What we had for Christmas Lunch

I blog about what we eat for Christmas lunch, mainly to remember things that worked well and for those that didn’t, not to repeat that mistake. This post is a little later than I planned, but it’s here now.

This year we ordered two Christmas roasts from Tesco. I was a little concerned as the night before the day I was going to collect the order I got a phone call from my local Tesco saying that part of my order had not been delivered to the store and offered a replacement. I wasn’t too happy with this, as it was quite short notice. In the end they had a late night delivery so I got my order in the end.

The main one was a part-boned turkey with chestnut stuffing. This was really nice roasted the chestnut stuffing was really nice too, with who chestnuts within it.

The second was a three bird roast, comprising a duck stuffed with goose and turkey. I remember once spending a lot of money on a Marks and Spencer four bird roast, which though very nice was mainly a big turkey with some duck, goose and chicken. So was a little bit of a disappointment, I blogged about that here, which reminded me not to go down that road again.

Along with the roasts we had roast potatoes, these I cooked in my usual way, which is as follows. I used Maris Piper potatoes, the type of potatoes I find is critical for getting crispy roast potatoes and a fluffy centre. I peel the potatoes and then par-boil for about ten minutes. Whilst they are in the pan of boiling water, I place the roasting tray in a hot oven with some sunflower oil (and I also add a splash of olive oil for flavour). This means once the potatoes are drained they are added to the pan which is pre-heated and has hot oil in. This speeds up cooking time and ensures a crispy roast potato.

I also did my regular dish of brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts.

brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts

I did roasted parsnips. Along with them I did some festive carrots, I followed a Jamie Oliver recipe for carrots. I took a frying pan, this I filled with evenly cut carrots, either whole or halved in the main. I then covered them with boiling water. To this I add a large knob of butter, a splash of white wine vinegar, the juice from two clementines (or similar citrus fruit, or one orange) and some dried mixed herbs. Then let the carrots bubble away on the stove top for about 40 minutes. Once the eater has evaporated, the carrots should caramelise in the remaining sweet and sour mix.

We had a selection of stuffings and pigs in blankets.

Overall we were very happy with the meal, it was very tasty.

Our Christmas Dinner

I usually document our Christmas dinner in December, in the main so that I can recall what we had and when, what we liked and what we wouldn’t get again.

In 2014 we went with an Aldi Four Bird Roast and though we enjoyed it, I wanted to have something different in 2015. Due to a range of reasons we didn’t pre-order any thing for lunch, so in the end it was a quick trip out to the local Morrisons. I bought a small turkey and a duck.

These were roasted in the over, taking about two hours. The flavour was pretty good and I managed to not over cook (or under cook) the roasts.

They were served with some traditional accompaniments, such as pigs in blankets and a range of stuffings.

The brussels sprouts were peeled and halved. These were then pre-cooked for a couple of minutes in boiling water. As we neared the serving time, in a hot frying pan I added a small amount of olive oil and fried off some pancetta. I then added the brusels with some pre-cooked chestnuts.

Overall a really nice festive meal.

Homemade Quiche

Quiche

I haven’t made quiche for a while now, but over the weekend decided to throw one together.

I made some shortcrust pastry and baked it blind in the oven in a flan tin. Everytime I do that I always think I should be using some baking beans, but I don’t have any, so I lined the top of the pastry with baking parchment and used another pan on top to keep the pastry flat. One tip I picked up from the television was to fold the pastry over the edge of the flan tin and once cooked this is carved off, and creates a level pie base.

I filled the base first with some fresh spinach and the cooked onions, peppers, mushrooms and pancetta. I then added some grated mature cheddar cheese. There are lots of choices when it comes to quiche fillings,

I placed the flan in the oven and then filled it, covering the rest of the filling with an egg and milk mixture.

The quiche is then baked in the oven until the egg has set and the top of the quiche has started to brown.

Delicious warm, it can also be served cold with salad.

Brussels with Chestnuts and Pancetta

brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts

I once again cooked this accompaniment to the Christmas roast we had this year. It is very simple to cook, has festive overtones and really adds something special to the humble sprout.

I peeled and halved the sprouts, now I know some people will think that what is he doing, sprouts are supposed to be whole! Well what I want in this dish is for the sprouts to be a similar size to the chestnuts. The sprouts were partially cooked in advance, by placing in simmering water for about five minutes, drained and plunged into cold water and left to one side. You can do this earlier in the day so freeing up hob space for other things.

When you are close to serving time, in a hot frying plan, add a splash of olive oil and add the pancetta. I went for smoked pancetta, as I much prefer the stronger flavour and it goes well with the similarly strong flavour of the sprouts. Cook the pancetta until is just going crispy. The add the partially cooked sprouts and the chestnuts. I used the cooked and vacuum packed chestnuts from Merchant Gourmet. These are already prepared and cooked and are quick and easy to use. Next year I might use fresh chestnuts and prepare them myself. You can season with some black pepper, but no need to add extra salt, as the pancetta bacon adds the saltiness to the dish.

