Earlier Entries
So That Was Christmas
Christmas Teddies

Hope it was a good one!

This year Flora joined my brother, his kids and me for our traditional Christmas celebrations, bringing with her a very nice bottle of Pouillon's demi-sec champagne, a jar of ersatz caviar, the largest vacuum pack of smoked salmon I've ever seen, and Christmas presents galore.
She also forced us, rather uncharacteristically, out of the house to see Bradford's Christmas panto (Peter Pan at the Alhambra for your information). Oh Yes She Did!
Flora has ways of making you jolly :)

We enjoyed all the usual Christmas day fayre - the goose, the PERFECT stuffing, the sprouts, the bread sauce, the roasties and the gravy. Oh the gravy.
Turns out that 6 hours of gravy-making (first kill your chicken...) can really make a yacht moist. I hope she's dried out by the time I get back to her in the new year.

For the starter this year I thought I'd have a go at some smoked salmon panna cottas, but wasn't too enamoured of the result (though I might revisit them when I have more time and inclination - I'm quite keen on the idea of savoury panna cottas) so I went for a starter made from an earlier recipe for Smoked Salmon with Horseradish Mousse rolls. This time though I pressed the horseradish flavoured cream through a sieve to remove the lumps, and added a little vodka too - well hell, it IS Christmas.
We sliced the rolls into rounds and served them with spring onions and mixed salad leaves on miniature blinis, and scattered Flora's caviar well, Onuga, on top. They went down very well, though that might have had something to do with how hungry we were waiting for the bread sauce!

What we (re-)learned this year:
  • Your bread sauce might take up to 2 hours at the bottom of the goose oven, especially if you've made a double quantity, and didn't pre-heat the milk.
  • Our stuffed 14lb goose took 5 hours at Gas Mark 3 in Kurt's oven (which I think runs a little hot) to be perfectly cooked well, perfectly cooked for Kurt - slightly overdone for my taste. In fact, I had to turn the oven down a little and cover the goose in foil due to waiting for the bread sauce.
  • You can overdo the apple in the Perfect Christmas stuffing recipe - one apple (as written) is just right
  • Christmas Gravy is even better if you first poach your chicken for 45 minutes in white wine and water flavoured with herbs, peppercorns, allspice, and orange zest and then use the carcass and poaching liquid as the basis for the stock. (And the rest of the chicken for a tasty Thai soup.)
  • You can use your leftover gravy as stock for your pilaf. In fact, you probably should.
  • It's easy to curdle brandy butter as you blend it, though it still tastes fine. Unfortunately, despite the fact he requested it, your brother won't eat it anyway.
  • Starting the twelve days of Christmas mornings with a Bloody Mary definitely helps to make your brother's kids more bearable :)

Christmas is rounded off by our traditional, if slightly melancholy, pilaf, into which goes everything we have left.
Boo Ho Ho!

Smoked Salmon Panna Cotta
fish starter
I fancied a savoury panna cotta to try out as a Christmas start so I thought I might enhance Bluestem's smoked salmon panna cottas with a little horseradish flavour and some buttermilk sourness. Actually I didn't really like the sourness, so maybe give the buttermilk a miss next time. Sour cream instead perhaps. The consistency was good, but perhaps set a little hard so try a touch less gelatine - not sure how little is actually required to set cream?

Makes 2 large or 8 small servings

  • 300ml double cream
  • 5 oz smoked salmon
  • 2 tblsps horseradish
  • 200ml buttermilk
  • 1 tblsp sugar
  • 2 tsp/1 pack gelatine powder
  • a splash of vodka

  • To Serve:
  • mixed leaf salad with spring onions
Grate the horseradish into the buttermilk and stir. Leave to infuse for an hour or two.
Pour the cream into a small saucepan and sprinkle over the powdered gelatin. Let it sit for a few minutes to bloom.
Heat the cream over medium-high heat to dissolve the gelatin. Add the salmon and sugar and turn the heat to high. As soon as the cream comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat and blend until smooth.
Once cooled, add the horseradish buttermilk and the vodka, then strain through a couple of layers of muslin or a fine sieve. You should be left with quite a lot of fibrous salmon.
Pour into moulds or ramekins and set to cool in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.
This will fill either two large ramekins or 8-10 one inch moulds.
Alternatively you can chill a sheet of the panna cotta and use rings to cut out servings when set.
To serve, loosen the moulds by dipping briefly in hot water, and run a knife around the edge to turn them out.
Serve with spring onions, bread and perhaps a leafy salad.
Less buttermilk I think. Good idea though - nice texture. I may have forgotten the sugar, which would have helped I think.

Brandy Butter
A little brandy butter goes a long way, especially if the brother that specifically requested it decides he doesn't actually like it and won't eat any. This 200g quantity is easily enough for 4 people's Christmas pudding portions.

Icing sugar is most typically used, but you can use any other kind of sugar if you like.
Nigel Slater's tips on the subject:
Have your butter cool and firm rather than rock hard. I take it out about 30 minutes before I start. Cut the butter in small dice, as this will help it to marry with the sugar more successfully. Cream the butter a little before you add the sugar. Don't overmix, which will send the sauce "oily". Always add any extras such as ground almonds only after the butter and sugar have been thoroughly creamed. Make the butter a day or more in advance and store, tightly covered, in the fridge. You can freeze it too. To prevent it from curdling add the brandy slowly, beating in a tbsp or two at a time. Too much brandy will make the sauce bitter.

Makes 200g for 5-6 People

  • 100g butter
  • 100g sugar or icing sugar
  • 1½tbsp brandy

  • Optional Extras:
  • ¼ vanilla pod, scraped
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 25g ground almonds
Dice the butter and add an equal weight of sugar. Beat until soft, without over-working. Stir in grated orange or lemon zest, or the scrapings from inside a vanilla pod. Slowly add the brandy. Add ground almonds if you wish.
Cover and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
I made mine with vanilla and a little lemon zest, and despite some curdling it still tasted good. It's pretty rich stuff though.

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