We invited six renowned Dorset chefs to share some easy to make festive nibbles and starters you can make at home. These include a cockle warming spiced soup, zesty cured salmon, indulgent puds, stollen with homemade marzipan as well as a rather fabulous cocktail.

Great British Life: James Mearing. (Photo: summerlodgehotel.co.uk)James Mearing. (Photo: summerlodgehotel.co.uk)

James Mearing, Executive Head Chef at Summer Lodge, Evershot

Great British Life: James' salmon dish. (Photo:summerlodgehotel.co.uk)James' salmon dish. (Photo:summerlodgehotel.co.uk)

Clementine & Anise Cured Salmon, Pickled Cucumber, Avocado

My mum always starts Christmas day with smoked salmon and a glass of buck’s fizz. Curing your own salmon is not that difficult and this version adds some extra festive flavours. This works well as a canapé or as a starter.


500g salmon, one whole piece skin removed

100g Dorset Sea Salt

150g sugar

2 star anise

100g clementine juice

zest of 1 clementine

1 shallot, finely diced

100g Lilliput capers, chopped

zest of 1 lemon

1 cucumber, diced

50g white wine vinegar

25g water

1 avocado

1 lime

Method: Blend the star anise, sea salt and clementine zest together, mix with 100g sugar. Sprinkle a layer onto a high-sided baking tray, lay the salmon on top, then cover the fish with the rest of the mix. Add the clementine juice and cure for 6 hours, turning every 2 hours.

Boil the water, vinegar and remaining sugar together until the sugar dissolves, allow to cool, then add the diced cucumber to it, leave to marinate.

Rinse off the cured salmon and pat dry. Dice and mix with the shallot, capers and lemon zest. Season to taste.

Roughly chop the flesh of the avocado, reserve the stone, season with lime juice and salt. Add the stone to the mixture to keep it green.

Place the salmon mix in a ring and press down, top with a spoon of smashed avocado and pickled cucumber. I’ve garnished it with borage flowers, but fresh dill also works well. For some Christmas luxury, add a little spoon of caviar.

Great British Life: Parsnip veloute with roasted chesnuts. (Photo: summerlodgehotel.co.uk) Parsnip veloute with roasted chesnuts. (Photo: summerlodgehotel.co.uk)

Spiced Parsnip Veloute, Roasted Chestnuts, Crème Fraîche

The mild curry spices pair beautifully with the sweet parsnip and the smell of roasted chestnuts adds a dash of Christmas nostalgia. Tucking into a warming bowl of this soup after a bracing Boxing Day walk ticks all my boxes.


500g parsnips, peeled and quartered

1 onion, diced

300g vegetable stock

1tbsp curry powder

100g butter

300g milk

handful of chestnuts

1tbsp crème fraîche

Method: Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Make an incision in the chestnuts, lay the nut flat on a chopping board, using a serrated knife slit lengthways across the entire surface of the long side. Place the chestnuts in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and immediately remove with a slotted spoon. Place the chestnuts flat side down and cut side up on a baking tray in the oven for around 15 minutes until golden roasted. Wrap in a cloth, allow to sit, then peel whilst warm and set aside.

Slice the parsnip quarters very thinly. Bring the vegetable stock and butter to the boil, add the parsnips and cook rapidly. They should be cooked through just as the water has evaporated. Add more water during the cooking if required.

In the meantime, sweat the onion and curry powder in a little oil to cook out the onion gently and release the flavour from the spices. Add the milk, onion and spice mix to the parsnips and gently bring to a simmer, then process with a hand-blender or food processor, add more milk to get the consistency you like. Garnish with chopped roasted chestnuts and a dollop of crème fraiche. Some parsnip crisps are also a lovely addition.


Great British Life: Ana Martins of The Acorn Inn. (Photo:acorn-inn.co.uk)Ana Martins of The Acorn Inn. (Photo:acorn-inn.co.uk)

Ana Martins of The Acorn Inn, Evershot

Great British Life: Rabanadas. (Photo:acorn-inn.co.uk)Rabanadas. (Photo:acorn-inn.co.uk)


Also known as Brazilian or Portuguese French Toast, rabanadas is something I enjoyed when I was growing up in Portugal, it’s best made with bread that is a couple of days old.


