3 Traditional Irish Christmas Recipes

By Michaela Moriarty / November 22, 2020
traditional Irish Christmas

In Ireland, Christmas dinner is a big affair, with a lot of Christmas Eve and Day being spent preparing the food for the big meal. While a lot of families have their own food that they like to serve – from Yorkshire puddings, to beef instead of turkey – there are a few traditional Irish Christmas foods that a lot of Irish families still make to this day. Here we have 3 recipes that can be served for lunch, dinner and dessert. 

Spiced Beef (Lunch)

Spiced Beef

The first traditional Irish Christmas recipe is spiced beef (Irish: mairteoil spíosraithe). The meat is rubbed with a variety of spices and then usually boiled, broiled or semi-steamed in water or sometimes Guinness (or a similar stout). It can be served cold, usually in thin slices, often with brown bread and apricot and almond chutney. This takes a few days to prepare as the meat is spiced every day for around a week. Sometimes, you can get the spice mix from the butchers, but why not make it yourself. You can alter the recipe if you don’t like the quantities, which is a bonus.

Ingredients

  • 5-6kg cut of beef (rump, brisk, silverside etc)
  • 80 gr brown sugar
  • 20gr salt 
  • 20 gr black crushed peppercorns
  • 15 gr allspice berries or dried allspice if berries unavailable
  • 15 gr cloves
  • 15 gr juniper berries
  • 20gr of saltpetre if available
  • 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, half an onion and orange rind.
  • 20 gr butter 

Method

  1. Trim any excess fat off the meat.
  2. Crush all of the spices (salt, peppercorns, cloves, saltpetre) in a mortar and pestle, or in a spice grinder, until they resemble a fine powder. Mix with berries and sugar. 
  3. Take the meat out and rub with spice mixture. Return to fridge.
  4. Take meat out of the fridge daily to massage evenly with spice mix in the tray, turning each time. This is done for up to 7 days.
  5. When ready to cook, heat a pot with the butter. Roughly chop the celery carryout and onion, and place in the pot to cook slightly, with the orange rind. Cook for around 20 minutes. Fill the pot with water, or half water and 2 bottles of Guinness if preferred, and bring to a gentle simmer.
  6. Place meat in the pot. Cover tightly with a lid. 
  7. Cook for around 2.5 – 3 hours. Take out and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. 
  8. To serve, slice thinly.  

 

Roast Goose (Dinner)

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Our second traditional Irish Christmas recipe is roast goose. While roast turkey is more common to eat at the table now, roast goose was one of the meats traditionally served at the dinner table in Ireland. They were at their fattest right after the harvest, so a roast goose would have served plenty of people. Some people like to brown the skin by placing the bird breast side down on a the roasting tin, so that part is in direct contact with the heat, but it’s up to you!

Ingredients. 

  • 5-6kg goose – giblets removed, feathers plucked if any. Remove pads of fat at the cavity by running a knife around it. This can be removed and used to cook potatoes after rendering down. (Giblets can be used for gravy or stock). 
  • Additionally, if you want, Trivet of vegetables (onion, celery carrot, parsnip, cloves of garlic, fresh herbs). 

OR

  • Half an onion
  • Half an orange
  • A couple of bay leaves.

NOTE- Cooking times will change depending on size of goose.

Method 1. 

  1. Preheat oven to 220/200Fan/400F/Gas Mark 6
  2. Roughly chop any vegetables for the trivet and place in a tray. For the fresh herbs, lightly bruise or chop with a knife before placing in. Salt and shake to distribute
  3. Place goose on top of the trivet of vegetables. Goose has a natural layer of fat, so will not need basting. If you want to, baste it every 30 minutes, skimming some, but not all, of the fat off every time,. If it is getting too brown on top, cover with foil.
  4.  Cook for 3-3.5 hours. Test for doneness by piercing the thickest part with a skewer. If juices run clear, it is done.
  5. Remove and let stand. Drain any fat out of the tray into a bowl or sterilized jars for later.
  6. The vegetables can be  used or to make stock. To do this, deglaze the pan by adding in some wine, heating it gently on the stove top (easier on a gas hob) to scrape any fond off the bottom. Lightly mash the vegetables to release any remaining juices and flavour. Sieve and strain into a pot to add to gravy or stock. 

