… this weekend was our pre-christmas Christmas and I am exhausted. I’ve enjoyed every last moment of it and I know I said that Christmas Day should be stress-free it is unrealistic to suggest that balancing the timing of cooking a giant bird, roasting a leg of lamb, roasting potatoes, gravy-making and veg steaming would ever be anything other than tense. As the chef you want it to taste amazing and you want everything to come out of the oven at the same time whilst entertaining your friends and keeping them from being bored or hungry whilst you push the time for lunch back by an hour… and then another… but i’m sorry, with a bird that big it’s simply not possible to hit the nail on the head with precision. However, if there’s a few things I can share from yesterdays lunch then here they are:
- try and kept simple – we did a turkey and a leg of lamb which were both nice but frankly if I hadn’t had my double oven we would have eaten at leat two hours after we did and even then the lamb set us back…
- If I had been braver I would have bunged 2 chickens into the oven. I am confident with a chicken and I know how long they take to cook and quite frankly they taste nicer
- try and cook some of the vegetables and anything else, ahead of time – so your roast parsnips and potatoes can in fact be cooked ahead of time, even the day before and 20 mins prior to eating can be laid out in a large tray and roasted to crispy perfection – the same works for your mashes and stuffing so that all you’re doing on the big day is the steaming of the greens. This also means you’re not standing in the kitchen all day.
- have a list prepared of the things that you can get yours guests to help with when they pester you for things to do when in fact you just want them out of the kitchen… so things like, peeling veg or putting those little crosses in the top of the sprouts or making stuffing balls or setting the table. Someone should have the role of drink topper-upper and someone should ensure there’s always water to drink too. If you have your list prepared then you won’t feel hassled.
- I know i’ve said it before but a giant turkey needs at least 45 minutes resting time and will retain it’s heat if wrapped well so use this time to do all the other fiddly bits…
and if none of the above help then remember that Prosecco works a treat to blur away the stress… of course my favourite anecdote from the weekend was when speaking with our local butcher and complaining how difficult it is to get a fresh turkey prior to Christmas week. His simple answer was ‘well, they only started killing them yesterday…’ which was nice….
festive gluten-free and vegetarian rocky road
if you’re a fan of Nigella you’ll have seen her make this classic dish on one of her Christmas TV shows… I think it’s probably night time, with twinkly lights everywhere as the camera soft-focuses on her lips and breasts and the melted chocolate lustfully poured into the bowl and then lingers seductively as she dusts icing sugar like oh so much snow onto her mountain of rocky road. It’s pure food porn but it is a brilliant and utterly delicious little festive snack and ridiculously easy to make so there should be very little excuses. You may think this is an odd dish to claim the gluten-free and vegetarian qualities but there are some quite specific ingredients that take the rocky road from regular to festive and with one of our guests Lisa, being gluten intolerant and 2 other guests being vegetarian I had to find alternatives, which I did. The Amaretti biscuits are by Orgran (and where divine) and the mashmallows (which yes, is made with gelatine people!!!) are from Freedom Mallows which are free from quite a few nasties and are also rather lovely.
- 250g dark chocolate
- 150g milk chocolate
- 175g soft butter
- 4 tablespoons golden syrup
- 200g amaretti biscuits
- 150g mixed nuts and raisins
- 150g red glace cherries
- 125g mini marshmallows
- 1 tablespoon icing sugar
- edible glitter
break both the chocolates into small chunks and then put into a heavy-based pan to melt along with the butter and syrup over a gentle heat.
put the biscuits into a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin to get big- and little-sized crumbs; you want some pieces to crunch and finer, then do the same with the nuts. Then place these into a large bowl along with the fried fruit, marshmallows and nuts.
take the pan off the heat, and pour the melted liquid onto the other ingredients and carefully fold the whole lot together to coat everything with syrupy chocolate.
tip into a foil tray (I use one 236mm x 296mm / 9¼ x 12 inches), smoothing the top as best you can, although it will look bumpy.
refrigerate until firm enough to cut, which will take about 1½–2 hours. Then take the set block of rocky road out of the foil tray ready to cut.
push the icing sugar through a small sieve to dust the top of the Rocky Road. Then, if you like, add a sprinkling of edible glitter for some festive sparkle. (although don’t give the edible glitter to Lisa Potter Dixon or she’ll spray everything that doesn’t move and some stuff that does!)
with the long side in front of you, cut into it 6 slices down and 4 across, so that you have 24 almost-squares.
i’m linking this beauties to my favourite bloggers link-up We Should Cocoa, hosted by the wonderful Choclette at Tin and Thyme… they’re also going over to the Treat Petite linky hosted by CakeyBoi and The Baking Explorer…
eat and of course, enjoy!