Creative Christmas: Tips From Our Experts

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On Monday evening at The 5 Star Merrion Hotel, guests gathered to hear expert tips and advice for a stress-free?Christmas. We were joined by Ed Cooney, executive chef, The Merrion Hotel and Ruth Monahan, managing director, Appassionata Flowers.

In response to requests here are some expert tips and advice that were covered over the course of the evening.?

Recipes from Ed Cooney, executive chef, The Merrion Hotel:

1. Brie de Meaux, Apricot and Thyme BonBons - makes 30

Ingredients:

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275g Brie
400g Apricot
10g Thyme
500g Panko Bread Crumbs
400ml Eggs
300g Flour

Method:

  • Allow the brie to come to room temperature and then mix with the finely chopped apricot and thyme.
  • Scoop into bonbon-sized balls using a melon scoop.
  • Place the bonbons in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Pan? (dip and coat thoroughly) twice in the flour, egg and breadcrumbs, in that order.
  • Freeze, if required, for a later date or place in a fridge until required.
  • Cook in a medium fat fryer until golden brown.

2. Ed Cooney's Apricot and Thyme Stuffing (10 portions)

Ingredients:

200g Soft White Breadcrumbs
200g White Onion, finely chopped
200g Dried Apricot, finely chopped
240g Butter
8g Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

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  • Sweat the onion in the butter on a low heat for 30 minutes, ensuring the onion and butter do not brown in colour.
  • Fold in the dried apricot, then the breadcrumbs and thyme and remove from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Reheat when required in the microwave.

 

Ruth Monahan from Appassionata Flowers:

As a florist, I love the winter season and all it brings. It's a great time for foraging, and bringing our countryside inside the home. We have just had a truckload of Irish homegrown pine and foraged branches arrive to our shop from Clare, and our fragrant foliage supplier has just dropped up eucalyptus from Waterford. All of us in Appassionata love the fact that we can combine our natural habitat with luxe festive items like dried fruit and nuts, cones of all shapes and sizes, and berried lovelies like skimmia and ivy. I love to use herbs in our work too.

Being a big believer in using what is in your surroundings, it's a good idea to look outside and see what is left to forage from your garden or nearby wall. Decide the look that you love, trust in your taste, and plan all your fresh decoration.

Here's a list of steps to take to avoid any added stress:

  1. Make a list of all your needs by walking through your home and imagining what you would like to see once you come through your front door. See what elements you have at home, pull out your vessels and then see if you need to order any loose cut flowers from your florist or get some extra plants? it's also great to invest in a floristry scissors, as it will allow you to cut your stems properly and save you hand trauma. The Oasis brand is perfect and is usually available from florists and garden centres.
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  1. Your door wreath reflects your personality and your sense of home. Try making your own wreath or customising a wreath you have bought. Gorgeous elements to add would include dried fruit, fresh apples, cinnamon bound in stylish knots of ribbon, cones you may have found on a forest floor, or cut skimmia from your favourite bush in the garden. Herbs like bay leaves, rosemary and dried lavender add a magic touch.
  1. I always put groupings ofa-cozy-gang-e90-shot-2'skimmia and cyclamen in pots combining pinks and reds for a bit of bright on the porch or you could buy two small Christmas or cypress trees and spray them with sparkle or snow.
  1. As the hall is a space of all welcomings and goings, there needs to be a dramatic display with minimal maintenance required. Amaryllis would be a good trick pony here. A box of 12 stems will cost between €80-100 from a florist, but these beautiful flowers could then be used in both the hall and then on each side of a mantelpiece. Try placing some stems into a mid-height vase with twigs, berries or foliage and wait for those closed heads to burst into operatic bloom. Ensure you top up the water regularly.
  1. Create a Nordic-inspired contemporary tree using twigs like magnolia, willow, beech, and birch, and place them in a nice vase or pot filled with moss.
  1. Key things to consider when dressing your Christmas table are the size and shape of the table, the quantity and ages of guests and under-10 diners, the amount of condiments, glasses, crackers and bottles, and the amount of occasions that will take place. You need to have a table centre set-up that will work for you for a week. Don't think for a second that making your table centre on Christmas Eve is a good idea. There could be tears or sheer resentment as you stare at it on the big day. Make it on the 22nd and then all you have to do is place it - keep it sprayed with water and in a cool room. Place newspaper on your table before prepping all of your elements - this will help with your styling and speed as you can gather up your mess easily once all is complete. A secondary option is a runner or series of vases and pots - I love the mix of herbs, bulbs and plants like punky pink and pretty pink cyclamen mixed with posies of winter foliage and berries to simple domes of roses in my favourite vessels. Keep all your little cutoffs and spare bits for use in posies or trays? Dress your hurricane lanterns with berries and moss and a touch of ribbon.

For more Christmas inspiration, visit http://www.appassionata.ie/content/christmas-ideas.html or call into us in the shop to ask any questions or chat about your creativity plans for Christmas.

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