Festive treasures

Christmas treasures

Out-of-the-ordinary ideas for your Christmas feast


Simplify is my mantra in the kitchen.

Even, or maybe especially so, on special occasions, like Christmas. Celebrating is meant to be social after all, and slaving away in the kitchen on your own is everything but.

Making things easier, better, or just more like you doesn't have to be complicated or difficult. Sometimes the solution is right under our nose, but we can't see it until we change perspective.

Here's an example... Like some, I used to be a Brussels sprout hater. Steamed Brussels wasn't something I would eat voluntarily, any time of the year. But then my vegbox subscription forced me to go looking for better ways of making them. I went into research mode (for me that means having fun browsing through my favourite cookbooks and sites) and learned that Brussels sprouts hate water and love fat, spices, and a bit of acidity to balance their bitterness. I have since tried them roasted with butter, cumin and harissa, sautéed with bacon, honey and balsamic, and stir-fired with miso and ginger. Guess what... no more sprout hating in my house! The trick is to avoid water, and be generous with strong flavours.

So whether your challenge is about making the bird roasting easier, coming up with a vegetarian centrepiece or a festive meal for two, or rustling up an easy side or one-of-a-kind salad... I suggest you have fun with the research and never dismiss the unusual solutions. I'm not a recipe writer, and I won't turn into one for this occasion, but I have put together a collection of my favourite resources and ideas for an out-of-the-ordinary Christmas feast here. Enjoy!

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NOTE: This post was written as a companion piece to a week of festive guest posting in the TREE newsletter. You can check it out here!


ALL THE LINKS

TURKEY SHORTCUT

If turkey is a must... do you really need to roast it whole? Roasting it in pieces makes everything soooo much easier (and less time consuming too).


DINNER FOR ONE OR TWO

A different way with chicken pieces from Nigel Slater, perfect for a smaller gathering. Simply amazing (and simple enough to make any weekday).


A WHOLE FISH

Roast a whole fish is my favourite way of cooking fish, and it looks the part too.
I just stuff the belly with garlic, lemon slices and herbs, and douse with olive oil, salt and lemon juice. When you can easily pull out the spikes across the back of the fish it's done.

A whole side of salmon also looks impressive.
Salmon needs punchy flavours to cut through, I recently came across this great idea in Nadiya Hussain's book 'Fast Flavours': salsa verde slamon.
This is my riff on the recipe: https://www.theintuitivecook.co.uk/blog/salmon-salsa-verde

VEGETARIAN CENTRE PIECES

Veggie dishes can easily steal the show and hold their own if you focus on flavours and colours (Anna Jones just has the best ideas here!)

a pie as a centre piece
http://www.annajones.co.uk/recipe/celebratory-celeriac-sweet-garlic-pie
http://www.annajones.co.uk/recipe/beetroot-tart

a nut roast
http://www.annajones.co.uk/recipe/the-best-ever-nut-roast-with-pistachios-and-cranberries

and a different take on nut roast
http://www.annajones.co.uk/recipe/seeded-pistachio-and-squash-galette

whole roast cauli
https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/whole-roasted-cauliflower/
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/oct/24/whole-roasted-vegetable-recipes-squash-cauliflower-anna-jones-the-modern-cook

colourful tray roast
https://www.instagram.com/p/CWYXHoEMrKK/


SIDES WITH A TWIST

  • Roast potatoes with a (Greek) twist
    Add some lemon juice and lemons zest to your potatoes before roasting. I like cumin and oregano too.
  • Technicolor mashed potatoes
    Impress the kids with purple, green or even blue potato mash? (several colours, even?)
    Add grated beetroot, pureed spinach, or mashed sweet potato to add colour to your mash.
    And yes, blue is possible too! (use red cabbage and baking soda)

and even more ideas for sides:

https://www.theguardian.com/li...

http://annajones.co.uk/recipe/...


DESSERT

I don't have much of a sweet tooth so I'm the wrong person to advise on fancy dessert...but I occasionally love a not-so-sweet zero-fuss sweet treat.

Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts

Whipped yoghurt with cream, cocoa powder, maple syrup

Baked apples

  • carefully core apples, fill the hole with raisins and chopped nuts, drizzle with honey & cinnamon, top with a bit of butter, bake until golden
  • serve with cream or ice cream

Fruit compote (stewed fruit)

  • roughly chop fruit, gently simmer with a tiny bit of water, and as little honey/sugar as you can bear (you want to taste the fruit, not the sugar)
  • stewed apple: cinnamon, vanilla and a squeeze of lemon
  • stewed rhubarb: ginger, vanilla and orange


LESS WASTE

Most of the food we throw away is perfectly edible...

Freeze veggie scraps to make stock or stock paste
https://afarmofyourhome.com/scrap-vegetable-stock-paste/

Use the whole bird (and save the bones for making stock!) 

Don't throw away your cauliflower leaves! Try this quick pickle instead. (Also works with finely chopped broccoli stems or cabbage cores.)
Pickles are great for adding some zing and some life to cloying over-rich flavours.
https://www.instagram.com/reel/CV-dgOhIDtQ


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