Week Twenty Eight

This is the last Menu Mistress post of 2020! I am sure that most of us will be very happy to say goodbye to 2020. What a year it’s been, who would have guessed at the beginning of the year that the word ‘lockdown’ would become part of our daily vocabulary!…Of course, there have been some positives to come out of this ‘Covid year’, for one thing, it has definitely made us appreciate the freedom of our ‘old’ lives! On a personal note, it has encouraged Nick and me to discover some beautiful walks just outside London as we have fed our need to escape the house! And of course, if it hadn’t been for lockdown in June, I would never have started this blog. Menu Mistress was born out of boredom, and even as life has returned to a ‘new normal’ it has continued to be something that I enjoy immensely, in fact, it encourages me to cook even more than before, as I am on a continuous mission to find new, foolproof recipes to share!

Of course this past week we have all been busy cooking and eating our Christmas dinners. I like to cook a roast goose for our festive treat, and over the years I have perfected my favourite menu, a combined one from Delia Smith and Gordon Ramsay – yes, quite a combination! I find that the combination of the traditional element from Delia works well with Gordon’s more contemporary edge.

I thought that this week before we enter into a new year of cooking, that I would share my Christmas Dinner Menu, even though Christmas is over for this year and it won’t be something you will be cooking soon, it’s always good to plan ahead; you may want to add these recipes to your menu next year!

Have a good week and see you next year!…

My Christmas Dinner Menu

Over the years I have tried various ‘menus’ for Christmas Day, but for some time now I have been serving up Roast Goose and it’s trimmings. These days, I use a combination of recipes from Delia Smith and from Gordon Ramsay – yes quite a combination, but definitely a winning one! Roast Goose with Five Spice and Honey, is a simple recipe from Gordon Ramsay, I like to serve it with his recipe for Redcurrant and Red Wine Sauce. At this point I move over to recipes for the trimmings from Delia Smith; Prunes in Armagnac are a must (the sweetness compliments the goose meat perfectly), Braised Red Cabbage (my all-time favourite recipe for red cabbage!), Parmesan Baked Parsnips and, of course, Roast Potatoes (Delia’s recipe is always the winner!). I must admit that I go slightly off-piste for the recipe for Brussel Sprouts with Chestnuts, Bacon and Marsala; they are a recipe that I have nabbed from Nigella Lawson. Finally dessert, now I must admit that I am not mad about Christmas pudding, so it appears on our Christmas menu just for the sake of tradition. For this reason I have never felt the need to make my own, and over the years, after trying many ‘gourmet’ ones,  I have always returned to M&S for ours – yes, not exactly the refined choice you might expect from a ‘foodie’ like myself!…In addition to Christmas Pudding, I do serve up a very special dessert and one which I do make myself, Passionfruit Parfait (a Gordon Ramsay recipe). In my opinion, its fresh, tangy flavour is perfect after the rich goose main course, much better than the traditional Christmas pudding!

This Christmas Dinner menu is in fact very simple to make, I like to prepare most of the elements in advance, so that on Christmas day I have little to do, other than putting things in the oven and getting my timings right. I make the Armagnac Prunes several days in advance, then 2 days before Christmas I prepare the red cabbage – it will then sit quite happily in the fridge, prepared for the oven, until you need to cook it on Christmas Day, in fact, I sometimes cook it on Christmas Eve and just reheat it Christmas Day as I find that the flavours develop better in this way. On Christmas Eve I make the sauce and prepare the goose, parsnips, and the sprouts so that they are ready to be cooked. Finally, I make the Passion Fruit Parfait. So, in fact Christmas Eve is the day when I am most manic, and this is the way it should be, as after all, Christmas Day is the day when you want to enjoy the company of your loved ones!