Toss and saute the sprouts and chestnuts with the pancetta and serve with your favourite festive roast.

Don’t buy the pasta!

Remind me please that if I ever go to Frankie and Benny’s again, don’t order the pasta!

You know for am American Italian Diner I am disappointed how they serve pasta, which in my opinion should be a signature dish for them. Similarly how difficult is it to get pasta wrong?

I should have remembered when I ordered the Philly Steak Bake which was not the best pasta dish I had eaten. I should have known better, you would think? The thing is back then my son had ordered the Spaghetti Oceana which looked great and according to my son was delicious.

Chicken Penne Romana

So this time I ordered Chicken Penne Romana, which was penne pasta with chicken breast, spicy pepperoni and pancetta bacon tossed with Mamma’s rich Neapolitan tomato and herb sauce. It came with the choice of fries or salad. Now why on earth did is come with fries, okay partly my fault I should have chosen the salad option! It is a very British thing I believe that to have potatoes and pasta together, you know lasagne and chips for example.

Next time, choose the salad, next time… well next time I won’t choose the pasta so it won’t be a problem.

So what about the pasta? Let’s be straight, it certainly wasn’t an awful dish, so bad I couldn’t eat it. No it was certainly edible and I did finish the dish. The thing is, it could have been so much better. The so called rich tomato sauce, was anything but rich, and lacked flavour and richness. It was too bland and it was this that really marked down the quality of the dish. When you read the description “tossed with Mamma’s rich Neapolitan tomato and herb sauce” you kind of expect that to be the case, the reality was that didn’t happen, the pasta was in the bowl and the sauce poured on top. If you wanted it tossed you were going to have to do that yourself.

It was a pity that the dish turned out the way it did, as the concept sounded really good.

Steak with Peppercorns and Pancetta

This is quite a quick meal and can be served with steamed vegetables and crispy potatoes.

I normally prefer ribeye cut of steak these days, with sirloin as second choice, as I prefer the flavour of ribeye. Rump, though cheaper, is often tougher than either ribeye or sirloin. I find fillet, not just more expensive, but often lacks flavour. Though in this dish it would work as the peppercorns and the pancetta add a striking flavour to the dish.

I prepare the steak by rubbing in some olive oil. Then in a plain unoiled hot pan I cook the steak. About half way through cooking I added some black peppercorns.

In order to save time, in a seperate pan I cooked off some pancetta and once they were nearly cooked added the mushrooms.

Removing the steak from the pan, once cooked, I added the pancetta and mushrooms and added half a tub of creme frache, which I let heat through.

I sliced the steak, put on the plate, poured over the sauce and served with steamed vegetables and crispy potatoes. It would also work well with plain rice.

Paella with chicken and chorizo

I seem to be cooking paella more and more recently.

The key for me is the right kind of rice and saffron. I really do like the way the saffron adds not just colour, but also flavour.

After that you can add many different things to make a really nice paella.

The dish above contains in addition to the rice and saffron, the following, chicken, chorizo, prawns, onions, pepper, pancetta and peas. This is different to the last time I cooked paella.

There is something about paella, the richness, flavours that I really enjoy.

Garnish

Whenever I do a big roast I do like a nice garnish of stuffing and sausages. The stuffing is described in this recipe, and the sausages are either plain or wrapped in pancetta jackets.

Roast Chicken Crown with Chorizo

This was a dish I made last week.

I took a crown of free range chicken. This was actually cheaper than buying two chicken breasts and of course cooking it on the bone means it won’t dry out as much as cooking chicken breasts on their own.

Before cooking I covered the chicken in pancetta, this was partly to protect the chicken, add flavour and also add some much needed fat to the pan for the vegetables roasting their.

The chicken was roasted in the oven on a bed of squash, carrots and onions. After cooking for 30 minutes more pieces were added to the pan, this included chorizo cooking sausage, slice of courgette, mushrooms, pepper and cubes of bread. This was then cooked for a further 20-30 minutes until everything was cooked.

The pancetta was crispy, the chicken moist and delicious. The roasted vegetables were full of flavour and perfectly cooked. The bread was flavoursome and crunchy.

Delicious.

Paella

I seem to be cooking paella more and more recently.

The key for me is the right kind of rice and saffron. I really do like the way the saffron adds not just colour, but also flavour. Some people I know have used tumeric, however that is most certainly not saffron, and though adds a similar colour, the earthiness of tumeric really can ruin an otherwise decent paella.

After that you can add many different things to make a really nice paella.

The dish above contains in addition to the rice and saffron, the following, chorizo, prawns, onions, pepper, pancetta and a small tin of tomatoes.

There is something about paella, the richness, flavours that I really enjoy.