Our guest chefs look beyond the humble sprout for Christmas accompaniments.

JP McMahon’s Catalan spinach, pine nuts, sultanas

JP McMahon with his dish. Photo:Andrew Downes, XPOSURE.


JP McMahon is chef and culinary director of Michelin-starred Aniar Restaurant, multi-award-winning Cava Bodega and Bib Gourmand Tartare Café + Wine Bar in Galway. JP also runs Aniar Boutique Cookery School and is symposium director for Food On The Edge. Here, he shares a favourite festive recipe.

He says: “This is a typical Catalan dish where the spinach is cooked quickly with sultanas and pine nuts with the addition of garlic. This dish is very versatile and works well as a side dish to chicken, turkey, duck or lamb, and you may also see it in Catalan cuisine in croquettes. For Christmas it’s a really quick dish to put together and serve as part of the main Christmas Day feast, or equally good to serve with leftovers in the days following – but you do need to cook it just before serving. You will need a large pan, or a wok works very well, to cook the spinach. It will look like a lot but wilts down significantly.”

Makes 4 large portions or 6 smaller portions


Olive oil

50g butter

75g sultanas

75g pine nuts

4 garlic cloves, minced

320g baby spinach, washed and dried

Sea salt


1. In a large frying pan, warm some oil on a medium heat.

2. Add the butter and heat until foaming.

3. Then add the sultanas and pine nuts.

4. Roll them around the pan and coat evenly with the butter.

5. Add the garlic and fry briefly.

6. Follow this with the spinach and season with some salt.

7. Serve.


Bryan McCarthy’s Butter bean, smoked bacon, cabbage & chestnut blanquette

Butter bean, smoked bacon, cabbage & chestnut blanquette


Bryan McCarthy is Executive Head Chef at multi-award-winning Greenes Restaurant and Cask cocktail bar and food venue in Cork city. He describes this recipe as “a really hearty side dish which goes superbly well with Christmas ham. A lot of elements of the dish, like the butter beans and the chestnuts, can be prepared the day before to save precious time on Christmas Day. If I have any left over, I like to add a little stock to it – which I make with my turkey carcass – to make a delicious soup which is perfect to have on St Stephen’s Day.”

Serves 6


200g fresh chestnuts (if you can’t source fresh chestnuts the vacuum packed pre-cooked ones in the vegetable section in the supermarket will do fine)

200g dried butter beans, soaked in salted water overnight (store bought pre-cooked tinned butter beans will do also)

¼ head of white cabbage, sliced thinly with the stalk removed

¼ head of savoy or York cabbage, sliced thinly with the stalk removed

100g of Cavolo Nero (black cabbage), with the centre stem removed

200g smoked streaky bacon, cut in strips

2 shallots, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp chopped thyme

1 glass white wine

1 litre fresh chicken stock

100g butter

100g smoked sausage, cut into small-medium sized chunks (if your local butcher cannot supply this, most Polish shops have excellent smoked sausage)


1. Cut an X in the flat side of the chestnuts and roast on a baking sheet in a pre-heated oven at 190°C for 15/20 minutes. Remove from the oven, crush the skins and remove the chestnuts, leaving them aside for later.

2. Place the butter beans in a pot of cold water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes, then strain and reserve for later.

3. In salted boiling water, blanch each cabbage for 1 minute, then refresh in cold water and reserve for later.

4. In a heavy-based pot, sauté the bacon until lightly browned. Then add the shallots, garlic and thyme and cook until translucent.

5. Add the wine and reduce until half of the wine has evaporated and then add the chicken stock and reduce by one third. Add the butter and sausage and heat through.

6. Serve in a large bowl for the table to share.

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