Tag Archives: meal

Christmas and Thanksgiving Timetable

Christmas and Thanksgiving can be a very stressful time if you’re the chief cook and bottlewasher in the house.  Even if you regularly cook roast meals, there is extra pressure on these two occasions to produce a meal fit for the King of Siam and his entourage because Christmas and Thanksgiving almost invariably involve big family get togethers. 

Your exact meal is obviously entirely up to you but I thought it might just be helpful to map out a suggested main-course menu (because this is what we all worry about) plus suggested timing.  Make this schedule the basis of your Christmas menu planning and add or delete items that you want to include or remove.  Remember, the clever cook will always plan ahead so that they don’t totally lose their mind (and cool) on ‘The Big Day’. 

Suggested Main Menu – Serves 8

Cider roast turkey with glazed apples and pears with sticky shallots

‘Pigs in blankets’ (little sausages wrapped in bacon)

Chestnut & cranberry roll

Crisp-topped sprouts

Buttery caraway carrots

Roast potatoes

Bread sauce

Gravy

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PREPARING AHEAD – All dishes to be kept in fridge or freezer until needed

Up to 1 Month Ahead

Parboil and freeze the Roast Potatoes

Make the Chestnut and Cranberry Roll, if freezing

***Up to 3 Days Ahead***

***If you have bought a frozen turkey, think about how you plan to defrost it. Be aware that in a fridge a frozen bird of the size appropriate to feed 8 people could take anything from a day and a half to two and a half days to properly defrost.  Suggested sizes of bird are here and tips on defrosting here (this second link takes you to the British Food Standards Agency site).  

Up to 2 Days Ahead

Make the Chestnut and Cranberry Roll if making from fresh

Prepare and roast the Glazed Apples and Pears with Sticky Shallots

Christmas Eve

Roast the Chestnut and Cranberry stuffing roll – keep in the foil

Make the bread sauce and store, covered, in the fridge

Boil or steam the sprouts and prepare the topping for the Crispy-topped Sprouts

Steam the carrots for the Buttery Caraway Carrots

Prepare the Pigs in Blankets

Defrost anything frozen in the fridge.

CHRISTMAS DAY

09.30am:

Stuff the turkey, weigh and calculate cooking time.  Heat oven to 190C  /  375F  /  Gas mark 5  /  (Fan oven: 170C, approx 340F)

10.00am:

Put the turkey in to roast (timings based on a 4.5 kg / 10lb turkey)

11.00am and 12.00pm:

Check the roasting tin – add more cider if needed

12.30pm:

Remove the foil from the turkey to let it brown

1.00 pm:

Leave the turkey to rest.  Put the potatoes in the oven to roast, if frozen.  (If not, put in at 1.10pm).  Make the gravy.

1.30pm:

Turn the oven up to 220C  /  425F  /  Gas 7  /(Fan 200C  / 400F).  Turn the potatoes and add the stuffing roll to oven to reheat.  Put the ‘pigs in blankets’  in oven to cook.

1.45pm:

Reheat the apples, pears and shallots in the oven if room, or in the microwave if not, adding a little extra glaze.  Finish the sprouts and the carrots and heat the bread sauce, adding a little milk if it seems too thick.  Take the foil off the stuffing.

2.00pm:

Serve and enjoy!  If you have a hot pudding planned for dessert, place it in the oven and allow the residual heat to warm it through while you eat.

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Mama’s Minestrone

Minestrone1Minestrone is such a wonderful soup.  It’s low calorie yet jam-packed with flavour and vitamin goodness and is so easy to make.  Below is my recipe – not authentic but utterly delicious.  The use of Spanish chorizo gives a delicious, rich smokey undertone that I personally love.  (This would make a good vegetarian supper – just leave out the chorizo – the beans, of course, providing a good source of protein).  That’s the beauty of this soup – make it your own with your own combination of favourite Summertime herbs and vegetables and don’t get too strung out on amounts.  If you over enthusiastically end up with a little too much veg in the pot, just add more stock to compensate.

One word of advice before we begin – try to chop the veg consistently quite small (cm cubes should do it).  It’s not a deal breaker but the finished product will look so much prettier.

Ingredients (serves 6 – 8 )

50g Spanish chorizo, cubed

2-3 tbsps olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 medium carrots (about 170g or 6 oz), chopped

2 sticks of celery, chopped

4 new potatoes (about 170g or 6 oz), chopped

85g / 3 oz  petit pois (baby peas)

85g / 3 oz French green beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces

1 x 400g tin (14 oz) chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin (14 oz) cannellini or white haricot beans

1 tsp fresh thyme

1.5 litres (6 cups) good vegetable stock

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve (optional): fresh, grated Parmesan cheese and maybe a drizzle of olive oil

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and toss in the chorizo and then the onion.  Allow to fry gently for 2-3 minutes and then add the carrots, potatoes, celery, peas and beans.  Stir and continue to fry gently for another 2-3 mins, just to let the vegetables begin to ‘sweat’.  Add the chopped tomatoes, beans, thyme, vegetable stock and black pepper.  (I would only add extra salt, if needed, at the end of cooking because most commercially prepared stocks already contain a lot of salt).  Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat right down, partially cover the pan and allow the soup to simmer gently for 30 minutes.  At the end of this time check how the hardest vegetables are doing – they should be yielding but not mushy – and taste to check the seasoning.  If needed, leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes.

To serve, you can sprinkle this soup with a little fresh, grated parmesan cheese and/or a drizzle of extra virgin olive  oil.  This soup is very nice served with warm, crusty French bread.

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Ratatouille

Ratatouille VegIn late Summer/early Autumn shops here are full of peppers, herbs, onions, tomatoes, aubergines (eggplants) and courgettes (zucchini).  They’re just crying out to be put together for a lovely fresh bowl of Ratatouille.  This would make a lovely light meal on its own, maybe with some crusty French bread on the side to mop up the juices.  If you’re vegetarian and want to add some extra protein then I have occasionally added a tin of ready cooked white haricot or borlotti beans in the last 10 minutes, just to heat through.  Alternatively take the original Ratatouille mix and put it in a shallow, oven proof dish.  Sprinkle with cheese and flash under a hot grill until the cheese starts to brown (very satisfying on a chilly evening).  This dish is absolutely bursting with Mediterranean flavour and goodness – olive oil, brightly coloured veg and garlic – just what the doctor ordered.

Before we begin, let me just say that you should keep the vegetable chunks quite large and stir very gently, otherwise the mix can all too easily lose all texture.

Ingredients (for 4 people)

2 large aubergines (eggplants), roughly chopped

4 courgettes (zucchini), roughly chopped

150ml / 1/4 pint / 2/3 cup olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large red pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

2 large yellow peppers, seeded and roughly chopped

sprig of fresh rosemary

sprig of fresh thyme

5ml / 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed

3 plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped

8 basil leaves, torn

salt and freshly ground black pepper

sprigs of parsley or basil, to garnish

Method

Aubergines (eggplants) nowadays shouldn’t need salting but if you know you are using an old-fashioned variety: place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, pop a plate and then a weight on top and leave for 30 minutes for the bitter juice to run out.

Otherwise, begin by heating the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onions and fry gently for 6-7 minutes, until just softened.  Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

If you had salted the aubergine (eggplant) rinse it and pat dry with a clean dish towel.  Add the aubergine to the pan with the red and yellow peppers, increase the heat and saute until the peppers are just turning brown.

Add the rosemary, thyme and coriander seeds, then cover the pan and cook very gently for 40 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cook gently for a further 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not too mushy.  Remove the sprigs of rosemary and thyme.  Stir in the torn basil leaves and check seasoning.  Leave to cool slightly and serve warm or cold, garnished with sprigs of parsley.

Ratatouille

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Tomato and Lentil Dahl with Toasted Almonds

DahlSomeone asked me for this recipe recently so I thought I’d post it here.

Tried and trusted, it gives the most delicious result, making for a light but nutritious vegetarian meal, rich and full of flavour (although mild, rather than mind-blowingly hot).

Serve it with some warm naan bread and maybe some cool, refreshing natural yoghurt.

Tomato and Lentil Dahl with Toasted Almonds

Serves 4

Ingredients

*As usual, my suggested substitutes for the ingredients have been included and have worked well when the original are unavailable (or you can’t be bothered with peeling and de-seeding tomatoes!).

30ml / 2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 carrot, diced

10ml / 2 tsp yellow mustard seeds (*sub: same quantity of grainy mustard)

2.5 cm / 1 inch piece root ginger, grated

10 ml / 2 tsp ground turmeric

5 ml / 1 tsp mild chilli powder

5 ml / 1 tsp garam masala

225g / 8 oz / 1 cup split red lentils

400 ml / 14 fl oz / 1-2/3 cups water

400 ml / 14 fl oz / 1-2/3 coconut milk

5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (*sub: 400g tin chopped tomatoes, drained)

Juice of 2 limes

60 ml / 4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

25g / 1 oz / 1/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted, to serve

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Method

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan.  Sauté the onion for 5 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic, carrot, cumin, mustard seeds and ginger.  Cook for 5 minutes until the seeds begin to pop and the carrot softens slightly.

Stir in the ground turmeric, chilli powder and garam masala, and cook for 1 minute or until the flavours begin to mingle, stirring to prevent the spices burning.

Add the lentils, water, coconut milk and tomatoes and season well.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils sticking.

Stir in the lime juice and 45 ml / 3 tbsp of the fresh coriander, then check the seasoning.  Cook for a further 15 minutes until the lentils soften and become tender.

To serve: Sprinkle with the remaining coriander and the flaked almonds.

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From: ‘Vegetarian’ The Greatest Ever Vegetarian Cookbook, publisher LORENZ BOOKS, ISBN 0 7548 0090 3

Nutrition notes:

Spices have long been recognised for their medicinal qualities, from curing flatulence (useful when added to a pulse dish) to warding off colds and flu.

Lentils are a useful source of low-fat protein.  They contain good amounts of B vitamins and provide a rich source of zinc and iron.

You need to eat food rich in vitamin C at the same meal to improve absorption of iron.  Limes are a good source, but you could also serve a fresh fruit dessert containing apples, kiwi fruit and oranges.

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