5 Christmas recipes
PUBLISHED: 16:45 21 November 2016 | UPDATED: 16:46 21 November 2016
Don't spend the whole of Christmas in the kitchen. Charlotte Smith-Jarvis shares some make-ahead festive favourites that should ensure you can eat, drink and be merry with the rest of them. Photos: Sarah Lucy-Brown
Hands up if you’re one of those people who spends hours and hours slaving away in the kitchen for dinner guests. I’m guilty. I’ve been known to labour for the best part of a day cooking for friends, but where does it really get you? You’re exhausted before anyone arrives, and everyone ends up getting so sozzled you might as well have bought in a Chinese.
These days I’m more likely to pare back, take it easy and prep a few things the night before. Here are a few of my favourite make-ahead bites that will serve up to 10 people for a drinks and nibbles party over the Christmas holidays.
Fondue rostis with crispy pancetta and candied rosemary
Rostis are both cheap to make and extremely tasty. If you have vegetarians coming over replace the pancetta with grilled veg on top – maybe mushrooms or peppers. If you want to ensure they are extra crunchy follow my top tip using the potato water. I’ve used Baron Bigod from Suffolk as it’s a beautiful earthy local cheese, but you could use camembert, blue cheese or even Vacherin Mont D’or.
500g floury potatoes, peeled, 1tbsp flour, 1 large onion, 3/4tsp salt, 1/2tp ground black pepper, 1 egg yolk, 100g Baron Bigod, 4 slices pancetta, 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, 50g caster sugar, oil for cooking
Grate the potatoes and onions by hand or in a food processor. Now (and this is the hardest part), squeeze out the potatoes over a bowl (collect the juices). Keep on squeezing until you think you’ve got all the liquid out and place the potatoes in a separate bowl. Add the salt to them and leave for 10 minutes. Then squeeze out again over the bowl of juices. Add the flour, pepper and egg yolk to the potatoes. Now take the potato water. You’ll see the bottom of the bowl is white where the potato starch has collected. Carefully drain the water out of the bowl so you’re left with the white starch and add to your potato mix and stir. This helps to bind the potatoes and crisp them up.
Separate your mix into 15 pieces and cut 1cm cubes of cheese. Make each pile of potato into a ball then flatten on your hand and place a piece of cheese at the centre. Scrunch the potato up around the cheese, seal then form into a cake shape. Do the same with the other pieces.
Oil a tray well and place the cakes on it. Bake at 200°C for five minutes to seal. Allow to chill and place in the fridge until needed. Before serving bake at 200°C for 15 minutes. Add the pancetta to the oven three minutes before serving to crisp up and break into pieces.
For the rosemary. Place the sugar in a pan with a dash of water and cook on high until golden. Tear the rosemary into shreds and add to the pan to coat then remove to greaseproof paper. Serve the rostis with a piece of crisp pancetta and sweet herbal rosemary on top.
Music bread with smoked salmon, lemon aioli and quick cucumber pickle
For some reason smoked salmon and Christmas go hand in hand. The smooth smoky fish is still perceived as quite a luxury – and when you look at some of the price tags you can see why. Here I’ve served Pinneys of Orford Freedom Farmed Scottish smoked salmon on Sardinian-style music bread (basically a homemade cracker) with sweet lemon aioli and tangy cucumber – a match made in heaven.
200g smoked salmon sliced into small pieces. For the music bread: 300g strong white bread flour (I used the Marriages extra strong flour), 1/2tsp sea salt, 175ml water. For the aioli: 1 egg yolk, 1/4tsp sea salt, rapeseed oil, zest of one lemon and 2tbsp lemon juice. For the cucumber: I cucumber, 200ml white wine vinegar, 1tsp sea salt, 75g caster sugar
Start with the pickles. Quarter the cucumber lengthways and cut out the seeds in the middle. Now thinly slice the cucumber widthways and place in a bowl. Add the sugar, salt and vinegar and set aside until ready to use. To make the aioli place the egg yolk and lemon zest, juice and salt in a bowl. Add rapeseed oil, drop by drop, whisking all the time, until you have a thick, wobbly mixture. I find about 150ml of oil is plenty.
