Food & Drink

Niall McKenna's French fancies – Oyster gratin and Mont Blanc

Oyster gratin
Oyster gratin Oyster gratin

September has flown in, and with it being the last weekend of the month, our summer holidays feel nothing but a distant memory.

This week’s recipes are inspired by a recent trip to France where I had a delectable oyster gratin dish, followed by a classic French dessert – a Mont Blanc.

I love French food, so I’d highly recommend trying these recipes at home for a taste of the classic cuisine.

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If you would like me to recreate some of your favourite holiday dishes, send me an email. Or if you are interested in unlocking your cooking potential, check out our cookery classes at or follow us on Instagram


(6-8 oysters serves two people)


For the gratin mix:

225g butter

2 tbsp malt or white wine vinegar

6 white peppercorns

1 tbsp water

2 egg yolks


Pinch of paprika

20g dill with stalk removed, finely chopped

Whipped cream

50g gruyère cheese (finely grated)

To prepare the oysters:

I’d recommend buying your oysters from your local fishmonger.

To open the oyster, lay it between a folded cloth on a flat surface with the flatter part of the shell on top and hold tightly.

With an oyster knife or small sharp knife, place the point into the hinge of the shell and wiggle to prise open.

Slice the muscle attaching the oyster from the shell and place the juice in a bowl and to the side.

Wash the shells vigorously and run the oyster under cold water.


To begin, melt butter in the pan and leave to cool. If it is too hot, the sauce will curdle.

Note, once melted, only use the clarified butter. The solids which form at the bottom can be discarded.

Next, boil the vinegar with the peppercorns, adding in the oyster juice and reduce by half.

Then add in cold water to cool, drain through a sieve into a bowl and add in the egg yolks to be whisked together.

Place the bowl over a pot of hot water and whisk until a smooth ribbon texture is formed.

Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to whisk, slowly adding the warm, clarified butter.

Once all the butter is added and whisked in, the sauce should be of a thick consistency which can now be seasoned with salt, paprika and chopped dill.

Lastly, place the oyster back in its shell cover, along with the mix, adding in one teaspoon of whipped cream and a handful of grated cheese.

To serve, place under the grill until golden brown.

Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc Mont Blanc


(Serves 6)



100g egg whites (from 3 eggs)

200g caster sugar

Pinch of salt

Chestnut cream:

100g icing suger, sieved

400g chestnut purée

50ml cognac

Crème Chantilly

250ml double cream

½ pod vanilla, seeds only


Icing sugar to dust


Preheat the oven to 90C.

For the meringue base, add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk until stiff peaks form.

Adding the sugar 50g at a time, continue whisking until all the sugar is combined and the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Place greaseproof paper onto a baking sheet, placing the meringue on top in the shape of a log.

Place in the oven for 60-90 minutes until it is crispy on the outside but gooey on the inside.

While the meringue bakes, begin making the chestnut cream by sieving the caster sugar into a bowl and mixing with the chestnut purée and cognac.

Ensure the mixture is combined well before popping it into a piping bag to be stored in the fridge.

For the cream, keep all the ingredients in the fridge until ready to serve.

Once ready, whip the cream with a whisk and add in the vanilla seeds.

Whisk until stiff peaks form.

To serve, place the meringue onto a plate and top with the whipped cream.

Using a piping bag, pipe the chestnut cream over the top and dust with icing sugar.

Serve and enjoy.

Waterman House Cookery School,

Waterman House,

5-23 Hill Street,

Belfast BT1 2LA

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