Christmas is the time for cooking and more importantly eating! Planning the family meals, the kids' table, fair bakes, the Christmas Eve party and the Boxing Day leftovers takes a lot of careful consideration. So, whether you have a sweet tooth or savour the savoury snacks, there is something for everyone this Christmas season.
More so than ever more and more of us are choosing a vegan lifestyle, if you’re opting for a meat-free alternative this year, a nut roast is a great choice.
Cranberry pistachio nut roast
1 small handful of dried porcini
2 sticks of celery
2 red onions
2 cloves of garlic
150g risotto rice or pearl barley
100ml white wine
500ml hot organic vegetable stock
200g mixed wild mushrooms
100g pistachios/100g almonds
125g vegetarian Cheddar cheese (omit to make vegan nut roast)
1 fresh red chilli
2 sprigs of fresh sage
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 large free-range eggs, (omit to make vegan nut roast)
1 handful of sourdough or ciabatta breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
200g fresh cranberries
- Make the risotto base first. Soak the dried porcini in a little boiling water. Trim and finely chop the celery, and peel and finely chop the onions and garlic.
- Heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add the celery and onion, and cook for 10 minutes, until soft and sweet. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
- Turn up the heat and add the rice. Cook for a minute or so until you hear it snap, crackle and pop, then add the wine and stir until absorbed.
- Drain the porcini, sieve and discard any grit from the liquid and add to the risotto pan, stirring until absorbed. Finely chop the porcini and add to the pan.
- Add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring each one in until it has been completely absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir as much as you can – this is what will make it creamy. Once the rice is al dente (when you break into a grain, it should be almost cooked through but still have a white fleck in the middle), transfer to a bowl to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375°F/gas 5.
- Fry the wild mushrooms in a little oil over a medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until they are just starting to crisp.
- Toast, then bash the nuts into coarse pieces, or quickly pulse in a food processor.
- Coarsely grate the Cheddar, finely chop the chilli and finely grate the lemon zest. Pick and roughly chop all the herb leaves. In a small bowl, beat the eggs.
- Once the risotto has cooled, add the breadcrumbs, Cheddar, chilli, lemon zest, eggs and chopped herbs, season, and mix well.
- Butter a 20cm loaf tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. Cook the sugar and the cranberries in a pan over a medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then tip into the tin and spread evenly. Pile on the nut-roast mixture and pack it down with the back of a spoon.
- Cover the whole thing with foil and bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes. Once it’s golden brown on top, remove the nut roast from the oven and leave to settle for 10 minutes.
- Use a knife to loosen the tin, then place your serving platter or board on top. Cover your hand with a tea towel and courageously flip the whole lot over, then carefully lift the tin off. Serve with all the trimmings.
Whether you love them or hate them, nothing says Christmas like brussels sprouts. Try this tasty recipe for a modern take on this seasonal classic.
Maple glazed brussel sprouts
7 slice thick-cut bacon
3 lb. brussel sprouts
2 large shallots
c. turkey or chicken broth
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- In a saucepan, cook bacon on a medium-high heat for 7 to 8 minutes or until crisp and browned, stirring occasionally. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a medium plate. Remove and discard all but 2 tablespoons rendered fat.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add Brussels sprouts, shallots, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to pot. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth and cover. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or until sprouts are tender, stirring twice.
- Uncover and add maple syrup, vinegar, and cayenne. Cook 2 minutes or until well coated and vinegar has reduced, stirring occasionally. To serve, stir in cooked bacon.
Christmas pudding is a Christmas Day essential. These mini ones are great for dinner parties and freeze well so can be cooked in advance to save time.
Mini Christmas puddings
60g self-raising flour
10g chopped roasted hazelnuts
½ x 411 g jar Marks & Spencer luxury mincemeat
grated zest ½ orange
grated zest ½ lemon
12 fresh cranberries, to serve
1 tablespoon brandy, if flaming the puddings
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ rounded teaspoon ground mixed spice
1 medium egg
25g butter, softened
40ml black treacle
55ml Irish stout
1 tablespoon dark rum
40g Bramley cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
- First sift the flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a medium bowl, then add the egg and softened butter.
