The best thing about this week containing the 25th of December? The fact that it’ll be another eleven months before every recipe in the weekend papers is Christmas themed / a totally normal recipe disguised as ‘Christmas with a twist’.
Three writers suggested menus and recipes for Christmas Eve. All, of course, majored on fish, with The Telegraph’s Stevie Parle cooking whole sea bass (with grapefruit, black olive and thyme sauce) and long braised cabbage. He finishes with a cracking sounding sherry and amaretti ice cream.
On the same day, but in the Guardian, Thomasina Miers suggested knocking up either a batch of curried mussels (solid recipe this one) or kedgeree. Nice.
And on Sunday, The Independent’s Bill Granger suggested a menu including very lightly cured salmon with red onion, grapefruit and pomegranate. Followed by yoghurt marinated, baked sea bream. The yoghurt was cumin spiced, and the fish baked on a bed of fennel, beetroot, clementine, maple syrup, chilli … lots going on. Hope you can still taste the fish. Lovely sounding dessert: almond panna cotta with spiced dried apricot and sour cherries.
A few people promoted tradition this week, but most tweaked. Guess you have to.
Henry Dimbleby reckons Guardian ‘Cook’ readers should play it simple and safe. Just one or two side dishes. Stuff a bit of coal and dirt in the kids’ stockings while you’re at it.
The Times ran a 50 tips to make Christmas Day easy thing. I really wanted to like this and started reading with interest.
Two gems came out of it – the suggestion to wack a bit of Campari in with the cranberries whilst saucing them, and also Mark Hix’s Christmas mess (meringue, cream, chestnuts, a cranberry and orange sauce).
I also thought Allegra McEvedy’s contribution fun: “The top three secrets to the best Christmas dinner are goose fat, goose fat and goose fat. To put on a fab spread for 12-ish, you’ll need enough to bathe a small kitten in (about 2 litres)”.
But on the whole, it was fairly obvious and anodyne ‘advice’. The best way to save ten minutes on Christmas Day, is to avoid reading that feature and just get on with peeling the sprouts and spuds.
Speaking of which, plenty of words on how to cook your Brussels.
‘Cook’ included ‘The Ten Best’ sprout recipes. My top three were Oliver Rowe’s deep fried sprouts with goat cheese sauce; Darina Allen’s truism that lots of butter and even more black pepper does the trick; and pan roasted sprouts with anchovy (plus parsley, garlic, Dijon, dry vermouth) butter.
In the same supplement, James Ramsden wrote about cooking for two on Christmas Day. His protein of choice is Guinea fowl, with a truffle, porcini and sweetcorn stuffing. Then sprouts finished with soy sauce and lime. Not sure if there’s a truffle / lime clash, but individually both recipes look excellent.
Diana Henry was a little more traditional with her Sunday Telegraph tweaked sprouts – pancetta, chestnuts and balsamic. Spiced carrots and grated beetroot with caraway, paprika and sour cream were a bit more out there. Doubt I’ll get those past mother this year, but keen to try the beetroot on another occasion.
Worried about your gluten free guests? Xanthe Clay had some suggestions in Saturday’s Telegraph. Though I was much more interested by her approach to cooking turkey – a pomegranate molasses flavoured, 24 hour brine.
Have you made your mince pies yet? Seems as though a spoonful of Waitrose’s finest mix in a simple shortcrust pastry case is not the way these days.
Nigel Slater made mincemeat filo rolls (echoes of scrunched filo parcels from the 90s). Ruby Tandoh shoved pear and brandy in a fruit mix and topped her little tarts with crumble. And Tom Kerridge’s ‘London’ column in Cook had a recipe for pork mince, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, almonds, raisins and chilli pies. I was surprised to see a star topped tart picture for that recipe, but closer inspection shows that he expects you to fully close the lid. Too right.
Any more for any more?
Yotam Ottolenghi’s column was loosely Christmas based – with three mushroom recipes that might be shoved in front of the token veggie this Yuletide. A braised then puff pastry wrapped Portobello mushroom looks like it’ll be packed with flavour.
Mark Hix ‘banished’ tradition by suggesting that you cook honey and spice crusted duck on Christmas Day (which includes the faff of mincing cooked duck leg and stuffing an apple with that mince). Probably tastes great, and his smoked fish recipes too. But I have a feeling the stylist’s kids were on holiday and allowed to play with the food this week. It shouldn’t be about the pictures, should it? But they can put you off just as easily as entice.
Oh, wait, one more thing on the same theme. This week’s ‘Only Four Recipes You’ll ever need’ was on the matter of Christmas pudding sauces. Cue four puds that looked like they’d been dipped in ectoplasm. To put it politely.
Other stuff. THANK JAMIE.
Nigella Lawson’s recipes in The Sunday Times are the first New Year’s Eve ideas I’ve seen. They didn’t really grab me, though: prawns dipped in egg whites and spices before a quick cook; champagne risotto; whole sea bass with saffron mash; pork; pomegranate cake.
Over in the FT, Rowley Leigh’s slow cooked shoulder of bacon wrapped venison wasn’t particularly Christmassy (though it was introduced by a long moan about the ever dropping temperature of an Aga when in use. I hear you, sister.) As an aside, no words on the species of deer used or recommended – something I feel should start to be mentioned more.
In Saturday’s Times, I saw a clutch of twenty minute meal ideas by Donna Hay. Thai beef steak with a herb salad, and a chilli, lemon and prawn pasta dish were a welcome change of style.
I got the sprout bug, but didn’t really fancy any of the proposed recipes. So knocked up my own quick Christmas carbonara to eat whilst reading Rowley’s Aga moan. Lovely. Maybe the recipe will be in next year’s sheets.
Weekend Menu, 21 and 22 December 2014
Thomasina Miers, The Guardian
Guinea fowl with truffled corn stuffing
James Ramsden, The Guardian ‘Cook’
Almond panna cotta with spiced dried apricot and sour cherry
Bill Granger, The Independent on Sunday
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