Anna Haugh, originally from Dublin, is chef-patron of Myrtle Restaurant in Chelsea, London.
Christmas as a child was magical and mysterious as an adult. It’s been sparkly and filled with parties and gifts but now I’m about to embark on a new Christmas. It’s 5am and my little cherub is asleep in his Moses basket after shouting at me all night. The road hasn’t woken up and it’s completely silent. It’s these times that I think about what’s to come. I am planning Christmas. I have to choose the family traditions I take from my childhood and introduce them to Oisin and what traditions we will create as a new family ourselves. Christmas dinner was always one to look forward to. The build-up and prep always divided out in through the family with military precision the polishing of cutlery, checking and shining of the Tipperary crystal, planning of table decorations ironing of linens making the Christmas cake months in advance but my favourite was going for the food shop with my mother as she would talk through what delights that were in store for us for the big meal. We never ate turkey. And I mean NEVER. Both my parents agreed it was not as tasty as chicken and chicken was not special enough for Christmas so it was usually fillet of beef, seabass or turbot. We always had roast ham even if we had fish which makes me glow with pride, my parents eat what they like not what is expected. The dessert was Christmas cake or pudding but she also always made her pineapple, lemon and lime cheesecake. One course that we were allowed help with from a young age was the starter my father loves smoked fish and my mother eats so much salmon my dad often jokes that she might turn into a salmon. One thing Ireland does well standing on its head is smoked salmon and that’s what I will carry on as a tradition on Christmas Day. My partner insists on turkey and is a chocolate lover but we both agree on Irish smoked salmon being special and delicious.
Makes one large tart or 6 small
For the tart pastry
1tsp crushed fennel seeds
85g cold cubes butter
3tbsp cold water
500g cold-smoked salmon (approx 70g per portion)
300g cream cheese
1 fennel, grated
1 tsp sugar
half a lemon squeezed
Pinch black pepper
½ jar salmon caviar
Lemon zest to garnish
Dill, wood sorrel to garnish or whatever herbs you have
Salmon caviar to garnish (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 170c. You will need 1 x 20cm tart tin or 6 x 10cm tart tins.
2. Put your flour, salt and fennel seeds into a bowl. Then rub the cold butter in with your fingertips. Do this quickly as you don’t want the butter to get soft and melt.
3. Add the water and bring the pastry together in a ball. Then I like to roll and flatten the ball and rest it in the fridge so it rests faster and is easier to roll later.
4. When you are ready to bake your pastry, dust your base with flour and roll out your pastry so it fits over the side of your tart tins. Gently push the pastry into the side of the tin/ tart mould then rest it in the fridge again.
5. Blind bake in the oven for 30 minutes then remove the baking beans and bake for another 30 mins until golden.
6. Leave to cool and wrap well to stay fresh. (This can be baked the day before).
7. Build the tarts just before you eat them, if you build them too far in advance it will go soggy.
8. Mix cream cheese, grated fennel, lemon juice, black pepper and a pinch of salt.
9. Spoon your mixture into a tart shell.
10. Layer your smoked salmon on top and garnish with herbs, lemon zest and salmon caviar if you wish.