My Perfect Christmas dinner – sides

My perfect Christmas Dinner – sides

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides. A perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner isn’t a perfect Christmas dinner for me without the stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes, and the rest of the sides. Honey roast parsnips, buttered carrots and today’s recipes braised red cabbage, Brussel sprouts and of course cranberry sauce.

My perfect Christmas dinner -Braised Red Cabbage

Braised red cabbage is a beautifully versatile accompaniment to a host of winter dishes pies, casseroles and stews, seasonal roasts such as venison and game birds. You can adjust / experiment with the recipe and adapt it to suit whatever you are serving it with.

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides – Braised Red Cabbage
You can experiment and add a large grated cooking apple to your recipe and braise in cider, replace the redcurrent jelly for cranberry sauce or add a small handfully of raisins to the pan at the start of cooking.

Stir Fry Brussel Sprouts

We all love Brussel sprouts and I am sure you will too if you follow this simple recipe.
If you bought your sprouts are on the stalk, twist each one off. Remove any discoloured or damaged leaves. Next, trim the base and cut an larger ones in half. Wash and drain.

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides – Brussel Sprouts

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the Brussel sprouts. Remove after five minutes and plunge into cold, iced water. This stops the brussels over cooking. Drain thoroughly. To serve heat two heaped tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Toss the brussels in the pan over a medium-high heat for three to four minutes until thoroughly heated but still a little crunchy. Season well, top with a few toasted flaked almonds and serve.

My perfect Christmas dinner – cranberry sauce

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides – Cranberry Sauce

This is my go to recipe for a delicious homemade Cranberry sauce. It may seem quite a lot but it goes just as well a roast chicken or in a cold turkey sandwich.

You can experiment and add a large grated cooking apple to your recipe and braise in cider, replace the redcurrent jelly for cranberry sauce or add a small handfully of raisins to the pan at the start of cooking.

the Perfect Christmas Roast Turkey Dinner

The perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner. Most families in the United Kingdom traditionally sit-down on Christmas afternoon for their festive Christmas Dinner. Today you find the centerpiece is usually a roast Turkey served with stuffing, sausages wrapped in streaky bacon ( pigs in blankets ), crisp roast potatoes, parsnips, Brussel sprouts and lots of other vegetables, and cranberry sauce. This is followed by Christmas pudding and brandy sauce, maybe sherry trifle and mince pies. But how have we got here?

The perfect Christmas roast turkey

A bit of Christmas Dinner history

‘If he is to get on in life, he must get on umbly, Master Copperfield!’ In medieval England, if you were very rich you might have eaten venison for Christmas. Killed in your hunting grounds and the bits or umbles – the heart, lungs, liver, tongue, and kidneys would be chopped, mixed and baked in a pie to be given to the poor. The original [h]umble pie. Down the pecking order ( sorry ) you might find goose or woodcock covered in butter and saffron and roasted. For dessert, you would find frumerty a thick, spiced porridge. This was made with currents and enriched with egg yolks. Alternatively there might be a boiled plum pudding. The ancestor of today’s Christmas pudding made with suet and dried fruit. It would be flavoured with clove, ginger, and cinnamon. Plum is an old term for raisins.

A boar’s head would be the centerpiece of the Christmas feast for a Tudor nobleman. It is believed that the tradition is centuries-old. It came from pagan celebrations of the Norse god of the harvest. If you could not get hold of the highly prized head, you would have a ham which is now a staple of many Christmas meals. Sugar, spices, and nuts were considered highly exotic and very expensive. Highly decorated marzipan sweetmeats were a sign of your wealth and importance.

Gingerbread Men

Christmas Traditions

‘My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.’
During the 17th century, turkeys started to become part of the Christmas feast. Although goose would remain the most popular roast well into the Victorian era. It was common for goose “Clubs” to be set up, allowing working-class families to save up over the year towards buying a goose. Sherlock Holmes solves a tricky case involving the theft of a precious stone the blue carbuncle when it is found in a Christmas club goose.

Gingerbread has an incredibly long history, near to a thousand years. Originally it was often sold in monasteries, pharmacies, and markets. Gingerbread was prized for its supposed medicinal properties and was used to aid digestion. It became so popular its manufacture was highly regulated in Germany and supervised by a guild. The guild lifted the restrictions on who could bake gingerbread at Easter and Christmas. By Victorian times Gingerbread men were baked and hung on the Christmas tree.

A dickens of a christmas

In the 18th and 19th century, Twelfth Night, the fifth of January, was one of the most important dates in the festive calendar. Twelfth Night was the last feast of the Christmas celebrations ( Epiphany ). The centerpiece of the parties, which involved eating, drinking and playing games was a cake. A forerunner to today’s Christmas cake it evolved from an enriched fruit bread to a more familiar fruit cake decorated with almond and sugar pastes. A dried bean was included in the recipe. Whoever found it was crowned ‘Lord of Misrule’ or ‘King of the Bean’ and presided over the festivities.

The perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner

When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, the turkey was still an expensive choice, only for the very rich, for Christmas dinner. A famous Christmas dinner scene appears in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge sends Bob Cratchit a large turkey. In northern England, roast beef was commonly served on Christmas Day while in London and the south of England, a goose was still the favourite. Those too poor to afford beef or goose made do with rabbit. However, by the end of the 19th century, most people feasted on turkey for Christmas dinner.

Mince Pies

Mincemeat was from Tudor times, when chopped meat mixed with dried fruits, sugar, and spices. This recipe continued right up to the Victorian era when less and less meat was included in the recipe. The mince tart you eat today is filled entirely with dried fruits, sugar, spices, and suet to keep it moist. Most premade mincemeat mixtures now use vegetable fats rather than the traditional suet in keeping with mincemeats origins.

Today’s Recipe

Traditional Roast Turkey Dinner

So today’s recipe is for the Christmas centerpiece a roast turkey. I have memories of my mum getting up at 6am to put the oven to prepare a monster of a turkey for the family. As in popular legend, it did seem that we ate turkey leftovers for days after. You should never put stuffing into a turkey cavity as it will not cook properly and could be a health risk but I do like to stuff the breast end of the bird which helps keep the meat moist. I have included my favourite stuffing recipe.

So today’s recipe is for the Christmas centerpiece a roast turkey. I have memories of my mum getting up at 6 to put the oven to prepare a monster of a turkey for the family. As in popular legend, it did seem that we ate turkey leftovers for days after. You should never put stuffing into a turkey cavity as it will not cook properly and could be a health risk but I do like to stuff the breast end of the bird which helps keep the meat moist. I have included my favourite stuffing recipe.

Linzer Biscuits – Traditional Christmas Baking

Mixed Jam Linzer biscuits
Assorted Linzer Biscuits

What are Linzer Biscuits?

A Linzertorte is a tart made using a rich buttery sable pastry. Popular at Christmas the pastry is flavoured with almond, cinnamon and lemon zest. Traditionally the pastry case is then filled with blackcurrant jam and topped with a lattice pastry top. The first recipe for Linzertorte dates back to Austrian in 1653. Linzer biscuits are made with the same sable pastry which is cut into rounds and baked.

The top biscuit often has a small cut out which allows the jam or fruit preserve to be seen when two biscuits are sandwiched together with jam in between. The finished biscuits are dusted with icing sugar. While the traditional cut out is circular, all sorts of shapes, such as hearts and stars, are also popular. The biscuit is popular across America and Europe and is also named as Empire or Belgium biscuits in the United Kingdom.

Empire Biscuits

What is Sable Pastry?

Sable pastry is a rich butter type of sweet pastry similar to classic shortbread. The recipe for shortbread, however, does not contain eggs. Sable pastry or including the version in the recipe below is perfect for Christmas biscuits which can be decorated with Royal icing and hung on your Christmas tree.

Christmas Biscuits.jpg

Beer and Cheese Bisque – Cooking with Beer

When you work for a brewery ( a big shout out to everyone at the Liberation Brewery, Jersey ) you had better not be afraid to try cooking with beer. In Belgium, cooking with beer is as common as the French cook with wine. I think almost all of the pubs I have cooked in included deep-fried cod or haddock in a beer batter or a steak and ale pie on their menus. Although to this date only one used custard powder in the batter recipe but that as they say is another story. More recently gastropubs and bistros have started cooking with beer and include dishes such as diverse as beer bread, beer ice cream and beer can chicken. For virtually any recipe that calls for a liquid of any sort, you can substitute beer.

As a marinade for meat or poultry, beer penetrates, flavours and tenderizes. Good beer is less acidic than wine so your food can be left in your marinade longer increasing the flavour. When you are roasting or braising and beer is used to baste the food or in the basting sauce, it imparts a rich, dark colour as the sugars caramelise. So, cooking with beer is great for adding flavour to BBQ’s and slow cooked casseroles and stews.

What can I cook with Beer?

In batter, a live ( not pasteurised ) beer can be substituted for yeast and water. The result is a crisp flavoursome coating for deep-fried fish such as cod, haddock, salmon, and squid. Beer is also delicious with shellfish like Mussels, cooking with it, instead of wine. I even developed a recipe in my day job to use with Oysters. Finally, beer and cheese are perfect companions. The famous Welsh Rarebit is the classic dish of cheese, beer and Worcestershire sauce combined together on toast. Today’s recipe is another great beer and cheese combination if a little unexpected. Beer and Cheese Bisque and it is really rather delicious.

How do I use Beer?

