Tuesday Treat

Poinsettia Cocktail (Cranberry Champagne Cocktail) – Serves 1

Admittedly the name of this cocktail conjures up Christmas, and yes, I know, Christmas has only just come and gone, but I think that this cocktail is pretty good at any time of the year! And given its beautiful red colour, it is a rather romantic looking cocktail, so I thought that it would be particularly good to share now as Valentine’s Day is on the horizon!

2 tablespoons Cointreau

4 tablespoons 100% cranberry juice (unsweetened)

Champagne or prosecco to top up – about half a glass

A handful of ice

For the garnish: 1 rosemary sprig and a couple of raspberries

  1. Put the Cointreau and cranberry juice in a cocktail shaker with the ice and shake for 15 seconds until cold. Strain into a champagne flute.
  2. Top off the glass with champagne, garnish and serve!…

‘Blast From the Past Recipe’

Cod with Braised Lentils and Prosciutto (Serves 4)

This week I’m reposting a recipe which I first shared back in October 2020. I think it’s the perfect fish supper for a cold winters day as the lentils make it wonderfully warming and substantial – just what we need in January! The recipe is from J.Sheekey’s cookbook ‘Fish’ – it really is worth investing in this book as it has some delicious, easy recipes. The portion of lentils is very generous and you will probably have leftovers – which are great for lunch the next day as a thick soup – either as they are or if you want them smoother you could blend them. One of the reasons I love this recipe is that it gives me a good lunch the next day! In fact the lentil recipe is so good that I have posted it on my Side Dishes page, as they are great with other dishes, such as sausages.

4 slices of prosciutto

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

4 cod fillets, about 180g each

For the Lentils

250g puy lentils

40ml extra virgin olive oil

100g cubed pancetta

1 onion, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

1 leek, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and chopped

2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and chopped

1 litre chicken stock

30g unsalted butter

½ bunch of parsley, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. If you have time and remember, soak the lentils in cold water for an hour before you cook them. The recipe calls for this, but these days most puy lentils (I use ‘Merchant Gourmet’) don’t require soaking, but there is a theory that they are more digestible if soaked?!…
  2. Spread the prosciutto out on a baking tray and place in a preheated oven, 160’c fan, for about 20 minutes until crisp – keep an eye on them as you don’t want them to burn!
  3. Pour 20ml of the olive oil into a heavy bottomed saucepan and gently cook the cubed pancetta, onion, carrot, leek, celery, garlic, thyme and rosemary for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the lentils (drained if you soaked them), stir, then add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until they are soft to toast – not too mushy. The consistency should be sauce like.
  5. Heat a frying pan with the sunflower oil. Season the cod and gently cook skin side down for 5 minutes. Turn over and cook for a further 4 minutes.
  6. To serve, reheat the lentils and gently stir in the butter and parsley, check the seasoning. Spoon the lentils onto plates, place the cod on top and garnish with the crispy prosciutto – delicious!!

Tuesday Treat

Apple and Almond Puddings (Serves 6)

To get through these ‘dog days’ of January I think we all need to eat delicious, warming desserts and these apple puddings really hit the spot! They are wonderfully light, just make sure you serve them with lashings of cream!… This recipe is from Bill Granger’s cookbook, ‘Bills Open Kitchen’ . (You can substitute the plain flour for gluten-free flour – I use ‘Dove’s’)

150g unsalted butter

150g caster sugar

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract


175g unsalted butter, cubed (plus extra to grease ramekins)

175g caster sugar

3 eggs

100g ground almonds

100g plain flour (gluten- free if required – see note above)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

(To serve – cream)

*You will need six large 250ml ramekins, greased.

  1. For the apples – place a saucepan over a medium-high heat and add the butter and sugar. Stir until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Add the apple and vanilla and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft and caramelised.
  2. To make the batter, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well until combined. Fold in the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and cinnamon and mix until combined.
  3. Grease six 250ml ovenproof ramekins with butter. Arrange the caramelised apples on the bottom. Divide the batter evenly between the ramekins and smooth over with the back of a spoon. Cook in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, for 25 minutes until lightly golden.
  4. Run a knife around the edge of each ramekin then invert onto a serving dish. Serve with cream.

January 2022

Happy New Year and a very warm welcome to 2022!…

For Menu Mistress a new year means a new style. I have been mulling over a change for some time now and I feel that the start of 2022 is the ideal time to introduce a few changes to the way I will be sharing recipes in the future.

