A sustainable Christmas loaf

There is one  indisputable fact in these uncertain times and that is that Christmas is coming . The decorations are going up in town and the Christmas tree has been installed. It’s a fine Christmas tree too, back to it’s pre Covid status and size which is most cheering. 

As usual, I am running late but soon we will have our shop filled with Christmas puddings and mincemeat tarts. 

Mincemeat tarts are one of my festive food favourites. There’s just about time from the moment that we begin making them, on the first day of December through to Christmas Eve for me to get my fill. This is one of the beauties of seasonal food, we look forward to the moment, enjoy immensely and then it’s gone for another year. 

If you need any help filling your cupboards with Christmas goodies, we are happy to help you with our small but delicious menu. We will have nut roasts, cakes, tarts and the much-missed and seasonally-resurrected vegetarian sausage rolls. Pop in and let us know what you would like and we will do our best to fulfill your wishes..

It’s been an interesting year to say the least with plenty of ups and downs and after  a surprisingly speedy circumnavigation around the sun we’re back to the Christmas dinner conundrum.

This year I decided that with climate change at the top of many agendas (and rightly so) that I’d write a recipe using only ingredients that we can grow in Ireland.

Pumpkins feature regularly in our recipes but parsnips are often neglected. They have a bit of a bad reputation, there seems to be quite a lot of childhood parsnip trauma out there. Boiling used to be the norm when it came to cooking vegetables but often this doesn’t really bring them to their full taste potential. Roasting parsnips, like all root vegetables, makes them sweeter and more flavoursome. 

Maybe it’s time to resurrect this knobbly blond carrot shaped root, as it does grow well in our climate.

I made this savoury loaf, using pumpkin, parsnips and chestnuts, which we ate with cider sauce, and I think it’s definitely a contender for the Christmas dinner table. It can be prepared  ahead of time then just put together and cooked when you are ready to eat.. It’s important to season each component for the best end flavour so remember to season the parsnips, pumpkin and onions and taste each one as you go. A little salt on the onions will really open up the sweet flavour – we are talking pinches here, not spoonful’s.

This savoury loaf  goes perfectly with all the Christmas dinner trimmings if you are sharing a traditional table. it really benefits  from a puddle of sauce. The creamy cider sauce is a great partner and is simple to make. If you want a dairy-free option supplement with a vegan cream. 

Any leftover loaf can be eaten like a terrine the following day or popped into the picnic basket for the Stephen’s Day walk. 

Pumpkin, Parsnip and Chestnut Loaf with Cider Sauce


• 450g parsnips

• 450g pumpkin or butternut squash

• 200g peeled chestnuts  

• 500mls cider

• 100mls olive oil

• 2 big red onions

• 3 fatty cloves garlic

• 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

• 75g flour or g/f flour

• 5 eggs

• Salt and cracked black pepper

Cider Sauce

• Reserved cider from cooking the chestnuts

• 50g butter

• A handful of fresh thyme, stripped from the stems

• 250mls cream

• Salt and cracked black pepper


Pre heat oven 180ºc. Line a 2ib loaf tin or 2 x 1ib loaf tins with parchment paper. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Peel the parsnips then dice into 2-3cm pieces. Put them into a bowl, drizzle over about 25mls  olive oil, season with salt and pepper then toss together. Tip onto a baking tray.

Peel the pumpkin or butternut squash then dice into 2-3cm pieces,. Put them into a bowl, drizzle over about 25mls olive oil, season with salt and pepper then toss together. Tip onto a baking tray.

Put the baking trays into the oven and cook for 30 minutes. The vegetables should be tender but not brown.

Roughly chop the chestnuts into 2 or 3 pieces then put into a saucepan with the cider. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes, the cider will begin to reduce. Take off the heat and strain. Reserve the cooking liquid and put the chestnuts aside.

Peel and chop the onions finely. Heat a medium frying pan then add the remaining 50mls olive oil and the chopped onion. Season with a little salt. Keeping  the heat medium high cook until the onions begin to melt down then reduce the heat to a low simmer. The onions should be gently sizzling. Strip the rosemary from the woody stem and chop quite finely. Add to the onion and continue cooking for 15-20  minutes, stirring from time to time. They should not colour or burn so keep an eye on them.

Peel and chop the garlic then stir into the onions. Cook for a further five minutes.  

Crack five eggs into a bowl, season with a little salt and pepper then whisk in the flour.  

Stir in the parsnips, pumpkin, chestnuts and onion mix.

Mix well then pour into the prepared tin(s)

Bake for 35-40 minutes for a large tin and 25-30 minutes for  the small tins.

Remove from the oven and allow to relax for five minutes before upending the tin onto a serving plate.

To make the sauce put the reserved cooking cider into a saucepan then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium but keep the cider at a rolling boil. It will begin to reduce. When there is about one third remaining take off the heat.

Melt the butter in a clean pan, add the thyme and allow to gently bubble for three minutes. Pour in the remaining cider and the cream. Bring to the boil and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened a little – like good pouring cream. Season with salt and cracked black pepper.

We have a new cookbook full of vegetarian and vegan recipes inspired by produce of the garden and our travels. It’s called Food for Today and it will be available in local shops or online from December 1. The ideal present for  the food lovers in your life.

I hope that everyone gets to enjoy the feasting and I wish everyone good health and happiness for the coming year

Best wishes


Lettercollum Kitchen Project

22 Connolly Street, Clonakilty

023 8836938


Karen Austin

Karen Austin is the co-owner of the Lettercollum Kitchen Project in Clonakilty.

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