Start As You Mean To Go On

Warming winter drams with recipes to get your year off to a healthy start
By Seáneen Sullivan
Each January, just as the new year unfurls before us full of fresh starts and exciting possibilities, a slew of sombre features appear in the press extolling the virtues of a month-long detox. The suggested process is usually accompanied by an assortment of vile tasting potions or austere rituals. This is not such a feature. Appealing as this grim tradition may seem to some after a month of seasonal excess, the truth is that our bodies are constantly detoxing, organs sifting through everything we consume, and effectively dealing with waste and toxins. While it seems ill-timed to deny ourselves sustenance during the long dark days of winter, January may still be a good time to ease up on the hard working liver and curb the excess. As with everything, moderation is vital, so with that in mind, here is a trio of recipes (and suggested drams to enjoy responsibly alongside) designed to get your year off to a hale and hearty start.

Blue Cheese, Radicchio and Pear Salad

Blue cheese is quite fatty but each portion contains only 15g, so it is worth using a cheese which packs a punch. This salad could also be topped with plain grilled chicken or some baked mushrooms to make a heartier dish, suitable for lunch or supper.

Serves four



  • 2 pears, peeled, cored and quartered

  • 150ml apple juice

  • 150ml water

  • 2 star anise

  • 10ml raw apple cider vinegar


  • 15ml Dijon mustard

  • 5ml raw apple cider vinegar

  • 10ml raw honey

  • 100ml almond oil

  • Sea salt

  • 60g blue goats cheese, crumbled

  • 1 head of radicchio

  • 30g hazelnuts

Toast the hazelnuts for five minutes in a 180 degree oven.
Place all the ingredients for the pears in a small heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Simmer the pears for between
15–20 minutes, or until the pears are soft. Cool in liquid.
Make the dressing by whisking together the mustard, honey and vinegar, and then adding in the almond oil a teaspoon at a time, whisking after each addition. Dress the torn radicchio leaves with the dressing, crumbled blue cheese and slices of the pear, then top with the toasted hazelnuts.

Suggested whiskey

Tullamore D.E.W: The apple and pear components of the salad are echoed in the orchard fruit sweetness in the whiskey. The slight spice of the whiskey is offset by the pepperiness of the radicchio and the honey notes in the glass are a foil to the intense savoury flavour of the blue cheese.

Butternut and almond soup

Chicken stock is my go-to stock, mainly because I love roasting a chicken, and feel it is a waste not to make chicken stock for the freezer from the bones.

Serves four as a starter, two as a supper


  • One small brown onion, peeled and diced

  • Two cloves garlic, minced

  • 2cm nub of ginger, peeled and finely grated

  • One bay leaf

  • Olive oil

  • 1L homemade chicken stock or good quality bought stock

  • One large butternut squash, peeled and diced

  • Sea salt and pepper

  • 1tbsp miso (optional)

  • 350ml unsweetened almond milk

  • 50g flaked almonds

  • Crusty bread to serve

1. In a large heavy bottomed pot, pour in 50ml olive oil and place over medium heat for a minute then add the diced onion. Let the onion sauté for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, ginger and bay leaf and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Add in the butternut squash and immediately cover with the stock. Simmer for 20–30 minutes until the squash yields when poked with a bread knife.
2. Remove the bay leaf from the pot, and purée the soup (in batches if necessary) in a food processor. Hold the pot to one side, but off the heat. Place a fine mesh sieve over the pot and strain the puréed soup back in to the pot. Place back over medium heat, add in the almond milk and miso (if using) and whisk to combine.
3. Season to taste and raise heat to medium high, allowing the soup to reduce slightly and thicken up.
4. Serve in bowls, sprinkled with the flaked almonds and cracked black pepper with crusty bread on the side.

Suggested pairing

Aberlour 10 Years Old: The nuttiness of the whisky complements the sweetness of the butternut squash while the hint of sherry plays well against the umami of the miso and the chicken stock.

Dairy/gluten free orange cake

We serve this cake in my pub, L. Mulligan Grocer, Dublin. Blood oranges retain this cake’s seasonality, but regular oranges can be used also.


  • 1 blood orange, cut in rounds

  • 100g caster sugar

  • 50ml water

Dissolve sugar in water on medium heat and then place the orange slices in the syrup. Cook on low for 10 minutes before removing slices carefully from syrup to cool. Save syrup.

  • 2 eggs

  • 100g caster sugar

  • 5 ml vanilla essence

  • 75g gluten free flour (we use Dove Farm)

  • 1 tsp gluten free baking powder

  • 75ml vegetable oil

  • 55g ground almonds

1. Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla until light yellow and doubled in volume (about 10 minutes). Sift in flour, baking powder and fold through. Add oil and ground almonds and gently fold in, being careful not to deflate the mixture.
2. Grease a six mould muffin tin. Place one orange slice in the bottom of each tin and divide mix between moulds. Bake at 180 for 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes by sticking a skewer into the centre.
3. Cool in tin and then serve orange side up with coconut yogurt and poaching syrup.

Suggested pairing

Dalwhinnie 15 Years Old: The whollop of citrus in this dram, especially the nectarine notes play very well against the blood oranges. The sweet honey and nuts of the whisky get good and cosy with the light almond base of the cake.