OR

Method 2

  1. Preheat oven to 220/200Fan/400F/Gas Mark 6
  2. Alternatively, stuff the goose with half an onion and half an orange and the bay leaves. 
  3. Place on a tray, and cook for 1.5 hours. Baste every 30 minutes if so desired.
  4. Halfway through cooking, drain most of the fat out. (This can also be used for roasting veg) Cover with foil, especially if getting too brown. Cook for a further 1.5 hours. 
  5. Remove foil, and brown for 15 minutes if needed. To test for doneness, pierce the thickest part with a skewer and if juices run clear, it is cooked.
  6. Take out and let stand to rest meat. Remove the onion, orange and bay leaves

Goose, like duck or beef, can be served pink.   

 

Christmas Pudding/Plum Pudding (Dessert)

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Our final traditional Irish Christmas recipe is Plum Pudding, or Christmas Pudding. This pudding, chock full of dried fruit, is still being served regularly to this day. Usually made months in advance, and topped up with whiskey or brandy, it is served after dinner, traditionally with brandy butter, but can also be served with whipped cream or ice cream. What many people outside of Ireland and the UK find unusual is that this dessert is steamed in a specific pudding tin/basin, covered with cloth, wrapped in string and placed in a pot of boiling water, rather than baked in the oven. Each family tends to have their own traditional recipe, but here is one from TheSpruceEats.com that you can give a whirl.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound/450 grams dried fruit
  • 1 ounce/25 grams candied fruit peel (mixed varieties, finely chopped)
  • 1 small cooking apple (peeled, cored, and finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup brandy (plus a little extra for soaking at the end)
  • 2 ounces/55 grams self rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 ounces/110 grams suet (beef or vegetarian, shredded)
  • 4 ounces/110 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 4 ounces/110 grams fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 ounce/25 grams whole almonds (roughly chopped)
  • 2 large eggs

Method

  1. Gather the ingredients. 
  2. Lightly butter a 2 1/2 pint pudding basin.
  3. Place the dried fruits, candied peel, apple, and orange and lemon juices into a large mixing bowl. Add the brandy and stir well. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to marinate for a couple of hours, preferably overnight.
  4. In a very large mixing bowl, stir the flour, mixed spice, and cinnamon together. Add the suet, sugar, lemon and orange zests, breadcrumbs, and nuts and stir again until all the ingredients are well mixed. Add the marinated dried fruits and stir again.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly then stir quickly into the dry ingredients. The mixture should have a fairly soft consistency.
  6.  Now is the time to gather the family for the Christmas pudding traditions.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the greased pudding basin, gently pressing the mixture down with the back of a spoon. Cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment, then a layer of aluminum foil. Tie securely with string, wrapping the string around the basin, then loop over the top and then around the bowl again. This will form a handle which will be useful when removing the pudding from the steamer. 
  8. Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan of simmering water and steam the pudding for 7 hours. Make sure you check the water level frequently, so it never boils dry. The pudding should be a dark brown color when cooked.
  9. Remove the pudding from the steamer and cool completely. Remove the paper, prick the pudding with a skewer, and pour in a little extra brandy.
  10. Cover with fresh greaseproof paper and re-tie with string.
  11. Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas day.

Reheat by steaming again on Christmas Day. Do not eat immediately. To serve, cover lightly with brandy and carefully set alight.

Now you have 3 different traditional Irish Christmas recipes that you might not have tried before. While they may take a little more effort than what you are used to (or want) the results will be worth it!

Are there any traditional recipes that you serve for Christmas?

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About the author

Michaela Moriarty

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