Nick Nairn's Christmas food special: Part one - The main attractions

Share this article

A few subtle twists to traditional mains will provide festive treats to remember...

I love Christmas. Forget presents, I'm in it for the food. What a fantastic excuse to bring everyone around the table, get cooking and feast on the very best there is.

This year I've created some cracking festive fare – I'm particularly into goose with baked apples and rosemary – but I've found some bargains too. And there are even some star turns for voracious veggies. OK, it's nut roast, but this is no ordinary nut roast, I promise. When we cooked it for this photo shoot, there wasn't a nut or seed left at the end of the day – the carnivores polished off the entire thing.

This week we're concentrating on main courses. Over the next seven pages you'll find succulent roast goose and pancetta-wrapped pheasant for traditional meaties, whole roasted turbot or Thai-spiced fishcakes for fish-lovers and my deluxe nut roast and gorgeous butternut and goat's cheese tarts for veggies. Watch out next week for the second part of my festive food special, featuring starters and puds.

MEAT

Roast goose with giblet gravy

Serves six to eight

As always, fresh is best if you can get it, but there are some good, inexpensive frozen options about at the moment – some supermarkets are selling goose for 4.52 per kilo. Fresh birds will be at least double that. As a goose has a higher bone-to-meat ratio than turkey, a 4kg bird will only feed six people.

If you buy a frozen goose, unwrap it and thaw it slowly in the fridge (this can take two to three days) or at a very cool room temperature. Thawing at room temperature will dry out the skin, making it crisper when it's roasted. Don't forget to pull out the bag of giblets from inside the cavity as soon as the goose is thawed enough to do so. Pour off any bloody liquid that collects in the dish.

Here's a great tip from a chum in Chinatown – set the thawed goose on a rack in the kitchen sink and pour a kettle of boiling water over it – the skin will shrink and tighten, and this will help to give a crisp skin. Then carefully prick the skin all over to help release the fat when the bird is cooking.

As the goose is roasting, tip off the fat that constantly drips into the roasting dish and pour into a clean jar. You will be amazed at the amount collected. And goose fat keeps for ages in the fridge. It's unbeatable for roasting potatoes, or use it to fry potatoes with garlic, rosemary and parsley.

For the goose

1 goose, dressed weight 4.5-5kg, with giblets

thyme sprigs, sage leaves and parsley

2 lemons and 2 oranges, quartered

For the giblet gravy

25g goose or duck fat

the goose giblets

4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

2 tbsp Calvados or brandy

2 tbsp plain flour

150ml medium cider

2 tsp herb and apple jelly (redcurrant if you don't have apple)

300ml strong chicken stock

Maldon sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Remove the bag of giblets from the cavity of the gooze and set aside. Feel around the cavity entrance, grab any big lumps of fat clinging to the carcass and pull out. (These can be rendered down into pure goose fat. Put them into a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until the fat liquefies and floats on top of the water. There will be a couple of brown lumps left once all the fat renders, so lift these out with a slotted spoon and chuck 'em. Strain the liquid into a jug, cool, then chill. Lift the solidified fat off the water, gently re-melt and pour into a screw-top jar and store in the fridge – use this to roast the potatoes.)

Lightly prick the goose skin all over, trying not to pierce the flesh. Use a little goose fat to rub all over the bird. Sprinkle with sea salt, then stuff the cavity with the lemon and orange quarters, herbs, salt and pepper.

Now sit the goose on a wire rack in a roomy roasting tin. This is so that the goose doesn't boil in its own fat; it also makes drawing off the fat easier. Calculate the cooking time, allowing 15 minutes total cooking per 500g of fowl.

Start by roasting at the high temperature for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 180C/ 350F/gas mark 4 for the remaining time. You won't need to baste the bird – the fat under the skin will do that for you. But do remember to keep spooning or pouring the fat off from the tray as it collects there during cooking.

Once cooked, you can keep the goose warm in a very low oven for up to 30 minutes – this will make it easier to carve and prevent it being too dry.

Make the giblet gravy while the goose is roasting. Have a look at the giblets and remove the liver (you can keep this to mix with chicken livers for a pt later). Trim off any excess fat and chop the neck into chunks, split the oval gizzard horizontally in two, and halve the heart. Heat a little goose fat in a medium saucepan then fry the goose neck, gizzard, heart, bacon and vegetables over a high heat until nicely browned then add the Calvados or brandy and reduce. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for a minute then add the cider, herb jelly and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 25 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Allow to settle for a couple of minutes then spoon off any fat. Keep warm.