Roast Goose with Five Spice and Honey (Serves 6-8)

5.5 -6.5kg goose

2 oranges, finely grated zest and fruit cut into wedges

2 lemons, finely grated zest and fruit cut into wedges

2 tablespoons Chinese five spice powder

1 tablespoon sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

4-5 tablespoons runny honey, to drizzle

  1. First of all preheat your oven, 220’c, and place a deep roasting tin, with a rack inside, in the oven to heat up.
  2. If the goose is ready-trussed, remove the string and gently tug and loosen the legs and wings a little – this helps the bird cook more evenly.  Remove the giblets from the body cavity and trim off any excess fat around the neck and cavity.
  3. Mix together the orange and lemon zest with the five spice powder, salt and pepper.
  4. Lightly score the kin of the goose in a criss-cross pattern – taking care not to cut through to the flesh. Rub the orange and lemon zest seasoning all over the skin and inside the cavity of the goose. Put the orange and lemon wedges inside the cavity.
  5. Place the goose on the rack in the preheated roasting pan, breast side up and roast for 15 minutes.
  6. Then turn down the oven to 170’c and roast for another 30 minutes.
  7. Take the goose from the oven, pouring off any fat from the tin (keep this as its great for roasting potatoes). At this point use a knife to cut the legs slightly away from the main bird, in this way they will cook evenly, at the same time as the breast.  Drizzle the honey over the goose and return it to the oven for 30 minutes to 1 hour, basting once or twice – a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should read 70’c . It is important to check the bird half an hour before the end of the estimated cooking time, as size, density and fat ratio can all make a difference , thereafter check every 15 minutes or so (generally I find that a 5.5kg bird needs 1hr 20 minutes in total)
  8. Cover loosely with foil and leave it to rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Redcurrant and Red Wine Sauce (Serves 6-8)

This is a lovely tangy sauce which compliments the richness of the goose meat perfectly. Redcurrants can be difficult to source during the winter months so I always make sure I have some frozen, just in case I can’t get some fresh in the week leading up to Christmas.

800ml good quality chicken stock

300ml red wine

75ml ruby port

2½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar

125g redcurrants (fresh or frozen – see note above)

2½ tablespoons redcurrant jelly

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Pour the stock, wine, port and balsamic vinegar into a saucepan and boil vigorously for about 20 minutes until it is reduced by two-thirds or thickened to a light syrupy consistency (this can be done up to three days ahead).
  2. When you are ready to serve add the redcurrants and redcurrant jelly and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the redcurrants are just beginning to burst. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Prunes in Armagnac (Serves 8)

350g dried prunes

570ml cold tea

50g granulated sugar

150ml Armagnac

  1. Soak the prunes overnight in the cold tea. Drain them and place in a saucepan, barely cover with water, add the sugar and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and sprinkle with the Armagnac, cover and leave in the refrigerator (these can be made several days ahead).

Parmesan Baked Parsnips (Serves 8)

This is a delicious way of cooking parsnips, they do not taste particularly cheesy, just very crunchy!  I found the recipe in Delia Smith’s Christmas cookbook. They can be prepared in advance and frozen – just defrost first before cooking.

1.25kg parsnips

17g plain flour (gluten free if required)

50g Parmesan cheese, grated

Sea salt and black pepper

Groundnut oil

Knob of butter

  1. First of all combine the flour with the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
  2. Peel the parsnips, halve then quarter them, cutting out the tough woody centres. Place the parsnips in a saucepan and cover with boiling water and some salt. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil, boil for 3 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile have a large kitchen tray ready.
  4. As soon as the parsnips are ready, drain them and whilst they are still steaming drop them, a few at a time, into the flour and Parmesan mixture, ensure they get a good coating before transferring them to the tray.
  5. Place the tray with the parsnips in the fridge (or freeze) until you are ready to cook them.
  6. To roast them, place a large roasting tin with enough groundnut oil to just cover the base and the knob of butter in an oven, and preheat it to 200’c. When the oven is ready, remove the tin, place it on the hob over a low heat and carefully place the parsnips in the tin (with tongs) side by side. Baste them with the hot fat before placing in the oven for 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the tin from the oven, turn over the parsnips and drain off any surplus fat. Return to the oven and continue to bake for a further 15-20 minutes until they are crisp and golden.
  8. Serve straightaway.

Brussel Sprouts with Chestnuts, Pancetta & Marsala

(Serves 8-10)

1 kg brussel sprouts

250g diced pancetta

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

30g butter

250g vacuum packed chestnuts

60ml Marsala wine

1 large bunch of parsley

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Trim the sprouts and tip them into a large pan of salted boiling water and cook until tender but still retaining some bite – about 5 minutes.
  2. In a deep frying pan, cook the pancetta cubes in the oil until golden and crisp.
  3. Add the butter and the chestnuts, use a wooden spoon to press on the chestnuts to break them up a little. When they are warmed through, turn up the heat and add the Marsala, letting it bubble away to create a lovely, buttery syrup.
  4. Add the drained sprouts, turning well and sprinkling over half of the parsley and a good grinding of pepper and a little salt to taste.
  5. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle over a little more parsley.

