Sunday, 4 November 2012

Day 175: Challenge completed!!! Woo-hoo!!!

Challenge completed – all 180+ recipes are now cooked!

So the final day finally arrived and I knew I had to plan a special grand finale dinner so that meant that for Sunday, 4 November 2012, my house turned into Christmas Day – minus the presents, tree, snow, of course. Although, we did have fairly frosty roads. Anyway, as usual on a Sunday morning, Baby Daughter woke up at 6:50am so the first meal of the day was the usual porridge followed by tea and toast and that was us until the boys got up. They had their usual cereal followed by sausages, toast and tea an hour later. Ten o’clock wasn’t far coming around and, at that point, that’s when the dinner preparations began. But before, I get down to the individual dishes, I better tell you the menu for the dinner…

Apple and pecan salad with prosciutto ham

Main Course
Slow-roast shoulder of pork
Chicken paillard with creamy cucumber and courgettes
Roast potatoes
Creamed potatoes
Roasted butternut squash
Root vegetable mash
Amaretto tiramisu
St. Clement’s syllabub
Melon with vodka, orange and mint
Banoffee pots
Right, so with the menu declared, here’s how I made the individual dishes…

For the Slow-roasted shoulder of pork, the day before, I had made my weekly visit to Harry’s local food market (which you can follow at @HarrysDonal for details), where I got the veg but, most importantly, the main ingredient which was a very large shoulder of pork from Hamilton’s Organic Farm. Hamilton’s are based in St. Johnston and they breed and sell their own meat. I’m telling you, So, 10am Sunday, it was time to take the pork out of the fridge. By sheer luck, when I was in M&S on Saturday, I spotted that they had the disposable roasting trays on sale so I got one as I knew it was the perfect large size for the pork because, believe me, the pork was huge!!! Despite taking 6 hours to cook, it took minimal time to prepare as Hamilton’s had already scored the rind of the pork for me into a criss-cross pattern – I didn’t even have to ask them so that’s one of the reasons why I’d highly recommend buying from them if you decide to make this recipe. The whole joint cost €44. From the many, many cookery programmes I’ve watched, I’ve learned the important of bringing meat up to room temperature before cooking so the pork didn’t go into the oven until 11am. All I had to do was place the pork in the roasting tin and rub sea salt into the rind. The pork cooked on a high heat for 30 minutes and then I reduced the heat and let it cook for a further 4½ hours. At the 5-hour mark, I took the pork out of the oven and poured all the fat into a bowl. I then added a bulb of garlic, a butternut squash cut up into chunks and 4 leeks sliced and a small handful of sage leaves. All that I needed to do then was pour 3 tablespoons of the fat from the bowl over the vegetables, season them and pop the tray back into the oven for another hour.
Amaretto tiramisu was actually the first recipe I made at 10am as it could be prepared in advance and then chilled. I poured cooled coffee and a small bit of brandy into a bowl and then added half of the amaretto biscuits to soak for a few minutes. In another bowl, I whisked mascarpone, caster sugar and 2 egg yolks for 3 minutes until it became light and fluffy. In yet another bowl, I whisked the white of two eggs until they formed soft peaks and then folded the meringue mix into the mascarpone mix. Next, I added some of the biscuit mix into bowls followed by some of the mascarpone mix followed by a scattering of cocoa and repeated for a second layer. I then wrapped each bowl up in clingfilm, set them on a tray and popped them into the fridge until it was time to serve the desserts.
Amaretto tiramisu

Next on the list was St. Clement’s syllabub which was another great dessert because I could also prepare it in advance. It was an extremely easy recipe to make. All I had to do was whisk double cream and then add the following – juice and zest of a lemon, juice and zest of an orange, caster sugar and a small bit of Cointreau. I just gave all of it a mix and divided it into bowls. They too went into the fridge to set along with the tiramisu.
St. Clement's Syllabub

The third dessert was Melon with vodka, orange and mint which simply involved adding melon chunks, chopped mint, vodka, caster sugar and the juice of an orange to a bowl. I wrapped it up too and put it in the fridge.
Melon with vodka, orange and mint

All of the above took me up as far as lunch time which gave me time to actually make a lunch because there was no way any of us would even dream of going more than 4 hours without food! Once I got lunch out of the way, it was time to load the dishwasher for the third time!!! No joking. I then got on with preparing the vegetables.