Serve your goose with potatoes roasted in goose fat, roasted apples (see below) and steamed, buttered kale.

Roast apples: Take one small red eating apple per person and score around its middle with a sharp knife. Sit the apples in a roasting pan with a little goose fat and drizzle honey over. Place the pan in the oven during the last 25-30 minutes of roasting time for the goose. Baste the apples frequently with goose fat and honey. Ten minutes before they are cooked, pull out the stalks and replace with sprigs of fresh rosemary, then pop back in the oven and continue cooking until a sharp knife will just glide into the centre of an apple.

Pheasant with caramelised apples, chestnuts and cider

Serves four

This recipe is ideal for smaller numbers and, if halved, it will make the perfect Christmas main course for two people. It makes sense to buy a whole pheasant and then remove the breasts for pan-frying. This means you will have a meaty carcass for making great stock or soup. If you're not confident about taking off the breasts, ask the butcher or game-dealer to do this for you. The trick with pheasant is not to overcook it, otherwise it dries out. This is one reason why cooking it wrapped in pancetta is a good idea, to keep the moisture in. The other reason, of course, is the flavour – and it looks pretty great too. If the credit crunch is putting the squeeze on spending this Christmas, there are frozen pheasants to be had for 8.99 each at Lidl.

4 pheasant breasts, skinned and boned

8 pancetta slices

1-2 tbsp sunflower oil

40g unsalted butter

2 small Granny Smith apples

2 tsp icing sugar

16 cooked chestnuts (fresh, tinned or vac-packed – see the Chestnut Checklist, left)

300ml dry cider

300ml game, pigeon, pheasant or chicken stock

200ml double cream

2 tbsp chopped fresh chervil or parsley

freshly squeezed lemon juice

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the pheasant breasts with salt and pepper and wrap each one neatly in a couple of pancetta slices, finishing with the tail end underneath – the side that was next to the bone.

Heat a large frying pan, then add the sunflower oil. Place the pheasant breasts in the pan on what was the skin side and cook for three to four minutes. Turn them over and cook for another two minutes. Add half the butter to the pan and baste the breasts. Lift them out of the pan and keep warm on a warmed plate.

Peel, core and quarter the apples. Add the rest of the butter and the apples to the pan, then sprinkle over the icing sugar and gently fry them for three to four minutes until browned and glazed. Now add the chestnuts. Increase the heat slightly and stir until the chestnuts are coated with the butter. Add the cider and boil hard to reduce until the liquid has almost disappeared.

Add the stock and reduce it again, this time by about two-thirds. Add the cream and bring it back to the boil. Return the pheasant breasts to the pan. Warm everything through for two or three minutes. Add a couple of tablespoons of the chervil or parsley, then taste and season, adding a squeeze of lemon juice. Sprinkle with the remaining herbs. Serve immediately on warmed plates.

Roast quail with madeira, sage and apples

Serves four

8 whole oven-ready quail

8 fresh sage leaves

125g unsalted butter

4 Golden Delicious apples

lemon

sunflower oil

100ml madeira

300ml good strong chicken stock or a stock cube

tsp arrowroot, to thicken

1 tsp caster sugar

4 small rounds of white bread (cut with a biscuit cutter)

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Set the quail on a chopping board and push half a sage leaf and tsp of butter inside each bird, then lightly season the insides with salt and pepper. Peel the apples and cut into quarters, remove the core and cut each quarter in half then sprinkle with the juice of the lemon.

Heat a large ovenproof saut/frying pan and add a little oil. When the oil is hot, add the quail and brown all over. Turn the quail on their sides and roast for two and a half minutes. Turn the birds on to their other sides and cook for two and a half minutes more. Finally, place them on their backs and cook for two minutes. This will make sure they are cooked evenly.

Remove the birds from the pan and place on a warm plate to rest for five minutes. Tip the fat from the pan then place the pan on a medium heat, add the madeira and allow to reduce by half, dissolving the sediment in the pan as it boils. Remove the legs and breasts from the birds and keep warm. Add the bones and any juices on the plate to the pan, then add the stock. Return the pan to the heat and simmer until reduced by half again. Strain the juices into a clean, small pan, thicken with a little arrowroot and set aside.

