The house is decorated with reds and greens, silvers and golds. There is tinsel on the mantel and a wreath on the door. On every available surface, there are Christmas-themed coasters and knick-knacks. And, of course, there’s the tree, standing resplendent, the star or angel balanced on the top, and the perfectly wrapped presents waiting patiently beneath. It looks stunning, and everyone who arrives, chilled and red cheeked, is impressed. So far so good. However, what about lunch?
You shouldn’t feel pressured by the idea that your Christmas dinner needs to go perfectly (it doesn’t, by the way), but if you are feeling a little overwhelmed by the prospect, then insideKENT‘s useful guide to planning and cooking your complete Christmas meal should help.
First things first, the welcome drink. It’s cold at Christmas time, and your guests will certainly welcome a warming drink on arrival. If it’s a boozy, festive one as well, then even better. Gluhwein is the German version of mulled wine (translated it means ‘glow wine’), but the spicing and flavour is more intens
To make six mugs you will need:1 bottle dry red wine 120ml rum or brandy 240ml water 1 large orange 1 lemon 115g sugar 6 cloves 1 nutmeg 1 cinnamon stick 1 vanilla pod 2 star anise
Pour the sugar and water into a medium-sized saucepan, and add chunks of the orange and lemon peel, as well as the juice from the orange. Add the vanilla pod, the close, the star anise, the cinnamon stick, and the nutmeg (grated over the top). Bring the whole lot to the boil and leave to simmer for around an hour. If the liquid starts to reduce too much, add some wine to bring it back to life.
After an hour, turn the heat down to low and pour in the rest of the wine, and the rum or brandy. Stir, turn the heat up just a little to get it simmering, and after another 5 minutes it’s ready to serve.
Not everyone starts their Christmas meal this way, preferring to go straight for the main course, but a starter can be a great way to get everyone around the table. The starter shouldn’t be too heavy since the rest of the meal will most likely be rather filling. A lovely, light Christmas starter is smoked salmon soufflés; they are much easier to make than you might think, and can be made in advance and frozen, ready to be cooked just before serving.
To make six soufflés you will need:40g butter 25g plain flour 300ml milk 85g soft cheese 2tsp dill (chopped), plus sprigs for serving 3 large eggs (separated – you’ll need the yolk and the white) 85g smoked salmon (chopped) Zest of half a lemon Crème fraîche
Combine the butter, flour and milk in a saucepan and cook, stirring over a medium heat until the mixture has thickened. Once it has, add the cheese a little at a time, and then the dill. Season and beat to ensure that it’s all mixed together.
Preheat your oven to 200oC (180oC fan, gas mark 6). While that’s heating up, line 150ml soufflé dishes with baking paper (a muffin tray would work too, although they will be smaller).
Next, stir the egg yolks into your sauce, and add the chopped salmon pieces and the lemon zest. Separately whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold (very delicately) into the salmon mix. Spoon the combined mixture into the soufflé dishes and put the dishes themselves into a baking tray of cold water. Bake them like that for 15 minutes. They should be risen and golden when you take them out of the oven, but will probably sink as they cool. Don’t worry.
At this point, you can freeze them (allow them to cool completely, then wrap the dishes with baking paper and foil). They keep for 6 weeks, and take 5 hours to thaw in the fridge.
When you are ready to serve, remove the soufflés from their dishes and remove the baking paper. Pop onto a baking tray on top of some more baking paper, and top with crème fraîche. Bake at 200oC (180oC fan, gas mark 6) for 10-15 minutes. Serve with a sprig of dill on the top.
Turkey is turkey. Or is it? A lot can be done with this traditional Christmas fare to make it stand out from the crowd. This recipe for cider roast turkey is sure to go down well.
You will need:6kg/13lb turkey (with giblets removed) 2 leeks 2 carrots 50g butter 600ml dry cider 600ml chicken stock 2tsbp redcurrant jelly
Preheat your oven to 190oC (170oC fan, gas mark 5). Wash the turkey, and thoroughly dry it, removing the giblets at the same time. Place the carrots (peeled and trimmed) and leeks (washed and trimmed) on a roasting dish next to one another, and pop the turkey on top so it rests just above the bottom of the dish. Coat the breast all over with butter (don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, the more butter you have, the moister your turkey will be).
Next, pour in 300ml of cider and cover the whole lot with foil. Roast for 40 minutes per kilogram (or 20 minutes per lb). Check on your turkey throughout the cooking time, and if the vegetables are starting to dry out or burn, add a little water or cider.
With 30 minutes to go, remove the foil and season.
When you take the turkey from the oven, pierce the thickest part of the thigh; if the juices run clear then it is completely cooked. If it is, remove from the tin and leave to rest for up to an hour, covered with a clean tea towel.
To make the gravy, drain the fat and juices (you can discard the veg) from the roasting tin into a jug, and then put the empty tin onto your hob. Pour in the rest of the cider and scrape up the remnants of the turkey roast. When the cider mixture has reduced by half, strain it into a saucepan and slowly add the chicken stock, keeping the whole thing simmering lightly for around 15 minutes. Just before serving, spoon in the redcurrant jelly and stir.
To finish off your sumptuous Christmas feast, you could choose from a number of traditional desserts. The one we’ve picked for you – chocolate Christmas pudding cheesecake – is perfect because it’s easy, delicious, and can be made well in advance, so it’s one less thing to worry about on the big day.
You will need:125g Bourbon biscuits 65g melted butter (+ another 15g for the sauce) 100g dark chocolate (+ another 125g for the sauce) 200g full fat cream cheese 400g ricotta 75g golden caster sugar 3 eggs 40g cocoa powder 125g Christmas pudding (you can buy this ready-made) 125ml double cream
Preheat your oven to 200oC (180oC fan, gas mark 4).
In a bowl, crush the biscuits into crumbs and pour over the melted butter. Combine, and then press into the bottom of a round cake tin (20cm size is perfect). Next, melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of water.
Now put the cream cheese, ricotta, and sugar in a food processor and blend. When it is smooth, add the eggs, cocoa powder, melted chocolate, and finally the Christmas pudding broken into chunks. Mix together, and then spoon over the biscuit base.
Bake for about 45 minutes and allow to cool in the tin. When it has cooled down, turn it out and dust with cocoa powder. It can be kept in the fridge until needed.
The sauce has to be served as soon as it’s made, and cannot be reheated. If you do want to make it, you can do so by placing the chocolate and cream together in a bowl and melting over a saucepan of water, before whisking in the butter. It’s that simple. Alternatively, you could simply use double cream or clotted cream.
Enjoy your meal, and more so, enjoy the many compliments you’ll receive.