the perfect roast potatoes

Roast potatoes are one of the best inventions in the food world along with chips, in my humble opinion. Heston Blumenthal and most of the top cooks recommend Maris Piper potatoes. The reason for this is they are very starchy which means you get a fluffy inside and a crispy outside. If Maris Pipers are not available get a floury potato like a Desiree or a King Edward, the varieties and names of potatoes vary from country to country, so if in doubt just make sure it’s a floury type as opposed to waxy. Roast potatoes are always best served straight away while they are still hot and crisp.

Recipe

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:
1 kg of potatoes, peeled and halved
3 tablespoons of olive oil (or goose fat or duck fat)
Salt and pepper to taste

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heavenly nut loaf

I know a nut loaf sounds retro, but this nut loaf is a bit more sophisticated than the nut loaves of old, it’s really scrumptious and hasn’t got a single lentil in it. It’s packed with the amazing flavours of porcini mushrooms, parmesan and cashew nuts and it’s got a great texture which comes from the shiitake mushrooms. It’s perfect for vegetarians at Thanksgiving and Christmas or any time there is a roast (It’s even delicious sliced cold from the fridge and put in a sandwich, with cranberry sauce and mayo)

Serve it with my vegetarian gravy, cranberry sauce and the rest of the trimmings.

Recipe

Serves 6-8.

Ingredients:
150g of dryish white bread crumbs
150ml of milk (or dairy free milk)
1 medium egg
30g of butter or olive oil plus a bit more for greasing the loaf tin
20g of dried porcini mushrooms (I get the cheaper porcini pieces in the supermarket) steeped in boiling water for 15 mins, drained and chopped
100g mushrooms chopped into small pieces (I use shiitake)
1 teaspoon of English mustard
1 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
2-3 teaspoons of Tabasco
1 egg white
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh thyme
1 medium onion very finely chopped
2 medium celery sticks very finely chopped
Zest of one lemon
200g of chopped raw cashew nuts
100g chopped raw walnuts
1 large carrot finely grated
75g of Parmesan or vegan parmesan
A handful of polenta
Salt and pepper
1 large loaf tin

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vegetarian gravy

This silky smooth gravy is super delicious for vegetarians and even non vegetarians. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the nut loaf on my blog. It can be made in advance and frozen, then defrosted the night before in the fridge..then reheated. This will lessen your work load when preparing your Christmas or Thanksgiving feast… but of course you might just want to make it for Sunday lunch too..it’s perfect if you are a gravy fan like me.

Recipe

Makes about 1/2 litre.

Ingredients:
50ml olive oil or cooking oil
4 largish onions
3 tablespoons of plain flour (I use wholemeal spelt)
1 vegetable stock cube (I use Knorr stock pots because they are fantastic)
500ml of boiling water
Salt and pepper to taste

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poussin

Poussin (Cornish hens) make a great and very easy alternative to turkey on Christmas Day or Thanksgiving. Instead of cooking a turkey for hours and hours they take about 45 minutes to an hour. The meat is much more delicate and juicy than turkey, which can be dry and tough, and the bay leaves give them an amazing flavour. The ancient Romans always flavoured their meat simply with bay leaves and I can see why, it’s the perfect flavour and the meat will be subtly perfumed by the bay. Also if you are new to cooking, this recipe is far less daunting and more manageable than a turkey which requires a lot more time and attending to. I really love this recipe and it’s great with my cranberry sauce, roast potatoes, maple roasted root vegetables, brussel sprouts, red cabbage and all the trimmings.

Recipe

Ingredients:
Poussin (1 per person)
A glug of olive oil
Fresh bay leaves (a few per bird)

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mince pie apple crumble

A really delicious way to use up the Christmas mince pie mountain over the festive period, even the stale ones. This is my own invention and it pimps up the mince pie, turning it from a Skoda into a Ferrari. The tartness of the apple counterbalances the sweetness of the mince pies, which caramelise on top of the apples and it really works as they are a marriage made in heaven. It has all the Christmassy flavours of orange zest and mixed spice then the mix of crunchy top with the creamy apples combo, which for me is pretty perfect. My friends think this recipe is a work of genius, I kid you not.

