Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Notes from my Christmas kitchen

Apologies for those of you who would rather eat their own hand than revisit the gluttony of the end of December, but I’m running a bit behind with blog posts owing to spending a chunk of last week feeling sorry for myself. Go and make a cup of tea and this will all be over soon.

You see, last year’s Christmas dinner was the first one I have ever cooked myself. Mum was in charge of sauces (I don’t eat sauces of the bread and cranberry variety so felt that I was not the best candidate to make them) and helped with the dishing up (which turns out to be one of the most stressful parts, especially when you have run out of oven space to warm the plates) but the majority of the cooking was done by yours truly. It is odd how very nervous I was about it, especially considering it is just a glorified roast dinner.

I wanted to make a few notes about it, more as an aide memoire to myself than anything else. After all, there are many miles to go and glasses of wine to be consumed before next Christmas, and the chances of me remembering anything useful between then and now are…remote.

Course the First

We started off with a selection of pates, which worked really well. Mainly because pate is a cinch to do in advance and because people can help themselves to as much or as little as they like, depending on how much room they have betwixt their navel and their waistband. To go with the pates I whipped up a batch of the brown soda bread that I blogged about a little while ago, only this time I produced a series of misshapen rolls rather than a single misshapen loaf. Incredibly easy to do, delicious served still slightly warm from the oven and kudos to the chef for producing fresh bread on Christmas Day. The rolls took about 20-25 minutes to bake through compared to the full size loaf.

Course the Second

To accompany the three bird roast (D was quite disgruntled that this had replaced the traditional turkey but I thought it was nice) we had:

Sausage meat stuffing (a family staple)

Sage and onion stuffing – homemade and, can I just say, I will never be able to use Paxo again after actually bothering to make this from scratch. I used a Mrs Beeton recipe that I found on the BBC website, baked it in a foil tray rather than within a bird and it was lovely.

Roasted potatoes and parmesan roast parsnips

Braised red cabbage

Brussel sprouts pan fried with bacon and chestnuts – a minor triumph here. My Dad proclaimed them the nicest sprouts he had ever had, which, given his feeling for them probably translates as “Least awful sprouts ever,” but still. We shredded and blanched them on Christmas Eve so all that was required prior to serving was cooking some finely chopped bacon and chestnuts in butter and then tossing through the sprouts with plenty of seasoning. I like sprouts, but even I have to admit that I prefer them shredded, although if you’re serving them like that be sure to give them next to no cooking to ensure you don’t end up with green mulch.

Crushed swede – my brother had said beforehand that he considered this a side dish too far, but I love swede smushed up with a bit of butter and loads of black pepper with my roast dinners.

Most of the side dishes were prepared in advance and placed in foil trays. The two stuffings and the potatoes and parsnips needed cooking through but the swede and cabbage only required warming ten minutes before serving. In any case, it was just a question of being organised with regards timings rather than having a lot of cooking to do which made for a relatively relaxed day. In retrospect we could probably have done with another green thing in there – I had intended to do peas but completely forgot when it came down to it. But all in all, I was pleased. And writing it down is making my mouth water a little bit which must be a good sign.

Course the Third

Although I adore Christmas pudding, I never want to eat it after Christmas dinner. It was D’s idea this year to produce a little trio of desserts which appealed to my pretentious side, although future S take note that there were a few tense marital moments during the baking of numerous miniature pastry cases (D and I do not cook well together – he is as orderly as I am haphazard).

We made miniature chocolate salted caramel tarts which were absolutely scrumptious. The original recipe, by Rachel Allen, can be found here; we halved the quantities which produced about eighteen dinky little tarts in total, assuming you’re not trying to show off it would be far easier to produce a full sized one and just serve slices. If you like chocolate and salted caramel and tarts (and who doesn’t?) then I urge you to give this a go. I’m rolling it out again (boom, boom!) for our next dinner party.

To either side of the tarts we had a burnt orange ice cream and little squares of Yorkshire parkin. I will share the parkin recipe with you in a future blog post, because it is a cake that deserves to be more widely known. The ice cream is a recipe of Tamasin Day Lewis’ which I can’t find online although there are appear to be a few similar ones if you dig around; basically you make an orange infused custard and then a caramel which you take just slightly over “done” (hence the burnt) and combine with glorious results.

Et fin…

And after all that we were too full for cheese! Which is not something you hear very often in our family. Cue one household snoozing, replete, in front of the television – which is just how it should be on Christmas Day...now but a distant memory (looks at plate of salad and weeps a little weep)...


  1. Suddenly feeling very ashamed that our Christmas dinner consisted of party food from M&S.........

  2. Congratulations! My Christmas dinner was the first proper one I've cooked as well (a couple of years ago when it was just John and I at home I made a lamb tagine in the slow cooker!). Yours sounds more elaborate than mine with 3 courses and cheese (I did 2 and got our visiting friends to make pudding!)
    It's nice to have a reminder of all the effort for this year.

  3. That sounds amazing - I'm coming to you next year.

    I'm impressed you had room for a starter - we always wimp out. But I made a pear and butterscotch trifle which was yummy (even though bf said my home-made custard was much the same as Waitrose's finest - he claims this is a compliment but I'm not taking it as such!).

    But THREE puddings? Swoons..


  4. Lauren - we hit up the M&S nibbles plenty over Christmas so this was basically all the cooking I did for an entire seven day period :-)

    Jen - love the idea of a slow cooker tagine for Christmas dinner! Sharing the burden is a good thought as well, I think next year I'll follow your example.

    Peridot - You'd be very welcome! Pear and butterscotch trifle sounds AMAZING though, so perhaps we'll put you in charge of pudding???


  5. I miss my days of being able to eat lovely rich food without feeling like I'm being stabbed in the back afterwards (gall bladder space of doom). Sounds lovely though!