“Do they know it’s Christmas?” The weekend editors asked. Of course we £$@&ing do. But cheers for the reminder.
It was a case of “tenuously Christmas themed” and “thankfully not festive” this weekend. I’ll begin with the latter.
For Scrooges (like me)
In the FT Weekend, the Honey & Co. duo suggested we cook rabbit stiffado. I’ve had a couple of disappointing bunnies recently and hope this would put things right.
Rosie Birkett’s preserved lemons recipes in The Guardian’s ‘Cook’ supplement were excellent. I’ve got four jars of preserved lemons on my shelf, so am grateful for ideas like kale and pumpkin seed pesto; preserved lemon relish to go with slow cooked lamb; and roast cauliflower with preserved lemons and hazelnut orecchiette.
Also in Cook, you must have a read of Rachel Roddy – she writes so damn well. This week, it’s about oranges.
Mark Hix provided a few recipes for different smoked things in Saturday’s Independent (cheese, haddock, duck breast and stuff.) And Donna Hay is still relentlessly bashing out 20 minute meals for Saturday’s Times.
Theoretically, Nigel Slater’s Observer column was festive stuffing themed. But whilst we all like one of those, I’d say it would be better to archive the recipes under ‘winter comfort food’: rolled pork belly with a date and onion stuffing, Marsala flavoured roasting juices.
Where to start?
Well, the absolute best column of the week was Claire Ptak’s one on seasonal baking. Claire is Cook’s new resident baker, and we’re in for a treat if her intros and recipes remain at the same level. If you’re looking for a new Christmas cake formula, look no further than her figgy bourbon fruitcake (“I wanted a new, darker, earthier fruitcake with that wonderful pop you get from fig seeds”). Though I think I might campaign for the pressed chestnut, chocolate and cherry terrine to make it to the big day’s menu. Rich.
The Guardian’s main glossy mag was dripping with other ‘Christmas’ ideas. Now, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. But if you fancy throwing a curve ball, check out the Graun’s festive recipes from around the world (there are 17, but look, in particular, at Meera Sodha’s roast duck fesenjan and wild boar samosas; Olia Hercules’ pampukhy; and Angela Hartnett’s Strufoli). Some good things in there, though I have to say the heartiest round of applause is saved for Fiona Beckett’s drink matches, and Frankie Unsworth’s heroic effort on the food styling.
There were more recipes (!) in the same mag. Yotam Ottolenghi suggested some pretty out-there vegetarian centre piece ideas (black miso sticky rice with brussels sprouts and peanuts). And Thomasina Miers put forward a Christmas cooking planner. I liked her cinnamon swirl puff mince pies and the grapefruit and tequila cured salmon.
You’d think the Guardian crew’s recipe output couldn’t be matched (rough guess: 35-40 dishes) couldn’t be matched, right? Step forward The Sunday Times – it was a ‘The Dish’ week.
Christmas recipes included some excellent (but not actually particularly festive) ‘memories’, like Skye Gyngell’s chicken, fig and honey bake, Hugh’s clementine sorbet, April Bloomfield’s sausage stuffed onions, Bill Granger’s prawn toast, Angela Hartnett’s tiramisu, and Anna Jones’ root veg rosti.
Florence Knight will presumably be looking forward to a festive break as there were tonnes of her recipes in The Dish and also the standard magazine. Edible gifts included spiced brown butter biscuits, malted chocolate truffles and blackcurrant and port jellies. I also thought her suggested sides were worth trying, not least a barley and date stuffing, and leeks baked in mustard and creme fraiche.
Jamie proposed a handful of decent recipes across the various ST titles, including his Mum’s trifle. Not sure who let him write the sentence “gumbo is a brilliant evolution of a kind of paella”, though.
I’m fairly certain that over the last few years TV cooks and food writers have been pushing beef rib roasts as the alternative to turkey. 2015, however, appears to be about the goose.
For example, The Telegraph’s Stephen Harris provided a goose with classic trimmings.
And the man now holding the Independent on Sunday baton is Stevie Parle, who is planning on cooking a goose centred feast – served with red cabbage and a lush taleggio cheese mash. I thought his pimped devils on horseback were really good – soak the prunes in Earl Grey first, then stuff with a knob or two of chestnut. The meal’s finished with a trifle. Nice
The Telegraph also provided a host of Christmas party snacks. Of those, I’d say Diana Henry’s prawn, feta and harissa, filo cigars, and lamb and cranberry kofte look best.
You’ll also see Deliciously Ella’s “healthy mince pies” in the Telegraph party mix. Some observations on the recipe: no animal fat (traditionally suet), no booze and no added sugar in the fruit mix, so it’s basically a filling of dried fruit and a spoonful or two of coconut oil; for the pastry, almond flour and a shit load (literally) of medjool dates; calorifically, these will be pretty similar to a classic mince pie (those dates); and they’ll cost about £14 to make 12 (again, those dates plus almond flour).
Just leaving that there for your thoughts.
From the internet
There’s a cookies of the world map on Food52. Joy! (But are they healthy, you ask?!)
Sunday called for a quick, light and zesty lunch. Florence Knight’s celeriac, Granny Smith and lemon salad absolutely hit the spot and, mercifully, was not at all festive. Also, #DiscoPlate.
Weekend Menu, 3 and 4 October 2015
Bill Granger, The Sunday Times
Roast duck fesenjan
Meera Sodha, The Guardian
Healthy mince pies by Deliciously Ella
Chestnut, chocolate and cherry terrine
Claire Ptak, The Guardian ‘Cook’
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