M&S sell a pork belly joint seasoned with salt and pepper. We have this quite often, and I use the same technique each time. In a roasting pan I add a bed of cut vegetables. The actual composition does depend on what’s in the fridge. This time I used apple, onion, carrots, a garlic bulb cut in half, and some mushrooms. I drizzled some garlic olive oil as well over the joint.
I start off with a hot (fan) oven, about 200℃ and roast the pork belly for about ten minutes before turning the heat down to 160℃. I usually cook the join for about ninety minutes. The plan is to slow roast the joint to make it tender. A hot fast roast will result in a shorter cooking time, but the meat will be tough and chewy (and probably a little fatty).
I leave the joint to rest for about twenty to thirty minutes, which gives me time to increase the heat in the oven to finish off the roast potatoes and roasted vegetables. I will usually use the roasting pan juices to make some gravy.
I slice the joint into thin slices and serve with roast potatoes and vegetables.
I like to record what we had for Christmas lunch, so next time I can improve on what we had.
This time we ordered from M&S and had three roasts.
For the third year running we had a Three-Bird Roast.This year was turkey, stuffed with chicken, duck and (gluten free) pork, orange and panettone stuffing).
This was rather good, not enough duck, but still very good. I felt I cooked it well and leaving it to rest meant it was easy to carve and the slices stayed together.
I also cooked a Dry-Aged Rib of Beef. This I sealed in a hot frying pan before moving to the oven. After cooking I let it rest and carved. The beef was beautifully tender, though not as much flavour as I thought it was going to have.
The final of our trio of roasts was the Stuffed Pair of Partridges. These were smaller than I thought they would be, almost quail sized. I think I overcooked these, so they were a little dry.
We had a range of stuffing and trimmings. Though I forgot to cook the Yorkshire Puddings.
Overall I was pleased with the meal (I was catering for ten) though I was disappointed with my roast potatoes. I think I didn’t par-boil them for long enough, and the oven was a little too crowded as well. Something to think about for next year.
We now have a tradition of having our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. We’ve done this for ten years now. We do this for a few reasons. On Christmas Day itself, the children are often too excited to sit down for a long meal, so don’t eat or enjoy the meal or the occasion. It also usually means I spend a fair few hours in the kitchen, which means I miss them opening and playing with their presents. I also find it quite demanding to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, whilst creating a wonderful dining experience.
Having the meal on Christmas Eve means that we can both spend a bit more time preparing the meal (less stressful in itself) and enjoy eating the meal (as do the children). As a result for them it helps pass the time on one of the more exciting days of the year as they anticipate the arrival of a sleigh full of presents being pulled by eight tiny reindeer!
As to what we eat on Christmas day itself, well we have lots of lovely leftovers, cheeses, pickles, hot bread, etc…. quick and easy to prepare and delicious.
For a recent Sunday lunch I decided that I would make my own cauliflower cheese, which would be gluten free.
I didn’t really follow a recipe, as partly I didn’t want to make too much, also not sure how appropriate recipes are when using gluten free ingredients.
I first made a cheese sauce, this was done by melting butter in a pan and then adding a similar amount of gluten free plain flour to make a roux. To this I added some milk to make a sauce. What I have found is that gluten free flour can thicken quite a lot, so don’t add too much. This is then cooked over a low heat to blend and thicken.
Once the sauce starts to thicken enough, I added greater cheddar cheese. I use a mature cheddar as I like a strong cheese flavour. I find you don’t want the sauce too thick, as cooking in the oven will thicken the sauce even more.
In an ovenproof dish I place the cauliflower florets, trying to ensure that they are all of a similar size. This is then covered in the cheese sauce and then place extra grated cheese on top.
Echoing the M&S dish, I added some small cubes of gluten free bread to add crunch.
This was then cooked in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Back in the summer for an evening meal, we had slow roasted pork belly with potatoes and salad.
The pork belly was from M&S and comes already seasoned. It has no rind, so you don’t get crackling, but slow roasting usually (for me results) in rubbery crackling anyhow. It is a tasty joint and a favourite in our house.
I did small roast potatoes, using Maris Piper potatoes which are par boiled and then roasted in hot oil in the oven. I generally add a little butter towards the end of cooking to add colour and a final crispness.
The salad included a personal favourite of thinly sliced raw cauliflower in a spicy mayonnaise. We first had this eating out at acafe in Wapping Wharf in Bristol. We stole the idea and now have it on a regular basis.
