I can’t quite get over how fast this year has gone. I feel it was summer a minute ago - not that we had that much of one - and now Christmas is upon us! Of course, it’s impossible to say what may be possible in the way of celebrations this year, but I feel hopeful that, with caution, we may be able to eat, drink, and make merry with those we love, and that seems especially precious after the cancelled Christmas of 2020. I shan’t be going to parties, or giving them, but for me the joy of the season lies in more homespun festivities. So let the tea lights flicker, the fairy lights glow, and may the feasting begin!
As you know, I am most decidedly a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas and the site will be crammed full this December with all my old favourites. But I’ve added a few recipes from various books which I felt deserved to make their debut here. First off comes my No-Knead Black Bread, which is fantastically easy to make - while it does take a good day to get from mixing bowl to table, your involvement is a matter of minutes - and is perfect with smoked salmon. Mind you, it’s fabulous with so much. My Beetroot and Chickpea Dip - beetroot hummus by another name - may not be Christmassy in itself, but slathered on a dark slice of this bread and topped, if wished, with avocado and dill, it makes a fully festive alternative to the smoked salmon.
The second of the recipes that have just migrated to the site is a Christmas must-have in my house: Radicchio, Chestnut and Blue Cheese Salad, which can serve as a starter, a meal in itself amidst all the heavy-duty feasting, or a great accompaniment to the post 25th cold cuts. The bitterness of the red leaves, the saltiness of the cheese, and the waxy sweetness of the chestnuts are a perfect combination, and the citrus, grain mustard and honey dressing can be brought into play wherever it’s needed! And of course, if blue cheese isn’t your bag, feel free to use whatever cheese you do like; equally, the chestnuts can be replaced with walnuts, or any other nuts of your choice.
The third and fourth recipes making their first appearance on the site rectify a great wrong! Red cabbage is an essential part of my Christmas table, and yet red cabbage recipes, apart from my Red Seasonal Salad, have been conspicuous in their absence. So I’m thrilled to welcome here my Red Cabbage with Cranberries and Pickled Red Cabbage. The former is a soft, sweet stew, enlivened by the festive fierceness of cranberries, both dried and fresh (or frozen) and the latter a tangy tangle of crunchy crimson! Both can be made in advance, indeed I advise it for the former and insist upon it for the latter, and both bring much cheer with scant effort. The picture accompanying the cabbage’n’cranberries is a beautiful shot of it before it’s cooked, so I thought I’d add here the picture of the finished dish. I concede it looks, when cooked, like a bowlful of maroon mush, but that’s par for the course and, oh, the taste!
And of course, I mustn’t forget dessert! From At My Table, but freshly available here are a couple of recipes that don’t have to be Christmas treats, but deserve to be! First, there’s the Queen of Puddings which truly deserves its name. If you’ve never eaten this old-fashioned pud before, now’s your chance. Traditionally the base is made with breadcrumbs stirred into a mixture of egg yolks, milk, lemon zest and a little sugar and baked to a soft custard, but I use brioche crumbs in this version. Once the top of the custard is set, you spread it with jam, then top with a pile of meringue made out of the whites left over from the yolks from the base, and put back in the oven till golden and crisp on top. I most often use plum jam for this, but feel free to use any jam you like or, indeed, marmalade. And should you go for marmalade, I suggest you use orange or clementine zest in place of the lemon in the base.
Finally, on the new arrivals front, there is my Vanilla Layer Cake with Ermine Icing which, with its snowy frosting, is a perfect Christmas Cake for those who recoil from dried fruit. It doesn’t last like a fruit cake, but believe me, that’s not going to be an issue! And I must tell you that it’s our December Cookalong so if you would like a chance of winning a personalised, signed book of mine of your choice, here’s how to enter. You have until the 31st of December to enter, so bear in mind that the winner won’t be getting a book this side of Christmas.
Thrilled as I am to have added these recipes here, I wouldn’t want to overlook the old favourites for a second. Many of these will, indeed, be appearing as Recipe Of The Day throughout December, but I have so many more Christmas recipes on the site than days of the month, so let me just mention a few that, through no fault of their own, will not get a day of their own! And if it’s hard enough to decide what to have as recipe of the day, having to choose which recipes that couldn’t fit in to highlight, is leading me into meltdown territory. I just love them all! So, before I start let me give you some more inclusive links. If it’s Christmas main courses you’re after, you can see what there is by clicking this link; for sides, click this one; for desserts and sweet treats, click on this; for Christmas drinks, click on this and to see all things Christmassy in one link, click on this.
I’ll try and be restrained as I pick out some festive recipes for you, as otherwise you’ll still be reading this by the New Year, so let me start by reminding you of a wonderful alternative to the Christmas turkey, namely, Norwegian Pork Ribs which I love with a dish from neighbouring Sweden in the form of Jansson’s Temptation. And I rather feel the Roast Rib of Beef with Port and Stilton Gravy needs to be mentioned here, as does the Roast Stuffed Pumpkin with Gingery Tomato Sauce which is a joy for vegan and non-vegan eaters alike, and a glory to behold.
Nor can I pass up the opportunity to bring my year-in, year-out Gingerbread Stuffing to your attention, along with my Allspice Gravy, Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Parsley and Maple Roast Parsnips. And having mentioned gingerbread, let me say that although my Luscious Vegan Gingerbread is indeed on the December ROTD schedge, I haven’t found room for my Chocolate Gingerbread or my Cider and 5-Spice Bundt Cake or for one of the desserts I always cook at Christmas time, that old favourite Sticky Toffee Pudding.
And it wouldn’t be Christmas for me without some oh-so-simple and oh-so-sumptuous No-Churn Chestnut Ice Cream or, of course, my Ultimate Christmas Pudding or, my child-friendly alternative Chocolate Pudding For Chocolate Pudding Haters. I adore Christmas Pudding, but this light steamed fruit-free chocolate version with its hot chocolate sauce is a must, as well. And I’m going to be strict with myself and stop shouting out the names of all the dishes I love now, so that I can excitedly inform you that this year’s Christmas Pudding Hunt starts today! Many of you are regular entrants, but those of you who aren’t can easily find out what it involves on this link. And this year’s prize is a beautiful Iittala roasting tin worth £299 but free, of course, to the winner. You may recognise it from many of my books and my tv series over the years.
Let the festive fun begin! All it remains for me to do is wish you a happy, healthy, fairylit and fabulous Christmas ♥️