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.

A great Seafood Starter – Mussel and Clam stuffed Brioche – Qu’ils mangent de la brioche

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.

Brioche Bread
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.

Mussel and Clams in Brioche
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.

4 Brioche Buns

1 kg Fresh Mussels

½ kg Fresh Clams

6 large Banana Shallots, peeled and finely diced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

A small handful of fresh Dill

200 ml thick Double Cream

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.

 

Wine and Beer

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.

 

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour   Milk Oyster   Eggs

Please see the Allergens Page

 
 

 

Braised Lamb Shank

Perfect Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks

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.

Braised Lamb Shank
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.

Slow cooked Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Vegetables
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

A pint of homemade Beef or Veal stock

4 tablespoons of good Olive Oil

2 tablespoons of Plain Flour

1 tablespoon of Tomato Purée

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

 

For the Bouquet garni

2 large sticks of Celery, washed and cut in half

A generous sprig of fresh Rosemary

A few sprigs of Thyme

A small handful of Parsley

3 fresh Bay leaves

Butchers string

 

For the Vegetables

12 smallish Waxy Potatoes, washed and peeled

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.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery  Flour

Please see the Allergens Page

Mouclade - Curried Mussels

My Mouclade

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
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 sized nugget of Butter

A slug of quality Olive Oil

6 large Leeks, washed, trimmed and finely diced

6 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

200 ml of quality Fish Stock

125 ml of Strong Dry Cider

125 ml Thick Cream

1 heaped tablespoon good quality mild Curry Powder

1 tablespoon Mango Chutney

¼ teaspoon fresh Thyme

A generous pinch of Saffron threads

2 Fresh free-range Egg Yolks

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.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery    Raw Fish Milk Oyster

Please see the Allergens Page

Whole cooked Lobster

Clarissa Dickson Wright – Cooking with a Legend

Or how to poach a Lobster with Clarissa Dickson Wright

When I was working as a chef for the Tresco Estate everyone discovered we were to be the focus of an episode of ‘Clarissa and the Countryman‘, a series on some of the great landed estates of the English aristocracy. As the island was in winter mode with many of the staff on holiday I was very fortunate to be given the chance to chauffeur the two stars around the island in a golf buggy and help with the final days filming. It was an amazing encounter and Clarissa and Johnny Scott were formidable, fascinating and charming guests.

Fresh Lobster
Fresh Lobster

It was eye-opening to see the work that goes into even the shortest of TV clips and in particular the last shot of the program where Clarissa and Johnny sat in the middle of one of the longest beaches on Tresco, Appletree Bay, and boiled a fresh Scillonian lobster over a fire of roaring driftwood. The camera and operator were placed in a small boat and zoomed in from the sea to film a close up of the chatting stars. All this would be perfectly easy in the height of summer but in March with a blustery sea breeze a little more complicated.

All the necessary ingredients and equipment was procured including two glorious lobsters, a large pan and the one single juicy lemon growing in the world-famous garden. Runners for the program and willing volunteers were drafted in to block off any entrances to the beach, patiently explaining to bird watchers and dog walkers the presence of the film crew. A pit was dug in the sand, and dry wood piled insufficient to heat the large pan of sea water. All very authentic and excellent, apart from the increasingly gusty breeze. Despite the best efforts of former scouts, producers, locals, and Uncle Tom Cobbley the fire would not take and the light was dying as the sun set over the next island. There was only one solution dear reader.

A quick trip to the island store, known as the Harrods of the Islands, an armful of firelighters later the fire was roaring ( the lighter fuel helped too ). The pan was filled with boiling water from the kitchen at The New Inn and a backup, precooked lobster dropped in the now steaming pan. The last touch to ensure a brilliant shot of flames licking up the side of the pan, involved yours truly laid in the sand, arms outstretched waterproof jacket acting as a windbreak. A bright pink lobster was duly removed from the boiling water and cut open on the beach. The result, a great piece of film. I will always cherish the memories of this day.

Whole cooked Lobster
Freshly cooked Lobster

I am at heart a big fan of enjoying the sweet delicate flavour of lobster as unadorned as possible and simply poached and served with a little melted butter and lemon. This, however, is not a simple matter, the purist would have you boil the lobster in seawater and this is not always easy or even safe. The alternative is fresh water with added sea salt ( add thirty grammes of natural sea salt per litre of water ).