500ml milk

1 cinnamon stick

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp honey

skin from half a lemon

3 eggs, whisked

half a loaf of white bread, cut into thick slices

Port Wine Syrup

200ml Port

2 tbsp honey

1 cinnamon stick

skin from half a lemon

1 tbsp of raisins, walnuts and hazelnuts

To serve: ground cinnamon and caster sugar

Method: Put the port syrup ingredients in a saucepan and cook on a medium heat until reduced by half. Set it aside.

Put the milk, sugar, honey, lemon skin and cinnamon stick into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Take off the heat and allow it to cool.

Pour a little oil into a frying pan and put some heat under it. Dip each bread slice into the milk mixture, for around 3 seconds on each side. Then dip into the beaten egg, fry on both sides until golden, then allow to drain on some kitchen paper. Do this with all the bread slices. Dredge in a mix of ground cinnamon and caster sugar, and serve with the port syrup which can be spooned over each slice.

Great British Life: Acorn Espresso Martini. (Photo:acorn-inn.co.uk)Acorn Espresso Martini. (Photo:acorn-inn.co.uk)

Acorn Espresso Martini

This classic cocktail gets a Dorset twist with two award-winning locally made spirits.


35ml Black Cow Vodka

35ml Conker Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur

shot of double espresso

7ml agave syrup

Method: Put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake. The more vigorous the shake, the more foam on your cocktail. Strain it into a martini glass and decorate with some chocolate shavings.



Mark Hix of The Fish & Oyster House, Lyme Regis

Great British Life: Lobster tortillas with poismole. (Photo: Jo Harris) Lobster tortillas with poismole. (Photo: Jo Harris)

Lobster Tortillas with Poismole

Avocados seem to be on every trendy brunch menu these days. But would you consider ditching this exotic fruit and its air miles for frozen British peas? Packed full of protein, vitamins and minerals, peas are not only tasty they also have a smaller carbon footprint. Could you swap your beloved smashed avocado on sourdough for smashed peas? Try my poismole (a pea version of guacamole) and see what you think; here it is paired with Lyme Bay lobster for a special Christmas treat. Pop the shell from the lobster in your freezer to use for a soup or sauce to get a second meal from this king of shellfish.

Serves 6-8

1 cooked lobster, claw, leg and body meat removed

12-16 tortilla chips

a few sprigs of coriander

For the salsa

medium mild red chilli, finely chopped

½ tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tsp sweet chilli sauce

For the poismole

150g frozen or fresh peas, podded

stalks from the coriander, chopped

1/2 spring onion, finely chopped

sea salt

a good pinch of pimenton or paprika

Method: Make the poismole: cook the frozen peas in boiling salted water for a couple minutes (8-10 minutes for fresh peas) drain, reserving some of the water for blending. Blend the peas in a food processor or liquidiser to a coarse constancy with enough water to assist the blending, pour into a bowl to cool then mix with the other poismole ingredients, check seasoning and adjust to taste. Mix the chilli, rapeseed oil and chilli sauce together to make the salsa. Cut the lobster tail into slices and half the claws. To serve: spoon the poismole onto the tortillas, place a slice of lobster on top, then spoon a little salsa over and top with some fresh coriander and get the party started.

Great British Life: Mark Hix's salmonata. (Photo: Mark Hix)Mark Hix's salmonata. (Photo: Mark Hix)


This is my take on the classic taramasalata using the belly and tail trimmings from my Hix Smokin’ House smoked salmon from Chesil Smokery in Bridport. I use the salmon skin deep fried or crisped up in the oven then broken into pieces on top of the salmonata. If you are in the fortunate situation of having a little too much smoked salmon in your fridge during the festive season, this is a delicious way to use it up. Serve as a starter or as a dip with pre-dinner drinks.

