So, there I sat, having been bludgeoned into going out on a Monday night to take part in the still relatively new regular pub quiz ... Read Feature
I love Christmas Eve – the whole ambiance is wonderful: the excitement of the children, the wafting scents from the kitchen and the candles, the bells across the fields tolling out for Midnight Mass. We have always had a special meal on Christmas Eve – usually one that is quick and easy to prepare – but one that brings us all together.
1 bunch spring onions
2 cm piece fresh ginger
1 red chilli
1 stick celery
1 garlic clove
small bunch fresh coriander
4 salmon steaks
tsp soy sauce
4 tsp sesame oil
For the noodles:
1 tbsp sesame oil
A 300g pack ready-for-wok rice noodles
1 red pepper, finely sliced
2 tbsp light soy sauce
salt and freshly ground pepper
Set the oven to gas mark 6, 200 degrees C, 400 degrees F.
Trim the spring onions, cut in half dividing the white and green part and then slice in half lengthways. Peel and finely slice the ginger and cut into thin strips. De-seed the chilli and cut into long strips also. Prepare the celery and carrot in the same way, then peel and finely slice the garlic and remove the stalks from the coriander, keeping them to one side.
Tear off four squares of tin foil about 34cm/13” and place a salmon steak in the centre of each one. Divide all the prepared vegetables, including the coriander stalks, between each one, scattering them over, then drizzle over the soy sauce and sesame oil. Squeeze over the juice of one of the limes and finally season with salt and pepper.
Now wrap the salmon in the foil making sure it is well sealed and not too tightly wrapped around the fish so that it can steam gently. Place the parcels on a baking tray and bake for 12 – 15 minutes.
Pour the sesame oil in a wok or frying pan and when hot add the red pepper and stir-fry for a minute. Add the ready-for-wok noodles and continue to stir for two minutes until they are piping hot. Add the soy sauce and season well.
Divide the noodles between four serving plates. Remove the salmon from the oven and serve each one in the foil parcel next to the noodles
with the remaining lime in wedges on each one and sprinkled with the coriander leaves.
This recipe uses sesame oil which has a rich nutty flavour and a classic Dry White Bordeaux, with its blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon will pair beautifully with this dish. Chateau Ballan Larquette Bordeaux Blanc (£9.99) is an Oscar Winning white from artisan producer Regis Chaigne. Stylish, with good structure and acidity, this beautifully balanced white wine has layered flavours of lime, apple, white peach and sweet red gooseberry with notes of dried herbs and acacia blossom.
Have you ever wondered why turkey is synonymous with Christmas Dinner? Henry VIII was the first English king to enjoy turkey after its discovery in Mexico in the 16th century. Turkeys are believed to have first been brought to Britain in 1526 by Yorkshireman William Strickland – he acquired 6 birds from American Indian traders on his travels and sold them for tuppence each in Bristol. At this time in history undoubtedly the wine of choice would have been from Bordeaux. Things haven’t changed much since! I have a gorgeous recipe with a bit of a twist for you to try . . .
2 1-inch-diameter black truffles
5 strips of smoked streaky bacon
1 16lb turkey, neck reserved
8 fresh thyme sprigs
4 fresh parsley sprigs
6 bay leaves
12 large shallots, peeled, cut in half
3 cups (or more) chicken stock½ cup Cognac
3 tbsp flour
3 jars whole roasted peeled chestnuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Coarsely chop 1 ½ truffles; place in a food processor. Add the butter; process mixture until well blended and truffles are finely chopped. Season the truffle butter with salt and pepper. Thinly slice the remaining ½ truffle; cover and chill.
Sprinkle the main cavity of the turkey with salt and pepper. Starting at the neck end, carefully slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen the skin. Rub the truffle butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, over breast meat under skin. Rub any truffle butter that remains on your hands all over outside of turkey. Place turkey on small rack set in large roasting pan. Using kitchen string, tie 4 thyme sprigs, 2 parsley sprigs, and 3 bay leaves together. Repeat with remaining 4 thyme sprigs, 2 parsley sprigs, and 3 bay leaves. Place 1 herb bouquet in the main cavity of turkey and 1 in the neck cavity. Tie legs together loosely to hold shape. Cover turkey with streaky bacon, cling film and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5, 190 degrees C. Tuck turkey wings under. Place shallots and turkey neck around turkey in the pan. Sprinkle turkey, shallots, and neck with salt and pepper. Roast for 1hr until turkey and shallots are golden brown. Gently stir shallots. Pour 1 cup of stock over the turkey. Roast for a further 30 minutes. Pour 1 cup of stock over the turkey. Cover turkey breast and legs loosely with foil. Roast for a final hour, basting with pan drippings and adding 1 cup of stock if necessary. Insert a skewer into the densest part of the bird and if the juices that run out are clear then the Turkey is done, if still pink cook for a little longer. Transfer turkey to platter; tent loosely with foil. Let stand for a minimum of 30 minutes – an hour would be better as this makes your turkey easier to carve and the meat remains nice and moist.
