Recipes for a small scale Christmas dinner
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis shares some favourite festive recipes for couples and smaller gatherings.
Christmas Day doesn’t always come with huge fanfare and a table laden with enough food to feed the entire street or village. Sometimes, it’s just the two of you, maybe with the addition of a visiting child or relative. But that doesn’t mean your festive meal should be any less of a celebration.
Here are some tried and tested dishes that are ideal for making it an extra special occasion. Many of the elements can be made in advance...so you can put your feet up with a glass of well-deserved fizz.
Roast guinea fowl with leg bon bon and French peas
Guinea fowl is one of the most underrated of all the birds you can put on the table, but it’s so good. If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re missing a treat. I buy mine from Suffolk Food & Drink Awards winner PA Mobbs in Cratfield. Raised free-range, on a diet of grain grown on the farm, the end product is, says Chris Mobbs, almost reminiscent in flavour of a traditionally reared, slow-grown chicken.
The taste is a cross between turkey and chicken - a touch gamey, deeply savoury - and it makes excellent gravy. Here the guinea fowl crown is stuffed with herbs and lemon, served with sweet ‘bon bons’ of leg meat, and peas in a rich liquor. Wonderful with hassleback potatoes and a little bread sauce on the side.
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1 guinea fowl, legs removed and set aside
For the bon bons
1tsp dried cranberries
1tbsp chopped walnuts
1 sprig thyme
1 egg, beaten
Oil for cooking
For the peas
½ tbsp flour
150ml chicken stock
3 spring onions, finely sliced
200g frozen peas
1 gem lettuce, shredded
Start the day before, preparing the bon bons. Pop the guinea fowl legs in a slow cooker with a splash of water and cook on high for three hours. Alternatively, place in a small dish in the oven, covered well with foil, at 150C for three hours.
Allow to cool, remove the skin and shred the meat, combining with some of the juices that have been released. Mix with the berries, nuts, thyme and some seasoning to taste. Roll into balls, dip in the beaten egg and roll in breadcrumbs. Pop on a plate in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.
On the day, rub the guinea fowl with butter, and pop half a lemon and the tarragon inside the cavity. Place in a small roasting tin. Cover with foil and roast at 180C for 20 minutes per 450g. Remove the foil and cook for a further 20 minutes.
Allow to rest while you make the peas. Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour, whisking together until slightly golden. Add the stock, whisking well. Then add the spring onions, peas and lettuce and warm through until a little thickened. Squeeze in some lemon juice and taste for seasoning.
Keep warm while you cook the bon bons by heating a little oil in a frying pan and frying them gently for about five minutes, until hot through. Carve your guinea fowl and serve with the bon bons, peas, roast potatoes and maybe a gravy made with the pan juices.
Wine pairing: a light red, such as a young, new season Beaujolais, or a Pinot Noir
Crab and Champagne souffles
Surely the last word in indulgence...unless you go that extra luxurious step and use the equivalent amount of chopped, cooked lobster tail, or even swap the crab for two tablespoons of shredded smoked salmon or mackerel. These are creamy, rich and delicious, cut by a sharp zip from the wine. Choose a Champagne or fizz you enjoy drinking and serve it on the side. Alternatively, you could buy a single serve bottle from the supermarket to make this.
1tbsp unsalted butter
1tbsp plain flour
140ml whole milk
50ml Champagne or English fizz
1/2tsp mustard of choice
50g gruyere cheese
3tbsps (heaped) white and brown crab meat
1tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites
3tbsps white breadcrumbs
1tbsp melted butter
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, mixing to make a roux on a high heat. Turn down the heat and gradually whisk in the milk and fizz until smooth and thick. Turn off the heat. Add the cheese, chives, mustard and seasoning. Allow to cool slightly. Beat in the egg yolk and crab meat. Pop in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
In a very clean bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff. Take the crab mix from the fridge and beat in a third of the egg whites to loosen. Then fold in the remainder of the egg whites. Grease two ramekins with the melted butter and spoon in some breadcrumbs, tilting the ramekins to coat the inside. Tap out the excess. Spoon in the souffle mixture, dividing it equally between the ramekins. Run a knife around the rim of each one, between the mix and the ramekin, to help with the rise.