Serves 4 as a starter

30-40g white bread, crusts removed

150-180g smoked salmon belly and trimmings, cut into small pieces, skin removed

100ml vegetable oil

juice of half a lemon

pinch of cayenne pepper

iced water

Method: Soak the bread in water for a couple of minutes then squeeze out the water, put it into a food processor with the smoked salmon pieces. Blend to a purée then gradually add the oil until well mixed in

and smooth. Add the lemon juice, cayenne pepper and enough iced water to lighten the mix. The consistency should be smooth and shiny. Check the seasoning then serve with warm flatbread.


Great British Life: Luke Stuart. (Photo: white-pepper.co.uk)Luke Stuart. (Photo: white-pepper.co.uk)

Luke Stuart of WhitePepper Chef Academy & Cookery School

Founded by chef Luke Stuart in 2010, the award-winning WhitePepper Chef Academy & Cookery School at Lytchett Matravers offers cookery tuition for keen amateur cooks as well as training for those seeking a professional culinary career. Their short courses are an ideal gift for foodies and range from themed days such as plant-based or patisserie to world cuisines such as Thai and Mexican. white-pepper.co.uk/short-courses

Great British Life: Pink pickled quails eggs. (Photo: white-pepper.co.uk)Pink pickled quails eggs. (Photo: white-pepper.co.uk)

Pickled Pink Quail Eggs

This healthy Christmas nibble can be kept in sterilised jars for up to two weeks. The multi-purpose pickling liquor works with most vegetables too. Serve with celery salt.

12 quail eggs

Pickling liquor

100ml cider vinegar

100ml water

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp sea salt

½ tsp mustard seeds

1 bay leaf

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

1 raw baby beetroot (approx. 100g total), peeled and grated

Method: Cook the quail eggs in boiling water for 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Remove with a draining spoon and immediately place in iced acidulated water. Place the pickling ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for 2 minutes, then set aside to cool. Peel the quail eggs and place in a sterilised jar. Strain the pink pickle liquor and pour over the eggs to the top of the jar and seal. Chill for 24 hours before serving with celery salt on the side.

Great British Life: Crab Beignets. (Photo: white-pepper.co.uk)Crab Beignets. (Photo: white-pepper.co.uk)

Spicy Crab Beignets

There are many versions of this French fritter but made with fresh Dorset crab it’s a real treat! Choux pastry can be made in advance and the crab bought ready picked.

Choux Pastry

50g flour

150ml water

25g butter

1 egg, beaten

1 egg yolk

Method: Sift the flour into a small bowl or onto a piece of greaseproof paper. Put the water and butter into a medium saucepan and heat until the butter has melted. Bring to the boil. When the liquid is boiling, shoot the flour into the pan, remove from the heat and beat until smooth. Return the pan to the heat and cook, beating all the time until the paste becomes smooth and leaves the side of the pan. Take off the heat; add the egg yolk and beat well. Gradually add the beaten egg, the mixture should be thick and shiny.

Crab Beignets

1 cooked crab, white & brown meat picked

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 cloves garlic, chopped

25g fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 lemongrass stalk, finely chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped coriander

finely grated zest of 1 lime

2 spring onions, finely chopped

choux pastry

Method: In a bowl mix the white and brown crab meat with the finely chopped chilli, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander, lime zest and spring onions. Mix well. Add salt to taste then carefully mix in the choux pastry to bind the mixture. Heat a deep fat fryer to 180°C and drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil. Cook until golden and puffy. Drain well on kitchen paper and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve hot.

James Shadbolt, Head Chef at The Pig on the Beach, Studland

Great British Life: Truffled cheese on toast. (Photo: thepighotel.com)Truffled cheese on toast. (Photo: thepighotel.com)

Truffled Cheese on Toast

This indulgent cheese on toast pairs beautifully with a glass of port. We use all local ingredients when we make this: sourdough from Orchard Bay Bakery in Cranborne, Robert Fields Purbeck Honey, The Book & Bucket Cheese Company’s Shakespeare (a brie-style cheese), and fresh local truffles from Sasha aka The Truffle Huntress and her dog Ralf, though a drizzle of truffle oil and some chopped chives also works well.