In a second saut/frying pan heat 40g of the butter and, as the butter foams, add the apples. Sprinkle the apples with the sugar and a good grinding of black pepper and cook until just tender and lightly coloured. Shred the remaining sage and toss into the apples, then remove the apples from the pan and keep them warm. Fry the rounds of bread in the remainder of the butter and a little oil until crisp and golden.

To serve, place a round of fried bread in the centre of four hot plates and place two pieces of apple on top. Arrange the warm quail breasts on the apple and place the legs around. Arrange six pieces of apple around each pile of quail and pour a little sauce around. Serve immediately.

Casseroled neck of lamb

Serves six

3 tbsp plain flour

2 tsp smoked paprika

Maldon sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

600g neck of lamb, cut into chunky pieces

3 tbsp light olive oil

1 onion, roughly chopped

2-4 garlic cloves, chopped

3 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

2 large carrots, roughly chopped

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

150ml red wine

400g can chopped tomatoes

1 heaped tbsp tomato puree

150ml chicken stock (approx – you may need more)

3 large potatoes peeled and quartered

300g butternut squash, peeled and diced

freshly chopped coriander, to garnish

crme frache, to garnish

Mix the flour with the paprika and salt and pepper to taste and put into a large plastic bag. Chuck in the lamb, close the bag and give it a good shake so that the lamb is coated.

Heat a large, flameproof casserole and add the oil. When hot, throw in the lamb and any remaining flour mixture. Brown the meat, turning occasionally, until a nice crust has formed. Now add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots and stir well. Add the cumin seeds and thyme and stir well. Pour in the red wine and tin of chopped tomatoes and stir in the tomato pure.

Finally, stir in the chicken stock to cover the meat and vegetables, bring to the boil and then turn down the heat so the casserole is just simmering. Pop the lid on top and simmer very gently for one hour. After an hour, add the potatoes and butternut squash, replace lid and simmer for another hour and a half.

Serve in bowls with a dollop of crme frache and a sprinkle of freshly chopped coriander.

FISH

Whole turbot roasted on the bone

Serves six

Turbot tastes best when roasted whole like this. The fish retains more of the flavour if cooked on the bone, and the gelatinous skin keeps it moist. Also, there are no pin bones or fiddly bits to worry about. The cooked fillets can be easily lifted off the skeletal frame if you know what you are about – you just need a thin filleting or fish knife and a little knowledge of fish anatomy. It's really a case of just slicing gently down the middle, and lifting out the top two fillets, removing the bone, and lifting out the two smaller lower fillets. You don't need to turn the fish at all. This used to be an art practised by waiters in posh restaurants right in front of the diner. Sadly, these days, you don't see it being done too often.

We've used farmed turbot for this recipe. Turbot farming is really picking up in this country, which, as long as good practises are sustained, is a good thing. One benefit of farmed fish is that when you roast it whole for a fair few people, as we've done here, it works really well as there's a bit more to the meat.

For the fish

50g unsalted butter

1.5kg whole turbot, cleaned and gutted

freshly squeezed juice and zest of 1 lemon

2-3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, dill, fennel fronds or chives

Maldon sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

To serve

new potatoes

curly kale

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Take a large roasting tin that is big enough to accommodate the turbot and grease it generously with some of the butter.

Using a big, sturdy knife or a cleaver and scissors, cut the head off the fish. Lay the turbot in the tin and dot the top of it with the rest of the butter. Pour over the lemon juice and season the fish with the herbs and some salt and pepper. Slide the tray into the oven and leave it to roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Remove the turbot from the oven, cover and leave to rest for five minutes, spooning the juices over the fish. To serve, run a knife down the backbone of the fish and transfer the top two fillets to warmed serving plates. Lift off the bone and then put the remaining two fillets on the other two plates. Easy as that. Serve with boiled new potatoes and shredded curly kale, steamed, seasoned and buttered.

Thai salmon fishcakes with spicy slaw

Serves four as a hearty main dish or eight as a starter

Here's one to spice up Christmas Day. There are plenty of traditionalists who couldn't bring themselves to eat a spicy fishcake anywhere near Christmas, but for the rest of us who quite like to ring the changes, this is a gorgeous meal. It's perfect as a starter or main, for Boxing Day, Christmas Eve, or even, when made in miniature, served as canaps. Take your pick.

