James Street South Cookery School: Special Christmas sauces

A delicious selection of sauces will add extra 'oomph' to your Christmas dinner.
Niall McKenna

CHRISTMAS is fast approaching, so plans are underway for the military operation that is the big meal of the big day. Between mobilising the forces to prep the veg, peel the spuds or brine the turkey – all of which we will get to in due course, so watch this space – I love a delicious selection of sauces to add an extra 'oomph' to the plate.

These four will complement a whole range of dishes that will inevitably be served over the festive period and are always sure-fire winners. Is anyone else hungry?!

:: Red Wine Sauce

2 tbsp. butter

4 button shallots, peeled & chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

80g carrot, peeled & chopped

80g leek, chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed

1 sprig thyme

2 bay leaves

65g flour

100ml red wine

1 1/2 litres veal stock or chicken stock

Salt & pepper to taste

Place two table spoons of olive oil into pan, add the chopped shallot, celery, carrot and leek, crushed garlic and cook until all are a nice golden brown.

Add the thyme, bay leaf and flour and cook on a low heat for five minutes. Add the red wine, mix well and reduce by half. Cook out for 15 minutes.

Add stock gradually, stirring regularly. Season with pinch of salt and pepper and cook on a gentle heat for 45 minutes. Strain through a sieve and season to taste.

:: Cranberry Sauce

Serves up to 12 but can be stored in a kilner jar in fridge.

400ml of orange juice (if freshly squeezed, approx 6 oranges)

400g caster sugar

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/3 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaf

1kg cranberries

Wash the cranberries and put into a pot with cold water and 1 tsp of caster sugar and bring to the boil. Refresh in cold water and repeat this process, then set aside.

Place the orange juice, mixed spice, remaining sugar into a pot with the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, ground black pepper and bring to the boil, simmer and reduce liquid by half.

Add the cranberries and bring back to the boil and reduce by half again. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pass through a sieve if you prefer smooth cranberry sauce.

However, if you prefer chunky cranberry sauce, strain all the juice away and let cool. Remove cinnamon and bay leaf and place in a kilner jar or bowl and refrigerate until required.

:: Bread Sauce

600ml milk

50g butter

1 onion, diced

6 cloves

6 white peppercorns

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bay leaf

3 sprigs thyme

100g white bread crumbs

4 tblsp single cream

pinch nutmeg, freshly grated

Start by putting the milk into a pan, adding the onion, peppercorns, cloves, garlic and herbs and the butter. Simmer on the heat for 20 minutes.

Strain through a sieve and return to the pan removing all the herbs, peppercorns etc. Place back on the heat, add the breadcrumbs, stir in the cream, nutmeg and season. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes and taste, season more if necessary.

You can make this up a day or two in advance and reheat on the hob when needed.

:: Red Currant Jelly

500g redcurrants

500g sugar

1/2 lemon, juiced

Start by washing the redcurrants and placing them in a large pan with 500ml water. Slowly bring to the boil and stir, breaking down the fruit. Cook until all the fruit is soft and broken down.

Using a fine sieve, press the pan contents through into a clean pan, ensuring no fruit fibres get through. Put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil, adding the sugar and cooking on a simmer until dissolved.

Add the lemon juice and stir and bring to the boil again, at this point it should be thickening. Put into clean sterilised jam jars and leave to cool then place into the fridge for storage.

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