Meanwhile, using slotted spoon, transfer shallots to bowl. Discard turkey neck. Pour pan juices into a jug. Spoon off fat from top of pan juices, reserving 6 tablespoons fat. Discard remaining fat. Pour Cognac into roasting pan; place over low heat and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add to pan juices. Melt 2 tablespoons reserved turkey fat in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in pan juices. Boil until sauce thickens very slightly, whisking occasionally, about 5 minutes (gravy will be thin). Stir reserved sliced ½ truffle into gravy. Season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.
Melt 4 tablespoons fat in frying pan and add chestnuts and sauté until heated through. Add roasted shallots and chopped parsley; sauté until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Surround turkey with chestnut-shallot mixture. Serve with gravy.
Henry VII would have enjoyed his turkey with Bordelaise Clairet – a lighter style of Claret that is similar to Bordeaux Roses produced today. A Clairet would be my preference but as it is less familiar a Bordeaux Rose, slightly chilled would be the perfect pairing for turkey. These Roses from Bordeaux are versatile wines that can accompany a broad spectrum of flavours. Crisp and elegant, they have the fruit and body to support meat dishes and lack the tannins of red wine.
Chateau Ballan Larquette Bordeaux Rose (£9.49) is characteristically well balanced: satiny smooth, rounded and freshly aromatic. Its producer is a Rose and Clairet specialist and, needless to say, his chateau holds many awards for his wines. The 2013 Ballan Larquette Rose is a sophisticated Silver Medal wine with sensuous flavours of dark red cherry and ripe strawberry lifted by mouth watering notes of pink grapefruit, sweet hay and spice. Should a Rose not appeal a good alternative would be a slightly chilled Pinot Noir, a good Burgundy or a Claret from the left Bank with a high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend.
Roast beef is a classic Boxing Day meal but if you want to spice it up a bit Beef Wellington is a fantastic choice. Beef Wellington is a traditional dish adored by many and not that difficult to cook if you have time. It is not the cheapest of dishes to make but it does make a delicious dish for a celebratory occasion and the nice thing about it is that you can prepare it the day before and leave it in the fridge over night.
Rough Puff Pastry
250g Strong plain flour
1 tbsp salt
250g Unsalted Butter – not soft butter, it’s better to use wrapped butter at room temperature.
150ml Iced Water
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl or onto a working surface. Using a knife roughly slice the butter into shavings into the seasoned flour and rub loosely into loose crumb. Seeing bits of butter is good.
Make a well in the mixture and pour in about two-thirds of the cold water, mixing until you have a firm rough dough adding extra water if needed. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest for approx 20 mins in the fridge.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead gently and form into a smooth rectangle. Roll the dough in one direction only, until 3 times the width, about 20 x 50cm. Try and keep edges straight and even. Don’t over work the dough which should have the butter making a visible marbling effect.
Fold the top third down to the centre, then the bottom third up and over that. Cover with Cling film and place into the fridge for a further 20 minutes.
Remove from the fridge roll out again to three times the length. Repeat 4 by folding the top third down to the centre, then the bottom third up and over that. Give the dough a quarter turn and fridge roll out again to three times the length. Fold as before, cover with cling film and return to the fridge until you need it.
Fillet of Beef
500g Fillet of Beef ideally the middle section
Seasoning – Freshly ground pepper and salt.
120g Smooth Pâté.
2 Eggs beaten for glaze and sealing
Duxelle (Chopped Mushrooms and Onion) Spinach
25g Butter preferably unsalted
8 medium sized Mushrooms – finely chopped
1 medium sized Onion – finely chopped
2 hands full of spinach- blanched
Pancakes – these help to prevent the juices soaking into the pastry.
2 tbsp Plain Flour
Knob of Butter
Beef bones from your local butcher – ask for them when you but the fillet of beef.