For the fishcakes

450g skinned salmon fillets

2 tsp Thai red curry paste

3 tbsp Hellmann's mayonnaise

finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime

4 spring onions, finely chopped

4 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

200g cooked mashed potato, cold but not chilled

100g plain flour (approx), for coating

For the spicy slaw dressing

5cm knob of ginger, grated

3 tbsp crunchy peanut butter (no added sugar)

100ml rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

juice of 1-2 limes

2 tbsp sesame oil

3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

For the spicy slaw

1 medium carrot

250g piece of mooli (this relative of the radish is also known as daikon), optional

250g Chinese leaves, thinly shredded

1 red and 1 yellow pepper, seeded and finely shredded

3 spring onions, cut finely at an angle

1 red chilli, seeded and finely diced

4 tbsp sunflower oil, for frying

Maldon salt

freshly ground black pepper

Put the salmon fillets in a shallow pan and cover with cold water. Bring to just under the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for two minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to poach for five minutes then remove from the water and flake the flesh with a fork, being careful to find and remove any bones.

Mix the curry paste, mayonnaise, lemon zest, coriander, spring onions and plenty of black pepper into the mash, then fold in the fish. Divide the mixture equally into eight portions and shape into cricket balls. Then, using the palm of your hand, gently flatten them to make patty shapes. Place these on a tray, cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for one to three hours to firm up.

Next make the spicy dressing. Whisk the ginger, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice and sesame oil together until emulsified. Keep in a screw-top jar until needed. The coriander should be stirred in just before serving.

Using a potato peeler, shave long, thin ribbons from the carrot and mooli and put these into a large bowl of iced water to firm up for 30 minutes. Keep the other prepared salad ingredients in a plastic bag in the fridge until needed.

When you're ready to go, preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Sprinkle the flour on to a large tray or plate. Take the fishcakes out of the fridge and roll them in the flour until evenly coated. Lift and pat gently to remove the excess flour.

Heat a medium frying pan to hot. Add half the olive oil and heat, swirling it around a little to coat the bottom of the pan. Carefully slide four of the fishcakes into the pan. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for about five minutes until a nice brown crust has formed. As always, for a good crust, leave them alone and don't be tempted to fiddle around with them. Carefully turn them over and fry for another five minutes. Lift out of the pan and drain on kitchen paper, then place on a baking tray and keep warm in the oven with the door slightly ajar (this helps to keep the coating crisp). Turn up the heat in the pan and add the rest of the olive oil and the four remaining fishcakes. Turn the heat down to medium and cook and drain as before. When ready to serve, drain the carrot and mooli and mix with the remaining slaw ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with a little dressing at the last possible moment. Save some to drizzle around each serving, and any spare for another salad. Don't drench the salad. To serve, arrange the spicy slaw on individual plates and top with one or two fishcakes, drizzle with a little extra dressing and serve.

Salt and pepper squid with Vietnamese mint salad

Serves four

450g squid, cleaned if possible

2 tsp sea salt

3 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

2 tbsp self-raising flour

For the mint salad

3 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp lime juice

small crisp, white cabbage, finely shredded

3 mild red chillies, deseeded and finely shredded

1 large carrot, finely shredded or julienned

freshly ground black pepper

big handful of mint leaves, shredded

big handful of coriander leaves, shredded

50g natural peanuts, toasted and crushed

4 large garlic cloves, finely sliced

sunflower oil, for deep-frying

Start by preparing the squid if you haven't bought it ready-cleaned. Put on rubber gloves and rinse the squid well. Hold the body in one hand and firmly tug the tentacles with the other to pull them away from the body and remove the soft contents of the body pouch – I find it helps to squeeze the body.

Cut the tentacles just in front of the eyes and discard the body contents, including the weird-looking quill, which resembles a piece of plastic. Reserve the tentacles. Rinse the body pouch under cold running water. Rub off any purpley membrane with your fingers and pull off the two wings. Thinly slice the squid into rings and separate the tentacles. Set aside while you make the salad.

Mix the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice in a medium bowl. Add the cabbage, shredded chillies and carrot, toss well to coat then season with freshly ground black pepper. Cover and chill while you prepare the squid.