For the music bread mix the salt, flour and water together and knead for five minutes until smooth. Wrap in clingfilm for 30 minutes. Set the oven to 220C. Flour a surface and cut the dough into eight pieces. I make each bread one at a time using a pizza stone. Roll out as thin as you can and place onto a greased pizza stone or tray. Bake for six to eight minutes until crisp and golden in places. Repeat with all the dough. Allow to cool then break into pieces.
To serve dot the pieces of bread with aioli, add salmon and a sliver or two of cucumber.
Venison ‘Wellington’ rolls
These are so tasty and well worth the extra bit of effort. They combine the flavours of a traditional Wellington with the bite-sized handiness of a sausage roll. Use the best meat you can afford. If you can’t find venison use steak mince instead.
1 pack shortcrust pastry (all butter if you can find it), 400g sausagemeat, 500g venison mince, 100g fresh white breadcrumbs soaked in 3tbsp milk, 12 slices Parma ham, 500g button mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic, 1tsp dried thyme, 50g unsalted butter, salt and pepper, redcurrant jelly
Mix together the venison, sausagemeat and breadcrumbs. Add a good pinch of pepper and a touch of salt. Set aside. Blitz the mushrooms and garlic in a food processor (or chop very very finely) and place in a small pan with the thyme and butter. Cook on a low heat until all the liquid is gone and the mushrooms have a thick texture. Set aside until cold and drain away any excess liquid then season to taste.
Flour a surface and cut the pastry into two. Roll out one piece to 20cm by 30cm. Place half the Parma ham across the centre. Now spread with half the mushroom mixture across the ham and top with half the sausage mix in a long sausage shape. Make an indent all the way along the middle and dot in blobs of redcurrant jelly and squash the meat up around it to seal the jelly. Bring in the edges of the pastry. Seal and turn over then cut into pieces about 5cm wide. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pastry and fillings.
Chill in the fridge until needed. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking and cook at 210°C for about 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry is golden.
Christmas pudding truffle cakes
(makes at least 20)
These are a cheat’s dessert. More of an assembly job really, and based upon those kiddie favourites, cake pops. No baking required.
12 chocolate muffins or two chocolate loaf cakes. 100g mixed raisins and glace cherries chopped and soaked in 3tbsps rum or brandy, 50g unsalted butter, 80g salted butter, 250g icing sugar, 70g cocoa powder, 1tsp vanilla extract, 80ml double cream, fondant icing, green and red food colouring
Blend together the butters, icing sugar, cocoa, vanilla and cream to make a rich buttercream. Process the cakes into crumbs and mix with the buttercream. Add the cherries and raisins and form into small balls. Use the fondant icing to make icing and holly berries and leaves to decorate.
(makes 10-15 shot glasses of jelly – depending on their size)
These are a bit of fun and look pretty layered in the glasses.
300ml mulled wine, 300ml fresh clementine or orange juice, 6 leaves gelatine, sugar to taste
Soak three gelatine leaves for 10 minutes in cold water then squeeze out. Heat the mulled wine in a pan and add the soaked gelatine and stir on a low heat to dissolve. Allow to cool then pour into the shot glasses to fill halfway. Set in the fridge for 2 hours. While they are setting repeat the method with the orange juice, soaking the remaining gelatine and adding to the warm juice. Allow to cool.
After the two hours has passed gently pour the orange jelly over the wine jelly. Some of the wine jelly will float up and sit on top of the orange jelly to create a nice layered effect. Allow to set overnight.
All ingredients for this shoot were kindly provided by the East of England Co-op which supports Suffolk producers by stocking a Sourced Locally range. Charlotte used Marybelle cream, Hadleigh Maid chocolate, Taste of Suffolk sausages, Capel St Mary mushrooms, Baron Bigod cheese, Fairfields Farm potatoes, Pinneys Scottich smoked salmon, Hill Farm rapeseed oil and Marriages flour – all available from East of England Co-op stores.
The gold cylinder boxes were kindly supplied by www.confetti.co.uk