It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s that time of year, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the goose is getting fat, santa is all over the shops…..oh no wait it’s October! However that doesn’t seem to stop Ocado from reminding me it’s time to book the christmas food shop. Well if I must spend my day planning christmas food rather than reading up on Prokofiev, I must. I am also feeling the creative juices flowing after U8 has told me that she is going to Midsummer house this evening and we have spent the morning looking at the menu and pictures of food.

Over the years I have built up a number of traditions in our house for christmas I’m sure everyone has their own opinions

1. 3 course dinner on christmas eve before heading over to sing in Midnight mass followed by the first champagne of christmas day (usually involves fish main course)
2. Smoked Salmon and Scrambled egg champagne breakfast
3. Some sort of cured fish lunch starter
4. Traditional turkey but no rules as to the trimmings!
5. Christmas pudding is homemade, no suet and made at least a month in advance, everyone in the house has to stir it
6. Only mum and I will eat the bread sauce but that still means we need at least 3 times what Nigella suggests for a dinner for 6
7. LEFTOVERS (for what feels like the rest of your life)

I’ve decided that this year I have sufficiently introduced my parents to enough new flavours to actually make something with a little spice this year, although piri-piri turkey may be a little far. So for christmas eve I thought we could have a Moroccan theme. Mostly my cooking is french inspired but given the opportunity it would be great to experiment with different cuisines. Although realistically it’s like learning a language, to actually be able to do it right you need to live in the country for a while. Anyway. I started with mackerel with orange and Harissa glaze, usually sweetness and spice are good with oily fish as they cut through the oiliness. What to serve with it is tricky. Too much spice or sugar won’t match the glaze as it already has both. So after trawling the internet for what feels like 3 hours (but what is more realistically 1) I decide on giant couscous (if you haven’t discovered this yet do so soon) AND roasted butternut squash with texture of crunchy almonds and saltiness of olives YUM. At the moment the plate feels a little too orange…. I need some green veg but have no idea what to add to the dish – green beans?? sauteed cabbage? Buttered Leeks….
Starter. I know mezze would make sense but i’m not sure because christmas is such a busy time for cooking and I am morally obliged to make everything from scratch, plus the rest of the meal is now a little on the heavy side and it will be christmas the next day…. So second idea is a simple trio of dips (lemon and coriander hummus, smokey baba ganoush and tzatziki) with melba toast, sorry did I say simple…
Now I know Baklava isn’t technically Moroccan BUT they do eat versions of it in Morocco (or at least according to wikipedia they do) ‘baklava snake’. So for dessert I want to have a go at making a sort of deconstructed baklava consisting of a rolled baklava slice, topped with ground pistachios, with a rosewater and orange yoghurt mousse and orange coulis.

Breakfast Christmas day is technically already set but I still think there’s room for experimentation. This year I’m going to serve the scrambled eggs (beaten eggs, salt, pepper, dash of cream and herb of choice poured into an already hot pan with a knob of butter, already melted and cook over a medium heat stirring till consistency is not too solid -remember it still keeps cooking off the heat-) with thyme, smoked salmon, squeeze of lemon on a bagel with toasted pumpkin seeds (thank you very much for the idea Bills eggs royale breakfast).

For starter on christmas day I’m looking for a cured fish. Since U8 has told me about her recent midsummer house experience (yes this blog post is taking me two days) i am quite keen to try combining salmon and apple, which apparently they have on their menu. Searching for a recipe I’m afraid I didn’t find a good version – that recipe will have to wait for a few months (thinking apple puree, apple crisps, confit salmon…), plus I figure cured salmon and apple might be too strong a flavour, confit is better. But I did find a really interesting idea, if I cure the salmon and combine fennel, beetroot and dill I could make a sort of salad with dill mayonnaise dressing, the beetroot just sweet enough to cut through the oiliness of the salmon (plus U8 was also talking about an amazing beetroot dish…)

Someone once told me that all good meals start with the sides but of course here we already know what the main is. When cooking potatoes there are a couple of rules: fat must be hot before you put the potatoes in, you need a little acidity (maybe vinegar), a herb/spice, pepper and lots of salt. This year I’m thinking, bay leaves, thyme, and truffle oil (my new love). Since christmas is a time for overindulgence the other sides this year will consist of creamed spinach, two types of stuffing (chestnut and cherry/pistachio), cranberry red cabbage, garlic and cumin roasted carrots, parmesan roasted parsnips and dijon braised brussel sprouts. For the piece de resistance as it were I could go really outlandish and go crazy with flavours but to be honest I think the side dishes speak for themselves so a simple
clementine and sage gravy with madeira gravy is all it’s going to be, the real trick is butter under the skin for extra crispy skin! Now I am a big fan of gin (nothing better than a gin and tonic) so in order to incorporate this into the menu I’m thinking sloe gin cranberry sauce with cloves and juniper berries…. Bread sauce has to be a bit more traditional, so turn to Nigella with extra nutmeg grated on top – some things never change.
The pudding is always special – we tend to go heavy on the fruit and less on the suet. Now I wouldnt normally do this but it’s getting late and the pudding last year was particularly good soooo I’m going to use the same one as last year – in fact this one has no suet, just raisins sultanas, apple, prunes, cranberries and more… I am probably just creating unnecessary extra work for myself but I really want to make grand marnier and clementine custard to serve with the christmas pudding as well as brandy butter – it is just soooo good. Plus christmas always needs more booze! Still haven’t got very far on the turkey but found a great recipe for cranberry and white chocolate panettone which will be great for boxing day brunch (and to be honest any time we get peckish) and of course Nigella’s mince pies which are the only mince pies you should ever really make.

So final menu

Christmas eve

Lunch – Roasted Tomato and Basil Quiche

Dinner – crunchy chickpeas
           – lemon and coriander hummus, smokey baba ganoush, tzatziki and melba toast
           – mackerel with orange and harissa glaze, giant couscous with roasted butternut squash
          – baklava cigar, rosewater and orange yoghurt mousse and orange coulis

Christmas Day

Breakfast – Smoked Salmon, thyme and truffle scrambled eggs on bagels with toasted pumpkin seeds

Lunch – Cured Salmon and beetroot
           – clementine and sage turkey with madeira gravy
           – creamed spinach, chestnut stuffing roll, cranberry red cabbage, cherry and pistachio stuffing, cumin and garlic carrots, parmesan baked parsnips, truffle and thyme roasties, dijon braised brussel sprouts, bread sauce, sloe gin cranberry sauce (somehow I think we’re going to have leftovers)
           – fruity christmas pudding
          – clementine and grand mariner custard, brandy butter


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