We don’t tend to get many recipes to suit a standard, basic, traditional Christmas dinner. Are there too many column inches devoted to ‘alternatives’, or would no one read the plain vanilla stuff?
Rose Prince came fairly close in Saturday’s Telegraph, with a recipe for a Christmas fruit cake. Yes, it’s more luxurious than a traditional Dundee cake, but her proposal of using prunes, apricots, figs, golden sultanas, dried blueberries, dried mini bananas and ground almonds felt, to me, like an improvement, rather than a twist.
There was also a full Telegraph Christmas Day run through, with Prince on tea, Stevie Parle on lunch and Xanthe Clay on breakfast. None of their recipes were too out there (which was nice). And it was good to see Parle with a fairly straight down the line turkey and goose fat spuds effort. I liked his warm oranges in spiced whisky with vanilla marscarpone dessert. Just the one veggie side, though: cabbage with bacon. Bring on the sprouts, please. Clay’s cinnamon French toast with apple and raspberry compote would get the day off to a strong start.
The Times’ four sauces for turkey were straight thinking, too. Save that there clearly aren’t four appropriate sauces for turkey – cranberry (yes), gravy (yes), bread (yes), cumberland (NO).
Nothing wrong with the ‘twists’ on offer this weekend, though.
Gizzi Erskine suggested a set of turkey alternatives. I reckon her mushroom and Tunworth pithivier the best of the vegetarian Christmas things I’ve seen this year.
Nigel Slater’s Observer column was also on a veggie meal theme. His aubergine cassoulet looked pretty lush. Can’t really fault the mushroom bourgignon either. Apart from the fact it’d be better with some smoked bacon and loads of braised beef.
Mr Slater also had a clutch of fruit and nut based Christmas recipes in the Observer Food Monthly. My favourite was for a brace of partridges, which are marinated in clementine juice, vinegar and thyme, grilled and finished with a handful of sultanas. A Danny the Champion of the World dish. Just not with pheasants or raisins.
I thought Diana Henry’s whisky and brown sugar cured salmon looked a real treat, and a smart change from classic gravadlax or the many beetroot loaded versions of the last few years. There’s apple and dill along with whisky and brown sugar in the cure, and a neat apple and beetroot relish on the side. Apple in the cure too. Venison pie with buttermilk mash and mulled wine jellies complete a nicely balanced meal.
Whilst he provided us with a fairly traditional lunch menu in the cooks’ run down, Stevie Parle’s normal Telegraph column was about Christmas fruit cake alternatives (a reply to his stablemate Rose Prince’s recipe?). So we got recipes for bûche de Noël, cardamom stollen and, most intriguingly, the Hungarian somloi galuska … which features three types of sponge (chocolate, hazlenut and plain), a rum syrup and crème pat. Oh, and a chocolate and rum sauce over the top.
A few of the cooks wrote about party food and entertaining.
Bill Granger’s ‘open house festive moments’ provided us with a spiced gammon and pineapple relish number in the Indy on Sunday. I really like the look of this. First, there’s star anise, cloves, and ginger in the ham’s cooking stock. Then it’s glazed with a five spice, soy and honey syrup. I think that’ll be a cracker, particularly with the acidity of the pineapple, chilli, coriander, relish … and alongside the proposed root veg slaw, which is laced with seeds and dressed with ginger, rice vinegar and lemon. Mint on top. Very refreshing.
Ruby Tandoh said don’t try to do too much … then went on to suggest baking a fancy looking platted number – a clementine and pine nut couronne. If you give yourself plenty of time, I suspect this’ll win lots of praise.
One of my brothers got married this weekend. The clear-up left my parents with a predictably large number of half empty wine bottles – opened then discarded the moment Don’t Stop Believing came on. It’d be a crime to chuck all that away … so Mum should make the most of The Guardian Cook’s ’10 best recipes with wine’. Start with Skye Gyngell’s squid with peppers and red wine stew. Then I reckon the ox cheek and mushroom stew with picada. Then drunken cabbage. Hope the freezer’s empty.
Mark Hix’s column in Saturday’s Independent was about using chocolate over the Chrimbo period. I suspect the salty white chocolate chilli thins are OK (for those that like white chocolate). Deer shank with chocolate and juniper probably an interesting dish for entertaining.
Not christmassy (whoop)
David Tanis’ winter Mediterranean menu was in the Christmas OFM, but need not be exclusively eaten over the next two weeks. Pan roast parsnips and carrots with cumin butter, Morrocan spiced rack of lamb and an orange and pomegranate salad worth a look in. He’s a New York Times recipe columnist, btw.
Dish of the week could well be from Ottolenghi’s Guardian column. He put forward a few recipes which evoke travels to further shores. I loved the sound of clams in kaffir lime and Thai basil broth (white wine in this one too, Mum). I suspect fettuccine with oysters and lemon will be a Marmite dish – cooked oysters are not everyone’s cup of tea. Lemon and capers add some acidity.
Jamie’s ‘nostalgic’ comfort dishes covered a fair few pages in the Sunday Times. But my eyes were only really drawn to a recipe for curried fish pie. I remember seeing him cooking this on the telethingy – and loved the idea.
Surely Jesse Dunford Wood’s chicken Kiev retro classic was actually the most nostalgic comfort dish in The Sunday Times? His canonball sized kievs at The Mall Tavern are cracking. So it’s great to have the recipe in print.
Naturally, The FT’s Rowley Leigh saw the kiev and raised it salmon en croute.
Donna Hay provided a bunch of whisky based desserts for Saturday’s Times. A chocolate and whisky cream pie with toffee meringue is likely to be a crowd pleaser – effectively a chocolate cheesecake topped with an Italian meringue made using caramelised sugar syrup. Malted vanilla dumplings (cakes, really) with whisky maple sauce looked good too.
None this week. Sunday was spent looking for the marriage certificate that I had put somewhere safe before getting a bit squiffy.
During a rare moment of down time, though, I had a look at ‘The Best Thing I Ate in 2014’ piece in the OFM. Nice read with some evocative snippets. FWIW, for me the best bites were either of milk fed lamb kidneys at Barrafina Adelaide Street, or a sea salt and rosemary meringue dessert at Daniel Berlin in south Sweden.
I’ve been getting lots of emails from the NYT’s cooking pages recently. Interesting to see their 20 most popular recipes since upgrading their digital food content.
Weekend Menu, 13 and 14 December 2014
Clams in kaffir lime and Thai basil broth
Yotam Ottolenghi, The Guardian
Curried fish pie
Jamie Oliver, The Sunday Times
Warm oranges in spiced whisky with vanilla marscarpone
Stevie Parle, The Telegraph (Saturday)
There’s a fortnightly newsletter for the blog, which brings together the latest posts on Rocket and Squash and a few other things from elsewhere that you might find interesting. It’s published every other Tuesday. If you’re not already an email subscriber, look down and to the right a bit and fill in your details.