Makes 3-4 starter size or 6-8 as nibbles


1 sourdough loaf

2 Shakespeare cheese or brie

local honey

fresh black autumn truffle or truffle oil

Method: Slice the sourdough to your desired thickness and toast both sides. Slice the cheese, roughly 5mm slices, and lay on top of the toast so it overlaps. Grill or bake until the cheese starts to ooze and bubble. Remove, cut into smaller slices, drizzle with honey and a generous grating of fresh truffle, or a dash of truffle oil and serve with a glass of port and a log fire.

Great British Life: James Shadbolt's boozy chocolate and blackcurrant dessert. (Photo: thepighotel.com)James Shadbolt's boozy chocolate and blackcurrant dessert. (Photo: thepighotel.com)

Baked Dark Chocolate Custard with Boozy Blackcurrants

This boozy pudding is best served cool to room temperature, topped with whipped Meggy Moo’s Dairy double cream from the award-winning dairy near Blandford.

Serves 4


For the custard

340g 70% cocoa chocolate

200ml cream

140ml milk

2 whole eggs

30g caster sugar

For the blackcurrants

250g frozen blackcurrants

50g caster sugar

50ml sloe gin

Method: Preheat oven to 100°C/gas mark ¼. In a saucepan bring the milk and cream to a gentle simmer, pour over the chocolate in a mixing bowl, stirring until all is incorporated. Gently mix the eggs and sugar together without aerating, stir into the chocolate mixture. Pour this into either individual dishes or one large dish, you want the mixture to be about an inch deep. Put on a baking tray and bake until set around the edges with a slight wobble in the middle, timing depends on your oven and the size of dish you use. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes or so.

Make the boozy topping: Put the blackcurrants and sugar in a saucepan and gently simmer, the blackcurrants should soften but hold their shape. Strain the fruit and set aside, pour the blackcurrant liquid back into the pan and reduce by two thirds, stir in the sloe gin and pour this mixture over the blackcurrants. Once cooled, spoon on top of the chocolate custard and serve with a dollop of whipped cream. thepighotel.com/on-the-beach

Great British Life: Andy Tyrell and Joel Gostling of Soulshine in Bridport. (Photo: Rob Coombe)Andy Tyrell and Joel Gostling of Soulshine in Bridport. (Photo: Rob Coombe)

Andy Tyrell, co-owner with Joel Gostling of Soulshine restaurant and cafe in Bridport

Great British Life: Soulshine's stollen. (Photo: Ariana Ruth)Soulshine's stollen. (Photo: Ariana Ruth)

Soulshine Stollen

Stollen is very popular with our customers at this time of year. This festive bake is something you can make at home, and tastes so much better than the shop bought version.

Makes 1 loaf

For the dough

100g raisins

50g glacé cherries

zest ½ large unwaxed orange

25ml dark rum/brandy

50g unsalted butter

90ml milk

7g dried yeast

60g caster sugar

250g strong white bread flour

¼ tsp salt

1 egg, beaten

25g flaked almonds

3 cardamom pods crushed

For the filling

250–300g marzipan (homemade ideally)

To finish (optional)

25g unsalted butter, melted

icing sugar for dredging

Method: Place the raisins, glacé cherries, orange zest and rum/brandy in a bowl and mix, allow the fruit to plump up.

Warm the milk until it is tepid, not hot. Mix the flour, sugar, yeast and salt, add the warmed milk and beaten egg, mix to form a dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until soft and elastic, around 6-8 minutes. Alternatively, use a free-standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook to bring the dough to this stage.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in it and turn so it is covered all over with a thin layer of oil. Cover the bowl with cling film, leave in a warm place for 1–2 hours.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock back. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand, sprinkle with half the rum-soaked fruit, flaked almonds and crushed cardamom seeds. Fold the dough over the fruit, then lightly knead until the fruit is evenly distributed. Repeat until all the fruit, plus any residual rum, has been worked in.

