- Tower Hamlets
Christmas dinner is one of the most eagerly awaited parts of the festive season, but it can also be one of the most stressful. So to make your Christmas Day as easy as possible, ELL has teamed up with some local chefs to bring you all the know-how you need to whip up a meal that will be talked about for years to come.
Much of this can be done in advance so you can put your feet up and enjoy the presents, board games and mulled wine on the day.
Cauliflower Veloute (serves 4)
A slightly more unusual start to Christmas dinner, this recipe is part of the 12 dish Christmas menu at The Russet: a café and creative space in Hackney. With a few simple ingredients, Head Chef David Castro creates a delicious soup that is light enough that you’ll still have space for your roast and all the trimmings. “The two main ingredients I didn’t mention,” he adds “are care and love.”
500g cauliflower florets
1 litre vegetable stock
300ml oat cream
Sauté the onions in a large saucepan over a low heat until soft, then add the cauliflower and cook for a further five minutes. Add the stock to the pan until it covers the vegetables and leave to simmer for 35 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the oat cream and season to taste. Leave to infuse for five minutes before blending in a food processor.
Reheat to serve if you are making it ahead of time. Serve with a teaspoon of truffle oil in each bowl if you are feeling particularly decadent this Christmas.
Chestnut Bourguignon pie (serves 4)
The perfect alternative to turkey on Christmas day, this could easily be made for your vegetarian guests a few days early and frozen until needed, or even take centre stage at your table. It’s perfect served with all the usual roast dinner trimmings and is so good you (almost) won’t even miss the meat.
125g pre-cooked chestnuts
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
210ml red cooking wine
300ml vegetable stock
8 small shallots, peeled and halved
125g button mushrooms, chopped
125g chestnut mushrooms, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
225g ready-made puff pastry, thawed if frozen
1 egg and a splash of milk
Place the chestnuts, bay leaves, rosemary, stock and 150ml of the wine in a saucepan, cover and leave to simmer for 50-60 minutes. Drain the chestnuts, keeping the liquid. Sauté the mushrooms and onions in a frying pan until softened and browned, then add the chestnuts, remaining wine and enough of the chestnut cooking liquid to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes until slightly reduced. Stir in the mustard and soy sauce and season to taste. Transfer mixture into a pie dish.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to roughly the thickness of a pound coin. Lightly beat the egg and milk together to make an egg wash and brush some around the edge of the pie dish. Place the pastry over the top and push down to seal. Trim the excess pastry from around the edge, crimp the edges with a fork and cut two small vents in the middle of the pie. Brush with egg wash.
Cook for 20 minutes on 200°C.
No Christmas dinner would be complete without it, but this stuffing recipe can also be enjoyed on Boxing Day to continue the festive spirit. “This recipe is a great way to use up the leg meat [of your turkey], and with the herbs and spices is so fragrant when you take it from the oven, absolutely delicious,” says Joby Wells, Head Chef at Albert’s Table, Croydon.
It is a particular hit at Christmas at the Michelin-listed restaurant and Wells receives multiple orders for it every year. Save some money and have a go at making it yourself.
1kg mince – pork or turkey leg
100g bread crumbs
150g dried prunes
1 ½ teaspoons five spice
Zest of 1 lemon
10 leaves of sage
Chop the onion and sauté until softened. Remove from the heat and add the minced meat and breadcrumbs and mix. Finely chop the walnuts and prunes and add to the pan, then add the lemon zest, herbs and spices and mix well. Press into a dish and bake for 30-40 minutes at 190°C until browned.
If you fancy doing something a bit different, take a tip from chef Toby Wells and roll the stuffing into sausages, wrap in pre-made puff pastry before cooking.
Chocolate yule log
This classic Christmas dessert is always a hit, looks impressive and is surprisingly easy to make. Try cutting the end of log off at an angle before icing and attaching to make a branch (pictured). Dust in icing sugar and finish with a sprig of holly for the perfect ‘just snowed’ yule log.
150g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
450ml double cream
150g dark chocolate
Icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease and line a 29x18cm tin. Separate the egg whites and yolks. Whisk the yolks until slightly thickened and then add the sugar and cocoa powder, whisking for about one minute after each addition. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peak stage and then carefully cut and fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. It will take a few minutes – be patient and don’t be tempted to stir or you will knock all the air out of the eggs and your cake won’t rise. Gently pour the mixture into the tin, level out and bake for 25 minutes.
When cool, remove the sponge from the tin and tip out onto a surface dusted with icing sugar. Peel away the greaseproof paper. Whip 300ml of the cream until stiff and spread across the sponge. With the long side facing you, roll the sponge into a log, wrap in cling film and chill. In the meantime, heat the remaining cream over a low heat until just bubbling then remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted. Leave to cool for around 20 minutes until the ganache is spreadable, then use to ice the log using a palette knife. Keep refrigerated and dust with icing sugar just before serving.