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Three Fabulous Festive Starters from Ciara’s Kitchen

Chef Ciara Fennessy of Ciara’s Kitchen shares her top three starters for Christmas. Apart from making super starters, these adaptable dishes would also make lovely lunches on those lazy Twixmas afternoons.

Caramelized Scallops on Minted Pea Puree with Black Pudding

Serves 2-6 (depending on whether it is a starter or main)

This is a lovely elegant starter that is very easy to pull together. The pea puree can be made in advance and reheated to save precious time on Christmas day.


  • 6 large scallops, roe removed
  • 25g light golden brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Essential Equipment:

  • Plate & kitchen towel
  • Frying pan
  • Serving plates
  1. Rinse the scallops under a cold water tap and then pat dry.
  2. Season with salt & freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Pour the sugar onto a plate and dip both sides of the scallops in it.
  4. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a frying pan. Add the scallops.
  5. Fry for approximately two minutes on one side until golden and caramelized. Then flip over and cook for about another two minutes on the other side until golden and caramelized.

Black pudding:

  • 280g black pudding
  • 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil

Essential Equipment:

  • Knife & chopping board
  • Frying pan
  • Plate & kitchen towel
  1. Cut 6 x ½ inch slices of black pudding.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the pudding and fry on a medium heat for approx. 4 minutes on each side until cooked through.
  3. Remove and place on some kitchen towel to soak up any excess oil.

Minted Pea Puree: 

  • 250g frozen petits pois
  • Small handful fresh mint leaves
  • 20g butter
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Essential Equipment:

  • Knife & chopping board
  • Small pot
  • Colander
  • Hand blender or liquidiser
  1. Put the peas in a pot. Cover with boiling water. 
  2. Bring to the boil with the lid off. Reduce to a simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Strain in a colander. Put back into the pot. Add the mint leaves and butter. Season with some salt & freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Blend to a fine puree with a hand blender or in a liquidiser.

Garnish: (optional)

  • 25g pea shoots 

To assemble:

Put a spoonful of the pea puree on a plate. Place a slice of black pudding on top of the puree. Top that with a scallop and then place some pea shoots on top and serve. 

Black Pudding & Parsnip 2 ways with Beetroot & Parmesan Crisps

Serves 4

A lovely combination of flavours plus loads of nice techniques that can be used over and over again for different dishes.


  • 1 parsnip, a small one will do, peeled (For crisps)
  • 100g Parmesan cheese 
  • 500g parsnips, peeled (for puree)
  • 40ml milk
  • 10g butter
  • Salt 
  • Olive or rapeseed oil to fry pudding
  • 200g black pudding
  • 4 small beets (I use Tesco Finest Sweet & Fiery Beetroot. The vacuum packed ones will also do)
  • Salad leaves 


  • 20ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 5ml honey
  • 10ml white wine vinegar (or apple cider or sherry)
  • Small pinch salt

Essential Equipment:

  • Knife & chopping board
  • Two small baking trays lined with parchment paper
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Grater
  • Small pot with lid
  • Colander
  • Stick blender, food processor or potato masher
  • Frying pan
  • Jam jar
  • Serving plates


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees / 180 degrees fan.
  2. Make the parsnip crisps. With a vegetable peeler peel thin slices of the parsnip.
  3. Place in a single layer on some parchment paper on a baking tray.
  4. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
  5. Make the parmesan crisps. Grate parmesan and place 8 mounds on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Pop in the oven for 7 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
  6. Meanwhile dice the parsnips into ½ inch squares and put into a small pot. Cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt, pop the lid on pot, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer until soft, about 5-7 minutes, then drain.  
  7. Add the milk and butter and another small pinch of salt and mash well or puree.
  8. Slice the black pudding into 12 rounds. Heat a frying pan. Add a little oil and fry the black pudding for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  9. Make the dressing by mixing the ingredients together in a jar and shaking well. 
  10. Assemble: Dollop some parsnip puree in the centre of the plate and drag it across the width of the plate with the back of a spoon. Place a few nice salad leaves on a plate, then some slices of the beetroot. Place 3 slices of black pudding on each plate. Drizzle over some dressing. Garnish with the parsnip and parmesan crisps and serve.

Brussels Sprout Soup with Crispy Bacon

Serves 4

Love them or hate them this soup is worth a try! Christmas is not Christmas without at least a few Brussels Sprouts!!


  • 1 ½ tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil
  • Small knob of butter
  • 1 onion, peeled & roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 500g Brussels sprouts, peeled & halved or you can use frozen ones 
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 50ml cream
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon

Essential equipment:

  • Knife & chopping board
  • Medium size pot
  • Measuring jug
  • Frying pan
  • Stick blender or liquidiser
  • Serving bowls


  1. Heat one tablespoon of the oil and knob of butter in a pot. 
  2. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is soft but not coloured, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Reserve a few of the Brussels sprouts to garnish.
  4. Add the garlic and the Brussels sprouts and cook for a further minute. 
  5. Add the stock, season and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes until the sprouts are cooked.
  6. Meanwhile heat a frying pan, add ½ tablespoon of oil, add the bacon and fry on both sides until crispy. Then remove from the pan and dice.
  7. Puree the soup with a stick blender. Stir through the cream. 
  8. Check for seasoning and serve with some diced crispy bacon over the top, a few leaves of Brussels sprouts and a few drops of oil.

Ciara’s Kitchen Cookery School has just opened an online cook shop selling clever kitchen gadgets and some unique gifts for the festive season including some cute gifts for the mini chefs you know! Log on to see for yourself ”