The 12 Days of Christmas - pt 1

Enjoy 12 food and drink days of Christmas

Enjoy 12 food and drink days of Christmas - Credit: Angela Sharpe

From wintry cocktails and delicious after dinner coffee to tasty chutneys, succlent meat and mouth watering canapes - our 12 days of christmas food and drink special will help you serve a memorable festive feast

On the first day of Christmas . . . my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree

The Gardeners’ Kitchen prides itself on serving home grown, locally sourced produce, and its Christmas menu is packed full of seasonal treats – many of which come from the fields, trees and vegetable patches which surround them.

Winners of this year’s Best Restaurant award, sponsored by Steele Fine Foods, it is serving up the likes of Suffolk ham hock and duck terrine with chutney, braised shin of Norfolk beef with roasted seasonal root vegetables and homemade Christmas pudding.

“There are so many benefits in eating seasonal, local produce, but above all it’s the taste that does it for us,” says James Debbage, who runs Green Pastures with his partner Michelle. “It’s invariably going to be fresher and you really can taste the difference between something harvested a couple of days ago and something a week earlier. It is extremely important to the local economy too.

“Our tips for Christmas? We love experimenting with our produce, and Sarah, our assistant manager, transforms the humble roast potato cooking them in goose fat, fresh and dried herbs and even semolina.

“As far as our own Christmas is concerned, Michelle and I always have sprouts picked fresh from our field, even our little boys are great fans of them! For the first time ever we’ll be enjoying our home grown salad on Christmas evening, picked from the sowings and plantings we made in the autumn. When it comes to his own Christmas lunch, our head chef Wayne likes to experiment with alternatives to traditional turkey. His favourite is rib of beef which he oven roasts at 100 degrees all night long covered with Dijon mustard and sugar.”

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Green Pastures, Mill Road, Bergh Apton, Norwich, NR15 1BQ; 01508 480848;

On the second day of Christmas my true love game to me . . . two turtle doves

When it comes to the importance of bringing together the family, turtles dove are the perfect example - mating for life, working together and raising their young together. And what better way to follow their lead, than gathering your children around the table at Christmas.

Ben Rogers, who is managing director alongside Nigel Emblin of The Waffle House in Norwich, winner of the Children’s Choice Awards, sponsored by Norse, says youngsters are far more receptive to new flavours than we often think.

“We try to encourage children to try different flavours – and, although we have a children’s menu, they often enjoy choosing dishes off the main menu like Mum and Dad. If you have a child who is reluctant to taste different fruit or vegetables, it is important to make it fun and get them involved. Our homemade hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks to dip is always really popular and our organic bolognese is also a big hit. If your little one isn’t keen on vegetables, you can sneak them in to the tomato sauce, and it is a great warming winter treat, especially on Christmas Eve.

“For dessert, a great alternative to Christmas pudding – which a lot of children don’t like – is stewed apples with sultanas and cinnamon. We serve ours on waffles with ice cream, but if you don’t have a waffle-maker at home, it is lovely with ice cream on its own, or with pancakes. It has a really festive flavour, with the delicate spice and warmth of the cinnamon, and best of all it can be made the day before, kept in the fridge, then simply warmed through.”

The Waffle House, St Giles St, Norwich, NR2 1JN; 01603 612790;

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . three French hens

The French don’t have the monopoly on fine cheeses, meats and accompaniments. Here in Norfolk we have a fantastic selection of great producers which can provide everything you need for your Christmas buffet – right down to the eggs!

Winners of our Best Independent Food or Drink Retailer award, sponsored by Durrants, was The Norfolk Deli at Hunstanton.

“Something which doesn’t always get the attention it deserves are those all-important chutneys and relishes to make the most of cold meats,” says managing director Mark Kacary. “Fortunately Norfolk is blessed with a number of wonderful small producers of chutneys, relishes and jams. Made with local produce, you can’t go wrong with any of the delicious chutneys made by Candi at Candi’s Chutneys - try the Parsnip and Chilli with cold cuts. For mustard, it has to be Jubberwacky’s Bandersnatch. If you haven’t tried Marsh Pig salami, you really must give it a go, perfect with Jubberwacky’s Boxing Day Chutney, which combines dates, apricots and prunes steeped in Woodforde’s Norfolk NIP, a favourite of ours and a must have beer for Christmas.

