Nollaig Bheag Na Mban

06 Jan 2012


Today is Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas. It’s a holiday celebrated here on the farm with great care and joy. I will never forget the first Little Christmas I celebrated here in Ireland when my father-in-law wore a polka-dot apron and served us a massive roast goose dinner from a heated retro hostess trolley. Let’s just say, I have photos.

The tradition of Little Christmas or Women’s Christmas is still very strong especially in the southwest of Ireland and is so called because Irish men are required to take on all the household duties for the day. Most women hold parties or go out to celebrate the day with their friends, sisters, mothers, and aunts. Bars and restaurants serve mostly women and girls on this night. Children often buy presents for their mothers and grandmothers. We usually have a lovely dinner made at the farm prepared by grandad who he also does all the cleaning for the day as well. While some people think this holiday should be binned, I think it is sweet, but could certainly be “celebrated” more than once a year!

This year, we are having a big ‘ould gorgeous roast duck for dinner complete with walnut stuffing and some beautiful side dishes, all inspired by the cookbook shoot that I styled last Spring.

Are you celebrating Little Christmas?

Roast Duck with Walnut Stuffing

Ingredients

3kg/5-6lb duckling

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp clear honey

2 tbsp plain flour

300 ml/ 1 cup of chicken stock

Salt & Pepper

Walnut Stuffing

1 tbsp oil

1 onion chopped

125g/1/2 cup chopped roasted walnuts

125g/1/2 cup fresh white breadcrumbs

Grated rind of one lemon

1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tsp chopped marjoram

1 egg beaten

Method

Preheat oven to 220c/425F/Gas Mark 7

Prepare stuffing first. Heat oil in pan and fry onion until soft

Stir in walnuts, breadcrumbs, lemon rind, parsley and marjoram. Season to taste.

Lightly beat egg and pour into the mixture to bind the stuffing

Dry the duck with kitchen paper and prick all over with a fine skewer

Fill the cavity of duck with stuffing, truss and set on wire rack in roasting pan

Mix the lemon juice and honey together and smear over duck

Sprinkle with salt and pepper

Place into hot oven for 10 minutes then lower heat to 190c/375f/Gas Mark 5 for a further 2-2.5 hours

Baste the bird several times during cooking

Leave to rest for 15 minutes

Use the duck fat drippings to make a lovely duck gravy

Happy Nollaig bheag na mban!

Imen

Photo by Moya McAllister, styled by Imen McDonnell 2011

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