Following an award-wining career, designer Robert Jacob swapped high fashion for fine dining and to pursue his real love of food & wine. A classically trained chef, he has a background nurtured in some of Dublin & London’s top Michelin star establishments. Today he chats with us about Christmas, and making life easy on yourself.
What is your first food memory of Christmas ?
It would have to be eating toasts dripping with foie gras butter as a young child. I have a French Mother and she would always prepare her foie gras Royale over the weekend before Christmas, which is traditionally served at Christmas in her native land. All the trimmings from the terrine would be blended with farmhouse butter and turn into a foie gras butter which we would then spread on hot toasts.
Can you tell us a little about your Christmas celebration and what it means to you ?
It is the perfect occasion for indulging ourselves in dressing up and to entertain at home but I don’t allow it to be a stressful affair as entertaining these days can be as laid back as one likes and involve nothing more formal than guests draping themselves over your furniture and enjoying the food that you have lovingly prepared and drinks that you have chosen yourself. For me it is not about exchanging gifts but rather sharing quality time with close friends & family.
Do you follow your mother’s recipe for Christmas dinner or have you evolved?
Indeed I have evolved but certain food and elements have to be adhered to such as the Christmas cake. Christmas just wouldn’t be complete without the Christmas cake & pudding. I always bake both but they are rarely consumed in my household. However , both freezes really well, Christmas cake and madeira make a wonderful ice-cream, shape into a sausage and roll into a meringue roulade whereas Christmas pudding makes a great base for a baked alaska. Both are almost traditional but with added snow.
What unusual addition is unique to your Christmas feast ?
Whether with a contemporary reinvention of the classics, I always add a touch of drama in shape, form or colour. I serve my food in verrines or as easy bites and make use of all those shot glasses, expresso cups , mini ceramic pots and spoons lurking at the back of the cupboard and perfect to showcase my favourite Irish Artisan food producers:
Burren cured salmon with organic seaweed
Ed Hick ‘S Wild smoked venison & squash puree
Tartare of Asparagus and Goat’s bridge trout caviar
Wildwood vinegars for sauces & mixing into cocktails
And any leftovers can go back in the fridge until later, to serve as an assiette of cold starters or just at hand to fill that little peckish gap before moving on to yet another party or god forbid for the unexpected guests.
What are your top three tips for a person cooking their first Christmas dinner ?
1. Check your bank balance , this will be a good guide in planning your menu, but of course even if normally your budget is restricted , it doesn’t prevent you from going upmarket for this special occasion .
2. Keep it simple. Not great heaped servings and an overload of luxury, but a spoonful or two of festive treats, with flavours intense and complimentary and don’t forget, that the most basic recipe can be topped and dressed up to look fabulous and as long as you use quality ingredients, they will taste fantastic too. Check out Irish Artisan producers, there is a huge range of high quality produce out there.
3. Last but most important, prepare as much as possible on the days before as you want to enjoy the festivities as well.