I went all a bit silly with the Christmas dinner this year. I wanted lots of different things and a simplicity to the menu. It seemed the only way to satisfy all those desires was to make lots of courses of small plates. So here’s what I made.
Course 1: Scotch Egg.
I’d planned quail’s egg scotch eggs, but the recipe I followed to ensure runny yolks was wrong and the tester egg I peeled was too overdone, so we just ate those and I went for normal big hen’s scotch eggs and we had half of one each.
6 decent sausages (skins removed)
a few slices of black pudding
lots of thyme and rosemary
2 litres of sunflower oil
First soft boil the eggs. There’s various methods for doing this (starting with cold water, starting with boiling water etc.) and of course it always varies depending on the size of the egg, but for a medium egg I’d bring the water to the boil, lower the egg into the boiling water, time 1 minute, turn the heat off and time a further 6 minutes and then run the pan under a cold tap until the egg is completely cold (about 4 minutes). Then peel them. Carefully. And remember that older eggs will peel so much better than fresh ones.
Mash the sausage meat, black pudding, thyme, rosemary and lots of black pepper together until well blended. Then take a ball of the sausage slightly larger the a golf ball and flatten it out. Place the egg in the middle and start to form the sausage around the egg. Add more clumps of sausage, smoothing and shaping until you have an evenly covered egg surrounded by about 1cm of sausage meat. Do this with all four eggs and chill them for 30 mins so they firm up.
Get three bowls, one of seasoned flour, one of beaten egg and one of breadcrumbs. Roll the egg in the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs and finally deep fry in a saucepan of sunflower oil at 150 degrees celsius for 4 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper for a couple of minutes and serve.
Course 2: Squash Ravioli, Sage Butter.
Very simple. One large ravioli in the middle of the plate, brown butter infused with sage and crispy sage on top. The pasta was made with a ratio of 100g flour to 1 egg with a pinch of salt. I added a little ‘paella powder’ that I picked up in Spain a few years ago. It’s mostly yellow colouring I think with a little saffron and paprika in it too. Made the pasta look pretty rich! The filling was butternut squash, halved, seasoned and roasted for an hour and then the flesh processed with parmesan, thyme and brown butter and then hung in a muslin bag overnight to dry out. The brown butter and crispy sage – butter heated until foaming, sage added, cooked until butter went nut brown, sage removed and shredded and the butter and sage dressed over the ravioli.
Course 3: Gravadlax, Rye Bread, Fennel, Horseradish.
This was a disk of pumpernickel-like rye bread, toasted and cooled. On top of that a mixture of horseradish, cream and lime juice, then some grilled and cooled fennel, and finally slices of home-cured gravadlax and chopped dill. Here’s how the salmon is done – a side of Salmon sprinkled with a mixture of salt and sugar, grated beetroot, dill, gin, pepper and lemon zest. This was covered in clingfilm and weighed down in the fridge for about 48 hours, lightly rinsed and thinly sliced. Looks amazing dyed by the beets.
Course 4: Nut Roast, Purple Sprouts, St Agur Sauce.
I think, I’m not sure, but I think this was my favourite. The nuts in the nut roast complimented the nutty taste of the sprouts and all that was set off by the salty cheese sauce. Oh, it was good.
I generally do nut roast loosely based on the old Cranks recipe from the 80s, though I add more vegetables, and I add raisins for sweetness. And for this one I also added eggs, which I don’t normally do, but I wanted it to hold it’s shape really well so I could slice it and fry it.
2 onions (finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
1 parsnip (very finely diced)
4-5 chestnut mushrooms (very finely diced)
about a tablespoon of raisins (chopped)
200g nuts (any nuts, toasted and food processed until quite fine)
100g wholemeal breadcrumbs
50-75ml vegetable stock with a teaspoon of marmite stirred in
Fry the onion, garlic, parsnip and mushroom for a long time until nicely caramelised. Then add the other ingredients and mix well. Finally mix in the two eggs (or not if you’re going to serve it out of a bowl). Put the mixture into a well greased loaf tin and bake under foil for about 30 minutes at 200 degrees celsius. If you’re going to slice it, let it cool completely and slice it with a sharp breadknife and reheat by frying.
ST AGUR SAUCE
Make a bechemal (here’s how) but toast the roux for ages until it’s nicely brown as this will add a nice nutty flavour to the finished sauce. season with chilli, nutmeg, salt and pepper and finally add St Agur only after the sauce has come off the heat.
They seem to stock interesting sprouts in the shops at Christmas and these purple ones cook down to a lovely deep green with a tinge of blue that compliments the blue cheese in the sauce. I boiled them, plunged them into iced water and then reheated them with butter and a little water.
Course 4: Chicken, Potatoes, Beetroot, Raw Mushroom, pig-in-blanket and devil-on-horseback, Gravy
The chicken was brined for 24 hours which is something I’ve never done before and I don’t know if I could really tell any difference. The potatoes were just par boiled, left to steam dry, plunged into scaldingly hot olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. The beetroot was boiled, peeled and roasted. The skewer was just some decent sausage and prunes wrapped in bacon and roasted. The gravy was epic – a sauce made from 4 chicken thighs that I roasted the night before with some veg, deglazed with cider and pressure cooked with water for two hours before straining and reducing. This was added to the juices that came off the chicken with a little cream, tarragon and very thinly sliced raw mushrooms added at the end.
Course 5: Galette De Rois, Waitrose Ice Cream
Galette De Rois is dead easy. Get some all butter puff pastry (Waitrose sell it frozen in sheets and you don’t even need to roll it out). Beat together 100g butter, 100g ground almonds, 100g sugar and a little vanilla. Then fold in 60ml double cream. Spread the mixture on the bottom sheet of pastry leaving a border of about 1cm. Egg wash the border, place the other sheet on top, crimp the edges, brush with egg white, score a pattern and bake for about 30 mins at 170 degrees. Leave it for 5-10 minutes to cool before serving. And this was had with pistachio gelato and white chocolate ice cream, which as pretty good.
Course 6: Cornish Yarg and Crab Apple Membrillo
Keep that cheese simple! I got a couple of others too but the mixture of creamy Cornish Yarg and sharp astringent foraged crab apple membrillo (recipe here) is just perfect.
So there you go. Overdid it, but it was worth it.
Oh and a footnote, there was sprouts, fennel and potatoes left so Boxing Day morning I made bubble and squeak out of that, with toast and a poached egg, of course.