Dry-fry the salt for a couple of minutes until it starts to look a bit grey. Tip the salt into a bowl then reheat the pan, add the peppercorns and dry fry those until they darken slightly and start to smell aromatic. Add to the bowl with the salt then grind them to a fine powder in a clean spice grinder or a pestle and mortar.

Heat the oil in an electric deep fat fryer to 190C. Place the salt and pepper powder and the flour in a plastic food bag, hold the top of the bag closed and shake well to combine. Allow the mix to settle before opening the bag then toss in the squid. Shake well to coat the squid in the seasoned flour.

Remove the squid from the bag and deep-fry five to six pieces at a time for 30 to 45 seconds until crisp and golden. Fry the sliced garlic with the last batch until it is golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Take the salad out of the fridge and toss with the mint and coriander, then pile on to plates and top with the peanuts and fried sliced garlic. Serve immediately piled high with the mint salad.

Seared monkfish with curried lentils

Serves four as a starter

For the lentils

400g puy lentils

3cm piece root ginger

100ml olive oil

50g carrot, peeled, topped and tailed and finely diced

50g celery, trimmed and diced

50g leek, topped, tailed and finely diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely diced

2 tsp mild curry paste

600ml chicken stock

6 ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced

4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or chervil

4 tbsp crme frache

For the fish

400g fillet monkfish, skinned and trimmed

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

squeeze of lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or chervil, to garnish

Wash the lentils well in a sieve, place in a saucepan and cover with plenty of cold water, bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain well and spread out on a baking tray to cool and dry.

Use a fine microplane grater and grate the unpeeled ginger root, scraping the back of the grater into a bowl. Set aside.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Toss in the vegetables, and leave to sweat down, stirring occasionally. When the veg is soft but uncoloured, drop in the garlic and fry for a few seconds. Then stir in the curry paste. Next, add the grated ginger and stir. Toss in the lentils and heat for a few seconds, then add the chicken stock. You can substitute fish or vegetable stock if you prefer, or even water. Bring the whole lot to the boil.

Prepare the monkfish and thinly slice the fillets on the diagonal (a bit like smoked salmon). Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice and set aside.

Stir the tomatoes into the lentils with the chopped herbs, then dollop in the crme frache and bring the pan back to a simmer. Chuck in the sliced fish and stir round. Because it's so thinly sliced and already partially cured by the lemon juice, the monkfish will cook almost immediately. When it turns opaque, it's ready. To serve, divide the mix between warmed serving bowls and garnish with chopped herbs.

VEGETARIAN

Nick's nut roast with warm coriander dressing

Serves six

On to the veggie recipes. I have to admit, creating great new veggie main courses is something I find quite a challenge, so having decided on a deluxe version of nut roast, I knew I had to deliver. I imagine there's nothing that makes a vegetarian's heart sink faster than the thought of another soggy, flavourless nut roast. Especially on Christmas Day.

So, having thought this would take me out of my comfort zone, I soon realised that if you balance flavours and textures of nuts, grains, pulses, vegetables and herbs, you can come up with something no meat eater would ever have to fear!

Cut in chunky slabs, this version of nut roast earns its place as a stonking veggie alternative to the Christmas roast. You could even cook it in individual moulds – although I wouldn't, because you'll have the meat-eaters queuing up for a taste and will need the extra.

Feel free to use other types of nuts such as hazelnuts or walnuts instead of pecans, and you can mix up the seeds by using an assortment of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds.

For the nut roast

400g mixed nuts (brazil nuts, cashew nuts, pecan nuts)

100g pine kernels

100g pumpkin seeds

1 tbsp black onion seeds (kalonji), optional

4 slices (about 200g) sunflower seed rye bread

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

4 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil

1 tbsp freeze-dried oregano (or 2 tbsp fresh)

1 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh)

1 tsp smoked paprika (pimenton)

1 medium carrot (about 150g)

1 sweet potato (about 150g)

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp Lingham's chilli sauce

2 sticks celery, chopped or grated

425g can chickpeas in water, drained

3 eggs, beaten

For the topping

100g unsalted cashews, toasted in the oven

50g pinenuts, toasted in the oven

For the coriander dressing

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp rapeseed or extra-virgin olive oil

4 tbsp lemon juice

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

4 tsp light muscovado sugar

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

tsp sweet paprika

handful of finely chopped coriander

For the glaze

2 tbsp Kikkoman's soy sauce

1 tbsp runny honey

Maldon salt

freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Grease and line the base of a 1.8-litre/ 3-pint loaf tin or Pyrex loaf dish with non-stick baking parchment.