My own choice is in a light court-bullion which is an ideal cooking medium for poaching fish, seafood, and chicken. I have adopted my recipe from Richard Onley’s, The French Menu Cookbook, a recently reprinted classic and thoroughly good read. Today’s top tip is when poaching lobsters place them in your freezer ten minutes prior to cooking, this will sedate the lobsters sufficiently to allow you to easily drop them in your boiling pan without the lobsters thrashing about and splashing you with scalding hot liquid.

Fruits de Mare
Fruits de Mare with cooked Lobster

To poach 1 or 2 1 ½ lb Lobsters or a whole poached Salmon

4 litres of freshly drawn cold Water

350 ml quality White Wine

3 large Shallots, peeled and chopped

4 sticks of Celery, washed and chopped

2 medium Carrots, peeled and chopped

1 Leek, thoroughly washed and sliced

½ bulb of Fennel, washed and sliced

1 Bay Leaf

1 sprig fresh Thyme

1 sprig Tarragon

8 fresh Parsley stems

½ teaspoon Black Peppercorns, crushed

1 fresh Lemon, halved

Place in a very large pan, cover and bring to the boil. Add the lobsters and bring back to the boil and simmer for eight to ten minutes. Using a spider remove the lobsters and plunge in lots of iced water to arrest any further cooking.

For a medium poached salmon, place the washed salmon in a fish kettle or deep tray on a triple folded piece of foil. This will allow you to lift the cooked salmon out later. Cover with cold court bullion and a tight-fitting lid. Bring to the boil, simmer for four minutes and remove from heat. Leave in cooking liquor until total cold. Lift out and drain.

The French Menu Cookbook

Richard Olney

Random House

ISBN 978-1-60774-002-5

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery   Crab

Please see the Allergens Page

Chorizo Jam

If you have read any of my posts you may be aware of a few reoccurring themes, cream, garlic, bacon, seafood and barbecuing but bacon is probably up there as a potential favourite. Now I waxed lyrical about an American recipe Bacon Jam*, a mouth-watering combination of sweet onion, salty bacon with just a tickle of chilli heat but I think I might have just found something even more sticky and moreish. I saw a post for cheese and biscuits online, a fantastic piece of Manchego with a ramekin of Chorizo Jam!

A little bit of online research later and a couple of trials……………..

Homemade Chorizo Jam
Manchego Cheese and Chorizo Jam

So, I only made Chorizo Jam for the first time three week ago and I have eaten Chorizo Jam on toast, stuffed Chorizo Jam into Chicken breasts and used Chorizo Jam as a garnish for soup, but this sweet, slightly spicy, slightly smoky, relish is a must with a cheese board, absolutely delicious in fact. Enjoy

* I was a bacon jam evangelist.

Chorizo Jam

200 gr quality raw Chorizo

2 large Cooking Apples, peeled and diced

1 large Spanish Onion, peeled and very finely diced

2 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

100 ml Port

100 ml Water

50 ml Olive Oil

150 gr soft Brown Sugar

Juice of one freshly squeezed Lemon

½ teaspoon freshly picked Thyme

½ teaspoon Smoked Paprika

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Cut the Chorizo into small pieces at most half a centimetre square. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed, pan and place over a medium heat. Add the Chorizo and fry stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning until the Chorizo is nicely brown, caramelised and crispy. When the Chorizo is cooked remove it from the pan and strain to drain off the excess oil.

Add the onions to the pan in enough of the oil to allow them to gently fry. Cook over a medium heat, for fifteen to twenty minutes or until clear. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another two minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a low rolling boil. Stir in the Chorizo and reduce the heat until the jam is simmering. Stir frequently and cook until the onions are meltingly soft and the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup. Be careful due to recipes high sugar content you must keep stirring to prevent the mix sticking and burning.

Remove pan from the heat and allow the mix to cool for fifteen minutes. Using a funnel transfer into sterilised glass jars and seal tightly. The jam will keep in the refrigerator for a month.

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour     Check the ingredients in your Chorizo

Please see the Allergens Page