Things get busy in the run up to Christmas and things have been quiet on the blog during December. I thought I would begin the New Year with a few festive successes on the food front. I have already shared my first attempt at mincemeat despite intending to make my own most years.
I have also wanted to make my own Christmas puddings and never seem to manage
setting aside a day when I can keep an eye on puddings that need steaming for hours, so thanks to Plant Based Pixie for sharing her quick cook Christmas Pudding. By cooking the mixture in individual pudding basins wrapped in foil and stood in a bain marie in the oven, the cooking time is just 45 minutes. I will be experimenting with a few other steamed pudding recipes with this method. One day I will do proper steamed Christmas Pudding using my mother in law’s recipe! But until then this will be just fine.
Thanks to a gift of some fresh cranberries, I made some cranberry sauce. I found a few recipes but a jar of Geeta’s mango chutney got me thinking. Looking at the ingredients led me to add a bit of spice to the recipe and I rather liked the result. A cranberry sauce with nigella seeds, cloves and cardamon turned out perfectly. The basic ingredients are so simple, just 100g of sugar (a soft brown sugar if you have it) and 100mls of orange juice to 250g of fresh or frozen cranberries. I added a few cloves, a teaspoon of nigella seeds and a few cardamon pods. It was all a bit of guess. I simmered the mixture until the cranberries had lost their shape and the contents of the pot looked like cranberry sauce. I tipped it into a sterilised jar where the sauce thickened as it cooled and kept it in the fridge for use with festive meals, including my creamy leek pie and with cheese and biscuits.
Christmas is a time for Brussels Sprouts but I have to say that they shouldn’t be just for Christmas. So many people never eat them except reluctantly having a few on the menu for Christmas Day. Such a shame. Try them stir fried – they are so good. Slice them up as finely as you can be bothered to, they don’t have to be perfectly shredded (although for some to accept them on their plate the less resemblance they have to sprouts the better).
Warm a bit of butter and olive oil in a pan, add a few caraway seeds and when they start to pop, throw in the shredded Brussels. You could use cumin or mustard seeds instead depending on what flavours you like. I also add another green veg like chopped runner beans, then a crushed clove of garlic. Keep stirring until the Brussels are cooked but still crunchy – don’t let them burn. Add a few grinds of blank pepper, a splash of balsamic vinegar to finish and, if you like a bit of citrus tang, then the juice and zest of one orange. So good.
And finally, for a spectacular centre piece for a buffet table or for a generous starter – how about a feuillette du soleil? So simple and versatile. For a smaller crowd you could do a ‘demi’ sun. Simply by some ready rolled pastry and unroll it. Lather on some filling – I used olive tapenade on one side and onion marmalade on the other but the options are limitless. Something with a bit of colour contrast with the golden pastry is effective visually. Then lay the top layer of pastry (or fold the layer in half for a half sun). Cut radiating lines from a central circle, then simply twist each strip. Brush with egg and pop into the oven at 220C until it is all puffed and golden. Very more-ish. Definitely indulgent and for sharing with lots of others!!