It seems incredible that since starting this blog in June 2020 I have shared over two hundred recipes! I fear that in my enthusiasm to share, I have bombarded you with so many recipes that it’s difficult to keep up…. plus, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m struggling to keep up myself! As you may know, Menu Mistress was born out of boredom during the first 2020 lockdown; when my normal routine was interrupted, I decided to create this website to share recipes from my favourite cookbooks. I must admit Menu Mistress has become a bit of a ‘monster’ in my life, but one which I love despite the time it demands. Now that the world is learning to live with Covid and my life has reverted to its normal routine, I’ve been ‘chasing my tail’ a little, so to continue enjoying Menu Mistress, I need to find a balance…

With the advent of 2022, my New Year’s resolution is all about balance! Therefore, I will be continuing to share recipes each month but the main blog will only be on the first Wednesday of the month. On the following alternate Tuesdays, I will post a ‘Tuesday Treat’ which will be in either the form of a sweet treat or a cocktail. Then on the third Wednesday of the month, I will be posting a ‘Blast from the Past’ recipe to remind you of a recipe that I have previously shared, which if you haven’t done so already, you must cook! In the meantime, I will continue to post restaurant reviews depending on when and where I have eaten!… So, please keep popping by to check out what I’m sharing and if you haven’t already done so, you really should sign up for my weekly emails which will remind you of my new posts (sign up via the link towards the bottom of this page).

Now, with my New Year’s resolution sorted, let’s start talking about this week’s recipes…

January can often feel like the longest month after the merriment of Christmas, however I think that you’ll cheer up with these new recipes on your agenda. I am constantly trying new recipes, many don’t make the grade for Menu Mistress, but when they do they always make me smile! The recipes that I’m sharing this week made a particular impression, I can honestly say that I glowed when I tasted them as there was little doubt that they were winning dishes. Menu One is ‘Spiced Venison Stew’, which uses the idea of mulled spices to create a wonderfully spiced, warming stew which has a subtle ‘kick’. It’s the sort of dish which will cheer you up on a cold, dreary January day! Menu Two is ‘Chicken Pot Parmentier’, I must admit it’s not the quickest of recipes, but the result will again cheer you up! It would make a perfect weekend meal, it’s an elegant yet comforting dish. The tasty chicken filling is topped with buttery mash – a French take on a ‘Shepherds Pie’, but dare I say it, better?!… Menu Three is an Ottolenghi recipe, ‘Gigli with chickpeas and Za’atar’, which is not only delicious but incredibly easy to cook – a boost to any midweek evening! Despite having a vegetarian base it is made with anchovies and chicken stock so has a very meaty, fulfilling flavour yet still manages to have a clean edge. If you can get hold ‘gigli’ pasta, do use these pasta shapes as they make the dish look particularly cheerful, but of course, any other pasta shape such as conchiglie can be substituted and will taste just as good. Although I’m cutting back on my blogs, I thought I’d give you four new savoury recipes each month, so this week I’m sharing four recipes instead of three! Menu Four is a vegetarian recipe which I think we all need after all the heavy and no doubt meaty food we’ve enjoyed over the festive period!… ‘Pomegranate-Cooked Lentils and Aubergines’ is a fantastic recipe that I recently discovered in the cookbook ‘Falastin’. As you may know from my previous blogs, my husband, Nick, is not a big fan of vegetarian food, but he was full of praise for this dish – so what better endorsement could there be?!…

A very Happy New Year to you all!… Here’s to cooking our way through 2022 with the recipes I’ll be sharing on Menu MistressI’ll be back next week with a Tuesday Treat!…

Menu One

Spiced Venison Stew (Serve 6)

This stew uses the idea of mulled wine and its spices to create a wonderfully warming stew which has a subtle spicy ‘kick’. It’s the sort of dish which will cheer you up on a cold, dreary winters day. The recipe is from Rosie Birkett’s cookbook, ‘The Joyful Cook’, which I thoroughly recommend! You could substitute the venison for beef shin, however venison’s rich flavour works particularly well with the robust spices in this stew. I use ‘Gran Luchito’ chipotle chilli paste which can be found in supermarkets or online.

1 tablespoon chipotle chilli paste (see note above)

1kg venison shoulder cut into 2-3cm chunks (or you could use beef shin)

4 tablespoons plain flour (gluten-free if required)

1½ tablespoons olive oil

100g smoked pancetta lardons

1 onion, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, strings removed and sticks finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs of thyme

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra to garnish

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch cumin seeds

1 star anise

1 tablespoon tomato purée

400ml spicy red wine (Malbec or similar)

½ orange, juiced and zest grated

250ml beef stock

Sea salt and black pepper

For the pink pickled onions:

