackers, followed by chocolate orange sticks.

In Catherine Celebrates Christmas on RTÉ1 on Tuesday, December 21, at 7pm, Catherine Fulvio serves up her favourite festive recipes and treats, whilst going nutty with an Irish nut farmer and learning more about Irish whiskey. She shows us how to make the best cocktails, prepare great meals and introduces us to Irish artisan producers.

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