Christmas at Gino’s

Gino D'Acampo

Gino D'Acampo - Credit: Archant

Celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo loves a family Christmas, filled with plenty of delicious Italian food and indulgent treats. Here he shares with Sarah Drew Jones a few thoughts on festive fare, and the perfect recipe for Yuletide suppers

Gino's Italian Escape

Gino's Italian Escape - Credit: Archant

Whether he’s entertaining viewers from the kitchen at ITV’s This Morning, running cookery demonstrations at The Ideal Home Show or wowing diners at his new pasta restaurant in London’s Fleet Street, Gino D’Acampo is surrounded by fresh Italian food.

Petti di Pollo al forno con Pomodorini (Recipe below)

Petti di Pollo al forno con Pomodorini (Recipe below) - Credit: Archant

That’s just the way the 37-year-old likes it, too. This autumn, he presented a six-part gastronomic adventure on TV, Gino’s Italian Escape, and has just published his sixth cookbook. His passion remains good, simple Italian cooking, using only the freshest, top quality ingredients.

Gino will be spending Christmas with his wife Jessica and sons Luciano and Rocco, though he hopes for a far-flung beach for the big day itself! Wherever the top chef finds himself, there’ll be plenty of great food on offer, with minimal fuss and zero stress: as he says, it’s all about planning ahead and keeping calm.

When Gino did live cookery demonstrations at the Gloucester Quays Food Festival this summer, he told the crowd that he’d “long wanted to open a restaurant” in the area, so watch this space.

Here’s Gino’s take on family, festive food and fun ideas for parties at home...

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Christmas is all about food. Coming from Napoli, I’d probably think about a sumptuous fish dish for the main event on Christmas Day, if I were back home, but now I live in England, it’s more likely to be delicious pork.

In my family, there’s no argument about who does all the cooking on Christmas Day. Mainly because I like to be on the beach that day!

I like family and friends to help out in the kitchen, and come in to chat while I work. I think it’s especially important to encourage your children to help out in the kitchen; it’s a terrific way of getting them to be comfortable about cooking.

There’s no need for turkey leftovers to fall flat: there are so many ways to make amazing Boxing Day meals! I like to bind together all of my leftover vegetables with a mixture of eggs and Parmesan cheese, and then fry on both sides in a shallow pan for a perfect frittata! Buonissimo!

What is Christmas in Italy like? Well, you know that presents are opened on Christmas Eve in Europe and are generally less extravagant than in Britain. As for food, it varies according to where you are - but again, in general people don’t quite ‘blow out’ to the same degree.

For a Christmas treat, I choose panettone every time! I must admit I do like top quality caviar too - beluga or oscietra - but it’s so expensive.

Everyone serves party canapés at this time of year. I think mini pizzas are a good idea, and you can’t go wrong with high-quality parma ham.

Easy entertaining is important during the festive season. Tray bakes are the perfect way of cooking for the family. They are quick and easy to prepare, and you can be inventive with flavours. One of my favourites is tray-baked chicken with tomatoes and olives from my new book Gino’s Italian Escape. Carpaccio is also fantastic for a buffet-style lunch or as a starter. It is simple to prepare but when you use good quality ingredients - such as fillet beef drizzled with a good quality olive oil dressing - it can be a real treat.

How can cooks avoid stress, delays and disaster in the kitchen this Christmas Day? The main thing is to plan ahead. There are so many elements that can be prepared in advance and people often try to do everything at once on the day, which can be chaotic. So... keep calm and plan ahead!

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Recipe: Petti di Pollo al forno con Pomodorini

(Tray-baked chicken with tomatoes and olives)

Tray-bakes are the perfect way of cooking for a family. They’re quick and easy to prepare, and you can be inventive with flavours.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 chicken breasts, skin on

250g cherry tomatoes on the vine, cut into small bunches

6 garlic cloves, unpeeled

4 fresh rosemary sprigs

2–3 tablespoons olive oil

8 slices of pancetta

100g pitted black olives

Salt and black pepper to taste

A few fresh basil leaves to garnish

Method

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4.

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• Place the chicken breasts in a roasting tray and add the bunches of cherry tomatoes.

• Bash the garlic cloves in their skin and place in the tray along with the rosemary.

• Drizzle everything with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

• Pop everything into the oven for 10 minutes, then drape the pancetta slices over the chicken and scatter in the olives.

• Bake for another 15 minutes, then set aside to rest for 5 minutes.

• Put each chicken breast on a plate with some tomatoes, olives, garlic and juices.

• Sprinkle with the basil leaves and serve.

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Extracted from Gino’s Italian Escape by Gino D’Acampo (Hodder & Stoughton) £20.

Gino D’Acampo will be at the Ideal Home Show Christmas, on November 13 and 16: www.idealhomeshowchristmas.co.uk