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

3 black peppercorns

1 clove

1 teaspoon caster sugar

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cider vinegar

  1. Dry the chunks of venison well with kitchen roll, then season the flour with salt and pepper and roll the meat in it.
  2. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish over a medium-high heat, add the pancetta and fry for 4-5minutes, until they are lightly coloured and starting to caramelise. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside. Now, working in batches brown the venison in the fat for a few minutes on each side. Add the brown meat to the pancetta.
  3. Add the vegetables, bay leaf, herbs, spices and chilli paste to the casserole dish. Stir well and cook over a low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes, adding a little extra oil if needed. Now stir in the tomato purée and cook for a minute then pour over the red wine and orange juice and add the zest, turn up the heat, stirring well to release any bits stuck to the bottom.
  4. Return the venison and pancetta to the casserole. Add the beef stock and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and place in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 1½-2 hours, until the venison is meltingly tender and the sauce thick and rich. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
  5. Meanwhile make the pink pickled onions. Place the onion slices in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 1 minute. Drain off the water, then add the spices, sugar, salt and cider vinegar to the bowl and stir to combine. When you are ready to serve, drain on some kitchen paper to get rid of the brine.
  6. Serve the venison topped with the pink pickled onions and some chopped parsley. This is great with my ‘Favourite Mashed Potato’ (recipe below).

Staple Side Dish’ – ‘Favourite’ Mashed Potato (Serves 4)

There are numerous recipes for mashed potato, and yes, I have tried many, but this one is probably my favourite. It actually doesn’t contain any butter, which makes me feel that it could be healthy, although admittedly it does contain double cream! Don’t be put off by the garlic, you really can’t taste it, it just enhances the flavour of the potato. I must admit I ‘cheat’ when it comes to mashing, I am fortunate to have an amazing kitchen appliance, a Thermomix, this is a serious piece of kitchen kit; I can actually steam my potatoes in it and then mash them in seconds. If you don’t have a Thermomix you can either mash by hand, however,  for an easier option I would recommend doing as Delia Smith suggests in her ‘Winter Cookbook’ – whisk them with an electric hand whisk. When whisking them you do have to be careful – make sure that the potatoes are absolutely cooked, otherwise they will go gluey. Start off with the speed slow to break up the potatoes and then increase to a high speed to quickly whip them until smooth – don’t do it for too long, as again, they will go gluey, which is not good!

1kg potatoes (floury, such as Maris Piper)

100ml full-fat milk

100ml double cream

2 cloves garlic, sliced

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into even sized chunks. Steam until completely cooked through.
  2. Put the milk, cream and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.
  3. Mash the potatoes (see note above) adding the milk mixture a little at a time. Season well with salt and pepper.

Menu Two

Chicken Pot Parmentier (Serves 6)

This is an elegant yet comforting dish, I must admit that it’s not the quickest of recipes, but the result is definitely worth it! The tasty chicken filling is topped with buttery mash – a french take on a shepherds pie, but dare I say it, better?!…I have taken the recipe from David Leibovitz’s wonderful cookbook, ‘My Paris Kitchen’.

500g chicken breasts

1 litre chicken stock

3 carrots, peeled and diced

2 celery sticks, diced

8 shallots, peeled and halved

85g butter

60g plain flour (gluten-free if required)

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons dry white wine

130g peas

2 tablespoons tarragon, finely chopped

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon freshy ground black pepper

For the potato topping:

1.2kg potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled and cut into large chunks

85g butter, cubed at room temperature plus 2 tablespoons melted

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 large egg yolks

80ml double cream

Freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  1. First of all cook the chicken breasts by dropping them into a pan of boiling water, turn off the heat and cover. Leave for about 15 minutes by which time they should be cooked through (if they are very large cut them in half). Allow to cool before cutting into bitesize chunks and set aside.
  2. To make the filling, heat the stock in a saucepan over a medium heat with the carrots, celery and shallots. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are almost tender. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Whisk in a few ladlefuls of the warm stock into the flour mixture. Gradually add all the stock, including the vegetables, stirring as you go. Cook for about 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened. During the last minutes of cooking add the garlic and white wine.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chunks of chicken, peas, tarragon, parsley, salt and pepper. Taste, adding more seasoning if necessary. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish (2.5/3litre) and set on a baking sheet.
  5. To make the potato topping, cook the potatoes until tender (either steam them or cook in a pan of boiling water). Drain, then mash with the cubed butter and salt. Let the mashed potatoes cool for about 5 minutes before stirring in the egg yolks. Finally stir in the cream, a generous amount of pepper and the nutmeg.
  6. Spread the mash over the chicken filling and dribble over the melted butter with a pastry brush. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 30 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown.

Menu Three

Gigli with Chickpeas and Za’atar (Serves 4)

This is a recipe from Ottolenghi’s cookbook, ‘Simple’, it is not only a delicious recipe but incredibly easy to cook – a boost to any midweek evening! Despite having a vegetarian base it is made with anchovies and chicken stock so has a very meaty, fulfilling flavour yet still manages to have a clean edge. If you can get hold ‘gigli’ pasta do use these pasta shapes as they do make the dish look particularly cheerful, but of course any other pasta shape such as conchiglie can be substituted and will taste just as good.

