An alternative Christmas menu

An alternative Christmas menu

An alternative Christmas menu - Credit: Archant

Dan Smith, Head Chef at The Peacock, Rowsley, shares his ideas for a perfect festive meal

Dan was born in Mansfield but moved around the country as a trainee chef, gaining experience at Michelin starred restaurants. He worked in London with notable culinary luminaries like Tom Aikens before returning to Derbyshire to join The Peacock seven years ago.

As Head Chef, Dan designs and oversees the preparation of the restaurant and bar menus available at the hotel, located in the heart of the Peak District.

‘We don’t serve anything that’s not in season,’ he explains. ‘The top quality ingredients we use are the key behind each dish served at The Peacock – only ingredients of a high standard make it onto each plate. Our meats and dairy all come from local sources, our fishmongers are first–rate in their knowledge of what’s in season and good, and our vegetables and fruits are all packed with flavour.’

And what was the inspiration behind Dan’s career as a chef? ‘It’s simple,’ he explains, ‘I just love food.’

Oysters Kilpatrick

I have chosen this starter as I think it is always good to have oysters at Christmas. They are a very special and indulgent ingredient that you don’t have every day. This recipe also brings back happy memories for me of a Christmas spent in Australia where this dish is hugely popular and served everywhere.

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Serves 6

24 Oysters

A splash of vegetable oil

2 shallots finely chopped

Small knob of butter

8 rashers of good quality streaky bacon

4 tbsp Worcester sauce

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

8-10 drops of Tabasco sauce

Lemon wedges for serving

Sweat the diced shallots in a pan on a low heat in the oil until they soften. Add the bacon and butter to the pan and turn up the heat. Continue to stir the bacon until it starts to colour. Cook until lightly browned then drain in a sieve.

When drained, place the bacon mixture into a bowl and stir in the Worcester sauce, ketchup and Tabasco. (This can be done in advance and stored in the fridge.)

Pre-heat the grill to the hottest setting. Open and clean the oysters, return the oysters with any juice back into the bottom deep shells and discard the top shells. Divide the bacon mixture between the shells covering the oysters. Grill on the top shelf until the bacon on top goes crispy. This should take about 1½–2 minutes.

Serve four oysters for each person with a wedge of lemon.

Barbecued Turkey

This is how I cook my turkey at home at Christmas for my family. I find it the best possible method as you end up with a very juicy, succulent turkey because of the brining, and the barbecue gives it a subtle hint of smokiness. Cooking the turkey on the barbecue also leaves the oven free for all the roast potatoes and vegetables, therefore limiting Christmas Day stress... However, I must warn you, you will get some funny looks from the neighbours when you’re lighting your barbecue on Christmas Day.

For this method you will need a large charcoal-burning barbecue not a gas-powered one. You will also need to familiarise yourself with indirect cooking on the barbecue. There is plenty of information on this on the internet, but basically it involves cooking the meat over a tray of water to slow down the cooking process. I also highly recommend buying an inexpensive digital thermometer probe.

Serves 6

1 4.5kg Turkey

800g salt

10 litres cold water

250g butter

A drizzle of vegetable oil

4 onions

4 carrots

20g rosemary

20g thyme

75ml white wine

Mix the salt with the cold water to make the brine. Place the turkey in a large bowl or clean bucket and pour over the brining liquid. Leave in a cold place overnight. In the morning drain off the brine and run cold water over the turkey for five minutes then stand the turkey in a bucket of cold water for one hour. Drain the turkey and dry very well, push the butter underneath the skin on the breasts of the turkey.

Light your barbecue and allow it to reach approximately 200°C.

Peel the onions and carrots and cut them in half. Place them into a roasting tray with the herbs and sit the turkey on top. Drizzle with the vegetable oil and massage it into the turkey. Place the tray inside the barbecue and allow the turkey’s skin to colour a deep golden brown (this should take about 20-30 minutes).

When the turkey’s skin has coloured, carefully remove it from the barbecue and set the barbecue up for indirect cooking. Allow the barbecue’s temperature to fall to approximately 120°C-130°C. Pour the wine in with the turkey and place back into the barbecue. You can now relax and look after the rest of the dinner.

Check on the turkey every 30 minutes and baste it with the cooking liquor. After approximately 3–3½ hours probe the thickest part of the turkey with the digital temperature probe. The temperature should reach 70°C, When this has been reached, remove the turkey from the barbecue and rest it somewhere warm for 30 minutes before carving.

Serve this with traditional roast turkey accompaniments. The whole turkey can be substituted for a turkey crown if you don’t want the legs, but you will need to reduce the cooking time accordingly.

Panettone Bread & Butter Pudding

This is a nice alternative to Christmas Pudding. I find this a lot lighter and easier to eat and you are still sticking to the Christmas theme because of the Panettone.

Serves 6

340g Milk

340g Cream

2 Vanilla pods

1 Orange

9 Egg yolks

170g Sugar

400g Panettone

75g Soft butter

Icing sugar for dusting

Place the milk and cream in a pan. Split the vanilla pods in half and scrape out the seeds and add to the pan. Finely grate the orange zest into the pan. Bring everything to the boil and turn off the heat. Place the egg yolks and sugar together in a mixing bowl and whisk together. Pour the hot milk and cream over, whisking together. Pass the mixture through a sieve.

Slice the panettone into thin slices and spread with the butter.

Layer the buttered panettone slices into a baking dish and pour the custard mixture over. Place the baking dish into a larger tray or baking dish and half fill with boiling water.

Bake in the oven at 160°C for approximately 40 minutes until the custard in the centre of the pudding is cooked through. Dust the pudding with icing sugar and return back to the oven for five minutes to colour. Remove from the oven, cool slightly and serve.

Serve with custard and a little Amaretto.

Visit or call 01629 733510 for details of their festive fine-dining and seasonal bar menu.