Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

Our family's Christmas celebrations were again divided into two this year - a simple dinner on Christmas Eve with my mother and grandmother followed by mass, and then lunch on Christmas day with hubby's parents. For the Christmas Eve dinner, my mum had roasted a turkey and brought that over along with bread rolls, and all I did was provide some salads (coleslaw and potato salad) and make some cranberry sauce. We didn't bother with dessert.

I made this cranberry sauce last year and it is very simple and really nice. The recipe is from Nigella's book 'Feast' - 'redder than red cranberry sauce'. Fresh cranberries are not available in Australia, so I use the frozen ones and it turns out fine. The packet I can get (Creative Gourmet brand) is 300g, so here are my amended quantities (the recipe calls for 340g cranberries).

Nigella's redder than red cranberry sauce
  • 300g packet frozen cranberries
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 40ml cherry brandy
  • 65ml water
Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan.

Bring to the boil and let it bubble for about 10-15 minutes, until the berries have burst. Remove a small spoonful and taste to see whether it needs more sugar or some lemon juice to counteract the sweetness if too sweet. Cranberries naturally have lots of pectin so this sauce will set nicely into a jam as it cools, so take it off the heat while still liquidy.

Our Christmas Day lunch menu
  • roast turkey
  • marsala gravy
  • Nigella's redder than red cranberry sauce
  • Nigella's perfect roast potatoes
  • roast pumpkin
  • Jamie's 'carrots in a bag'
  • steamed green beans and baby peas
  • dinner rolls
  • Dessert: provided by my parents-in-law - steamed Christmas pudding, custard and ice cream
On the big day itself, we roasted a turkey buffe (breast on bone piece), and roasted pumpkin and cooked 'carrots in a bag' during the last hour while the turkey was cooking. Then while the turkey was resting under a tent of foil, we cooked Nigella's perfect roast potatoes and reheated the marsala gravy. The green beans and baby peas were cooked in the electric steamer towards the end. The oven was then turned back down slightly to reheat the dinner rolls. This is pretty much identical to our menu from last year, expect that last year I also made bread sauce to go with the turkey.

Jamie's carrots in a bag

This recipe is from Jamie Oliver's 'Ministry of Food'. I love it and make it quite often when we are having a roast dinner. The chopped carrots along with the other ingredients get packaged up into a foil parcel, and then just go into the oven with the roast for the last 50-60 mins of cooking time. If I am making gravy from the roast dripping, then I might put it in 30 minutes before the roast will be ready to come out of the oven, that way the roast can rest under a foil tent before carving, and the carrots can keep cooking while I am making the gravy. If I am just making a normal dinner for us at home, then I will put the parcel of carrots on one side of a baking tray, and do roast potatoes on the other half. For special occasions like Christmas though, we like to do Nigella's perfect roast potatoes, and these need a hot oven so get cooked after the roast and carrots have come out. So on Christmas Day, I roasted pumpkin on the same tray as the carrots.

Jamie's recipe includes chopped bacon, which is nice, but I usually leave it out. This keeps the dish vegetarian if you have any vegetarians to cater for.

  • 800g carrots, peeled, trimmed and chopped into large pieces (leave whole if they are small carrots)
  • 1 rasher of bacon, finely sliced (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • zest of half an orange
  • 1 tsp marmalade
  • 2 knobs of butter
  • salt and pepper to season
  • juice of whole orange
Take a large piece of foil, about 60cm long, and fold it in half then open it out. Place the carrots on one side of the centre fold. Sprinkle over the bacon (if using), garlic, rosemary and orange zest. Dot the top with the butter and marmalade. Sprinkle over some salt and freshly ground pepper. Lift the sides of the foil to create a bowl and then pour over the orange juice. Fold the other half of the foil over the carrots and seal the edges to create a parcel. Bake for around 50 minutes in a 200C oven. Serve the carrots along with their juices.

Nigella's perfect roast potatoes

My family absolutely adore these roast potatoes. The yummiest roast potatoes are crunchy on the outside and soft like mash on the inside. This recipe achieves both of these qualities. Parboiling the potatoes, draining the water away, and then shaking the pan to rough up the outside of the potatoes is one way of increasing the crunchiness when they are roasted, but this recipe goes one further by coating the potatoes with a small amount of semolina which further enhances the crunch factor.

I deviate from Nigella's recipe though, which uses goose fat as the roasting medium. I have heard this is quite delicious, plus has the advantage of a high smoking point. Goose fat is not readily obtainable here in Aus, and even though it is Christmas, I would find it hard to ignore the saturated fat content. I have experimented with different oils, and have settled on sunflower as it has a high smoking point and is used for frying chips, but I think rice bran oil would probably work as well.

  • 2.5kg medium potatoes
  • 30ml semolina
  • 2 x 320g jars of goose fat or sunflower oil (enough to fill the baking dish to about 1.5cm deep)
  1. Peel the potatoes and cut each into 3 pieces at an angle (cutting a triangular shaped piece out of the middle).
  2. Put the potatoes into a saucepan of cold salted water, and bring to the boil and cook for 4 minutes. Drain the potatoes, then return them to the empty saucepan. Sprinkle over the semolina, clamp the lid on, and then shake the pan to fuzz up the edges of the potatoes. The potatoes can then be left at this stage for a few hours.
  3. Empty the goose fat or oil into a roasting tin and heat in the oven to 250C. Carefully remove the pan of hot fat from the oven, add the potatoes to the pan, and return to the hot oven. Roast for 25 minutes on one side, turn the potatoes over, then roast on the other side for a further 25 minutes.
  4. Remove the potatoes from the fat using tongs, letting it drain off, then serve.

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