These will keep for a day in the fridge. Before cooking, leave them at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve straight away.
Wine pairing: Serve with the fizz you use to cook, or perhaps a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
(makes 2 pies and leftovers)
These pies take the humble nut roast to the next level – encasing the mixture in a crumbly, buttery pastry and served with fruity braised red cabbage and redcurrant sauce. Indulgent, perhaps, but it is Christmas. The pies have such a bold flavour, but are a snip to make, both in effort and cost. You’ve probably got most of the ingredients in your cupboard and fridge already. The base nut roast recipe is my aunt Irene’s and I remember eating it at a family gathering when I was a teen, begging my mum to ask her how to make it. You will have extra filling left over but it freezes well, so you can use it another time.
150g unsalted butter
300g plain flour
225g extra mature cheddar
115g mixed nuts (I used walnuts and cashews)
1tsp mixed herbs
2 large eggs
1 egg, beaten, to brush
For the braised red cabbage
¼ red cabbage finely shredded
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
200ml fruity red wine
1 apple, grated
2tsps brown sugar
Make the cabbage first. It freezes well, or keeps in the fridge for up to three days. Place the cabbage in a pan with the vinegar and sauté on a high heat until the vinegar burns away. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil, then turn the heat to low, pop on a lid and simmer for 45 minutes until soft. Bring up to heat without the lid on and reduce the rest of the liquid away.
For the pie, start with the pastry. Combine the butter and flour in a bowl with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a splash of ice cold water and press together, adding more water, splash by splash, until it comes together. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
For the filling, blitz the nuts in a food processor to a rough crumb, add the other ingredients and pulse. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and cut out circles about 20-25cms in diameter and 1/2cm thick. Line two 15cm diameter, loose-bottomed cake tins with the pastry, pressing it into place. Trim off the excess.
Pack each base with the filling, leaving a 1cm gap at the top, then re-roll the pastry and cut lids to fit. Press the edges to seal and brush with beaten egg. Bake at 180C for 30 minutes until golden. These pies freeze well. You’ll also have leftover filling which can be frozen for another time, or baked into mini loaves for 20 minutes, then cooled and frozen.
Wine pairing: A buttery Chablis, Pinot Noir, or an Alsace Riesling work well.
Turmeric chai puddings with golden chocolate sauce
I love wintery sponge puddings, particularly toothsome, treacle-dark ginger puds, the kind of dessert that magically seems to warm you from the inside.
These little puds are a lighter take on those rib-stickers. All the heady, wholesome winter spices are there with the addition of turmeric which gives them an almost golden hue. The sauce is made with golden chocolate which is easily found online (try Callebaut - about £8 for 1kg). Cadbury’s recently released a golden chocolate bar, or there’s always good old Caramac. Splosh in whichever booze takes your fancy. I used Discarded rum, made with banana skins which infuse the spirit with delicate notes of toffee and butterscotch.
2 large eggs
115g unsalted butter or spread
115g golden caster sugar
115g plain flour
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp ground ginger
Seeds from 4 green cardamom pods, finely ground with 1 clove
1tsp ground turmeric
Pinch of salt
For the sauce
150ml double cream
150g golden chocolate (or Caramac if you can’t find it)
2tbsps rum, whisky or brandy
Line the bottom of four small pudding basins or dariole moulds with greaseproof paper and grease the sides. Mix together all the pudding ingredients. Evenly spoon the mixture between the prepared moulds. Bake at 190C for 20 minutes until risen and lightly golden. Allow to cool, then turn out. If you want the puddings to sit nicely on a plate, trim the tops a little.
Make the sauce by simmering (not boiling) the cream in a small saucepan. Take off the heat and add the chocolate and rum, brandy or whisky, stirring to combine it all. To serve, warm the puddings gently in the oven or microwave, and top with lashings of sauce.
Wine pairing: mulled cider will match the spicing of the dessert, while the acidity will balance the sweetness of the sauce.