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.
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.
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
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.
I promise you will never go back to cranberry sauce from a shop again once you have tried this.
The popular misconception is that Marie Antoinette famously said of the starving French peasants at her gates, “Let them eat cake”. What she actually said was actually “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche. In France, the home of this delicious enriched dough, brioche is properly served as a breakfast cake. In fact, brioche is a hybrid, part bread part cake, it is made in the same way as you make bread, with the addition of eggs and butter and can also have extra sugar added for a sweeter flavour. The technical term for this pastry cum sweet, buttery dough is Viennoiserie, which includes all of those lovely, if rather naughty breakfast treats, like pain aux chocolate and croissants.
I love the stuff, brioche is amazingly versatile and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, used as a pastry and the basis of many desserts. Golden brown, freshly baked brioche can be filled with raisins or chocolate chips, simply spread with extra butter and strawberry or apricot jam or as is increasingly popular as a wonderful bun for a burger. As a pastry brioche reaches a height of culinary naughtiness and a decadence that maybe would have shamed even the haughty Marie Antoinette. Wrapped around Cervelas de Lyon, truffle flavoured sausages to you and me, fillet steak or luxurious foie gras mousseline. The most celebrated brioche recipe, Coulibiac, is a type of Russian pie filled with sturgeon, buckwheat, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill. Brioche in history was truly fit for kings and queens even if they did not live to enjoy it.
Fresh Brioche Loaf
For my recipe, I need you to get hold of four large brioche buns and resist any temptation to toast them and spread with pate or jam. We are going a little a la Robert Carrier and all 1970’s and using them as a bowl to be filled with plump mussels and clams in a full flavoured broth. Old fashioned it may be, but it is a show stopper and terrifically tasty to boot and once you’ve done it I am sure it will become a favourite. Enjoy.
Fresh Mussel and Clam Stew in Brioche
Mussel and Clam Stew stuffed Brioche Buns serves 4
Fresh quality mussels and clams are readily available at all good fishmongers. Preparing mussels and clams is not a difficult job or something to fear. Under a slow running, tap scrape off any limpets or items stuck to the shells with a small sharp knife. Some mussels may have a small bushy beard pushed out of the shell. Grabbed between the knife blade and your thumb, a sharp tug should remove it. Wash all the prepared mussels and clams under the tap for a couple more minutes and drain. You can store them in the bottom of your fridge covered with damp kitchen paper until needed.
50 ml of Vermouth ( White Wine is a great substitute )
25 ml Olive Oil
25 gr Butter
1 fresh Egg
Juice of one fresh Lemon
Freshly ground Black Pepper
In a large, heavy-bottomed pan ( with a tight-fitting lid ), melt the butter and add the oil. Over a medium heat soften the shallots for ten minutes without colouring. Add the garlic and cook out for two or three minutes stirring continuously. Tip in the mussels and clams and add the Vermouth place on the lid add steam the shellfish for five to six minutes. Carefully holding the pan with a heatproof cloth remove from the heat. Place a colander in a large glass bowl and tip in the mussels and allow to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid to be used to make the final sauce.
Preheat the oven to 325 F / 160 C / Gas Mark 3. Very carefully using a bread knife cut the top quarter of your brioche buns off to form lids. Using a small knife cut into the bottoms of the brioche buns then scoop out the majority of the interior. This can be saved to make sweet breadcrumbs to use on desserts. Whisk the egg with a little cold water in a small bowl, then brush all over the inside, outside and lids of the buns. Place on a silicone baking tray and bake in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes.
When cool pick the majority of the mussels and clams from their shells leaving a handful for garnishing. Carefully pour the cooking liquid through a fine strainer into a small pan and place on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the volume by half. Add the cream and simmer for a couple more minutes before seasoning with a generous grind of pepper. Add the mussels and clams and gently heat in the sauce. Take care not to boil or the shellfish will toughen, add the lemon juice and finely chopped dill, taste and add more pepper if required.
