Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas meal ideas - Starter and Main Courses

I'm going to my boyfriends mum's house for Christmas Day, however this Sunday gone we had my family over for a full Christmas Meal, which almost didn't happen as I got struck by a nasty stomach bug; however I luckily recovered enough in time to make everything, though was very, very tired by about 5pm! Unfortunately I didn't manage to get any picture's worth publishing but I wanted to share with you the highlights, in time for your Christmas Meals in case you are still finalizing your menu!

For festive nibbles, please see my other post - Nigellas Spiced Nuts

Firstly, our starter was courtesy of Olive Magazine - Chicken Liver Parfaits, my picture did not come out well, mainly as they were nearly all eaten when I remembered! It was similar-ish to the one shown in the link but not as pretty! My ramekins also seemed a bit bigger as only filled 5...I would also allow a little extra butter for pouring as ran out towards the end. The only recipe amendment was that I added 3 tsp of Port to the mixture. They are a little messy to make, so best done in advance and infact improve with a few days rest. It was also my first real experience with offal and it took me some time to trim them, compared to 30 mins suggested on the site, a messy job but now I know! Verdict wise, me and my dad really liked these, they are smooth and taste smooth and meaty, I had served with suggested brioche but this divided us, me for, dad against! We also had alongside some lovely sweet cornish ale chutney, so maybe too sweet all-together for some... I don't actually like liver on its own, however for me these were very tasty but too much for our other guest...still class this as a winner and will definately make again.

400g chicken livers
150g butter , plus 50g for the top of the parfaits
1 garlic clove , crushed
1 shallot , chopped
1 large sprig thyme , plus sprigs to top
pinch Chinese five-spice powder
2 tbsp double cream
4 brioche buns, sliced and toasted, to serve (I could only find the long ones)

Trim the livers of any green bits (these will be bitter) or sinews. Heat a knob of the butter in a large frying pan and gently fry the livers with the garlic, shallot, thyme and Chinese five-spice. Fry until the livers are browned but still soft when pressed, and pink (but not raw) in the middle.

Tip the livers into a food processor. Whizz to a paste, then whizz in the remaining butter and cream. Push the mixture through a sieve - this is boring, but worth it for a really smooth texture. Season well. Divide the mixture between 6 small china or glass ramekins and smooth the surface.

Melt the final 50g butter in a pan and let the milk solids settle to the bottom. Put a sprig of thyme on top of each ramekin and pour a little butter over each. Chill to set.

To serve, bring the parfaits up to room temperature and eat with toasted brioche buns. (I took them out about 1 hour beforehand)

The main beast was a rather big Turkey Crown, being all I could get at the time before the main lot came into stock, which fed us very well, I still have leftovers in the fridge! I borrowed Jamie Oliver's suggestion from his recent TV programme and made a herb butter with dried chopped cranberries (obviously everyone else watched this as got the last packet of pricey organic ones the next morning!), butter, rosemary and thyme. I think it also was supposed to have sage and nutmeg but forgot/ omitted these, once basheed together it was pushed under the skin and then roasted. The turkey was very good and can really recommend this method!
Vegetables wise, for the carrots I also looked to the BBC Good Food website and made baby carrots with orange butter . The orange made a really tasty addition, without over-powering orange flavour, am converted to making this way as the carrots shine and taste great. They can also be made in advance and re-heated - I made in the morning, placed in serving dish then re-heated when we were ready to eat.


600g baby carrots, trimmed as desired (or smallies - mine were value ones!)
1½ tbsp butter
3 tbsp orange juice
handful parsley leaves, chopped (I used thyme as not keen on parsley)

Cook the carrots in boiling water for until tender, then drain.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan (I used the saucepan, quickly dried with paper!), add the drained carrots, then fry over a high heat for 1 min. Pour over the orange juice and cook for a further 2-3 mins, bubbling the sauce and stirring to thoroughly coat the carrots. Finally, stir in the chopped parsley* and serve.

Instead of traditional roast potatoes, I made a rosti 'cake' with bacon, also from the BBC website and was featured in Good Food December 2009. I tried to cheat and use the food processor to grate but it turned a little mushy, find someone with good arm muscles and get them to do the grating! Its relatively easy to make, even though I did slightly mis-read the recipe it survived well! This was a winner for us all. It came out very similar looking to their picture. I made in the morning, up to assembled point then cooked when ready.

1.5kg maris piper potatoes peeled
1 small onion grated
5 tbsp olive oil
5 rashers streaky bacon

Cook the bacon in a dry pan until crispy, dice up.

