Christmas preparations

I keep thinking there's too much space in the fridge, but that's because the ham is in the oven and the goose crown is still in the freezer.

I've got the Ginger / Wasabi salmon on Day 2. The ham is lightly wrapped in foil, on a bed of fresh bay leaves, coriander and mustard seed, and allspice berries, in a Gas Mark 4 oven. It should come out around 7:30, which gives me plenty of time to decide what to glaze / crust it with.

We went to Beanies this morning and bought several sackfuls of veg, also to Fresh Asia in Broomhill to get some interesting things for the Japanese Experiment on Christmas Eve.

My thoughts so far are:

Tonight – venison liver, parsnip rosti, redcurrant jelly, cauliflower
Tuesday – main meal out at lunchtime in town, which could be anything. If we're hungry when we come home, individual baked baby camemberts with crusty ground hazelnut topping and bread and pear wedges to dunk.
Wednesday – last minute supermarket shopping, main meal in the evening of cured salmon, braised belly pork, miso-marinated grilled chicken, fresh pickled vegetables, carrot and sesame salad, cold green tea noodles, possibly some hand-rolled sushi, maybe some steamed aubergine with peanut sauce. There are some Sekrit Treats to go with this, and some bizarre pickled substances I bought this morning.
Thursday – roast goose, roast potatoes, parsnips, baby baby sprouts, braised red cabbage and chestnuts, cornbread sage dressing, gravy, ginger sauce, pickled pears – Christmas pudding
Friday – Ham, pork pie, salad, cheese, fruit, Christmas cake
Saturday – something fresh and spicy, maybe a set of veggie curries
Sunday – I have a joint of spiced cured beef, I may do something with that
After that we're into leftovers. 

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Ginger Wasabi Cured Salmon

In the past we’ve made this, which is wonderful, but I’ve had in the back of my mind a more oriental version that would go well with sushi-type things rather than the traditional blinis and cream. So, today I have taken:

  • 2 fillets lovely dark pink wild alaska salmon, the same size and shape and weighing about 500 gms total
  • 3 heaped tablespoons caster sugar
  • 2 heaped tablespoons coarse crystal salt
  • 1 teaspoon wasabi powder (freshly opened)
  • 1 big hand fresh ginger, very coarsely grated but not peeled.

I put one piece of salmon skin-side down on some clingfilm, mixed up the cure ingredients, and spread them on top. Whacked the other bit of salmon on to complete the sandwich (skin-side up), wrapped the package up tightly. I’ve put it in a deep oval dish in the fridge, with a plate and the Christmas gammon on top to weight it. Today’s the 21st, I shall turn it and look after it every day, with a view to serving it for supper on Christmas Eve. I’ll wipe the cure off and cut it in slices, like a thick cut smoked salmon.

Purist Japanese foodies can look away now, but I’m going to do a variety of beginner dishes from Just Hungry, with what I can easily get locally, and have a munchie buffet.

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Restaurant Review – Sakushi

Yesterday four of us went for a late lunch to Sakushi, Sheffield's first sushi bar. Yum.

It is a very elegant space, almost opposite the Wig and Pen on Campo Lane. The conveyor belt travels in a loop from the kitchen, past the edges of a handful of white leather booths, around a stone water feature, and back along a bar where you can sit on a stool. Away from the belt is a normal seating area, where you can do pukka restaurant stuff if you don't fancy the belt.

We didn't get there till just after 2, and they close at 3. So there was a limited selection on the belt, but they were happy to make anything to order. The belt concentrates on sushi and side dishes such as gyoza, pickles, deep-fried bits of meat, salads. There were also a few desserts randomly scattered – chocolate fondant and a mousse thing. You can have sashimi, which is always cut fresh to order, and a selection of soup or fried ramen dishes. There's not a wide range of drinks, but there is Asahi beer, a large wine list, sake, juice and fizzy water. He's quite proud of having Asahi Black, which is apparently a bit rare round here.

We had two beginners with us, including a fisheating vegetarian, so we decided to go with what was on the belt and not get into the really exciting stuff on the menu. Although we did get four orders of sashimi – two salmon and two hamachi (yellow tail). The belt moved slowly enough to get stuff off it easily, but fast enough to provide an interesting show. The table was stocked with soy sauce and some excellent pickled ginger slices, and freshly-prepared wasabi arrived with the drinks.

I can't remember everything we had, but it included: California, Philadelphia and Ebi Ten Uramaki, Edamame Beans, Japanese Pickled Vegetables, Chicken Gyosa, Kushi-Age, Vegetable Croquettes, Spring Roll, Tonkatsu, random nigiri and maki, and some little fried nibbles that we couldn't identify. With a beer for John and soft drinks for the rest of us, it came to £20 per head.

