Neil Forbes, chef director at Cafe St Honoré, shares recipes for a few of his festive favourites.
I WOKE up in a sweat the other day after dreaming I was Ebeneezer Scrooge, shouting bah humbug at children on snowy streets. Nothing could be further from the truth – I love Christmas. It’s a great time of year to get creative in the kitchen.
I know for some it can be a place of drudgery, but try making some inexpensive foodie gifts, like chutney or fudge, to inject some fun back into your kitchen.
Planning your festive food shop is vitally important. It’s all too easy to fill your trolley with things you really don’t need. And try to get as much as possible from independent shops and farmers’ markets.
When you are shopping, try to be conscious of waste. Most of us buy too much at this time of year and there are always leftovers. So shop and cook with this in mind.
Not that leftovers are always a bad thing – in fact some of my favourite meals like soups, pies, quiches and omelettes are made using yesterday’s dinner. And once a year, at midnight, I indulge in a rather large cold turkey, stuffing and cranberry sandwich. Simply divine.
POTTED SMOKED TROUT WITH TOASTED SOURDOUGH
Smoked fish will always play a part at Christmas time. This potted smoked trout is cheaper than salmon and, I’d say, has a finer taste. Little individual pots are great, but why not make one large one that you’ll go back to again and again?
2-4 fillets of smoked trout
A few twists of pepper
A squeeze of lemon juice
The smallest pinch of mace
125g unsalted butter individual herb leaves for decoration
Sliced sourdough bread
Pickles (cucumber, cauliflower, onions), to serve
• Flake the trout into a mixing bowl, removing any bones as you go.
• Season with a good twist of pepper from a mill, lemon juice and a small pinch of ground mace.
• Incorporate all the ingredients and spoon into a serving dish or individual ramekins.
• Meanwhile, melt the butter over a low heat and clarify by removing the milky liquid at the bottom of the pot.
• Pat down the trout and carefully pour the clarified butter over the fish. Add a few herb leaves for decoration.
• Allow the pots to cool and serve at room temperature. Present with toasted sourdough bread and pickles of any type.
WHOLE ROAST DUCK WITH MIXED SPICE AND ORANGE
Serves four to six
This can be enjoyed on Boxing Day, or any time when friends are round. In this recipe, I use mixed spice, but if it’s not for you, then simply remove it. The marmalade is quite sweet, but that cuts through the rich meat. Do remember to make a stock from the carcass, along with any leftover veg.
A whole free range duck (about 1.5kg will feed four to six easily)
A good pinch of sea salt and pepper
A few sprigs of thyme
A couple of cloves of garlic
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tbsp dark marmalade
• Pre-heat oven to 220C/Gas Mark 7. Remove all packaging and ensure the cavity is empty and has no bag of giblets in it.
• Season the duck all over with salt and pepper and half the mixed spice. Using a fork, prick the duck all around the underside and around the legs as this will allow a lot of the fat to render out to be absorbed into your roast potatoes later.
• Place the duck on a trivet or cooling wire within an oven-proof tray. Season the cavity and add the thyme and garlic. Remove the zest from the orange and reserve, then add the whole orange to the cavity.
• Place the bird in your pre-heated oven and roast for 1 hour. Then remove it from the oven and lower the temperature to 160C/Gas Mark 4. While you’re waiting for the oven to adjust, rub the mixed spice into the duck before returning it to the oven to cook for a further 45 to 60 minutes. This time remove and “paint” the dark marmalade all over the bird with a pastry brush.
5 Return the bird to the oven for a further 15 minutes to form a glaze. Then remove and sprinkle the reserved zest over the top.
• It’s very important to allow the duck to rest; it will make carving easier as it relaxes the muscles in the bird, and it also fills the house with wonderful Christmassy aromas. I like to serve this dish with shredded sprouts cooked with lardons and chestnuts and, of course, roast tatties cooked in that remaining duck fat.
This is a wonderful recipe which I adapted from one given to me by a dear friend of mine, John Webber, who is now teaching at Nick Nairn’s Cook School, but was once the head chef at Kinnaird House in Perthshire.
240g soft (almost-melted) butter
240g soft dark brown sugar
4 eggs beaten
1 tsp cinnamon zest and juice of 1 lemon
960g California raisins
240g walnuts, roughly chopped
• Prepare a blind-baked sweet pastry 10in tart shell and leave it in the mould. I use bottomless tins.
• Beat the soft butter and brown sugar together until well combined and creamed. Then trickle the eggs in slowly, a little at a time. Add the cinnamon, lemon juice and zest and mix well. Fold in the raisins and walnuts and give it a good mix.
• Scoop the mix into the prepared pastry case and smooth out with a wet palette knife. Bake at 160C/Gas Mark 4 for roughly 45 minutes, checking and spreading the mix flat as you go.
• Allow to cool slightly before cutting into slices and serving with lots of crème fraîche.
• Neil Forbes is the chef director at Cafe St Honore