This Christmas I challenged the readers of this blog to help me to rejuvenate what had become an all too methodical Christmas lunch. I wanted to eat something that went beyond our traditional and stale festive binge – nothing wildly different or controversial (I would never have been forgiven), but just enough to reinvigorate the day. There were some wonderful suggestions, from all over the world. Natasha’s fried carp with knedliky (Czech dumplings) sounded delicious but would have undoubtedly ended in a riot had it been served in favour of turkey. Alex, a Jewish friend, suggested latkas, potato pancakes eaten at Chanukah. Again, I was – I am – pathetic, and just didn’t dare produce these.
Some more conventional suggestions were embraced. However, after much deliberating I decided that, ambitious as I wanted to be with Christmas lunch, I didn’t really fancy the stress that would have undoubtedly been induced by attempting myriad dishes on Christmas morning. Doing turkey ‘n trimmings for 18 is stressful enough, so instead I dotted the various recipes around the festive period (there may still be time for more). They were all a complete delight. So thank you, everybody, for your truly inspirational input – you helped to make this Christmas much more fun.
Lambswool – with thanks to Nibbles for their suggestion
This is a medieval beverage, swilled no doubt by the gallon on high days and winter holidays. I tried it with ale, feeling that with cider (a more common variation) that it would just be like mulled cider. In truth it is probably nicer that way but it was still warming, aromatic and festive.
Makes 2 litres
6 Cox’s apples
4 bottles good ale – Black Sheep or Landlord – otherwise good cider. White Lightning is excellent.
8 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
Peel, core and quarter the apples. In a large cauldron, melt the butter over a fire that is not newly ablaze, and yet has not lost all of its fervour, and add the apples and spices. Gently nurdle those golden orbs until lightly bronzed like the sultry curves of a Moorish maiden, then add the ale and the sugar. Stir well and heat until just below the point at which the bubbles breaketh the surface. Leave for the length of the second act of the Bard’s Twelfth Night and serve in warm goblets ye rapscallion ye.
Hot chocolate with chilli – with thanks to Ms. Alex
This is just the thing to drink on a cold winter morning. Chocolate and chilli are terrific bed partners – the chilli helping the chocolate to coat the throat with a deep warmth that trickles down all the way to your toes. Fight any resistance to this idea and give it a go. It’s fab.
Makes 6 mugs
200g good quality chocolate (70%)
1 dried red chilli, finely chopped and seeds discarded
1l whole milk
4 tsp sugar
250ml double cream
A little extra chocolate for dusting
Break the chocolate into bits and melt over a low heat along with the water and chilli. Meanwhile warm the milk almost to boiling point. Once the chocolate has melted whisk in the milk and add the sugar. Heat for another couple of minutes while you whisk the double cream until softly whipped. Pour the hot chocolate into warm mugs, top with cream and a little grated chocolate.
Brussels sprouts with black pudding – with thanks to The Student Gourmet
Prepare the sprouts by discarding any grotty outer leaves, trimming the bottoms and cutting in half. Add to a pan of boiling salted water and boil for three minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water for 2 minutes. You can do this well ahead (I did it on Christmas Eve this year and the sprouts were as green and fresh as ever).
Heat some butter or goose fat in a large pan and add some chopped up black pudding. Fry until crisp, stirring occasionally, then add the sprouts and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Serve.
Chestnut soup with chorizo and saffron cream – with further thanks to the mysterious ‘Nibbles’
This is an adaptation of a recipe from the Moro cookbook.
200g whole Chorizo, cut into cubes
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 dried red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
400-500g cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
1 tin tomatoes
1 litre chicken stock
2ooml double cream
a pinch of saffron
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and fry the chorizo until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon, reserving the oil.
Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and fry over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until lightly caramelised and soft.
Next add the chopped rosemary, chilli and cumin and stir for a minute or so, before adding the chestnuts, chopped tomatoes and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, gently heat the cream and saffron together until the threads have dissolved. Set aside and blend the soup until smooth.
Whisk the saffron cream over a medium heat until it is a little lighter, then serve the soup with a few chunks of chorizo and some of the cream.