Cooking for Christmas Weekend – This week I’ve spent ages typing up Erik’s ‘real’ work (the blog is ‘fun’ work for us), written all the Christmas Cards, cleaned and polished the dining room and now it is really time to get ahead and have a ‘Cooking for Christmas Weekend’.
I’ve still not go round to making my Mince Pies, but this weekend I want the house to smell of those lovely Christmas spicy smells, so they will be the first things to do. I have some lovely memories of making Mince Pies with my first grandson, Jay. Because I used to own a cookshop, and I am addicted to cookware, I have a wonderful selection of biscuit cutters. I like the pies with a pastry top, but when Jay was with me at baking time, he had the choice of Robins, Angels, Crackers, Stars, Holly Leaves, Reindeers, Christmas Trees (mini, medium or big), Snowflakes, Snowmen and more to cut out from the pastry scraps, wash with egg and stick on top of the pies. I think his favourites were the Robin and Reindeer cutters. Happy times. He’s now 12 years old, and luckily still loves cooking when he comes here. But this year I won’t have my ‘little helper’ (who’s now almost as tall as I am), so will have to bake the pies on my own. We like medium sized Mince Pies, and the small ‘nibble’ sized ones as well. Pictures will be forthcoming, providing we don’t eat all the pies this weekend.
I try and prepare as much as possible beforehand, so that I can enjoy Christmas Day with the family. So I will be buying my Brussel Sprouts, preparing them, then blanch them for a couple of minutes in boiling water, drain then plunge into ice-cold water, drain well once more and put into a freezer bag, ready to plunge once more into a pan of boiling water on Christmas Day. One year, when I had to cater for 13 family and friends, I went one further, and put the sprouts in a ‘boil in the bag’ which kept the pan clean. I have also pre-prepared Duchesse Potatoes occasionally. Mashed my potatoes with lots of butter, a whisked up egg and seasoning, and piped into generous Duchess shaped whirls, then frozen them. It worked out perfectly. They needed defrosting for 3/4 hours then just popped into the oven for about 15/20 minutes until just gently browning on the tops. Perfect!
I’ve already talked about my Forcemeat (or Parsley and Thyme) Stuffing, where all the dry ingredients are prepared and put into a freezer bag, frozen until Christmas Day then finished off. You can freeze Cranberry Sauce, but I find it so easy to do the day before and keep in the fridge. As a family, we had always had sausages wrapped in bacon, nowadays called ‘Pigs in Blankets’. So again, I do loads because we love these to eat hot with the Turkey and cold on Boxing Day (my choice is to dip the cold ‘Pigs’ into cold Bread Sauce and them I’m in heaven!) As they say, there’s no accounting for taste! So off to my local butcher, Gary Alden, of Hessle, and buy about 30 of his best chipolatas, and streaky bacon, and wrap the sausages well, then freeze them. Take out of the freezer on Christmas Eve night, then they will be ready to cook.
I love to cook the Sausage and Bacon Rolls in with the Turkey. Obviously the Turkey goes in for hours, but in its last 3/4 of an hour in the oven, I add a big glug of Madeira wine, which mixes with the Turkey juices, then stick the sausages around it. The rich flavours melt into the sausages, and when I take the Turkey out to rest, I put the sausages into a roasting tray lined with with either Bacoglide or non-stick foil, and give them 20 minutes at a medium heat, just to crisp up the bacon wrapped around them. The flavour is fantastic. We devour them.
Bread Sauce I like to cook on the day. I use the traditional recipe, but add more cloves, just ‘cos I’m the cook, and I love cloves! I prepare my carrots and parsnips the day before, and put in a plastic bag in the Fridge. I love them in medium chunks, roasted in a bit of oil with with thyme and honey (put non-stick foil in roasting tin).
But this weekend I will also be making my favourite Quiche Lorraine and some of my favourite Chocolate Refrigerator Cake. A sort of Panforte with a difference, and I throw in crushed Hobnobs, melted dark chocolate, Golden Syrup, nuts, dried Redcurrants and dried Blueberries (don’t tell the children – they love it but if I told them what was in it, they’d turn their noses up!). I will flush out the proper recipe and put it in the blog. It’s great, because you can put bit-sized amounts in tiny gold-foil cake cases so it looks stunning, or cut in chunks or slices, and you can freeze it. So take your choice!
Recipes and Pictures will be forthcoming, and more ideas to help in a Cooking for Christmas Weekend. I’m really looking forward to it.