Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – The Highlights
Considering I decided it was a wise idea to make 11 side dishes alongside our christmas Turkey this year, as well as a three course meal on Christmas Eve, I suspect even my most dedicated readers would get a little bored reading all of the recipes so here are some of my Christmas season highlights.
I’ve always wished that I had a brother. Mostly cooking for 3 small women, 2 old people and my dad (who valiantly attempted to eat with the same gusto as a teenage boy, but was eventually overwhelmed) is a bit disappointing when you’ve cooked for the 3 thousand and have over 3 quarters left over, no matter how much they enjoyed the meal. Ot doesn’t help that my Grandma has a fear of whole nuts, peas and alcohol in her food, and my Grandpa and Dad refuse to eat onions, celery, cabbage, spicy food and Brussel sprouts and my Aunt, Dad and Grandpa tend to just fill up on Cheese Footballs (I think it runs on the family, it’s an addiction that only comes round once a year….. (this wasn’t helped on christmas eve that we had drinks while watching Carols from Kings pre dinner, amazing as always, but as it is already an hour and we had the addition of my father pausing the TV to try and spot him and I in the congregation, we managed to get through a lot of cheese footballs)
Only available at Christmas
I of course took the stance this year that I was going to completely ignore all of this and just make what I wanted to anyway. It went down surprisingly well, although my Moroccan christmas eve meal was viewed with a little suspicion (my grandma enquired as to what ‘quas-quas’ was) and the leeks were left mostly untouched by the male members of the dinner table ( are these onions? was asked), but a good effort was made all round, despite the spice in the Harissa glaze for the mackerel and the whole pistachio nuts in the baklava. The biggest success of the night was the light and delicious lemon and rosewater mousse
500g greek yoghurt
2 egg whites
1-2 lemons zested
3tbsp lemon juice
Whisk the egg whites and sugar over a pan of boiling water until the sugar is dissolved.
Take off the heat and whisk until you get soft peaks.
In a separate bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice and rosewater.
Fold the mixtures into each other and then place in the fridge for 1-2 hours
TIP This also works as a cheesecake topping, with orange juice or as a side dish for xmas pudding
Christmas day begins with Champagne, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (see the Ultimate brunch for my recipe). Possibly the only day of the year that you’re allowed to drink before 9am in the morning, but only if it sparkles. Luckily my dad is well supplied with champagne and red wine by pupils from the school giving christmas presents and supplemented by buying cases from the Cellars of his affiliated college so we were unlikely to run out. He even managed to get a special 2003 burgundy which was incredibly smooth when we drunk it for christmas lunch (I am still learning about wine but apparently this was a good harvest and so hence a good vintage).
However my christmas day begins with the turkey. I am assiduous about prepping everything in advance and the kitchen is full of assorted zip lock bags filled with chopped vegetables, seasoned, which luckily means that all I have to do is place the turkey in the oven and set a timer at breakfast time. This year we got a wonderful turkey from http://www.sandylanefarm.net – possibly the most juicy turkey we’ve every had (shameless plug here but this and the veg – once scrubbed – was absolutely delicious).
THIS TO THIS
When we all got back from blaring out christmas carols at the top of our lungs at church, I was relegated to the kitchen to put everything (as I said fully prepped) in the oven while everyone else went off to open stockings (this still goes on despite the fact that at 21, I am the youngest ) and drink champagne and eat more cheese footballs. As I said before 11 side dishes are probably a bit much but the highlights from this year were probably…
No-Sausagemeat but still meaty Stuffing
Impulse created Truffle and Thyme Potatoes
2 tbsp truffle oil
3 tbsp olive oil
good sprig of thyme
Par Boil (boil until just piercable) in water with salt, peppercorns and a bay leaf – this can be done the day before – . Dust in flour. Heat the oils in a large roasting tin for about 10mins. Toss the potatoes in and cook in the oven at 200OC for 30-40mins until golden
Dijon Braised Brussel Sprouts (somehow even my grandpa ate these – good for unwilling sprout consumers)
Brandy and Clementine Custard (we didn’t tell my grandma about the brandy – yet this was possibly her favourite bit of the meal…. oops)
4 egg yolks
100g golden caster sugar
2 dried bay leafs
a good slug of fresh brandy (not the stuff left in your cupboard from last christmas…)