20fl oz of Water
1 tbsp Plain Flour
1 Onion finely chopped
1 Carrot chopped
1 Stick of Celery chopped
4 whole Pepper Corns
2 Bay leaves
1 Sherry glass of Madeira
Place the beef bones into the water with the pepper corns, bay leaves, celery and carrot and let it simmer away. Skimming occasionally and replenish with additional water if necessary.
Season the beef fillet with black pepper and salt then place into a frying pan over a high heat. Turn the fillet to ensure even cooking. Remove when browned on each side and leave to rest.
Prepare the Duxelle by adding the butter to the frying pan you browned the beef in add the finely chopped mushrooms and onions. Cook until soft for approximately 10 mins over a moderate heat tossing occasionally. Remove from the heat leave to rest until needed.
Cover the bottom of a medium sized pan with water. Add i teaspoon full of salt. Bring the water to the boil and add the spinach and cover for approximately 2 minutes. Drain in colander and leave until needed.
Pancakes place the eggs and flour into a bowl and whisk together. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, to create a smooth batter that will coat the back of a spoon.
Best to use a crepe pan. Make 2 pancakes only by heating the pan over a high heat and add the butter. When the butter is foaming, gently pour in the mixture to just cover the pan as you need the thinnest of pancakes. Fry for 1-2 minutes, or until the underside is golden-brown. Carefully flip the pancake over and cook for a further minute, or until the pancake is cooked through and golden-brown all over. Slide the pancake out onto a plate lined with greaseproof paper, then cover with another layer of paper. Repeat to make the second pancake. Leave both pancakes to one side until needed.
Remove the pastry from the fridge. Roll out the puff pastry until 5mm/¼in thick trying to keep it in a rectangular shape. Take two pancakes and place into the centre of the pastry and spread the pâté over the pancakes with a small pallet knife. Take your Duxelle and spread it evenly over the pâté and top with the spinach leaves over the Duxelle.
Place the seasoned fillet on top of the spinach leaves
Beat the 2 eggs in a bowl, and then brush the egg over areas clear of the pastry beyond the pancakes (outside of the pastry). A tip here is to egg wash the beef as this will help the pastry stick to the beef avoiding big gaps when cooked.
Taking the nearest edge of the pastry wrap it tightly as possible around the beef and then roll the beef like a sausage in the pastry until completely wrapped. Ensure where the pasty ends over lap is at the base. Wrap the ends of the pastry underneath towards the base.
Place the beef Wellington seam-side down onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment and brush with the beaten egg. Place in the fridge to cool for at least 30mins or when you are ready to cook it.
Remove the wellington from the fridge brush again with egg wash and using the back of a knife score the sides lightly.
To cook the wellington place it in a preheated oven 220C/400F or gas mark 6. Bake for 25 mins (Rare) 30-35 mins Medium or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove and leave to rest for 15 mins before serving.
Whilst the beef is resting you can now prepare the sauce. Place the butter into a saucepan. When melted and starts to foam add the finely chopped onions. Once they are soft add in the flour and cook through. Strain the stock removing bones, bay leaves and pepper corns and discard. Pick out the celery and carrots and add to the onions and flour and cook through.
Strain the stock through a fine sieve and add gradually the stock to saucepan continue adding until the sauce is a nice consistency.
Pass through a sieve and using a wooden spoon press the vegetables through the sieve until you are left with a residue. Scrape the bottom of the sieve and add to the sauce.
Bring the sauce to the boil stirring occasionally and add the glass of Madeira and season to taste. Pour into a sauce boat.
Slice the Beef Wellington and serve with seasonal vegetables
Beef Wellington affords itself very nicely with a number of red wines because of the delicate flavours. Keep your big bold wines in the cellar and go for a good Bordeaux Claret with rounded tannins. Chateau La Tour du Pin is an excellent example. A Saint Emilion Grand Cru with the added interest of being increasingly rare. Owned by Bernard Arnault and Albert Frère of LVMH (who also own Saint Emilion First Growth Classé A Cheval Blanc . . . which sells for 10 times the price of La Tour du Pin!), this Claret is made by the same wine making team at Cheval Blanc and offers the chance to buy a top flight wine at an absolute bargain at £32! Only a few vintages of this lovely Claret were made before the best of its vineyards were absorbed into Chateau Cheval Blanc. Both the 2006 & 2007 Tour du Pin is drinking well now and is a medium bodied Claret with a fresh, intense and complex bouquet. This is a seriously good wine with silky tannins and a long finish. With its blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc it has flavours of black cherries, strawberry compote and ripe raspberries with notes of liquorice and cherry blossom.
All our wine suggestions and more can be found on
Enjoy and Merry Christmas!