Boil the whole potatoes for 5 minutes, place in cold water and grate when cool enough to handle, add the oil, onion and bacon and toss together lightly.

Pre-heat oven 190o/ gas 5, place a flat baking sheet in for 5 minutes

Butter a 23cm springform tin and tip the mixture in, gently smooth over and place tin on heated tray, dot with butter and cook for 1hr 20 mins until cooked and crispy (I used foil towards end as quite browned)

Bread sauce also came from the BBC Good Food area, featuring previously in Olive Magazine. I realise a lot of my recipes are from there but am no way affiliated with them, just happen to like and trust them :)

I made this one though omittted the cloves (dad hates them!) and strained the mixture to remove the onions as well, its a very thick sauce and did dilute it further as thickened on standing. A nicely balanced sauce.

Brussel sprouts were left pretty much alone, boiled for 8 minutes then tossed with freshly sliced garlic and butter, simple and great :)

Pudding will be blogged in next couple of days!

Hope some of you may find this useful, merry cooking and merry Christmas! xx

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Nigellas Spiced Nuts

Last Christmas I was given a copy of Nigella Christmas, which I really love and read all year round to keep the festive spirit alive! This weekend we had some family over for an early, full, Christmas meal and I had been meaning to make these 'Seasonally spiced nuts' for ages, and with two nut lovers over it was the perfect opportunity. Or at least it seemed a good idea when planning, forgetting I was doing everything else from scratch on the day! Luckily these only take about 10 minutes from start to finish, and can also be made up to a day ahead. Makes a great little, rather addictive nibble!

The recipe made a very large baking tray full, which I decanted into bowls over the day, and also sent little bags home with our happy guests!

500g mixed nuts (mine were Sainsburys basics!)
1 tsp celery salt
1.5 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp light muscovado or soft light brown sugar
3 sprigs rosemary, + extra for garnishing
sprinkle salt (I left this out)

Prepare a large baking tray with foil.

Heat a large frying pan, add the nuts (dry) and toast for 2-3 mins until lightly browned, add the garam masala and celery salt, and mix well

Add the oil, sugar, rosemary, stir again, when the nuts are browned, transfer to the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt if desired

Serve warm (I kept mine loosely wrapped in foil) Serve and garnish as desired

Monday, 21 December 2009

A Sweet Christmas Cracker for Sugar High Fridays!

Many moons ago, at school in Food tech class we made a pastry Christmas tree filled with mincemeat, and many times since I've made this for our Christmas meal dessert. Part nostalgia and also because its an easy, festive pudding that can be assembled from good shop bought ingredients quickly, or if you have the time, from scratch. Its also loved by all, in particular my brother who was most upset that there were no leftovers this year!

This year I was very short on time, so mine was made with some lush all-butter puff pastry from Sainsburys (more than double the price of normal puff but oh so worth it!), plus some suprisingly boozy mincemeat from Lidl's, with an extra scattering of Barbados rum soaked sultanas!

You can shape your dessert as you like, basically roll out two sheets of puff pastry, cut as desired. It helps to cut a template out first. Then fill with mincemeat leaving a 1cm gap round the edges, brush with beaten egg and place over the top layer, press down with your thumbs to seal.

For decoration, I was slightly overjoyed upon finding what I refer to as 'traffic light' glace cherries - red, green and yellow! Sliced up they make an ideal festive decoration. Additionally, I cut a chunky slice from an orange and baked for about 12-15 minutes to dry out, then pressed on to the centre of the cracker. Silver balls are also good for that festive touch. A little sprinkle of hazlenut crackle also adds to the texture and appearance.

Once decorated as desired, brush with beaten egg for a golden finish, bake in a hot oven for around 20 mins or until puffed up and cooked through. Serve with custard or cream. Or both! Ice-cream is also good with this too!

This is also my entry to Sugar High Friday's Holiday edition, this month being hosted by the lovely Nic at Cherrapeno

The Secret world of Curries

Firstly, big apologies for delay in recent blogging activity, I have changed jobs, and along with the pre-Christmas festivites I don't seem to have had much spare time!

Somehow in between the above, I found time to enter a great little competition over on Deb Cooks and won two Indian cookery books (much to the horror I think of my boyfriend who thought I had been buying cookery books again, lol!) which arrived perfectly timed from Amazon, as I was unfortunately off sick at the time, so had all day to read through :)

The Curry Secret:

The New Curry Secret:

I am really impressed with both books, all the recipe ingredients are very accessible to me and recipes are written clearly, I'm looking forward to trying them very soon! Both books are written by Kris Dhillon, who has also become a blogger, please visit both Kri's and Deb's great blogs.
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