- After that, measure the treacle into a glass measuring jug, add the stout and rum and mix these together. Next, pour this mixture into the bowl and, using an electric hand whisk, whisk everything very thoroughly together. Now add the apple, nuts, currants, mincemeat and, finally, the grated orange and lemon zests.
- Then mix everything together very thoroughly and divide the mixture among the 4 well-buttered pudding basins. Top each with a small circle of buttered baking parchment, followed by a 7-inch (18 cm) square of foil large enough to fold under the edges of the basins, making a pleat all the way round to seal.
- Now place the basins in the tin and place the tin in the oven.
- Next pour in 1 inch (2.5 cm) of boiling water from the kettle and leave to cook for 45-50 minutes, or until the puddings are springy and firm to the touch in the centre. Then remove them from the oven and let them stand for 10 minutes before carefully running a small knife around each one to turn them out on to warm serving plates.
- Garnish each pudding with 3 cranberries on top. If you want to flame the puddings as they go on the table, warm a ladleful of brandy over direct heat and as soon as the brandy is hot, ask someone to set light to it using a long match. Place the ladle, now gently flaming, on top of the pudding – but don't pour the brandy over until you reach the table. When you do, pour it slowly over the pudding, sides and all, and watch it flame to the cheers of the assembled company!
- Note: If freezing the cooked and cooled puddings, defrost thoroughly, then place in a loose parcel of foil with a couple of tablespoons of brandy sprinkled over.
- Re-heat on a baking tray in an oven pre-heated to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) for 25 minutes.
Get the whole family involved and be the talk of the town at the Christmas fair bake sale, with these fun and festive snowman biscuits.
125g butter, softened
125g golden caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
For the decoration
400g white fondant icing
icing sugar, for dusting
100g pack mixed red, yellow, black and blue ready-to-roll icing
tube white icing, for sticking
tube black icing
- Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour and mix to a fairly soft dough. Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently. Put the dough on a plate, cover and chill for at least 2 hrs.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of around 0.5cm. Use a cookie cutter or water glass to stamp out 7cm rounds. Re-roll the trimmings and repeat.
- Transfer the biscuits to two lined baking trays and bake for 8-14 mins until the edges turn lightly golden in colour. Leave to cool.
- To decorate, roll out the white fondant icing on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar. Stamp out 7cm circles using the same cookie cutter or glass as before, then use a dab of the white tube of icing to stick a fondant round on each biscuit.
- Knead together some of the yellow and blue icing to make green icing, then do the same with the red and yellow icing to make orange (alternatively, buy separate packs of each colour). Roll out one icing colour at a time. Stamp out a 7cm circle of icing, cut in half and stick on for a hat. Cut a strip of another colour and make some markings to make it look like the elasticated band of a hat, then trim to fit and stick on. Repeat with all the biscuits, mixing and matching colours.
- Decorate the hats with icing spots and stripes, if you like. Roll out balls of coloured icing, poke holes all over with a cocktail stick and stick on as pom poms. Mould lumpy balls of the orange icing for noses and roll out balls of the black icing for eyes. Press down to flatten, then stick on with white icing. Use the tube of black icing to pipe rows of dots for the smiles. Leave to set. Will keep for up to five days in an airtight container.
Now get the party started, with this fan favourite. Mulled wine encapsulates the smell and taste of Christmas.
2 cinnamon sticks
4cm (1.5in) piece ginger, peeled and sliced
60g (2½oz) light brown sugar
60ml (2 1/2fl oz) ruby port
75cl bottle full-bodied red wine
For the garnish
1/2 orange, sliced into half moons
½ lemon, sliced into half moons
6-8 cinnamon sticks
- Remove the zest from the lemon and one of the oranges with a potato peeler in thin strips then juice the zested orange. Push the cloves into the remaining orange.
- Put the zest, orange juice and clove studded orange in a large pan along with 2 cinnamon sticks, the ginger, sugar, port, red wine and 750ml (1 1/2 pint) water.
- Put over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, then turn up the heat slightly and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes before ladling into glasses. Garnish with the orange and lemon slices and a cinnamon stick.
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