“A brisk walk on the north Norfolk coast makes one long for a roaring fire, a pot of Kandula tea, scones and some jam made by the excellent Essence foods. They manage that most difficult of tasks, taking the ordinary and giving it a twist which really works. Some of our favourites this Christmas include their Seville and Cranberry Marmalade and their Strawberry and Lavender Jam.”

The Norfolk Deli, Greevegate, Hunstanton, PE36 6AA; 01485 535540;

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . four calling birds

With the sound of birdsong at Titchwell Marsh in the crisp winter air, Chris Mann, chef at Titchwell Manor and winner of the Chef of the Year award sponsored by City College Norwich, is busy planning a Christmas feast. Here is his simple recipe to wow your guests.

“Theses savoury mince pies with a celeriac cream could be used as a starter or a canapé. For the celeriac cream, take one large celeriac, peeled and roughly chopped, sweat it off in 50g of unsalted butter with a pinch of salt, then after a couple of minutes pour enough milk into the pan to cover it and bring to the boil. Simmer until the celeriac is cooked through. Drain it and reserve the liquid, then blend until smooth adding some of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary. Chill the puree, then whip 100g double cream until soft peaks form and gently fold into the puree. When finished, it should look like whipped cream, but with a celeriac flavour.

“For the mince pie filling, add four finely diced shallots, 100g unsalted butter, half a star anise, two juniper berries, two bay leaves, half a clove of garlic and four sprigs of thyme to a pan and sweat down over a low heat. Allow to cool, then remove the herbs and spices. Colour off 300g minced venison or beef in a pan, add the cooled shallot mix, then deglaze the pan with 50ml of port. Add the red wine and reduce until it has almost gone and add the stock. Allow to cook for at least an hour. Add in the soy sauce and Marmite. Buy or make some shortcrust pastry and make them the same way you would usual mince puddings. Bake in the oven at 180C for around 20 to 25 minutes and serve with a spoonful of celeriac cream.”

Titchwell Manor, Titchwell, near Brancaster, PE31 8BB; 01485 210221;

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . five gold rings

Ringing in the celebrations with some gold awards for their excellent commitment to educating children about food, Rollesby Primary School and Nursery, in the heart of the Norfolk Broads, is getting ready for Christmas.

The school won the Best School Food Project award, sponsored by Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, and years five and six teacher and project leader Annette Cooper says Christmas is a great time to introduce new foods to children.

“Our cookery club is already very popular and this term, as part of the new curriculum, we have introduced a weekly cookery session and will be doing lots of wintry foods. We are making a really simple but tasty spicy parsnip and apple soup which will be perfect for the festive season and also a great example of how children can understand more about seasonality and food miles. The children know the parsnips are in season, they see them in local fields and some of the children’s families farm those fields.

“As well as cooking, the children will make their own spice packets, which they can take home and also learn about where the spices come from and their history. The children are always able to take home what they cook along with the recipes, so the whole family can try it. Whether you are making festive buns or a healthy Christmas soup like this, if you involve children in preparing and cooking it, they are far more likely to enjoy eating it and will want to do more.”

Rollesby Primary and Nursery School; 01493 740270;

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . six geese a-laying

When it comes to picking your bird this Christmas, there are a few things to look out for to make sure you get the freshest, tastiest, most succulent roast which will leave your guests’ mouths watering.

Mark Gorton, joint managing director of Traditional Norfolk Poultry, which won the Best Norfolk Producer Award, sponsored by Anglia Farmers, says it is essential to know how it has been looked after.

“Birds that are grown to the highest welfare standards will always be the best tasting. It is also vital to make sure your chosen bird is free range. All of our birds are grown to the RSPCA Assured standard which guarantees to customers that the birds have been independently inspected by the RSPCA. A free range growing system allows the bird to grow more slowly and the exercise they get from running around the fields and woods, like they do here, keeps their muscles in tone giving them a very fine grain. This is important because when the bird is cooked it will retain all of its moisture within its meat rather than simply letting it all run out into the pan.

“The very nature of a traditional, free range growing system means the birds can peck at the autumn berries and grasses which all add to the wonderfully rich flavour. As they mature they will put down beautiful creamy layers of fat under their skin which will baste the birds as they cook, improving the flavour even more.”

Traditional Norfolk Poultry, Hargham Road, Shropham, NR17 1DS; 01953 498434;

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