Let’s face it, by now Christmas is taken care of. Either you’re being treated and someone else is cooking or you have a formula set in stone.
So what do you have to worry about? Well there is the Christmas Eve pre-party and the Boxing Day party and the unexpected visitors’ party, all of which mean you may have to cook another feast.
If you’re lucky enough to have a wide circle of friends, lovely neighbours or a large family that turn up at a moment’s notice, you have a dilemma.
The etiquette of different cultures is fascinating. The Dutch and French like advance notice, but in Turkey and the south of Italy, it’s very common to just pitch up.
I hope you can spend the day with the people you love and, if not, I hope they’ll visit unexpectedly very soon.
Entertaining, whether at home or in our restaurants, is as much about the welcome and the care around the presentation as the quality of the food. We train our team to give all our customers what we call the “Victor welcome” which is based on how my husband does it. You’ll have noticed that this is Victor’s role, not mine. I’m better at all the back of house tasks and happier in the kitchen than out front.
So for all house guests that will turn up unannounced over this busy period let’s have a few culinary tricks up our sleeves, but also remember to give them the Victor welcome. It’s the most important part of the party. Buon Natale.
500g hot smoked salmon (or langoustine)
250ml double cream
300ml homemade mayonnaise
60ml Heinz tomato ketchup
½ tbsp Tabasco sauce
½ tbsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 tsp cayenne pepper, plus extra,
1 cantaloupe melon, cut into cubes
125g seasonal salad leaves
splash of brandy
2 tbsp clover honey
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g roasting potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 leek, thickly sliced
salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 litre double cream
50g unsalted butter
POTATO AND LEEK DAUPHINOISE
The creamy sauce from this classic dish works so well with the potatoes. In our house there is always a fight for second helpings though there’s rarely much left over.
1 Bring the potatoes to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer until tender. Drain, then cover the pan with a clean tea towel and place the lid on top. Set aside.
2 Blanch the leek by plunging it in boiling salted water for a few minutes until tender but not overcooked. Drain well and set aside.
3 Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
4 Put the potatoes and leek in a 1kg deep baking dish. Season. Pour the cream on top, dot with the butter and finish with white pepper. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
5 Remove from the oven and press the potatoes down with the back of a large spoon. Cover with tinfoil and bake for 45 minutes more, removing the foil after 10-15 minutes to allow the top to brown.
If your Christmas plans aren’t yet set in stone, try a goose. Growing up, we never had roast goose on Christmas Day because there were just too many of us in the family. However when our own children came along, we made the switch to goose and have never looked back. In recent years it has become more widely available, yet it always makes a feast feel extra special.
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6. Wash and trim the goose. Make sure the body cavity is empty and pat it dry with kitchen paper. Place on a metal rack in a deep roasting tin.
2 Grate the zest of the oranges into a mixing bowl and add the honey, five-spice powder, thyme and olive oil. Season generously. Prick the skin of the goose with a needle to help release the fat, then rub the spicy, herby mixture into the skin. Place the oranges inside the carcass with the thyme and whole onions. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
3 Remove from the oven, baste with the juices and remove any excess fat. Cover the back and legs with tinfoil to stop them burning, then return the goose to the oven. Lower the temperature of the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4 and cook for another 1 to 1½ hours until the goose is cooked. The juices should run clear when you pierce the underside of a leg.
4 Remove from the oven, cover with tinfoil and a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes before serving.
MARIE ROSE COCKTAIL
If you can afford to get your hands on fresh langoustine this is a starter fit for Jesus. If you can’t then St Andrew will be proud of this hot smoked salmon version.
1 Whip the cream in a bowl until it forms soft peaks. Set aside.
2 Put the mayonnaise and ketchup in a large glass bowl and use a balloon whisk to mix them together. Add the Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, brandy and cayenne pepper, and then fold in the whipped cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3 Flake the salmon (or chop the langoustine) and fold it into the mixture, add the melon.
4 Serve in pretty glasses with teaspoons for a party or in glass bowls. Arrange the salad leaves at the bottom and a good sprinkle of cayenne pepper on the top for an extra kick.