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples (Serves 10-12)

This is a family favourite, and another Delia Smith recipe from her cookbook ‘Christmas’. This is a winner of a recipe, it can be prepared and cooked beforehand and reheated successfully and, apparently, it freezes well, although I have never tried as it always gets eaten very quickly!

1kg red cabbage

450g onions, chopped small

450g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped small

1 garlic clove, chopped very small

¼ whole nutmeg, freshly grated

¼ level teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

15g butter, cubed

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage and cut it into quarters, remove the hard stalk. Then shred the rest of the cabbage finely.
  2. In a fairly large casserole arrange a layer of shredded cabbage, season with salt and pepper, then add a layer of chopped onions and apples with a sprinkling of garlic, spices and sugar. Continue to alternate layers until everything is used up (I like to make up three layers).
  3. Pour over the red wine vinegar and finally dot the cubes of butter over the top.
  4. Cover with a lid and place in a preheated oven, 150’c, for 2-2½ hours, stirring everything around once or twice during cooking.

Perfect Roast Potatoes (Serves 4)

Everybody has their favourite roast potato recipe. I must admit that having tried various recipes, I have always returned to the one I found years ago in Delia Smith’s ‘Winter Collection Cookbook’ – you can’t beat it in my opinion. I use either olive oil or goose fat (I buy it in jars), depending on my mood. The olive oil gives a lighter, cleaner taste, whereas the goose fat has a richer flavour – both crisp up the potatoes equally well.

1.8kg Maris Piper or other floury, roasting potatoes

110g olive oil or goose fat (see note above)

Sea salt

  1. Place the fat in the roasting tin and place in the oven, 190’c, on the highest shelf so that the oil preheats whilst you prepare the potatoes.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized pieces.
  3. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and add the salt. Simmer for 10 minutes until the outer edge of the potatoes is fluffy – test with the points of a fork.
  4. Drain the potatoes well and return to the saucepan. Place a lid over the pan and shake it vigorously. By shaking the potatoes in the saucepan in this way the cooked edges will become floury and fluffy – perfect for crisping up in the oven.
  5. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and place the potatoes in the hot fat – careful as the oil may spit! Baste them well and return to the oven for about 40 minutes until they are golden brown and crisped.
  6. Sprinkle with salt and serve straightaway – do not allow them to sit around otherwise they will loose their crunch (if they are cooked before you are ready, turn off the oven and leave them inside – but with caution, they don’t like to wait!)

Passion Fruit Parfait (Serves 6)

8 ripe large passion fruit

Sunflower oil to oil

6 large egg yolks

75g caster sugar

50ml water

2 tablespoons vodka

300ml double cream

To finish:

1 mango cut into thin slices

Seeds from 1 passion fruit

  1. Lightly oil 6 darioles or other individual moulds.
  2. Halve the passion fruit, scoop out the pulp and seeds into a sieve set over a small pan and press to extract the juice. Bring the juice to boil  and let bubble until it is reduced by half, about 60 -70 ml. set aside to cool
  3. Beat the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl using a hand held electric whisk, until they are light and fluffy. Set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and continue to whisk until pale, stiff and at least doubled in size. Remove the bowl from the heat.
  4. Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring and boil vigorously until the temperature registers 110’c on a sugar thermometer. The syrup should be thick with large bubbles.
  5. Briefly whisk the egg yolk mixture again, then whilst whisking gradually trickle in the sugar syrup. Once incorporated the mixture will be thick, glossy and mousse-like. Continue to whisk for 5 minutes – or until the side of the bowl no longer feels hot.
  6. Fold in the passion fruit purée and the vodka. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and place in the fridge for an hour.
  7. Whip the cream until softly peaking, then carefully fold into the passion fruit mixture. Spoon into the prepared moulds and set on a tray. Freeze for 2-3 hours until firm.
  8. To turn out each parfait, dip into a bowl of hot water for a second or two, invert the mould onto a plate, give it a light shake to release the parfait. Top each parfait with a folded mango slice and a few passion fruit seeds to serve.

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