Heat the cream and milk in a pan until almost boiling. Add a good swig of vanilla extract, the bay leaves and the clementine, squashed. Leave for at least an hour. Heat again until boiling and set aside. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until frothy. Make sure the milk is lukewarm, removing the clementine and bay leaves and pour over the egg yolk mix whisking steadily. Pour back into the pan and place over a low heat whisking slowly. Heat until the mixture has thickened to coat the back of a spoon and take of the heat bearing in mind you should keep whisking until the mixture has cooled slightly as the bottom of the pan will still be hot. Add the brandy and leave to cool. Serve hot or cold
Gin and Juniper Cured Salmon served with creme fraiche and pickled cucumber
Inspired by my sister who discovered this combination while working for the events company Rocket to finance her new extravagant lifestyle in London – she tried one canapé and requested I make ‘as much of this as i could’ – once you’ve tried this you will never go back to smoked salmon – it is so much better! – also dedicated to my aunt who was badgering me for the recipe all through her stay with us
Skinned and boned 1kg Salmon Fillet
3-4tbsp gin (don’t use the good stuff – save that for the Gin and Tonic’s)
1tbsp juniper berries
300g salt (basics will do)
1tbsp lemon zest
150g caster sugar
200ml white wine vinegar
1tsp juniper berries
Low fat creme fraiche
2-3days before –
Mix the sugar, salt, juniper berries, peppercorns, lemon zest in a bowl. Pour the gin over the salmon fillet, turning to coat both sides. Lay on a cling film covered tray and pat the sugar/salt mix onto the top. Tightly wrap in cling film and place in the fridge with a heavy weight/roast potatoes/ turkey etc on top (you’re looking to weigh it down)
Leave for 2-3days pouring off the liquid every day, until the salmon feels more firm and has turned a deeper shade of orange. Wash and re-wrap, leave till needed.
The night before, use a peeler or mandolin to create strips of cucumber ignoring the seeds as much as possible. Boil the caster sugar, vinegar, berries and peppercorns in a pan until boiling. Pour over the cucumber, cling film the bowl and leave in the fridge
To serve Thinly slice the salmon with a sharp knife. Strain the cucumber and place a little in the centre of the plate. Top with 3 salmon slices and then a quenelle of creme fraiche (use two spoons to shape into a peaked oval, passing it between the two and then softly push off the spoon onto the plate) Sprinkle with chopped dill and serve
Things I learnt this Christmas
1. Always wish while stirring the Christmas pudding and force all members of your family to do it too – I find snapchat is effective to include members of the family who might still be in London when you make the pudding, I’m superstitious and while your wish may not come true, nothing will go right in the kitchen over christmas if you don’t
Mum stirring the Xmas Pudding
I made a bit too much….
2. On the christmas pudding front, I tend to not use suet or really any fat, but up the fruit, nut and booze content for the perfect xmas pudding, often it’s better if you have last years this year etc….
3. Always use fresh brandy (thank you Giles Coren 12 drinks of Christmas), normally it won’t light, this year we almost couldn’t get the pudding to stop burning
4. Make everything on christmas day, champagne won’t help your knife work…
5. If your sister brings you port to use in the madeira gravy because she can’t open the madeira it still works just as well if not better
6. On that note leave all alcohol out of the names of dishes no matter how high the booze content, I find it makes for happier grandparents (so this year that was the cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, salmon, gravy, christmas pudding, custard, mince pies and brandy butter……)
Mince Pies (Thank you Nigella)
7. Mothers make exceedingly good vegetable scrubbers (aided by Kings College choir on the radio) ….
8. And delegate your sister to decorate the tree and table, she’ll do a better job and you will be far too busy.
9. The cronut (croissant-donut hybrid) fad trend of 2013 actually lives up to the hype, especially if homemade
10. Leftover cabbage makes amazing coleslaw (try it with mayonnaise, horseradish, raisins, pumpkin seeds, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and grated apple)
11. Cousins are useful for finishing off the salmon and brie
12. Homemade dry roasted moroccan chickpeas are an addictive drinks accompaniment although cheese footballs are worse (seriously how did we manage 5 boxes in 3 days between 8 people….)
13. chestnuts must be cut with a cross before roasting or they will explode over your oven (our open fire is a bit too gas light blue to consider doing these the proper way)
14. Don’t try and learn a whole new board game post – christmas dinner, mulled sloe gin and present time
15. My family are trying to hint that I should move out – they bought me an entire matching kitchen set (kitchen aid, food processor and blender combo, matching kettle and toaster with heating toast rack) as a combined birthday christmas present – on the other hand my staircase are going to love me next year and my degree is going down the drain.