As a child I would often eat cheese on toast, these days not so much. Back then we even had a Breville sandwich toaster, which was a bit of a fad in the 1980s, but you can still buy them today.
I remember when a panini was something you would only find in Italy, then they were available everywhere.
These days I will avoid having sandwiches for lunch, and I can’t remember the last time I had a panini. One thing I have had a few times are toasted sandwiches, usually cheese and mushroom.
The other day we were up at the Mall and I needed a break to rest, so we decided to get some coffee and a quick snack. We eventually decided on the Soho Coffee Company, not one of my first choices for coffee, but it wasn’t too crowded. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat, I didn’t really want a cake, nor did I want a sandwich, so in the end I chose the mushroom & swiss cheese sourdough toastie. This was described as roasted mushrooms with garlic & black pepper. Swiss cheese & SOHO toastie sauce. Topped with even more Swiss cheese for extra ooziness! Though when it arrived I think the topping of Swiss cheese had been missed off. Still it was rather nice, crunchy bread, melted cheese and nice mushrooms.
So at home and wanting some lunch, I did think about what I wanted and I thought to myself I might create my own grilled cheese toastie.
I had some M&S San Francisco sourdough bread, which I added some butter to the inside, a slice of Gouda (I had no Swiss cheese), some grated cheddar cheese and a slice of Serrano ham.
In a frying pan I added some olive oil and some butter and once the butter was melted I added the (what was then) sourdough sandwich. I put a lid on the frying pan, so that the heat would be retained and melt the cheese. I then removed the lid so that the final part of cooking would crisp up the bread.
This was then put on a plate and served. The bread was lovely and crunchy on the outside, but still soft on the inside. The cheese had melted and was oozing out of the sandwich and the ham added an element of saltiness.
It was really nice, so much so I did think about making myself another one, but I resisted temptation.
Over the last week or so (and not every day) I have been treating myself to a home-made breakfast bagel. What even surprised me was how quickly I could cook this before starting work. It certainly helps I don’t need to commute to the office, but even if I did, I am pretty sure I could still cook this, clean the pans and dishes and put them away before heading out.
I take a small frying pan for the bacon and an even smaller frying pan for the fried egg.
Heat on both and then add a little sunflower oil to the bacon pan and more to the little frying pan to ensure that the entire cooking surface of the pan is covered.
Into the larger pan, place two rashes of folded back bacon. I used some oak smoked dry cured air dried back bacon rashers from Sainsburys.
What I liked about the bacon, was that as it was dry cured, it cooked easily in the frying pan without losing lots of liquid that standard supermarket bacon does. If I only had the standard stuff then I would probably grill it, however that takes longer, as I have to wait until the grill warms up.
So having folded the rashers and placed them in the hot frying pan. I crack the free range egg and fry them in the small frying pan.
I then slice the bagel and put it in the toaster.
When I started doing this I used some New York Bakery Co. Bagels, however I also tried and liked the New York Bakery Co. Sourdough Deli Bagels.
I also quite liked the M&S Sourdough Bagels as well.
While the bagel is toasting turn the bacon to ensure it is thoroughly cooked. I also baste the fried egg to speed up the cooking time.
Once the bagel has finished toasting, place the bottom half on a plate, add the rashers of bacon, add the egg. I also like to add a slice of (processed) cheese and then top with the top half of the bagel. You could add sauce if you like that kind of thing.
So the cauliflower dish I have been getting from Marks and Spencer seems to have been taken off the shelves.
The Truffled Cauliflower Cheese described as cauliflower in a cheddar cheese and truffle sauce, topped with acheese, mushroom and chive ciabatta crumb was rather nice, and quick and easy just needing thirty minutes in the oven.
It was a really nice dish, plenty of cauliflower, nice sauce, good flavour of truffle. Though I think it needed more topping, this was more of a personal preference than a criticism.
Alas the last few times I have been to my local M&S there is no sign of it on the shelves, which was a pity. I didn’t think it was a seasonal dish, as it was there well before Christmas. There is a normal cauliflower cheese dish, but that doesn’t look the same and I suspect I would be disappointed.
I do like to document what we had for Christmas Dinner, it helps with remembering what we had in previous years and avoid making the same mistake if we got something which didn’t work.
This year we repeated what we had last year with a Three-Bird Roast from Marks & Spencers. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions we didn’t get a second roast (but I was tempted) as I wasn’t catering for guests.
As is our tradition, we had our Christmas meal on Christmas Eve.