Recipe

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:
700g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
25g soft brown sugar
Zest of an orange and two tablespoons of its juice
2 teaspoons mixed spice

Crumble topping
Several mince pies or more if you are a big mince pie fan
75g butter
175g plain flour (I use wholemeal spelt)
50g soft brown sugar

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ethical mince pies

There really isn’t anything as delicious and comforting as a home made mince pie that’s still warm from the oven. It’s totally evocative of Christmas with the smell of all the spices, dried fruit and brandy. These mince pies are totally vegetarian and don’t use beef suet or the unethical palm oil which are in most shop bought mince meat jars and mince pies. They are easy to make, you use shop bought pastry if you can’t, like me, be bothered to make it and because the filling is so good, no one will notice. They are fun to make with kids too as they can decorate the top their way. I use a Christmas tree cookie  cutter, but there are lots of different Christmas themed cookie cutters you could use.

Recipe

Makes about 12 medium mince pies.

Ingredients:
2 apples grated
50g sultanas
40g mixed peel
50g currants
50g chopped almonds
75g dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch cloves
1 pinch of nutmeg
25g melted coconut oil (or butter if you prefer)
2 tablespoons of Brandy

Pastry
700g approx. of good quality short crust pastry (palm oil free) or the BBC Food website has a vegan pastry recipe
1 beaten egg
Sugar for dusting

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maple roasted root vegetables

You can use other root vegetables for this recipe like sweet potato, but I use carrots and parsnips because I love them. The maple syrup makes them sweet and sticky which work really well with the flavours of the carrots and parsnips. They also become soft on the inside and sticky and crunchy-ish on the outside,  which as you know is always a great combo in my book. I don’t peel the parsnips and carrots as I think all the flavour and fibre are in the skin, and life’s too short.

Recipe

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:
1 kg of assorted root vegetables
3 tablespoons of olive oil
5 tablespoons of maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste

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red cabbage

This red cabbage recipe is full of Christmas flavours and tastes super fab with the Christmas roast. It is my favourite combo of sweet and sour with orange, apple, spices and port, which work really well together. It doesn’t have to just be for Christmas or thanksgiving, but you can eat it all year round. It’s also delicious with sausage and mash or baked potatoes and perfect with ham. Everyone I know who has cooked this really loves it as much as me. Its origins are loosely based on a Danish recipe and traditionally in Denmark it is served with rich meats, such as duck and pork. I spent many a Christmas in Denmark or with Danes as a child so this tastes very comforting to me and no one does Christmas better than the Danes. It is also fab with the Boxing Day leftovers the next day and its flavour improves with age.

Recipe

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:
1 small red cabbage, shredded
1 apple, grated
1 chopped onion
1 orange, zest and juice
3 cloves
150ml Port
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
A handful of sultanas
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

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brussels sprouts with chestnuts

Boiled brussels sprouts are a bit boring and are a hundred times nicer fried or roasted. I have served these to people who don’t even like brussels and they were converted into sprout fans. This might be a good way to get kids to eat them too. They are a really healthy part of any meal, as they contain astonishing levels of Vitamin C. Perfect with Thanksgiving or Christmas fare, but also really delish as a side dish to dinner anytime and of course they are an essential ingredient to the Boxing Day bubble and squeak.

Recipe

Serves 6.

Ingredients:
500g Brussel sprouts, halved
30g butter or olive oil
180g packet of cooked and peeled chestnuts (from the supermarket) roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

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the perfect cranberry sauce

Trust me on this one, this is one of the best recipes for cranberry sauce ever, shop bought cranberry sauce doesn’t even compare to it. I think it’s the star of the show on the Christmas dinner plate and is perfect with cold cuts and sandwiches after Christmas day. For me it kind of makes Christmas food far more delicious. A friend of mine and her children so look forward to my yearly Christmas batch, not only for their Christmas meal but they love it enough to even put it on their toast.
And jars of your own cranberry sauce tied with a red ribbon make great home made Christmas presents for loved ones.

Recipe

Makes a large jar.

Ingredients:
400g approx of fresh or frozen cranberries
150g sugar
1/2 teaspoon of allspice
100ml Port
4 satsumas or 150ml orange juice

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