Tom Kitchin: Christmas brunch keeps sweets at bay

Tom Kitchin. Picture: TSPLTom Kitchin. Picture: TSPL
Tom Kitchin. Picture: TSPL
CHRISTMAS brunch stops you reaching for the chocolates, writes Tom Kitchin

For those of you who follow my column, I hope my Christmas dinner recipes inspired you to plan ahead. Christmas brunch takes a little less forethought than the main event, but it’s still worth deciding in advance what you’re going to enjoy on Christmas morning to give you a taste of the good things to come.

It’s always a bit of a challenge to plan Christmas brunch – you know you’re going to have a big lunch later in the day and you want to make the most of it and enjoy the wonderful feast, but you also need something to keep you going and stop you reaching for 
all the Christmas chocolates and sweets. If you’re like us and have kids in the house, you’ll also know that nothing quite goes to plan in all the excitement.

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My wife Michaela brings a lot of her Swedish traditions to our Christmas mornings. On one trip to her family home, I witnessed everyone eating bowls of warming rice pudding for brunch, just before we all had to sit down and watch the annual Disney cartoon on TV. I found this a little strange at first, but it’s a tradition we’ve now brought to our home, and our elder boys wouldn’t have it any other way.


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As much as I’ve made this recipe many, many times, I’m still trying to perfect it. In Michaela’s family, her granddad was known as the real connoisseur of rice pudding made just as it should be – with a perfect consistency and just the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg. The rice pudding would never make it to the table until he had tasted it and given it his approval. Michaela’s mum has now perfected the recipe too, but I still feel that I’ve never quite managed to get it to taste exactly the way they do. In Sweden they usually enjoy rice pudding with cinnamon and sugar, or even apple sauce, and serve it with cold milk, but I love just a sprinkle of cinnamon or some jam on mine.

If you find you need something a little more substantial, a bacon roll or Scottish smoked salmon with fresh eggs will usually do the trick, but I always find a lovely home-made kedgeree is a good option. We often enjoy it for Christmas brunch. It’s ideal for feeding a crowd as you can quite easily double or triple the quantities of the ingredients. You can prepare it and leave it warming, so if things are held up, it still tastes great.

Whatever you’re planning to prepare, I highly recommend a wee bucks fizz made with freshly squeezed orange juice, or a Christmas cocktail like my Sloe Gin Fizz. Served at around 11am, it always helps you to get in the celebratory mood as you start to prepare for Christmas lunch.


Serves four

4 hard boiled eggs (chopped)

200g basmati rice

3g curry powder

3g mustard seed

800g smoked haddock

30g parsley (chopped)

a pint milk

100g butter

½ onion

2 garlic cloves

salt & pepper to taste

1 slice of lime

juice of half a lemon


Cook the basmati rice according to instructions. Place the haddock fillets into a large pan and cover with the milk and garlic. Cover with parchment paper or buttered paper and place on to a very low heat. Bring up to a gentle simmer and turn off the heat source, leaving the haddock to cook in the milk. Flake the haddock and set aside. Keep the milk and garlic mixture and also set aside. Finely chop the onion, add mustard seed and curry powder. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the onion and seasoning. Sweat gently for 5 minutes without colouring. Then add the rice and mix well with the butter. Pour 500ml water, mixed with 100ml of the milk mixture, over the rice and cook for 15 minutes until the liquid has evaporated.

To serve

Add the haddock to the rice, keeping some back to garnish. Gently fold through and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the chopped eggs on top, then add the remaining flaked haddock pieces, along with the parsley. Add the slice of lime to garnish.


Serves four

500ml whole milk

100g short-grain rice

60g caster sugar

1 vanilla pod, split lengthways

2 cinnamon sticks

1 tsp of cinnamon powder

You can also serve with seasonal berries jam compote


Place the milk, rice, caster sugar, vanilla and cinnamon sticks in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a simmer. Then turn the heat down to low and leave the rice to cook gently for 30 minutes or until it is soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the cinnamon sticks before serving. Pour the rice pudding into individual bowls and sprinkle the cinnamon powder on top.


Makes one cocktail

1 brown sugar cube

25ml Sipsmith Sloe Gin

dash of Angostura aromatic bitters

champagne to top up

orange twist


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Add the sugar cube to a champagne glass and add a dash of Angostura aromatic bitters. Once the bitters are soaked up, add the gin and top with champagne. Serve with an orange twist.


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