Easy Christmas entertaining
- Credit: Archant
Christmas comes but once a year and you don’t want to spend all of it basting the turkey. Charlotte Smith-Jarvis offers some ideas for getting ahead and ensuring you enjoy the festive fun.
Does the mention of Christmas bring you out in a cold sweat? All that shopping, cooking and cleaning. Trying to fit the tree in the living room without scratching the paintwork and breaking the light fittings. And wondering if this year, 2015, will be the year you don’t overcook the turkey.
There’s so much to stress about. But, come on, it’s just one day. Why not make this the year you take it easy, introduce a few shortcuts, and chill?
Here are some simple, yet impressive, recipes to ease the pressure when the festivities arrive. Make them and pop them in the freezer until the day arrives. From nibbles for friends, to a showstopping pudding, you’ll look like the host/hostess with the most/mostest.
For the cheeseboard/Boxing Day
At a party I struck up a conversation with a lady who, like me, cannot stop talking about food, about pickling and chutneys. Before I left she made sure to give me this family recipe. I took it away, slid it into the back of a Nigella Lawson cookbook, and there it remained until the middle of this year, when it fell at my feet as I was having a clear out.
Having exhausted the multiple relishes and sauces in the fridge, I thought I’d have a crack at it, and boy, was it good – sticky, sweet, mildly spicy and perfumed from the citrus. It goes with anything and everything and is a must-have for your cold cuts and cheeseboard this Christmas.
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For the party season
These are a lot of fun to make and they freeze really well. Cook the blinis on a flat, non-stick griddle (I do mine in an open panini press).
1½ packets of dried yeast, 350g plain flour, 2 eggs separated, 285ml warm milk, 145ml milk at room temperature
Make a paste by mixing together the yeast, 225g of the flour and the warm milk. Cover and leave for two hours. It should bubble up and look puffy.
Stir in the egg yolks, remaining flour and room temperature milk. Cover and leave for another hour.
Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the mixture. It’s now ready to cook.
Heat your griddle or other flat, non-stick cooking surface and drop the mix on in 1/2tbsp portions, trying to make round shapes. Flip over with a fish slice or palette knife when bubbles form on the surface and when the top looks like it’s starting to set. Cook on the other side until golden and firm.
Duck rillettes with mandarin caviar
3 Gressingham duck legs, small tin mandarins, drained and chopped finely, 2tbsp rice wine, 1/4tsp ground star anise, spring onions finely sliced, salt and pepper, chilli jam or hoisin sauce
Place the duck legs in a slow cooker on high for four hours. Remove and allow to cool. Keep the juices and fat. Remove the skin and set it aside.
Shred all the duck meat and mash as finely as you can. Place in a bowl and pour in the fat and juices and season well with salt and fresh black pepper. Pat into a tub or jar and place in the fridge.
For the caviar, mix together the mandarins, rice wine and star anise with a pinch of pepper. Place the duck skin under a hot grill and crisp up. Spoon the rillettes on the blinis with a little chilli jam or hoisin sauce, spring onions and a dab of the caviar. Top with crushed duck skin.
Cream cheese mousse with smoked salmon
200g cream cheese, 100ml sour cream, fresh black pepper, handful chopped fresh chives, 2 spring onions finely chopped, smoked salmon
Whip the cheese with the sour cream and add black pepper, chives and spring onions. Spoon the cheese onto the blinis and top with small pieces of salmon. Garnish with more chives if you like.
Stilton with hot honey caramel pears
1 small block stilton, cut into small pieces, 2 pears, cored, peeled and sliced into small pieces, 1 red chilli chopped finely, 5tbsps local honey
Place the honey in a frying pan and heat on high until it starts to go thick and brown. Add the chilli and pears and swirl around to coat, then spoon onto greaseproof paper to set. Top the blinis with pieces of stilton and pear.
So much of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is spent flapping about over stuffings, spuds and gravy. Try making these two side dishes to have ready to serve. Freeze them then defrost overnight and re-heat before Christmas lunch.
Easy mulled wine red cabbage
This is my favourite accompaniment to turkey. After defrosting, heat through in the oven for 15 minutes before Christmas lunch. Or tip the frozen mix into a saucepan on the day, gently warm through, then turn up the heat until hot.
1 small red cabbage, core removed and finely sliced, 2tbsps unsalted butter, zest of 1 orange, 2tbsps balsamic vinegar (I used Aspall), 3tbsps dark brown sugar, 1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped, 1 handful raisins or sultanas, 1 bottle mulled wine, black pepper
Place the shredded cabbage and butter in a large saucepan and cook on a high heat until the butter coats the cabbage. Add the vinegar, which will stop the colour bleeding too much then add the sugar, apple, raisins, orange zest and enough mulled wine to cover.
Bring to the boil then simmer for around 35 to 45 minutes until soft. Turn the heat up to reduce the liquid until glossy and spoon coating. Season with pepper.
Maple pecan bacon parsnips
4 parsnips, peeled and sliced into wedges, oil to cook, 2tbsps maple syrup, handful roughly chopped pecans, 4 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped, fresh black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Place the parsnips in a large pan of boiling water for eight minutes.
Drain the water out then add a few tablespoons of oil. Heat through on the hob and coat the parsnips in the oil. Spoon into a roasting tin and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Add the bacon and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the nuts and maple syrup and plenty of pepper. Toss together and return to the oven for five minutes. If making in advance don’t do the steps involving the bacon and syrup. Freeze after the first part of roasting and cook from frozen with fresh bacon for 15 minutes before adding the syrup and nuts.
Orange, cranberry and pomegranate muffins
300g plain flour, 130g caster sugar, 1tsp baking powder, 1/2tsp bicarbonate soda, 85g dried cranberries, 1 large egg, 145ml orange juice, 50ml vegetable oil, zest of two oranges, pomegranate or berry jam
Set the oven to 200C and line a muffin tin with muffin cases. Soak the cranberries in the orange juice for 30 minutes. Place all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well to combine. Make a well in the centre and pour in the vegetable oil, egg and cranberry and orange juice mixture. Fold together until well combined then put 1tbsp of mix in each case. Top with 1tsp jam in the middle of each then equally divide the rest of the mix over the top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until firm.
Mocha chestnut zuccotto
(serves 6 to 8)
2 pound cakes or madeira loaf cakes, 4tbsps Tia Maria or Frangelico (optional), 4tbsps strong coffee, 140g dark chocolate, 110g icing sugar, 60g butter, 100g candied chestnuts, 450ml double cream, 3tbsps caster sugar
Line a pudding basin with clingfilm. Slice your cakes and then cut each slice in half diagonally to make triangles. Starting at the base of your bowl, line with the cake until you reach the top. Sprinkle with Tia Maria if you like.
Whip 300ml of the cream with 2tbsp coffee until thick peaks form. Grate in 50g dark chocolate and chop the chestnuts and add these too. Spread the mixture all over the cake. Melt the rest of the chocolate and add the butter and icing sugar. Mix and spread into the bowl to fill. Use remaining cake to line the top of the bowl, fold over the clingfilm, press down a little and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge before the next step.Turn out onto a plate, removing the clingfilm. Whip the remaining 150ml cream with 2tsps coffee and the caster sugar to soft peaks. Swirl over the outside of the cake and chill until needed. Decorate as you like.