Wednesday 26 December 2018

2018 Christmas Feasting

Merry Christmas, all! Hope you had the best possible day yesterday.

Last year, of course, we ate mostly vegetarian over the festive period - and very nice it was too. This year we were back on the beasts. And it was just us so we pared things back to a few indulgent meals.
Solstice dinner
We started on Friday, to mark the Solstice. A roast rack of cured pork, with roast autumn vegetables (a Diana Henry recipe), steamed kalettes and parsley sauce. We had some gorgeous Somerset cider brandy later on, to toast the turning of the wheel and the return of the sun.

There was loads of pork leftover. The bones and some of the meat made a lovely thick bean stew, and the rest of the meat went into sandwiches.
Stollen buns
I made a big batch of Spiced and Fruity Stollen Buns for our breakfasts this week. I don't think we'll get through them before they go stale, but the last few are going to make a magnificent bread and butter pudding.
Miso-butter double salmon rillettes
For Christmas Eve we had seafood. Mostly a bought seafood platter - which was vast, we have loads of prawns left - but I also made these absolutely gorgeous miso-butter double salmon rillettes. The miso gives the rillettes an extra deep savour. We had some of the leftover for lunch on Christmas Day, on toasted olive bread, and we're very happy to still have some tucked in the fridge.
Salmon rillettes on chicory leaves, garnished with finger lime
Seafood platter
We had our Christmas Dinner in the evening. As people who don't have a carved-in-stone traditional Christmas meal, it's snuck up on me that my most enduring tradition is Diana Henry's persimmon and chicory salad, which has adorned our Christmas table on three of the last four years, only missing Christmas 2015 because I couldn't get persimmons. This year I left out the pomegranate, because they were really expensive for just a bit of garnish. We had a really lovely lightly-smoked venison rack, and sort-of confit potatoes, cooked slowly with loads of garlic and thyme, and white wine, butter and vegetable stock.

Going easy on the main course left us with space for a very boozy almond tiramisu, made with an abundance of amaretto. And I used Paul's decaf coffee, so we both got a good night's sleep afterwards. 

Friday 21 December 2018

Christmas Venison Sausage Rolls

The snowflake is optional
I originally thought I would make a batch of Rudolf Rolls for Paul's last shoot before Christmas. But the thought of making my own blue cheese puff pastry in the time I had available felt a bit like a stressful Bake Off challenge. This, then, has similar flavours but is very quick to pull together.

Christmas Venison Sausage Rolls (makes 16 chunky ones, 8 lunch-sized ones)

500g minced venison (I minced cubed venison through a medium screen)
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 tbs butter
6 juniper berries, crushed
50g fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbs cranberry sauce (I used a particularly nice Manfood cranberry, chilli and orange one)
100g strong blue cheese
1 egg
Salt & pepper
1 egg, extra
2 x 320g sheets ready rolled puff pastry

Preheat oven to 200C (fan).

Gently saute the onion in the butter until translucent. Don't rush it, it'll take a solid 10 minutes with an occasional stir. Set aside to cool.

Combine minced venison, cooled onion, juniper berries, breadcrumbs, cranberry sauce, crumbled blue cheese and the egg in a medium bowl. Season well with salt and pepper and mix well.

Unroll the sheets of puff pastry, leaving it on the paper it's rolled in, and brush with the extra egg, beaten (I find this helps the sausage to stick to the pastry).

Divide the venison mixture into 4. Take a portion, pat it into a sausage shape with your hands and place at one end of one of the sheets of pastry and squidge it until it's the same length as the pastry and an even thickness. Repeat with a second portion and place at the other end of the pastry, then repeat twice more with the other sheet of pastry.

You'll have 2 long sheets of pastry with a sausage at each short end. In case you are having trouble visualising.

With the help of the backing paper to keep it tight, roll the sausage over so it's covered by the pastry, then brush that strip of pastry with a bit more egg and roll again. So you have a sausage roll with a tidy top and a double layer of pastry on the bottom. Repeat from the other end, then repeat with the other sausages and sheets of pastry.

You now have 4 sausage rolls, still joined in the middle of the two sheets of pastry. Using a sharp knife, cut between the sausage rolls, then cut each sausage roll in 2 or 4, depending on your plans for them.

Transfer them to baking paper-lined baking sheets, leaving a good space to expand.

Brush them with more of the beaten egg. If I'd had any leftover pastry, I would have cut out Christmassy decorations to put on top, but I didn't. So I pressed a snowflake cookie cutter into the tops, cutting through a couple of layers of the lamination but not all the way through. I should have pressed just a little harder to make the patterns a little more distinct.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a rich gold. You'll probably need to rotate the sheets at half time so they cook evenly. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Friday 14 December 2018

Boozy Christmas Pudding Truffles

So-named because they contain Christmas pudding, not because they look like them. Although you could definitely take a leaf out of Nigella's Christmas Puddini Bonbons book and decorate them with white chocolate and glace cherries. They are basically a rum ball but I didn't use rum and bourbon balls doesn't quite capture it.

I had an out-of-date Christmas pudding that I wanted rid of before all my shopping arrived for this Christmas, so I opened it and gave it a sniff (seemed fine) then cooked it and ate a bit, to no ill-effect. I figured it was worth a gamble.

They are very dense and gooey and intensely flavoured. Even Paul and his lack of sweet tooth was impressed. He took them on a shoot, where they were rapidly re-named "Reindeer Poop" and devoured. Why you would want to eat something that you'd called poop is beyond me.

Boozy Christmas Pudding Truffles (makes 35+, depending on how big you make them)

600g leftover (cooked and cooled) Christmas pudding
200g dark chocolate
60g cream cheese
1/4 cup your choice of delicious brown liquor (rum, bourbon, brandy, whisky - I had bourbon)
100g dark chocolate, extra
sprinkles, to decorate

Place the 200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces, into a medium-sized glass mixing bowl. Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water (making sure the water doesn't touch the glass) and gently melt the chocolate. I've never got the hang of melting chocolate in the microwave, but if you can you should.

While the chocolate melts, break the pudding into small chunks.

When the chocolate has melted, beat in the cream cheese, then the pudding chunks and alcohol, and stir well until it's all combined. The pudding will pretty much disintegrate. Chill in the fridge for about half an hour.

Set out paper (or foil, if you are feeling very fancy) petit fours cases on a baking sheet.

Roll heaped teaspoonfuls of the cooled mixture between your hands into tidy-ish compact balls and place into the petit fours cases. Return to the fridge for half an hour.

Melt the extra chocolate in a small bowl over simmering water. Drip half-teaspoonfuls of the chocolate over the truffles and then spread the chocolate out a bit with the back of a teaspoon. I find a swirly motion is the most efficient. While the chocolate is still soft, sprinkle with whatever sprinkles you are using to decorate.

Chill overnight, but serve at room temperature.


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