Sample Christmas Menu

Christmas menu from local catering college:
 
Cream of potato and watercress soup
Smoked salmon terrine served with crayfish tails and tartare dressing
 
Paupiette of plaice and spinach duglere (which research assures me is a white fish sauce incorporating crushed tomatoes)
Cheese fritters served on peperonata
 
Roast turkey
Game pie
Char-grilled sirloin steak bearnaise
Parsnip, chestnut and cranberry strudel served with forest mushroom and red wine reduction
 
Roast and creamed potatoes
Brussels sprouts
Puree of carrots and swede
 
Christmas pudding with rum sauce
Pecan truffle stuffed pear served with vanilla ice-cream and maple syrup sauce
Old English sherry trifle with syllabub sauce

 
The strudel could run the risk of being sweet, and is deffo v carby. The pecan pear sounds good, though …

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Somerset Brie and Spiced Plum Tart

Another pickup from a menu title: Somerset Brie and Spiced Plum Tart with a watercress salad. I would imagine either crisp shortcrust or flaky pastry, a spiced plum compote base, maybe peeled halved plums stewed and laid in it. Topped with slices of brie, rubbed with garlic, maybe? and just heated through to melting. You could get stupidly rich and make a small tart case the size to take a whole camembert or mini-brie, bake it, scoop off the lid peel and top with a warm compote just before serving – but that would be way too much for a starter, which is what this nominally is.

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Curried Fish with Pistachio

Tonight we tried a new DrGourmet recipe, Pistachio Crusted Grouper Braised in Curry . Grouper isn't easily available over here, but our fishmonger had caught it in Florida, and recommended if we were after something similar but not too ordinary, we could try barramundi. And very edible it was too. The basic recipe involves coating 2 x 4oz fillets of fish in 3/4 oz pistachio nuts, ground, and baking in a very hot oven (gas mark 9) in a sprayed pre-heated skillet, 8 – 10 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile you heat in the microwave:

 

1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp. salt
  fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp garam masala
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. fresh lime juice

and pour it over the fish and bake for about another 4 minutes.

I was quite concerned as I don't usually think curry spices do well unless dry-fried or heated in oil first. And the amount of acid looked a bit iffy. I left out the salt as I use bottled chicken stock concentrate which is salty anyway. When I took the fish out of the oven the sauce had dried away, and had to be resurrected with some additional hot water. I'd tipped the remainder of the pistachios from the fish-coating plate in with it, and it was definitely trying hard to be a korma. It was vaguely curry-tasting, but overall a bit bland – a lot of his curries are far too mild for British tastes. We'll definitely have it again, but I'll pick a more robust fish, monkfish would do well I think, or just a plain white fish block. The remainder of the nuts could be ground finer and heated with the sauce separately to thicken it more, and keep it softer. The fish coating would have been crunchier, which would have made more it more interesting in terms of texture. Extra heat, either from some fresh chilli in the sauce, extra curry powder, or some dried chilli flakes in the pistachio coating.

We had plain basmati rice with it, and some melon on the side because I couldn't be bothered to do a real fresh chutney or raita. It does need a fresh savoury crunch with it though, something with tomatoes and red onion maybe. And you could blitz a load of fresh coriander into the sauce to make a pesto-sort-of-thing. You've got plenty of calories to play with, the fish dish comes in at 204 per serving.

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Blue Cheese and Parsnip Puffs (Souffles)

I have to admit I still have never cooked a souffle. It always seemed too much faff, there's that whole "last moment" thing, and nowadays they're not on the approved list. But these looked very yummy, and, dammit, it's about time. From Good Housekeeping December 1999, serves 8 at 189 cals per serving.

 

  • 225 gms parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 50 gms butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 50 gms flour
  • 284 ml carton milk
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 50 gms Gruyere, grated
  • 75 gms blue cheese, crumbled – suggests Stilton or Dolcelatte

Boil parsnips til tender. Drain, dry well over low heat, and mash.

Lightly butter 8 150 ml ramekins and put on a baking sheet.

Melt the butter, stir in flour and mix til smooth. Take off heat and blend in milk, reheat to boil, stirring continuously. Cool a little, beat in the egg yolks, Gruyere and parsnip puree, season.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peak, fold into parsnip mixture with the blue cheese. Don't overdo it.

Fill the ramekins almost to the top, cook at Gas Mark 6 for 15 – 20 minutes until puffed up and brown. Serve immediately.

I'd pop them on a bigger plate with some bitter salad – chicory, rocket, watercress, or they'd be a bit rich by themselves. While they'd make a great starter, you couldn't have a cheeseboard really after, and they might be better as a main course for a smaller meal – lunch or supper, maybe with some crusty bread. Be careful with the salt because of the cheese.

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Brussels Sprout Kebabs

Now, someone who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty brought Brussels Sprout Kebabs to a Bonfire Party on Saturday. Which was a stroke of genius, and yes, I did try one. But all he'd done was stick 4 sprouts on a skewer and grill them. So the outside was hard and crisp and the inside was softer but chewy, where it had steamed in its own water, but not enough.

We had a long conversation about how to improve them, and came up with the following ideas:

1) probably parboiling them for a few minutes beforehand would be a good idea

2) you could thread other things in amongst them – hard nuts would not work, but chestnuts might if you were prepared for them falling apart. Thinking about it again now, halloumi cheese might be good. I know you're thinking chunks of bacon, we'll come onto that in a bit.

3) marinading or at least basting – some kind of flavoured melted butter or oil. Nut oils such as hazelnut would be good by themselves, butter – you could add finely chopped onion, garlic, nutmeg, black pepper, ground nuts such as almond or hazelnut, honey, parmesan – although not all of them at once! just a select few. This was where we starting thinking about bacon, but we didn't take it far enough.

4) the blindingly obvious thing to do, now I've been writing it down, is Sprout Rumaki. Take your parboiled sprout, cut it in half, and match it up with half a chestnut to form a globular construct. Season with your choice of spices, but don't add salt. Wrap the globe in thin fatty bacon, preferably smoked, and secure with a toothpick. Grill until the bacon is done and crispy and the insides are nice and hot. Serve with a savoury dip – creamy bread sauce would be best of all …

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Carrot and Coriander Muffins

I lik muffins for breakfast, and most of the recipes I have are sweet. These looked interesting and different, and come out at 204 cals per muffin. My normal blueberry muffins have 174, but I use non-fat yoghourt, low-fat buttermilk, sunflower spread, Splenda and non-fat egg substitute. So I expect with some tweaking I could get these down. Recipe makes 9 deep / large muffins. From delicious, September 2005.

 

  • 2 tsp cumin seed
  • 175 gms carrots
  • 50 gms pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 150 gms plain flour
  • 100 gms wholemeal flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • some black pepper – doesn't list it on ingredients but is mentioned in recipe
  • 200 ml milk (it doesn't say, but go for semi-skimmed)
  • 1 egg (try soy egg replacement)
  • 4 tbsps olive oil (think this might be necessary … the lightest you can find)

Preheat oven to Gas 5. Line 9 holes of a deep muffin tray.

Dry fry the cumin seed until toasted. Put into a large bowl, and add the carrot (coarsely grated), the pumpkin seeds and coriander.

Sift and add all other dry ingredients.

Add milk, egg and oil, stirring lightly until just mixed.

Fill each muffin hole 2/3rds full. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until risen and firm. Cool 5 minutes, turn onto wire rack. Best the day they're made but can be frozen.

 

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