Place the brioche rolls onto deep lipped plates or bowls and carefully spoon in the picked mussels and clams. Fill with sauce and top with the prepared lids. Spoon around a little extra liquid and the retained shellfish in shells and sprinkle with a little extra dill to garnish.
What to Drink? This is a rich seafood dish and pairs well with the classic accompaniment for mussels, dry wines such as Muscadet or German-style Riesling wines or a cloudy Continental beer such as Hoegaarden.
Spring is not so far away from the Channel Islands, honestly, Jersey Royal potatoes are growing under vast fields of plastic sheeting and soon the Narcissus will be blooming and we can start to look forward to fresh Lamb. Not so long ago frozen New Zealand lamb was a much cheaper option than home reared produce but now you can source delicious Welsh and Dorset Lamb at really keen prices. In the Channel Islands, the sort after lamb is from Sark, eating a rich diet of coastal grasses and sea herbs which helps flavour the meat. One of my favourite cuts of lamb, it used to be one of the cheaper cuts too, alas not now, are lamb shanks, simple to cook well, and more versatile than you think.
Slow-cooked Lamb Shank
Lamb shanks are best cooked, up to a couple days in advance and then slowly reheated, I have successfully slow cooked them with lots of coriander, cumin and garlic then reheated them the next day smothered in spiced yoghurt over the dying embers of a charcoal barbecue. The rich charred succulent meat was mouth-watering, tender and flavoursome. I have braised lamb shanks in red wine flavoured with liquorish and fennel for a rich, sweet, slightly anise flavoured sauce. Today’s recipe is perhaps the most satisfying, a one-pot casserole with lots of red wine and vegetables, ideal after a good long walk on the cliff tops in Jersey.
There is a substantial amount of meat on a large shank enough for the largest of appetites and I would say ample for two average dinners with the addition of a selection of vegetables. While the price of all lamb has risen quite substantially there can still be bargains to be had in the freezer section of your local supermarket and frozen lamb shanks are a great product to use as you are really going to drive flavour into the meat with your intensely flavoured cooking liquor and slow-cooking.
Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Vegetables
Braised Lamb Shanks with Vegetables serves 4 large appetites
For the shanks
4 Lamb Shanks
1 medium Onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 Garlic cloves, peeled and crushed in a little salt
A bottle of good quality Red Wine like a Cabernet or Merlot
6 medium Carrots, washed and peeled and cut into chunks
12 small Shallots, peeled
12 Baby Button or small Chestnut Mushrooms, wiped with damp kitchen towel
8 Baby Turnips, washed and trimmed
Pre-heat your oven to 200 C / fan 380 F / Gas Mark 6. Heat the olive oil in a large, solid bottomed frying pan, a big cast iron one with a thick base is ideal and add the lamb shanks. Over a medium heat brown the shanks for around ten minutes, turning regularly with a pair of tongues, for an even colour. Searing the meat will give the shanks a lovely appealing colour at the end of the finished dish. Remove the lamb shanks and add the onion. Cook for around ten minutes, until the onions are soft and starting to caramelise, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Turn down the heat a little as we do not want the next ingredients to stick to the pan and burn. Stir in the flour and tomato purée, cook for two or three more minutes stirring all the time, to cook out the flour mix then add the wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a large wooden spoon to release any sticky meat pieces and mix until the wine is combined with the flour and tomato paste.
Place the lamb shanks into a deep sided casserole and season very well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover with the wine mixture and the stock and add your bouquet garni. To make your bouquet garni fill the two sides of the celery stalk with the herbs push together and tie up with butcher’s string. ( Ask your butcher for a few meters or better still if he will sell you a ball ). Leave a few extra inches of string to secure the bouquet garni to the casserole handle. Bring the dish to a simmer, cover with a lid or tightly with foil and place in the oven. Cook for one hour and in the meantime you can wash, peel and chop your vegetables. Using a pair of oven gloves carefully remove the shanks from the oven. Loosen and remove the foil, allowing the steam to safely escape. Sprinkle with the prepared vegetables and reseal with the foil. Replace in the oven and cook for another hour until the lamb is cooked and wonderfully tender. Carefully remove the dish from the oven and place on a heatproof surface.
