Actually that’s probably completely inaccurate but I hoped to put a slightly Victorian slant on the feasting at my work Christmas do, hosted chez moi. Despite the fact that I was still locked into a 1940s film star fancy dress mode and the food was continent and era inspecific, I was still channelling A Christmas Carol via the ghost of Christmas Present and his Bacchanalian mores…
Having spent a morning in the kitchen and in the woods foraging up some ivy, holly and bay to decorate the house and the table I felt a little festive finally. And it all worked rather well actually, hostessing and gaining control of the culinary frontier while instructing everyone else to bring appropriate alcoholic beverages for each stage in the proceedings….
1 The hors d’ouevres
For this we required some high quality fizz, which Sam delivered on rather well, to get the party spirit in the swing of things…. To ease our wait for the main course I made the inevitable olive tapenade, a current mainstay of party fare in my life, with locally produced spiced flatbreads. Plus a rather good new innovation:
Spiced Sausage Rolls with Turkish Yoghurt Dip
1 sheet rolled puff pastry
400g organic minced pork/pork sausagemeat
5 sundried tomatoes finely chopped
1.5 red onions, very finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
dill, thyme, a little toasted and ground cumin, herb salt, pepper
1 small dried hot chilli, chopped small (could use fresh but I dry the ones I buy from the farmers’ market in summer and keep them in the fridge as they are so good and piquant)
Cook the onion, sundried tomato and garlic gently in olive oil with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar until soft and caramelised. There’s no need to reconstitute the tomatoes first. In a large bowl combine the pork with all the herbs, spices, cooked onions. Stir through the egg and tomato puree. It’s as well to work on this for a while as there always seem to be pockets of unflavoured meat lurking in unsuspected places.
Divide the pastry widthways into 3 short strips. Ladle a sausage of mixture down the middle of each, press the pastry around it, firm the seam and turn over so the seam is on the bottom. Lightly score the pastry top diagonally along each sausage roll and brush with a little milk.
Bake about 180 degrees until the pastry is crisp and gold – you can always cut one in half to see if the pork is done. If you are making in advance and want to rebake then make sure they are only just cooked so they don’t overdo when reheating thoroughly. To serve, cut into 1 – 1.5 inch sections and arrange on a sandwich dish.
For the dip:
Into a bowl of organic plain yoghurt mix 3 cloves finely chopped garlic, a handful of finely chopped fresh mint, couple of teaspoons dill, sprinkle of chopped chilli and 2 tablespoons ricotta. Season to taste with salt. This is based roughly on Haydari, a recipe I tried to track down after sampling the surprising delights of Turkish streetside kebabs in Marseille, France. Nothing like the sorry excuse for fast food that the kebab is in this country, these were seriously tasty, made with freshly grilled lamb and served with lots of onions and an incredibly aromatic yoghurt dressing. Mmmm, whatever it is, they usually do it better in France, even if its Turkish.
2 The main course
This was very fine but not really recipe fodder: Roast shoulder of venison, shot by my Dad, sea salt sprinkled, spiked with garlic slices and basted in butter… accompanied by rosemary roasted squash, beetroot, parsnip and potatoes, with rich gravy and lots of steamed veg.
3 The just desserts…
This was FUN. I got carried away reading ridiculous recipes in the Co-op magazine of all unglamourous and parochial places…and decided to make my own versions thereof:
Pink champagne, sloe gin and strawberry jelly served in mismatched vintage glasses with orange and almond granita and whipped cream
400ml pink champagne
6 leaves good quality gelatine
About 12 -16 strawberries, de-leafed chopped small
a slug of homemade sloe gin
50g caster sugar
Melt the sugar and water over a low heat, meanwhile letting the gelatine leaves soften in the champagne. Transfer the gelatine to the sugar syrup and stir to dissolve with the pan off the heat. When cooled sufficiently, stir in the champagne and sloe gin. Pour into a range of charming glasses and add a helping of strawberries to each. Leave to set in the fridge for several hours.
4 large juicy oranges: save the grated zest of 1 orange and squeze the juice of all 4 into a measuring jug.
1 tablespoon sugar
capful of good quality almond essence
Warm the orange juice and sugar until the sugar dissolves, stir in the almond essence and zest and place in a shallow container in the freezer. Stir every hour or so to keep the ice crystals small. Should be ready in about 3 hours.
Whip the cream. When the pudding is ready to serve, take the glasses from the fridge, serve a tablespoon of granita and a flourish of cream atop each jelly and there you have it, a deliciously flavoured and luxurious dessert that’s light enough to eat after even the most substantial feast…
4 Port, cheese and parlour games
Well, hardly needs explicatory advice really 😉