As with wine when you boil and reduce beer you will increase some of the flavours and lose others. You will also evaporate off all of the alcohol. If you are using beer as a substitute for stock remember reducing a strong, intensely hoppy beer will leave a bitter residue. A sweetish mild or stout with little hopping will produce a fine gravy in a pie or stew. A top tip when you are cooking is to reserve a little beer and add it when the cooking is finished. This will lift and enhance the beer flavours of your dish. A final note like wine never cook with a beer you would not drink.

Some Recipe and Beer Pairings

 

Light Larger style Beers are ideal for batters as the carbonation produces a light, airy result and the sugars caramelise to a deep golden colour.

IPA Indian Pale Ales the extra hopping makes for an ideal medium for cooking mussels and seafood.

Traditional Ales – use in bread, pies, and stews, the Belgium classic Carbonnade  Flamande is very similar to a Beef Bourguignon with beer substituted for wine.

Stouts and Porters – are used in rich flavoured mustards and steamed steak and oyster pudding with Guinness.

Wheat Beer traditionally used in Waterzooi, a fish stew from the Flanders region of Belgium thickened with egg yolks and cream and the favourite of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, born in Ghent. Wheat Beer is also ideal for batter mixes.

Speciality Beers – fruity lambic beers in chocolate cakes and puddings and raspberry or sour cherry Kriek beers with roast duck and fowl.

Liberation beers are wildly available as are many other great beers like Fullers, Adnams and some wonderful microbrewery ales. I’m not even getting any freebies from anyone.  Next time I see the boys from the brewery I might try for a pint.

 

Beer and Cheese Bisque

Bisque is a term usually applied to creamy shellfish or roasted vegetable soups, where the main ingredients are first roasted and coloured then simmered to form a stock – the soup is therefore twice cooked or ‘ bis cuites ’. This soup is a little bit of a cheat as its ingredients are only cooked once but it sounds too nice a name to seriously quibble. You can substitute a well rounded not too dark beer for the Liberation Ale.

Six Sensational Seasonal Soup Recipes


Autumn has arrived here in Jersey and we have had some wonderful crisp, bright sunny days and cooler evenings. These are perfect for walking along the coastal paths and beautiful country lanes and building up an appetite. I love Autumn because there are some wonderful fruit and vegetables in season such as cooking apples for crumbles and pies. Savoy cabbages, the first Brussel sprouts and the first proper parsnips, which always seem sweeter after the first proper frost can be readily found in your green grocers. But the start of Autumn really heralds the arrival of pumpkins and squashes ready for Halloween. They are fantastic roasted with spices, pureed with lots of butter and make amazing soup one of my favourite Autumn dishes.

I love soups they are so varied, and such a tasty option and most recipes are quick and simple to make. If you are able to omit lots of cream and butter ( in my case that’s rather difficult ) soup can be extremely healthy. You can try substituting low fat crème fraiche for cream and olive oil for butter. I often find the best soups are made with what is easily available, a handful of vegetables, a tin of beans or some dried pulses and plenty of herbs. I always have celery, carrots and onions in the bottom of my fridge, a mix called mirepoix, which goes back to my earliest training. Mirepoix is a classic base for soups, stocks and sauces adding a depth of flavour.

Why not try some of these?

So to get your creative juices flowing here are some links to some of my favourite soups I have posted on the blog. There is my first ever recipe and still a firm favourite in lots of restaurants a rich, creamy seafood chowder with lots of Jersey mussels and smoked haddock for extra flavour. Another firm favourite with the customers in one of our busiest pubs is my take on classic French onion topped with delicious melted cheese, after all Jersey is only a few miles from the French coast. My version of possibly everyone’s favourite soup, roasted red pepper and tomato, is perfect for sipping out of a mug on a chilly Bonfire’s night. The great thing about soup is really doesn’t have to complicated just a few ingredients from your cupboard and your fridge like a tasty carrot and coriander.

A little History of Soup

Soup is not just great for lunch or supper it can be served as a starter for an elegant dinner party and I have the perfect recipe a cauliflower veloute, and you can find out all about how chef’s make and use veloutes in traditional kitchens. Finally if you like your soup with a bit more kick how about a Spanish recipe full of Chorizo sausage or the spicy Seafood Tom Yam. Whatever you like I hope you will find some inspiration and get cooking. Enjoy.

Here are some links to some of my delicious Soup Recipes.

Patatas Riojanas – Spanish Chorizo and Potato Soup

“Patatas Riojanas, is a very simple rustic soup or stew from La Rioja. La Rioja is a small region in the north of Spain, most famous for its high-quality wines, and it has some lovely indigenous dishes. No one is sure about the origins of Patatas Riojanas, but it would not have existed until at least the 19th century and the introduction of potatoes into Spain during the Napoleonic Wars.”

French Onion Soup
Classic French Onion Soup

My Classic French Onion Soup

“French Onion Soup probably had its origins in Roman cooking but became prominent amongst eighteenth-century French peasants, for which onions were one of the staple dietary components. The addition or use of stock to French Onion Soup came later, as did the cheese croute ( a kind of crispy cheese on toast ).”

 

Cauliflower Veloute
Creamy Cauliflower Veloute

Cauliflower Veloute with Cauliflower Pakora and Curry Oil

“If you want something a little more elegant this recipe is a sophisticated soup ideal for a dinner party and perhaps as the starter for your Christmas Dinner. This rich, silky smooth cauliflower soup is an ideal partner to the spicy flavours of the pakora’s and curry oil. A veloute is a traditional soup made with a stock thickened with a roux, this recipe also contains potato for extra body.”

 

 

Tom yum Soup
Spicy Seafood Tom yam Soup

Spicy Seafood Tam yam Soup

“I like spicy food, not hair-raising hot curries and the like, but I enjoy a nice kick and I love the layers of different flavours you can build. One of my favourite chilli-based dishes is Tom yam, a hot and sour Thai soup flavoured with fragrant spices and aromatics; a good chicken stock flavoured with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, which is now popular around the world.”

 

Classic Seafood Chowder

Classic Seafood Chowder with Smoked Haddock and Jersey Mussels

“As there is no single definitive recipe my chowder recipe is a purely personal and uses some of my favourite and best produce available to anyone cooking in Jersey alongside a couple of unorthodox ingredients. If you are not so fortunate as myself living with wonderful seafood almost washing up on my doorstep, quality natural smoked haddock, freshly cooked prawns and some plump tasty mussels from a reputable fishmonger will make an excellent chowder.”

Tasty Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

“This is a really easy, comforting recipe that freezes exceeding well so could be made in advance, it is a fantastic thick, full of sweet, smoky flavours and great served in a mug as you stand to watch the fireworks. Passed through a sieve it can be dressed up as a lovely lunchtime treat or simple supper dish. So, for the perfect fifth of November feast make sure you have some crisp-skinned jacket potatoes freshly baked in the oven, a plate full of toffee apples for the children and a big, big pan of this delicious soup.”

Chocolate Cupcakes

The only Chocolate Cupcake Recipe you will ever need for National Cupcake Week

My mum makes the best Butterfly cakes ( or Fairy Cakes ) in the world. Classic Victoria sponge in a little paper case, a small amount of sponge scooped out, a blob of thick buttercream, pop the sponge back, a sprinkle of icing sugar and eh voila. We still have them when my family goes to visit Grandma and Grandad. But Butterfly cakes seem to have taken a step back with the relentless rise of cupcakes which are everywhere and what exactly is the difference?

Chocolate Cupcakes
The best Chocolate and Coffee Cupcakes

As far as I can find out the cupcake is basically the bigger American cousin of the Butterfly cake, the sponge is bigger, and it is loaded with larger amounts of icing or frosting. As it is National Cupcake Week. here is a chance for you to haul in some industrial amounts of butter and sugar and make my second favourite cupcake recipe ever for Chocolate Cupcakes and most definitely the only Chocolate Cupcakes recipe you will ever need. Why is this my second favourite cupcake recipe well I have already posted the number one  Strawberry Milkshake and White Chocolate Cupcakes recipe here.

Chocolate and Coffee Buttercream Cupcakes    makes 18

For the Cupcakes

210 ml Full fat Milk

210 gr Plain Flour

220 gr Caster Sugar

120 gr good quality Cocoa Powder

80 gr Milk Chocolate Buttons

70g soft Unsalted Butter

2 large free-range Eggs

1 scant tablespoon of Baking Powder

A good pinch of Salt

 For the Icing

500 gr Icing Sugar

160 gr soft Unsalted Butter

2 tablespoons Instant Coffee

50 ml Full Fat Milk

Chocolate or Fudge Cake Decorations

Cupcake or deep Muffin Tins

 Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 / 170°C / 330 °F and line the baking trays with large paper cases. Using an electric mixer or food processor mix the butter, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together until they form a sandy, crumb-like texture. In a bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together. With the mixer on a slow speed, gradually pour half of the liquid into the crumb mixture and mix thoroughly until combined and the batter is smooth and thick.

Chocolate Cupcake Batter
Cupcake Batter

Once all the lumps are gone gradually pour in the remaining liquid and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the milk chocolate buttons. Evenly divide the cake batter between the prepared cases and bake in the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before removing them from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the butter, beat together with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. Heat the milk until scalding in a microwave and in a jug, mix in the instant coffee and stir until it is all dissolved and allow to cool. Gradually pour the cold coffee into the icing while mixing on a slow speed, then turn the mixer up to a high speed and beat the icing until light and fluffy. Scoop the whipped-up icing into a piping bag with a star nozzle, ready to ice the completely cool cupcakes. Decorate with the chocolate or fudge decorations.