CHRISTMAS cooking is either a rewarding task or an annual headache — and sometimes it can be a bit of both.
With so much going on at once, it’s easy to overcook those dreaded sprouts and stick the roast veg too close to the grill.
This year, we’ve devised a few recipes for the big day — some of which can be prepared in advance.
The first is homemade gravy — perhaps low on the list of priorities like turkey and trimmings, but still an essential part of any festive feast.
Alright, so it might seem like more work than a packet of instant stuff, but the taste of this rich sauce makes all the difference.
This recipe also tastes better if made the day before, allowing you to prep for Christmas dinner the day before and pop in the fridge until needed.
We’ve also included an alternative to the traditional turkey — a tasty veggie option, should you be entertaining meat-free guests.
The mushroom wellington recipe combines so many wintry flavours – nutty mushroom, creamy blue cheese and golden, flaky pastry – and it goes very well with the gravy (provided you make those vegetarian substitutes!)
250ml red wine
250ml chicken stock
4 carrots, roughly chopped
4 onions, roughly chopped
4 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
few rashers of cooking/smoked bacon
sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary and sage , according to taste
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Spread veg across a roasting tin, topping with bacon and herbs and coat lightly in oil, then place in the oven for at least 1 hour (or until veg is soft). Burnt edges don’t matter – in fact, they add flavour.
Meanwhile, lightly coat a saucepan with oil and add wine. Bring to the boil then add the stock, and simmer until the liquid reduces by half (it will also thicken).
Remove veg from the oven and allow to cool, then press ingredients through a sieve and into the stock mixture – you should get all the juice from the roasting tin without any chunks.
Simmer until ready to serve, or store in a tub in the fridge and gently reheat when needed.
Remember, if serving a vegetarian meal then replace the bacon with generous seasoning and the chicken stock with vegetable.
4 large field or portobello mushrooms, stalks removed
500g all-butter puff pastry
150g blue cheese
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 egg, beaten
Flour, for dusting
Preheat oven to 220 degrees and grease or line a large baking tray.
Add the garlic (and a small amount of oil) to a medium-heat frying pan for a minute, then the spinach, and wilt for two to three minutes before seasoning and draining with a sieve.
Flour a chopping board and roll the pastry out – it should be as thick as a £1 coin.
Cut out four circles wider than the mushrooms (leave a gap of about 5cm running around each) and four circles wider again (about 10cm wider) – you may need to re-roll cuttings to get eight circles.
Place the smaller pastry circles on the baking tray and top with a pile the spinach, mushroom and cheese on top.
Brush the borders with egg wash and then top with the wider circles, trying not to trap any air. Push the edges together with a fork, or fold up like a pie crust, and then brush the parcels with the rest of the egg.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and flaky. Allow to rest for a couple of minutes before serving with (a vegetarian) gravy and the usual Christmas trimmings.
(Makes up to 50, depending on the size!)
300g chocolate (milk or dark work best, but white can be used too)
300ml double cream
50g of unsalted butter
Coatings – anything from more chocolate (about 100g) to desiccated coconut, coco powder or crushed nuts.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and tip into a large mixing bowl.
Gently heat the cream and butter in a saucepan until just simmering, then remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate (don’t allow the cream to boil as this will be too hot for the chocolate).
Mix until smooth – now is the time to add any additional flavourings to your chocolate ganache, or filling. Rums, whiskies and liqueurs work really well but just add a small splash (enough to flavour) or the truffle won’t set.
Chill in the fridge for at least four hours before attempting to roll.
Once set, use a melon baller dipped in hot water to scoop the truffles into shape – or if using your hands, coat them first in a flavourless oil (e.g. sunflower) and roll the mixture into balls.
Coat each by dipping them into bowls of your chosen topping – or if using more chocolate, sit the truffles on greaseproof paper and spoon the melted chocolate over, turning until it’s completely coated.
Again, chill and allow to set. The chocolates will keep in a container in the fridge for three days, or freeze for up to a month.
They make excellent gifts in small bundles, but make sure you keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to hand them out.