45ml olive oil, plus extra to serve

½ onion, finally chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons ground cumin

10g thyme leaves, finely chopped

25g anchovy fillets in oil, drained and finely chopped (about 7)

Zest of half a lemon, plus 2 tablespoons of juice

2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained

1 teaspoon soft brown sugar

400ml chicken stock

200g gigli pasta or conchiglie or orecchiette (gluten-free if required)

50g baby spinach leaves

15g parsley, roughly chopped

1½ teaspoons za’atar

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Put the olive oil into a large sauté pan and place on a high heat. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, thyme, anchovies, lemon zest, ½ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until soft and golden.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the chickpeas and sugar and fry for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chickpeas begin to brown and crisp up. Add the chicken stock and lemon juice and simmer for 6 minutes, until the sauce has reduced slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  4. Stir the spinach and parsley into the chickpeas – the residual heat should cook the spinach but if it doesn’t wilt put the pan back over a gentle heat. Stir the pasta into the chickpea mixture. Divide between four plates and sprinkle the za’atar on top and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Menu Four

Pomegranate-Cooked Lentils and Aubergines (Serves 4)

This is my new favourite vegetarian meal! I found it in the cookbook ‘Falastin’ by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, which celebrates the food of Palastine. I adore Pomegranate Molasses as it adds such a wonderfully intense sweet and sour flavour to dishes but without being overpowering, in this recipe it really adds a little bit of magic! This dish is great served simply with rice or bread. The leftovers make a delicious lunch (I speak from experience!) – or as suggested in the cookbook you could have them for breakfast with a fried egg, I’m yet to try this but it sounds delicious!…

2 aubergines (500g), cut into 3cm dice

60ml olive oil, plus 1½ tablespoons extra to serve

150g green or brown lentils

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1½ teapoons fennel seeds, roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon cornflour

4 tablespoons (80g) pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon tahini

Salt and black pepper

Fried Onions:

About 400ml vegetable oil

2 large onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons cornflour

To Serve:

A handful of parsley, roughly chopped

40g pomegranate seeds

2 red chillies, thinly sliced

  1. In a large bowl mix the aubergines with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and a good grind of black pepper. Tip them on to a large parchment-lined baking tray (about 35x40cm), so that they are in a single layer. Roast in a preheated oven, 220’c fan, for 25 minutes, stirring once or twice throughout. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. Rinse the lentils and put them in a saucepan with 1 litre of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20-25 minutes until they are almost cooked. Drain the lentils, reserving 350ml of the cooking liquid.
  3. To fry the onions, pour enough vegetable oil into a large saute pan so that it rises 3cm up the sides of the pan. Mix the onions with the cornflour and then when the oil is hot, carefully fry the onions in batches – fry for about 6-7 minutes until they are golden brown, stirring to stop them sticking together. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Wipe clean the sauté pan and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place over a medium heat and add the garlic and chilli. Fry for 2 minutes stirring, until the garlic is light golden brown. Add the cumin, fennel and coriander and stir continuously for 30 seconds. Stir in the cornflour for 1 minute, then add the lentils, the 350ml of reserved cooking liquid, ¾ teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Bring to the boil and cook for 5-6 minutes stirring frequently until the liquid has thickened to the consistency of thick porridge. Finally, add the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, tahini, all the aubergines and half of the fried onions. Stir through, then remove from the heat.
  5. Serve sprinkled with the remaining fried onions, the chopped parsley, pomegranate seeds and sliced chillies, finishing with a drizzle of olive oil and rice on the side.

Christmas 2021

Merry Christmas!… Yes, we are just a few days away from the big day, so I thought that this week I would re-post my Christmas day menu – the one which I will be enjoying at home with my family…

Over the years I have tried various ‘menus’ for Christmas Day, but for some time now I have been serving up Roast Goose and its trimmings. These days, I use a combination of recipes from Delia Smith and Gordon Ramsay – yes quite a combination, but definitely a winning one! ‘Roast Goose with Five Spice & Honey’, is a simple recipe from Gordon Ramsay, I like to serve it with his recipe for ‘Redcurrant & Red Wine Sauce’. At this point, for the trimmings, I move over to recipes from Delia Smith; ‘Prunes in Armagnac’ are a must (the sweetness complements 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 go slightly off-piste for the recipe for ‘Brussel Sprouts with Chestnuts, Bacon & 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, but it is very good! 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 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 and ready to be cooked on Christmas Day (I sometimes cook it on Christmas Eve and reheat it on Christmas Day, as I find that this enriches the flavour). On Christmas Eve, I make the sauce and prepare the goose, parsnips, and 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!

Merry Christmas!…

(Next week MenuMistress will be taking a break, but will be back Wednesday 5th January with some new recipes to brighten up your new year!…)

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 fan, 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 skin 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 complements 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

175g 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 fan. 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 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 fan, 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 fan, 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.