For the Roast potatoes, Dear Father had sent me down a bag of potatoes because, God forbid, I would end up feeding him anything less than a Donegal potato!!! I wouldn’t mind but these potatoes were medium-sized and there were about 50 of them so I was well and truly fed-up peeling potatoes. Seriously, such a boring thing to have to do. I then steeped them in two saucepans of water – one for boiling and the other for roasting until it was time to put them on to cook. Once boiled, I mashed the potatoes and added double cream and butter.

I was looking forward to making the Root vegetable mash because I was able to get freshly dug celeriac from Harry’s market which is unusual. I think this was also the first time I cooked celeriac. For the mash, I boiled chunks of celeriac, carrot, parsnip and celeriac. I then drained and mashed before stirring in double cream, salt and pepper, chopped parsley and chopped thyme. 
Root vegetable mash

For the starter, I adapted the Pear and blue cheese salad (from Day 163) to make Apple and pecan salad with prosciutto to include mixed salad leaves, wedges of Pink Lady apples, toasted pecan nuts, cubed cheddar cheese, prosciutto ham and the dressing was made up of olive oil, salt and pepper, runny honey and Dijon mustard.

For anyone who didn’t like pork, I decided to make the recipe from Day 149 again which was Chicken paillard with creamy cucumber and courgettes.

The dinner table

Right so, the starter went down a treat – even amongst the meat-lovers and then it was time to serve up the main course and I just put everything on separate dishes and let everyone help themselves.

The verdict…

A resounding 10 out of 10 from everyone! Yipee! I was hoping to get the 10 because I really had been cooking all day. Oh, I forgot to say who was round for dinner and, because it was the last day of cooking, I’ll have to give you their proper names – Dear Father aka Michael, Dear Mother aka Maureen, Dear Sister No.1 (aka Claire), Dear Brother-in-Law (aka Conor), Dear Sister No.2 (aka Lisa), Dear Brother-in-Law No.2 (aka Seamus), Dear Sister No.3 (Eileen), Dear Sister’s boyfriend (aka Garbhan) and, last but not least, Dear Husband (aka Rodney), Dear Son and Baby Daughter.

Being vegetarian, I had the salad for starter (minus the prosciutto) followed by the roast potatoes, root vegetable mash, roasted butternut squash and creamed potatoes. I loved every single bite. Since this Challenge began, I have a newfound love of butternut squash and I'm now a big fan of celeriac.

I am going to say this, not because I cooked this dinner, but it was spectacular. Absolutely everything was a hit – the meat, the veg, the desserts. Everything worked so well and there was something for everyone. It was great to have a big family dinner other than Christmas Day with everyone enjoying the food so much. The menu was a real hit and the desserts – well, let’s just say that quite a number of the dinner guests didn’t settle at eating one and possibly ate three of them! Surprisingly though, the star dessert were the Little Banoffee Pots (see Day 136) followed by the Amaretto tiramisu.  

So now that I have the post written up for the grand finale dinner, I am going to publish one more post in honour of it being the last one for this Challenge. Until then…

P.S. Hamiltons sell their meat at Harry's local food market in Bridgend every Saturday and they also sell in Dunfanaghy every saturday. Their number is 086 171 4009 if you're hoping to order the 4kg pork shoulder from them which you need to do the week before.  



  1. Oh wow Lynda, congratulations & well done!!!
    Can't wait toread about the grand finale!! :-)

  2. Now that I have read the whole post on your final meal, I have to add to my earlier comment and say how fabulous the final meal sounds!! Everything sounds really delicious and completing this challenge in the middle of your already busy life is a real achievement! Congratulations again and many thanks for all the entertaining posts, I've been following your challenge since early on and I've thoroughly enjoyed it!

    1. Hi Katherine. Thanks for reading again. I'm delighted that you were a regular reader and enjoyed the blog. It was people like you who kept me going at times! Hopefully, you'll enjoy the next blog as much! :)

      Lynda xxx