First whizz all the nuts in batches in a food processor until they are ground but still have a bit of chunk to them, then tip into a big bowl. Add the whole pinenuts, the pumpkin seeds and black onion seeds, if using. Now whizz the rye bread until it forms breadcrumbs and add that to the nut mixture.

Without rinsing the food processor bowl, whizz the onion and garlic until they are finely chopped. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and stir in the onion and garlic, followed by the oregano, thyme and smoked paprika, then cook for five minutes.

While you're doing this, grate the carrot and sweet potato in the food processor. Add these veggies to the frying pan, stir well to mix and cook for ten minutes until softened but not coloured.

Remove from the heat and stir in the soy sauce and chilli sauce, then the chopped celery and chickpeas. Tip all of this on to the nut mix and work together using a wooden spoon or your clean hands. Now taste the mixture and season really well with salt and pepper. Finally, thoroughly mix in the beaten eggs.

Evenly scatter the toasted cashews and pine nuts over the base of the tin (this will be the top of the nut roast). Carefully spoon in some of the mix to cover the nuts and press down with a potato masher or the back of a spoon to anchor the nuts. Spoon in the remainder of the mix so that it fills the tin. Smooth the top and lightly press down. Cover with baking parchment and foil, place it on a tray and bake for about 45 minutes until firm.

While the nut roast is cooking, make the dressing. Heat a small frying pan over a low heat. Add the cumin seeds and dry fry for a few minutes, tossing in the pan until they release their fragrance, and are smelling toasty but not burnt. Grind them in a spice or coffee grinder, or pestle and mortar. Whisk the oil with the lemon juice, zest and sugar, then stir in the garlic and a good pinch of salt, then stir in the roasted cumin, paprika and coriander. Keep at room temperature, and warm in the oven to serve.

When the nut roast is cooked, let it rest in the tin for ten minutes. Warm the dressing through, then carefully turn the loaf out on to a chopping board, where it can be sliced to serve.

To make a rich glaze, mix the soy sauce with the honey and boil for 30 seconds. Brush this over the nuts on top of the roast. Serve with the warm coriander dressing.

Roasted butternut squash, herb and goat's cheese tarts

Serves six

I don't know if it's the test of a good vegetarian recipe that meat eaters will happily devour it, but as a meat eater I feel pretty strongly that a herby squash and goat's cheese tart is as good as it gets. For extra excitement, add a little fresh chopped chilli to the mix.

If you make your own pastry for these, not only will you gain a place in foodie heaven, but you'll also notice the difference and yours will be better than bought pastry. Obviously, Christmas is a busy time, but pastry honestly doesn't take long to make and you can prepare it way ahead of time and freeze it. Freeze in a lump, or rolled and ready to bake.

For the pastry (if using frozen, you need about 500g, thawed)

110g butter

280g plain flour

large pinch of salt

1 large eggs, beaten

For the tart filling

1 medium-sized butternut squash, halved,

peeled and cut into small chunks

4 tbsp olive oil

a few sprigs fresh rosemary

Maldon salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg

75ml double cream

100g full-fat soft goat's cheese, crumbled

3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, thyme)

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. To make the pastry, rub the butter, flour and salt together between your fingers in a mixing bowl until the mixture has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and bring it all together into a dough. Knead this lightly three or four times with floured hands. Cover in clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour before use.

Roll the pastry out to a 3mm thickness. Cut circles slightly larger than each tin. You should be able to make at least six 12cm diameter tarts from this amount. Once you have put the pastry in the tart tins, chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before blind baking. To do this, cover the bases with clingfilm, foil or baking paper and fill with baking beans, then pop on a baking sheet in the oven for 11 minutes.

Take it from the oven, remove the cling film, foil or paper and the beans then place it back in the oven. Bake it for a further five to nine minutes until the pastry is light brown. You can coat it with an egg wash at this point if you prefer. Remove, neatly trim away the overhanging pastry and leave to cool. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 48 hours.

For the filling, put the squash into a roasting tin, toss with the olive oil and rosemary sprigs, salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes until tender and starting to caramelise at the edges.

