Christmas is a family affair for chef Oli Martin. Big gatherings, parties and a smorgasbord of festive feasts are the order of the day for the chef director of Aven Restaurant, Fell Bistro and Foray Catering.

‘I absolutely love Christmas, we all get together as a family and spend some good times together,’ says Oli, who lives in Lytham with wife, Julie and daughter, India. ‘Food obviously plays a big role but we all share it. I tend to make the meal on Christmas Eve and we’ll have a few people over. This year will be fish curry. There will be around 12 of us so it’s a great dish to make and a good opportunity when you get a group of people around.

‘Christmas Day will be at my sister-in-law’s house for turkey and all the trimmings with us all pitching in and doing a bit of something. My father-in-law often does the turkey and I think we’ll get ours from Farm on the Fell, near Parlick Fell, this year. We’ve bought birds from them for Fell and they are excellent. Then on Boxing Day we'll be at my dad’s house for more family festive fun and great food.

‘We tend to do it all as a family, particularly Christmas dinner. It’s a big thing and, unless you’ve done it, I don’t think you realise what a big undertaking and responsibility it is, it can be quite daunting. We all do our own bits and it’s a lot of fun.’

And while Oli is hoping for a few days off over Christmas – the restaurants close for a few days to allow staff to spend time with their families – it’s still a busy time for the chef who, during the past 15 months has opened Fell Bistro in Longridge, launched and developed private catering company, Foray Catering and has grown and rebranded Aven in Preston, the three AA Rosette restaurant formerly known as 263.

Great British Life: Oli Martin at home in his kitchen preparing a festive feast. Photo: Kirsty ThompsonOli Martin at home in his kitchen preparing a festive feast. Photo: Kirsty Thompson

Aven, a fine dining destination in the city, offers tasting menus, wine pairings and innovative food all made with ingredients from some of the county’s best suppliers – exactly what you would expect from a ‘Lancastrian through and through’ chef who has worked at some of the region’s best restaurants, including Hipping Hall.

‘It’s exciting taking Aven into a new era,’ he says. ‘It’s had a little refresh for a new start and so it feels like a new space. Hearing the restaurant still had its three Rosettes was not just a recognition of our culinary expertise; it mirrors the passion and love we put into every dish we serve and makes us want to strive for even greater heights.

‘We feel like we’ve started to build something special, and we want to keep that going. There’s not a lot of fine dining in Preston and we want to carry on carving out that path in the city.

‘With Foray we’re also hoping we can launch a few products to help make things easier for people at Christmas. Customers have asked us for things like beef wellington over the past few years so we’re looking at doing that in a more formal way.’

Great British Life: Pigs in blankets Photo: Kirsty ThompsonPigs in blankets Photo: Kirsty Thompson

Christmas is also a time to reflect for Oli and look forward to 2024 where, as has become the norm for the chef means new ideas and projects, but also refining the restaurants and businesses he already runs. He is hopeful 2024 could be a positive year for hospitality, too. And, as ever, his Lancastrian roots will be at the heart of everything.

‘It’s going well with Foray and Fell. Things have been tough for restaurants and we’re seeing that people are holding back on their spending a bit,’ says Oli. ‘Trust is the biggest thing I’ve learned this year – it’s something your guests need from you. We launched take away at Fell and Sunday lunch at Aven because we wanted to offer even more value and listened to people who dine with us.

‘I’m hopeful for 2024 and I feel positive. Lancashire is 100 per cent a good place to open a restaurant and it just keeps getting tastier and tastier. I’m really looking forward to developing this column too. People think chefs can just knock anything up. The skills are there, of course, but there is a big difference between being a chef in a kitchen and being a good domestic cook. I’m looking forward to bringing more of those great recipes to make at home to share with readers. I can’t wait to see how people get on making them at home.’

Great British Life: Salmon en croute, kale and lemon salad with horseradish hollandaise PHOTO:Kirsty ThompsonSalmon en croute, kale and lemon salad with horseradish hollandaise PHOTO:Kirsty Thompson

‘This is a dish I’m probably going to make quite a lot not just this Christmas, but over the winter,’ says Oli. ‘It’s one of the great everything-goes-into pastry dishes that can be prepped in advance which not only takes away the stress for the people who are going to be serving it, but it also allows you to spend more time with your guests. It’s always good to have dishes like this in your arsenal around Christmas.

‘Salmon is always a nice dish to have during the festive period too. We have a lot of it at this time of year in our house, including for our Christmas Day breakfast. With this, I wanted to create a recipe that was a bit of a nod to Christmases of the past, that had a bit of a nostalgic feel to it.

‘It’s simple to prepare, whether you have friends coming over or it’s a real crowd-pleaser for gatherings as well as for all the winter season – it’s a warming, comforting Christmas dish. It’s the perfect one for a slow Sunday where you can spend an hour or so making it.

It’s got kale from Molyneux Kale in Scarisbrick who are brilliant at what they do. They have developed and grown so much over the past few years and supply some of the best with some of the most beautiful varieties, year-round, and have so much knowledge to create a special product.

The salmon, from Mayer’s Fish in Clitheroe, is second to none. I just can’t fault them and I’m proud to use their fish, they really know their stuff and the salmon is the real star of this dish. I hope you enjoy trying this recipe at home. Merry Christmas.’

Great British Life: Salmon en croute, kale and lemon salad with horseradish hollandaiseSalmon en croute, kale and lemon salad with horseradish hollandaise

Salmon en croute, kale and lemon salad with horseradish hollandaise

Serves 2


For the salmon en croute

500g salmon

1 leek

8 sundried tomatoes

200g kale

100g smoked salmon


1 roll of puff pastry

1 egg, for glaze

For the hollandaise

4 egg yolks

1 egg

250g melted warm butter

1 good squeeze of lemon Juice

1 tbsp horseradish

For the kale and preserved lemon salad

300g mixed kales

2 preserved lemons

Olive oil


Remove the skin from the salmon and lightly salt and set to one side.

Slice the leek and chop up the kale. In a warm pan add a knob of butter and cook down the leek and kale until tender. Drain any excess liquid and chill.

Chop up the smoked salmon and sundried tomatoes and mix through the cooled leek mixture with the zest of one lemon, reserving the juice for the hollandaise.

Unroll the puff pastry and create an even layer of the leek mixture the same size as your piece of salmon.

Place the salmon on top and egg wash around the pastry. Add the top of the pastry and press the top to the bottom lightly with a fork. If you have a lattice cutter you may want to add a layer. If not, you can cut out some shapes with the left-over pastry. Egg wash the pastry and either bake straight away or store in the fridge to bake another day.

Cook at 185°C for 40-45 minutes and, once removed from the oven, allow to rest for a further five minutes.

For the hollandaise

In a bowl, add the yolks, egg and lemon juice. Whisk together.

Slowly melt the butter in a saucepan or microwave. Place the egg mixture over a pan of simmering water and cook, continuously whisking to create a nice airy egg mixture.

When it starts to thicken remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the butter until it’s all incorporated. Finish with the horseradish and serve straight away.

For the kale and preserved lemon salad

Cut the lemon into quarters and remove the inner segments just leaving the flesh. Slice this up to sprinkle over the kale.

Use a tablespoon of the preserved lemon juice and whisk in some good quality olive oil.

Remove the stalks from the kale and blanch in water for one minute until just tender. Cover with the preserved lemon slices and the dressing.