Flatten the dough into a rectangle (about 25cm x 15cm). Roll the marzipan into a sausage shape, a little shorter than the length of the dough. Position along the dough rectangle, slightly off centre. Fold the dough over the marzipan to make a long, loose loaf. Place seam side down, on a lined baking sheet. leave in a warm place for 1–1½ hours until well risen.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ has mark 4. Bake the risen loaf for approximately 25 minutes, until pale golden. Then, if you like, brush with melted butter, and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar, wrap in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight tin for a week or so before eating. Stollen will keep for up to three weeks.

Make your own marzipan: This is so easy to make, use it in Christmas baking, covering cakes or dipping in chocolate. It keeps well too, if you don’t scoff it!


1 medium egg

1 tbsp brandy/rum

125g caster sugar

125g icing sugar, sifted

250g ground almonds

Method: Whisk together the egg and alcohol in a bowl. Add caster sugar, icing sugar and ground almonds, mix to a stiff paste. Sprinkle your work surface with a little icing sugar, turn the almond paste onto it. Knead until the marzipan is soft and smooth, this won't take long. Seal the marzipan in a plastic bag and store in the fridge until required.

Great British Life: Soulshine's legendary kimchi. (Photo: Ariana Ruth)Soulshine's legendary kimchi. (Photo: Ariana Ruth)

Soulshine’s Kimchi 

Traditionally this Korean ferment has many variations. Our version, that we’ve made since day one at Soulshine, uses a method where the vegetables are left for a little while in the salt brine then combined with a paste of chillies, garlic and ginger and allowed to ferment. It’s usual to use Chinese cabbage for kimchi. It’s a good idea to mix in other vegetables including carrots, radish, mouli, kohlrabi and spring onions. Less traditional, but very delicious, is when we use celeriac either on its own (no cabbage) or mixed through the cabbage. Change this recipe as you like.


Chinese leaf cabbage or napa cabbage

Other veg up to half the weight of the cabbage. We use carrots, radish and spring onions most often.


fresh ginger

red chilli

Korean chilli flakes (Gochugaru)


Method: Shred or chop the cabbage, tgrate, shred or slice the other vegetables. Weigh them and calculate 3% of the weight. This will be the amount of salt to use. Add this to the shredded veg and get your hands in there scrunching and massaging. The salt helps to release moisture from the cabbage, squeeze it and rub it, this will take a few minutes, you should end up with enough liquid in the container that, when pushed down, the mixture is submerged. Allow the vegetables to sit in this brine for about an hour or two to allow the salt to penetrate.

For about a kilo of cabbage and veg I'd recommend about 5 cloves garlic, an inch or so of ginger, 3 red chillies and 2 tablespoons of Korean chilli flakes depending on how spicy you like it. Blend in a liquidizer or hand blender. At Soulshine we also add some of the juice from a previous kimchi batch to this.

Lift the vegetables out of the salty brine and place into another bowl, save some brine just in case. Combine the vegetables with the spice paste tasting as you go. It should be spicy, but balanced with salt and umami, bright red in colour with enough spice mixture to coat everything. Pack the kimchi firmly into a sterilized Kilner jar or similar, pushing the mixture down as you go. Leave at least a 2-inch gap at the top of the jar. The kimchi should be fully submerged in brine when it's pushed down, this is very important. If it's a little short, then use some of the brine that you saved. The kimchi should be reasonably juicy.Some people weigh their kimchi down with a little plastic bag filled with water, placed in the top of the jar. I just put the lid on the jar and seal it. If you’re gifting the kimchi, make a large jar then divide into smaller ones when completed.

Leave somewhere warm to ferment, your kitchen is ideal. You will see signs of fermentation after a couple of days, using a fork try some at this stage, keep checking it. For me it's usually good after at least a week to 10 days, sometimes two weeks if the kitchen is cooler.

When you’re happy with the flavour, transfer the jar into the fridge or a cool place to halt the fermentation. Kept submerged in the brine in a cool place, the kimchi will last for many months.