Here are a few of our favourite festive recipes that should suit all your guests, as well as the chef!
There’s no getting away from it now, the festive season is upon us, and many people’s minds will be turning to food. From parties for friends, to family get-togethers, to the big day itself, there can be a lot to think about.
It seems that in 2019, you’re more likely than ever to be welcoming guests who have chosen a vegetarian or vegan way of life. There’ll also be some traditionalists, who look forward to their particular favourite treat at this time every year. There’ll probably be someone who is trying desperately not to over-indulge - a nearly impossible feat in December! And then, of course, there’s you - the chef - who is trying to make everyone happy! And however much you enjoy being in your lovely kitchen rustling up a feast, it’s nice to be able to find at least a few minutes to chat to your guests.
With all of this in mind, here are just a few recipes to help this often culinarily challenging time of year along!
Pigs in Blankets with a Twist!
For some, Christmas isn’t complete without these (frankly delicious!) favourites. But why not try a fresh take on this classic using pancetta instead of bacon and including an aromatic sage leaf? Not only do they make great canapes to enjoy with a drink, but are also almost essential to serve up with the turkey. They can be prepared up to 2 days before and kept in the fridge.
24 slices of pancetta
24 whole sage leaves
24 chipolata sausages
Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 6.
Put 1 slice of pancetta on a chopping board and stretch it out using the back of a knife.
Put 1 sage leaf and 1 sausage on top, and roll the sausage up on the diagonal, so all the sausage is covered in pancetta.
Put on a lightly greased baking tray and repeat with the remaining sausages.
Cook for 20-25 mins until crisp and cooked through.
These are a great little nibble for vegetarian guests looking for a pastry ‘fix’, and I guarantee they’ll be loved by the meat-eaters too.
plain flour, for dusting
1 x 380g/13oz ready-made puff pastry sheet
1 free-range egg, beaten
100g/3½oz parmesan, freshly grated
Preheat the oven to 220C/200C/gas 6 (the same as the pigs in blankets so they can all go in together). Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to 30cm/12in x 23cm/9in.
Cut the pastry into four strips lengthways and then six across, leaving you with 24 rectangles of pastry.
Crumble the Stilton into a bowl and crush with a fork.
Put a heaped teaspoon of the cheese into the centre left of each rectangle, brush the edges with the egg wash.
Fold the pastry over the cheese and crimp the edges to seal and place onto the lined baking tray.
Brush the outside with the beaten egg and grate the parmesan over each parcel. Make a little hole in the top of each parcel with the tip of a sharp knife or cocktail stick.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden-brown all over.
When it comes to the main event (or any family feast over the festive period), some guests will certainly thank you for a course that is not too rich or indulgent. This starter is fresh, and light, but still extremely tasty. The salmon can be swapped out for vegetarian guests, and it will appeal to anyone who keeps up to date with culinary trends.
Smoked Salmon with Smashed Avocado
4 tablespoons of fat-free yoghurt
Juice of 1 lemon
4 slices of toasted granary/rye bread/sourdough
150g smoked salmon
½ cucumber, ribboned
4 radishes, sliced
French dressing (optional)
Halve the avocados, remove the stone and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add the yogurt and lemon juice and mash everything with a fork. Season well with salt and black pepper.
Divide the avocado between the toasted bread and drape the smoked salmon, radish, and cucumber decoratively over the top.
Place the toasts on a bed of salad leaves and drizzle with dressing if using.
Alternatively, you can serve the smashed avocado in a ramekin on a plate with the salmon and salad, and the bread separately for those avoiding carbs or gluten.
A STUNNING MAIN COURSE
This delicious tart is suitable for vegans, but appealing to everyone! It would be a superb addition to the Christmas table on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Eve.
Root Vegetable Tarte Tatin
Serves 8. This recipe requires a 24cm wide frying pan that is ovenproof. You could swap some of the vegetables listed below for red onions, butternut squash or peppers. You could pop this into the oven just before your guests arrive so it cooks whilst you offer them drinks and nibbles. And given that it needs to be served warm, rather than piping hot, it will wait patiently until you’re ready for it!
500g of puff pastry block (suitable for vegans, most are)
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into 1cm rounds
1 large parsnip, peeled and sliced into 1cm rounds
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced into 1cm rounds
1 shallot, peeled and sliced into rounds
50g of sunflower spread
1 tbsp of sherry or cider vinegar
1 tbsp of caster sugar
3 sprigs of thyme
plain flour, for dusting
Place the vegetables in a large pan and add enough water to cover, season with salt and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 4–5 minutes, then quickly drain the vegetables and place them in iced water if possible to retain their colour.
Drain the cooled vegetables and leave to dry on some kitchen towel
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6
Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Using an ovenproof frying pan (approx. 24cm) as your guide, trim the pastry to a circle that is slightly bigger than the pan. Transfer to a baking tray lined with baking parchment and chill in the fridge
Place the frying pan on a medium-high heat and add the sunflower spread, vinegar and sugar, stirring until melted together. Reduce the heat slightly, and add the shallots – try to keep the rings intact by not moving them too much
Once they begin to soften and caramelise, scatter over the thyme leaves, shaking the pan gently to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes
Place the par-boiled vegetable rounds in a nice pattern across the base of the pan, arranged like a mosaic with a mix of large and small pieces to fill the gaps. Make sure all the vegetables are coated in the sunflower spread glaze
Remove the pastry circle from the fridge and place on top of the vegetables in the pan. Gently tuck the edges in around the vegetables
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then check the tarte to see if there is any excess liquid bubbling up around the sides – if so, gently pour this away.
Reduce the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and return the tarte to the oven for a further 15–20 minutes, until the pastry has risen and is golden brown
Leave to cool for 10 minutes (the pastry will deflate slightly in this time), then place a plate over the top of the pan and carefully flip the pan over, so the Tarte Tatin turns out on to the plate.
Christmas Pudding (that doesn’t have to be made in November….and it doesn't require a steamer…..!)
Stir-up Sunday has been and gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer your guests a homemade Christmas Pudding. This one is lighter than some traditional recipes, and incredibly quick and easy! It uses shop-bought mincemeat (no harm in that - there are some really delicious versions of this available!) and can be prepared and cooked on the day. Mix up the ingredients several hours before if you need to so there’s no last-minute rush.
300g good quality mincemeat
140g fine shred orange marmalade
200g molasses cane sugar
4 tablespoons of treacle
3 beaten eggs
4 tablespoons of whisky
100g of butter, frozen and coarsely grated
200g of self-raising flour
Butter and line the base of a 1.5-litre pudding basin with greaseproof paper.
In a large bowl, stir the ingredients together, adding them one at a time in the order they are listed, until everything is completely mixed.
Tip the pudding mix into the basin and cover with a circle of greaseproof paper. Place the pudding on a plate and microwave on Medium for 20-25 mins until cooked and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Leave to stand for 5 mins, then turn out and serve with brandy butter and cream (or rum sauce, or ice cream, or custard...!)
So Eat, Drink and Be Merry! Enjoy your kitchen, enjoy feeding all your loved ones, and make sure you find a few minutes to relax! We hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!