Christmas Time

Christmas is obviously about far more than just food, but its also a great excuse to really go for it in a culinary sense. I spent a healthy chunk of the holidays in the kitchen and this is what I got up to.

Fudge
I made Christmas hampers for lots of my family – over the course of the year I’ve saved some jam and other preserves and packaged them up with a bottle of my beer. I wanted to add something fresh to it so I whipped up a batch of fudge. Fudge can mean everything from crumbly and hard to soft and chewy. I went down the softer end of the spectrum with a lovely American recipe.
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Mince Tart
I made a couple of batches of mincemeat, it’s very easy and tastes much nicer than shop bought. This was a large lattice pie that I threw together one afternoon for dessert.
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Filo Pies
Christmas can be quite heavy – this is a much lighter alternative which has about an eighth of the fat of a normal pie.
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Shortcrust Pies
I’ve tried a couple of pastry recipes this year – including one where you sous vide the egg yolks. This version, by Paul Hollywood, is by far my favourite – crunchy, crisp and rich. It uses scary quantities of butter though…
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Christmas Dinner
I love Christmas dinner. The combination of turkey, stuffing, fluffy roast potatoes, pigs in blanket, proper thick gravy, veg. It’s magic.
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Over the years we’ve tried a few different methods of cooking the turkey, this one (tented upside down, browned right side up just at the end) seems to work great.
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For the gravy I used a double-stock base. This is simply using chicken stock as the liquid for the turkey stock and it works really well. You get a much more intense flavour which really suits the meat.
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Crayfish and Mango Salad
Recently we’ve taken to doing starters, given what follows on it needs to be something very simple and refreshing. This is a lovely light citrusy dish I’ve done before, even better when served with some nice bubbly!
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Mulled Wine
You can put lots of things inside mulled wine, but I think a combination of port, brandy and ginger wine adds the most. Using a sugar syrup base also allows you to get everything out of the spices before adding most of the liquid – preserving its flavour.
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Christmas Cake
While a mainstay of Christmas, the cake can be heavy and dry. I usesd Peggy Porschens recipe luxury fruit cake recipe – it gives a very moist, light result.

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Cheese Board
Cheese is one of the best bits of Christmas. I picked up my selection from Neal’s Yard the week before Christmas (top tip: order in advance so you don’t have to queue and they’ll pick cheeses which will be ripe whenever you need them.

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I went for:
Montgomery Cheddar – You have to have cheddar and this is one of the best.
Stichelton – Stilton is another staple and this is a gorgeous example, while not from the right area it has a delicious moistness similar to a Roquefort.
Dorstone – A goats cheese is a must and this ash coated beauty is just perfect. Rich, creamy, acidic, smokey. Heaven.
Tunworth – Camembert is a great cheese, how can you make it better? Make it British. Top quality British milk results in a superb soft cows cheese.
Stinking Bishop – My favourite cheese. It’s name is well deserved, the perry washed rind is
incredibly strong. The entire fridge will smell for weeks. But the flavour is amazing: smooth, creamy and rich.

All served with some delicious homemade onion marmalade. Yum!

Back in Britain

After the gorgeous weather of California, the depressing drizzle of London came as a bit of a shock. The only solution? Food.

MEATmarket

A spin-off of the fantastically popular MEATliquor, MEATmarket is situated in the heart of Covent Garden, overlooking the market. It’s a great place to sit and people watch while chowing down on a variety of gourmet burgers, fries and milkshakes. Their ‘dead hippy burger’ combines two beef patties with a delicious creamy sauce. The burger was almost too juicy, being a real challenge to eat – there’s kitchen roll on each table for a reason! The chips were excellent and very reminiscent of ‘In’n’out burger’ in the US. The milkshake was wonderfully decadent – I like them thick enough that the straw doesn’t fall over and you can’t spill it easily.

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MEATmarket on Urbanspoon

Cooking

Inspired by their excellent cookbook, I decided to attempt one of Momofuku’s signature dishes: pork buns. Their take on the chinese/japanese/korean classic of ‘char siu bao’ combines a soft clamshell bun, pickled cucumber, slow braised pork belly, spring onions, hoisin sauce and sriracha.

Making the buns from scratch is time consuming, but relatively easy, it’s a pretty straightforward white bread mix that’s then steamed. The pork needs to be home cured overnight and then cooked for hooours. The actual assembly time is very short, making a great dinner party starter.

The end results were far better than I expected, the buns were soft and fluffy, the pork was sweet, porky and had a lovely crunch at the edges. The pickled cucumbers were really nice, cutting through the sweet hoi sin sauce. The sriracha is rocket fuel – use with caution.

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