Place a heavy baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven to heat up. Whisk the eggs together with the double cream and goat's cheese, herbs, salt and freshly ground black pepper, then pour into the tarts to half-fill them.

Spoon the roasted squash chunks into the pastry cases and carefully slide the tartlets on to the hot baking sheet in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes until golden.

Aubergine fritter stacks with crme frache raita and curry oil

Serves four

For the fritters

2 medium aubergines, peeled and coarsely grated

175g chickpea (gram) flour

1 tbsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

tsp turmeric powder

tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for shallow frying

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 medium egg whites

For the tomato sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, very finely chopped

1 large garlic clove, crushed

1 long, thin red chilli, finely chopped, seeds and all

400g can chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 fresh bay leaf

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

For the curry oil (makes about 300ml)

300ml light olive oil

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1cm piece fresh root ginger, grated on a microplane

1 garlic clove

1 tbsp good quality curry paste

For the raita

4 tbsp crme frache or soured cream

5cm piece cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

1 small cooked potato, finely diced

2 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

a little curry oil (see above), to serve

Maldon sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Mix the aubergines with a teaspoon of salt, tip into a sieve and place over a bowl to drain. Sift the chickpea flour, spices and a teaspoon of salt together into a bowl. Make a well and add a tablespoon of sunflower oil, the lemon juice and 175ml water, then beat well with an electric whisk to make a nice smooth batter. Set aside for 30 minutes to rest.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, garlic, chilli and fry for five minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the tomatoes, ketchup, thyme and bay leaf and leave to simmer for half an hour, until quite thick.

Now make the curry oil and the raita. Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a pan. Add the spice, ginger and garlic and cook over a medium heat for about one minute. Add the curry paste and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the rest of the oil and simmer for five minutes. Leave to cool and then transfer to a bottle, seal and store in a cool, dark place until needed. Shake before using.

To make the raita, lightly mix all the ingredients together, cover and chill in the fridge until needed.

To make the fritters, rinse the aubergines under cold water to remove the excess salt then squeeze well, first in your hands and then in a clean tea towel. Stir them into the batter. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt into soft peaks and gently fold them into the batter.

Pour about 1cm of sunflower oil into a large, frying pan. Drop in large spoonfuls of aubergine batter, spacing them a little apart, and fry for three to four minutes on each side over a medium heat until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm while you cook the rest. You should have 12 fritters in total.

To serve, stir the coriander into the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper. Place one fritter in the centre of a warmed plate and cover with a spoonful of the sauce. Cover with another fritter, some more sauce and then a third fritter. Pile the raita on top of the last fritter and drizzle a little curry oil around the edge of the plate. Serve immediately.

Baked gnocchi with wild mushrooms, garlic and parmesan

Serves four

If you can't find fresh wild mushrooms, use a mixture of dark open-cup and shitake and add 25g soaked and chopped dried porcini mushrooms.

225g quick-cook polenta

50g parmesan, finely grated

1 egg yolk

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

2 tbsp melted butter

3 tbsp olive oil

450g mixed wild mushrooms, wiped clean and hard stalks removed

2 garlic cloves, crushed

4 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Maldon sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Bring a litre of cold water to the boil in a large pan. Reduce the heat and gradually whisk in the polenta, making sure you don't get any lumps. Leave to cook over a very low heat for ten minutes, whisking frequently, until it becomes thick and comes away from the sides of the pan. Take the pan off the heat and stir in 40g of the parmesan, the egg yolk, nutmeg, a tablespoon of the melted butter and salt to taste.

Pour or spoon the mixture into a lightly oiled 23x23cm Swiss roll tin and spread it out with a wet palette knife so that the mixture is level and no more than 1cm thick. Cover with clingfilm and chill for at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Turn the polenta on to a board and cut into 24 small squares. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and while that's heating, slice the mushrooms into good thick slices. Toss them into the pan with the garlic and fry over a high heat for about three minutes then set aside.

Arrange overlapping squares of the gnocchi and mushrooms in lines in a well-buttered 20cmx28cm shallow, ovenproof dish. Mix the rest of the melted butter with the breadcrumbs, stir in the rest of the parmesan and chopped parsley and sprinkle over the top of the dish. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until crisp and golden. Serve immediately.

• Will Lyons: The best wines to pair with Nick Nairn's festive dishes