Sushi is one of those things, especially with the belts, where you could go on grazing for ages nages, and we did rather overdo it on quantity. But it was great fun, if you took something and didn't like it there were three other people to take it off your hands. And we tried all sorts of new stuff.

I'd definitely go again – you could do it a lot cheaper if you were careful what you had, or you could really splash out for a special occasion. There were a few things I spotted on the menu that I'd really like to try, as well …

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Christmas Day menu

Breakfast:

Beetroot-cured salmon, blinis, hardboiled quail eggs, creme fraiche, Ovruga fake caviar, chives and dill. Champagne or clementine juice, coffee.

Dinner:

Glass of Taylor's Chip Dry White Port, chilled.

Roast goose, goosefat roast potatoes, butter roast parsnips, sausages in bacon, sage and onion stuffing balls, plain boiled sprouts, petits pois, ginger cream sauce, port and redcurrant gravy. Choice of spiced pickled pears, sweet spiced prunes, cherry compote, cranberry and horseradish relish. Chateau Neuf du Pape.

Christmas pudding with cream or white sauce or rum butter. Orange Muscat Flora.

Coffee and Bendicks mints.

Late supper:

Winter apple, Comte cheese, clementine.

Phew.

 

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Crusader Salmon

An old idea, and I've usually followed the Glynn Christian version for a whole salmon. But there were only three of us, so I changed it a bit. Well, quite a lot, actually.

Start with 5 – 6 indiividual fillet boneless portions of salmon, skin off, and lay on a foil-covered baking tray, that's been drizzled with a little olive oil. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 5, and the grill to high.

Take:

  • 3 knobs of stem ginger in syrup
  • 2 tbsps the ginger syrup
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • half a lemon, peel shredded
  • 50 gms shelled pistachios
  • 1 onion that's been baked slowly for a long time
  • ground cinnamon, allspice, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic puree

Whizz in a processor the first three ingredients, to a rough mix. Tip out and mix with the peel, grind the pistachios coarsely and add. Whizz the onion to a coarse paste (this happens really fast, watch it), and stir in with the spices, tasting as you go. You want sharp, sweet, slightly hot. It will be v. wet. Add salt-and-sugar-free muesli, sprinkling on a bit at a time until it feels like porridge and looks like it will hold together well. If you're using a muesli base, you probably need some raisins or sultanas.

Spread the topping on the fillets to make a crust. Cook 10 -12 mins in the oven, then under the grill to crisp the topping and make it nice and brown. This took 5 – 7 minutes. We had a mix of thick but narrow pieces, and wide flat ones. The thick ones had less topping per portion, but the salmon was done about right. The wide ones were surplus to requirements, and are in the fridge.

Served with plain boiled rice and some fresh green beans stir-fried in a garlic and chicken stock sauce, with toasted flaked almonds.

Didn't really need a sauce as the topping was so moist inside, but maybe a wetter vegetable dish to go with it? or a more pilau style of rice.

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The Most Pretentious Menu I’ve Seen Yet

Menu from a conference dinner (the venue has a maritime / naval warfare historical connection, which may explain some of the more florid bits)
 
Warm Mousseline of Sussex Chicken stuffed with Cave Matured Roquefort and Fresh Harvested Walnuts with a Sauce of Sorrel Hollandaise and Julienne of Russet Apples
 
A Ravioli in the Colours of the Kingdom of Naples filled with Scottish Lobster, Salmon and Ginger from the Windward Islands and topped with Deep Fried Leeks
 
Cannon of English Lamb stuffed with Wild Woodland Mushrooms and Truffles, imprisoned in a pastry cage with a Sauce of Wild Rowan Berries and a Plume of French Bar-le-Duc
Black Potatoes from the Ardennes
Bundles of Vegetables gathered fresh from the garden
 
A Miniature Gateau flavoured with Liquorice from the Spanish Maine concealing a heart of liquid fire glazed with Quince Jelly and served on Lapsang Creme Anglaise with Baby Pear finished with an arabesque of purest gold.
 
Glazed Normandy Brie with Wild Mulberries and Bath Oliver Biscuits
 
Coffee and Homemade Truffles
 
I had to look up Bar-Le-Duc, it's a French preserve named after a town in Lorraine, traditionally made with whole redcurrants which have had the seeds extracted by little old ladies using a goose quill. I would normally spell Spanish Main without the "e", but otherwise there were no spelling mistakes – too many capitals but consistently used. On the whole though – YUCK – over complicated, and generally a right mess. Apparently the dessert was a sponge with something like a malteser in the middle, which in turn had a brandy liqueur centre. It wasn't popular. And the Brie was glazed with a sugar topping, so two desserts.
 
One idea worth playing with might be the Lapsang custard with a poached pear, that could be an interesting combo. 

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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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