I am not usually very good at following recipes – I get through the first few steps and then start to think “who are you to tell me what to do in my own kitchen?” or “this is only the version of the dish that happened to work for you, not the one that will work for everyone” or “what do you mean I’m not allowed to use dried oregano?”. My favourite recipe book, as far as attitude is concerned, is the Quaker cookbook that (wouldn’t you know it) explicitly allows space for individual interpretation; most of the recipes say things like “cook it until it looks done (about 20 minutes but it depends on your oven)”. But recipes are very useful as starting points, and over this festive season we (ie more or less everyone in the house) cooked a lot and discussed recipe swaps, and Gavin came up with the bright idea of a blog page to which people (either those who were here over Christmas or those who have other seasonal recipes they’d like to share) could post comments with further recipes.
Since everything is a “Solution” these days I’m starting off by organising the recipes according to the particular catering/dietary challenge they’re intended to solve.
We begin with:
Diabetic-Friendly Christmas Solutions
Mincemeat for Pies (adapted from our “Brides and Bachelors” cookbook, so nicknamed because of some entertaining comments in the introduction, penned in 1971). All dried fruit quantities approximate, the key point being not to use any that have added sugar.
8oz raisins, 8oz apples (can be cookers or eaters; peeled and grated), 8oz currants, some flaked almonds if you have them, about 4oz sultanas, 4oz dried apricots, 8oz suet, rind & juice of 1 lemon, lots of grated nutmeg, a generous 2-3 tbsp brandy, 5oz fructose. Mix it all together, mix it some more, squash it into jars, keep until you feel inspired to make mince pies. I don’t put full lids on the pies, which keeps down the carbohydrate count further. They work fine for non-diabetics.
Christmas Pudding But Not As We Know It (recipe inherited from Jocelyn)
1/2 oz wholemeal flour, 1oz wholemeal breadcrumbs, lots of grated nutmeg & a teaspoon of mixed spice, grated rind & juice of 1 lemon, 1 1/2 oz suet, 4 oz any dried fruit, 1/2 oz any chopped nuts, 1/2 small carrot (grated), 1 egg. Mix, squash into 1/2 pint pudding basin, microwave for 3 or 4 minutes just before serving. Unlike regular Christmas pudding, this doesn’t keep. Not usually served to people who aren’t diabetic and therefore expect Christmas pudding to be – well, like it normally is. But Matthew quite likes it.
I’ll leave Gavin to add the famous cranberry cheesecake.
Vegetarian Christmas Solutions
Chestnut Pie (recipe inherited from Jane)
8oz mushrooms, finely chopped (I have left these out on occasion for people who don’t like mushrooms, and it works fine)
Big can (400g or so) of whole chestnuts, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic (optional)
Standard can flageolot beans
6 spring onions (that’s what it says here, though I don’t think I’ve ever put them in; we always seem to have visitors with various allium intolerances and/or all the spring onions in December are airfreighted in from Africa. If not using garlic or spring onions, a small regular onion works fine)
6 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1 courgette, diced
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
750g puff pastry
Beaten egg to glaze
Fry mushrooms (it doesn’t say what in; I use sunflower oil) & regular onion if using, & cook until most of liquid has evaporated. Add chestnuts, garlic, spring onion & beans, & remove from heat.
Mix cheese, egg yolk, yoghurt and courgette.
Roll out half the pastry to a 10in square and put on baking sheet. Put half the chestnut mixture on the pastry, leaving a 1in border. Top with the cheese mixture, then the rest of the chestnuts. Roll out the rest of the pastry to a 10in square. Cut into strips about 1in wide. Dampen edge of pastry base and lay strips diagonaly over the filling. Seal edges. Chill for a while. Glaze and bake 25 mins at gas mark 7.
Deceptive Stuffed Pepper
This was the veggie Christmas Day option for Melissa, which is adapted from Jane’s standard stuffed-vegetable recipe, and it’s deceptive because you can’t believe the ingredients are that simple; I jazzed it up a bit for Christmas mainly because I felt guilty about making something of which the only ingredients were bread, cheese, margarine and parsley. There is no written recipe so I actually have no idea about the numbers, but here goes:
Per person, about 1 chunky slice wholemeal bread made into crumbs, 1 oz margarine, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, 1oz grated strong Cheddar cheese, some grated Parmesan, a good handful of chopped walnuts, plenty of salt and pepper. Mix well, adding more margarine if it doesn’t stick together.
Cook a whole pepper under the grill (put a bit of crushed garlic with it if you like) until it’s just starting to char, turning it more frequently than I did and hence avoiding setting off your smoke alarm. Cool, de-stalk and de-seed, stuff with the stuffing, bake in a medium oven until done (20 mins should be plenty).
December Vegetable Box Solutions
Melissa came up with most of these, like the sprouts with yoghurt/mustard/honey dressing, the broccoli with garlic and chilli, and the amazing celeriac-Jerusalem artichoke-Bramley apple soup. Recipes may follow.
We did take one from the River Cottage cookbook. Some people need no extra publicity and at least a few of them are Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, but I confess to being something of a fan, and he came up with the goods on this one:
Pear, Apple and Beetroot Salad
Per person who’s going to eat quite a lot of salad, or half person at Christmas dinner: 1 crisp eating apple, 1 pear (Melissa will testify that it’s best to take Hugh’s advice and pick one that’s “firm but not quite ripe” as opposed to the ones we actually had, which were really quite ripe), 1 raw beetroot. Peel them all. Chop them all (& be glad you chose firm pears). Mix with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve.