Table setting at The Conran Shop, Marylebone High Street
Thursday 30 November: Day 1 of preparations for our family Christmas lunch this Saturday.
I have a lovely family who, with varying degrees of bossiness (they would call it competence), always work together to produce the many dishes that make up a celebration feast. This time of the year we start to plan our Christmas Day meal. Since Mr Gochugaru and I will be away from London until mid-January, the children decided to bring forward our traditional family gathering.
We are not as thoughtful or as organised as Shoe Lady, though. She gently reminded me way back in September that geese need to be fattened and when should she arrange the delivery from Goodman’s?
What with my mother being ill, and with all the travelling, I really could not say when I would definitely be in London. So the goose escaped our dinner table this year.
These are our goose dinners from 2020, 2021 and 2022. Looking back at these posts, I am grateful that we are now on this side of the global pandemic. I never imagined I would witness in my lifetime something like the Black Death or the Spanish Flu. I marvel at human resilience and also human kindness when faced with such tragedies.
It takes three days to plan a large meal like this. Our lunch is on Saturday so the preparations started on Thursday, continues on Friday and then everything comes together on Saturday.
This year’s menu is a combination of everything we love in a roast meal, even if they may not traditionally go together:
‘Pigs in Blankets’
Maple-roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Christmas Red Cabbage
Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts
Mince Pies and Ice Cream
MAP (Ministry of Advanced Planning)
Thursday: wrap the sausages, make the bread sauce, red cabbage and ice cream. Recipes below.
Friday: collect the porchetta from the Ginger Pig in Marylebone, peel and par-boil the potatoes, wait for the mince pies, wait for the croissants and cheese from The Newt, think about the table setting. Make up small gift bags for the children and also for Nottingham Cousin who is joining us at the end of the day.
Saturday: Set an alarm for a 6 am wake up call. Finish preparing the carrots, parsnips, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Roast the porchetta. Get glasses ready for champagne.
PIGS IN BLANKETS
I have no idea why these are called Pigs in Blankets but it seems quite a humorous name. Since the sausages wrapped in bacon are stored in the fridge for 48 hours, I guess they do need some kind of warm covering.
You will need: 24 chipolata sausages and 24 rashers of streaky bacon.
How to Make:
Separate the sausages if they are linked, and stab each one with a skewer three times on one side and three times on the opposite side. This allows the juices from the sausagemeat to escape, avoiding burst skins.
Wrap one rasher of bacon around each sausage, making sure the edge with the fat is exposed to crisp up.
Place the sausages in a baking tin lined with greaseproof paper. Cover the tin with a large piece of foil and store in the fridge until Saturday.
CHRISTMAS RED CABBAGE
This is known in our house as Jack in the Green‘s Braised Red Cabbage as we first ate it there. This was featured in our 2019 Christmas dinner. I bought a big cabbage this year and have refined the recipe to double the quantities as it is always popular. Any leftovers can be frozen. Defrost thoroughly before reheating.
For the Red Cabbage:
1 kg red cabbage (cored weight)
400 ml red wine, white wine OR cider vinegar
200 ml orange OR clementine juice
100 g diced butter (original recipe calls for 300 g)
200 g light brown soft sugar (original recipe calls for 300 g)
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
ground black pepper
How to Make:
Halve and very finely shred the cabbage until you get 1 kg. I used a mandolin.
Place the cabbage in a large flat-bottomed pot (I used a Staub cast iron casserole) with the vinegar, orange / clementine juice, butter, sugar, star anise, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
Cook over a low heat for 1 – 1½ hours, stirring frequently until cooked to a softness you are happy with.
Strain off any excess liquid and boil this separately until reduced to a syrupy glaze. Pour this glaze over the cabbage and toss to coat, adding a spoonful of redcurrant jelly if you have some to hand. I had some cranberry and orange cram and added this.
CLOTTED CREAM ICE CREAM
I may not have the time to make a cake this year. We do however have regular mince pies from Konditor and apple crumble mince pies from The Newt. A sprinkling of finely grated nutmeg on the the ice cream would add a seasonal touch. Warming the mince pies is a necessity.
For the Ice Cream:
5 egg yolks
225 g clotted cream
375 g full-fat milk
120 g golden caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
How to Make (for the non Thermomix method see here):
Place the eggs, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla into the TM bowl.
Cook for 10 minutes/ 90C/ speed 2.
Pour the ice cream mixture into a suitable container and allow it to cool, then cover and chill for a few hours or overnight in the fridge.
When ready, either still-freeze (see here) or start the ice-cream machine, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Leave to churn until the ice cream has the consistency of softly whipped cream.
Quickly scrape into a plastic freezer box and cover with waxed or greaseproof paper and a lid.
Finally label, then freeze. Freeze for 1 hour or until just firm enough to serve. If stored longer and frozen solid, allow about 20 minutes at room temperature to soften sufficiently before serving.
I have made more bad bread sauce than I care to remember or admit, mainly because I really do not like eating it. But it is a favourite of Mr Gochugaru and he has influenced the children who now ask for it even when we are having roast pork. From experience I can tell you that Delia Smith’s recipe is a disaster. This year I am starting from scratch and making up my own recipe.
For the Bread Sauce:
1 large onion, peeled
16 whole cloves
600 g full-fat milk
1 bay leaf
a sprig of fresh thyme
10 black peppercorns
220 g white breadcrumbs
30 g unsalted butter
salt and freshly milled black pepper
How to Make:
Cut the onion in half and push 8 cloves into each side.
Place the milk in a small saucepan and add the onion, bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns.
Bring the milk up to boiling point then switch off the heat. Cover the saucepan and leave aside for an hour or two.
Just before making the sauce, sieve the milk and retain half an onion. Return the milk to the saucepan.
Add the breadcrumbs into the milk along with the butter. Stir this over a low heat until the breadcrumbs have absorbed the milk and thickened the sauce.
Return the half onion to this mixture, cool then store in the fridge until Saturday.
Remove the onion before reheating and serving. You can also finely chop a bit of the onion to add to the bread sauce. If the sauce appears thick, add a bit more milk to loosen the texture.