Carefully pour out the cooking liquid into a medium-sized pan and bring up to a vigorous boil. Keep the lamb and vegetables covered with the foil, in a warm oven, alongside some large deep sided serving bowls. Reduce the cooking liquid by around a third until thick and glossy, straining off any excess fat with a small ladle. You can serve immediately in the deep sided bowls garnished with a sprig of rosemary and an extra jug of sauce, or if you want you can quickly cool and reheat the next day.
Who knows why food or for that matter anything goes out of fashion? I understand the immense commercial pressures that drive constant changing styles as a means to generate more sales but classics are, well exactly that, and need to be cooked and promoted and certainly not overlooked and left in dusty recipe books on cobwebbed shelves. Please don’t get me wrong I am not a culinary Luddite ( I have a food blog ! ) but from previous posts, you will see I am somewhat of a classic recipe champion. I guess today’s dish was overtaken by the wave of fusion cooking combining Asian style ingredients with traditional western cooking techniques. A Thai green curry of some description almost became ubiquitous on every restaurant menu and Thai style mussels were no exception. The precursor of the Thai curried mussel was the traditional French dish Mouclade.
Mouclade – Curried Mussels
My memories of back street family run bistros with Formica tables and BYO drinking ( Bring Your Own, normally from the off licence just down the street ) was that the dining was strictly hit and miss. Of course, the memory of the successes carries on, I remember eating a simple pan-fried cod’s roe with lemon, parsley, and brown butter in a Greek style taverna in Charing Cross that really hit the spot and Mouclade in a tiny two storey French café/bar just behind my student accommodation in Huddersfield*. You cannot really get any further from the sea than Huddersfield or perhaps anywhere less Gallic than a Yorkshire mill town but oh those mussels. And what’s not to like with Mouclade, plump, salty, full of flavour mussels in a bowl of creamy lightly spiced sauce with mountains of crusty bread.
The following recipe for Mouclade is my adaptation of the classic recipe, the fish stock adding depth and richness to the finished sauce and the mango chutney a touch of sweetness. You can use white wine, but I think the finished result with the cider adding a touch of necessary acidity is I believe more in keeping with the Brittany origins of the dish. The saffron may seem a little extravagant but the resulting colour is glorious. If you wish to make a somewhat simpler version of Mouclade, you can omit the egg yolks just add the cream and boil to reduce the sauce before returning to the mussels and serving.
*I have eaten the dish since in France and it was just as good, well almost!
Mouclade serves up to 6 people
Around 2 kilos fresh Mussels ( about 400 gr to 650 gr of mussels per person )
A good handful of Coriander, washed, dried and roughly chopped
Juice of 2 freshly squeezed lemons
Freshly ground Black Pepper
In a very large heavy bottomed pan melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the leeks, garlic, and thyme and sauté for at least ten minutes to soften them. Turn up the heat and add the fish stock, cider, curry powder, mango chutney and a good few turns of the pepper mill. Bring to a simmer and cook for ten more minutes, stirring regularly. Then tip in the mussels and cover with tight-fitting lid. Steam the mussels for five minutes shaking the pan occasionally until the mussels are all open. Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, saffron, and cream.
Remove the mussels from the heat and strain off the cooking liquor, replace the lid and keep warm. Heat the liquor in a smaller pan until it starts to simmer and add the cream and egg mix, continuously stirring and cook for two more minutes. Do not boil as the sauce will curdle, just gently simmer until it starts to thicken and goes glossy. Add the sauce back to the mussels, stir to coat all the mussels, finish with the chopped coriander and serve.