Tag Archives: christmas

Chicken lemon in tagine dish

Tagines make ideal winter dishes

Tagines make ideal winter dishes

As a child, I used to spend most of my Christmas holidays in Morrocco where my maternal grend-parents used to live. So Christmas is not necessarily associated for me with snow or Fir trees but more often with donkey rides in the garden, fish for supper and an exotic, tenderly arranged nativity scene or crèche in the ‘salon’ where my parents and grand-parents would take us to on Christmas morning. Tagines were served to us as a warming winter dish and they are the perfect antidote to cold and dark winter evenings. With warming spices to suffuse the soul and limbs, they  also represent the easy option of a perfect one-pot no-fuss meal.

Chicken lemon in tagine dish – Serves 2 to 3

Ingredients list:

For the marinade:

  • 1 frozen chopped chilli cube or two pea-size drops of Harissa paste
  • 200 ml water
  • 70 ml olive oil
  • Salt
  • Ras el hanout or M’rouzia mix, 1 Tbsp
  • Cumin 1 Tbsp
  • Ground Coriander 1 tsp
  • Pinch of safran
  • Fresh coriander
  • Fresh parsley

For the stew:

  • Cubed skinless chicken breast with wing bone (2/3 breasts) or oyster thighs -ask a good butcher!
  • 1 large red onion cubed
  • 2 / 3 lemons in brine quartered
  • Zest of half a fresh lemon
  • 2 big handful of garden peas, fresh or frozen

Note that a few quartered potatoes can be included as an option, as in the image above –  I tend to give those a miss if I am trying to recover from excessive festive indulgence… Check the water if you have added potatoes and add if necessary towards the end.

Lay all the meat and put the vegetables in the dish, then mix the marinade in a small jug and pour on top of the dish. Cover and cook on medium to low heat for 45 min. Do not open the dish too often, if ever. Chuck the peas towards the end. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

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All the world’s spice under a tent

Miniature classic Xmas puddings

This year, we are going totally British for our Christmas lunch. Usually I pick and mix : one starter here, a main there and some odd exotic bits from someplace else ; but this Christmas, lunch will be very traditional and purely British. For once, we are not travelling anywhere so that is one extra reason -if need be – to stay very local.

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In this spirit, I have decide to do my own Christmas puddings. I have been asked many times by friends to share a Christmas pudding recipe and I had none! But fear not, here is one coming!

I dived into some of my oldest books and searched far and wide to eventually settle on a mixed recipe which heritage is a cross between “Kitchen Essays” by Agnes Jekyll (in the beautiful Persephone Books edition) and Dan Lepard from The Gardian.

Little miniature puds in foil dressing

Little miniature puds in foil dressing

Agnes Jekyll calls hers “The Enchantress Plum Pudding” and calls for:
“Half a pound of bread-crumbs, sultanas, currants, raisins, mixed peel, suet, brown sugar, 4 eggs and the zest of two lemons. Mix and cook in usual way, serving with Brandy or orange butter.”
Though I love her concision and economy of style, I think my recipe needs a little expansion…

Ingredients list for 6 mini puddings:

  • Bread-crumbs, 125g
  • Sultanas, 125g
  • Currants, 125g
  • Chopped dates, 125g
  • Mixed peel, one small handful
  • Coconut cooking cream (or any shortening), 75g
  • Agave syrup, (0g
  • Brown sugar, 125g
  • Plain flour, 50g
  • Baking powder, ½ tsp
  • Mixed ginger, cinnamon and cloves spices, 2 tsp
  • nutmeg or mace, 1 tsp
  • Eggs, beaten, 2
  • Grated carrot, 1 small (or 50g)
  • Blanched almonds, 100g
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • Dark rum, 100 ml

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and turn well with a wooden spoon until all is mixed evenly. It is traditional at this point to give a go to each member of the family at turning the spoon in the mixture and make a wish for the year ahead. The sunday before the advent calendar begins, so five weeks before Christmas, was traditionally called Stir-up sunday because it was the time to make your puddings ahead of Christmas day. You can still make it after that date but it will have less time to steep and for all the flavours to mingle…

Line and oil 6 small Dariole moulds. The ideal shape is round but you can be ground-breaking and inventive – you are making you own pudding after all!

Put the mixture into the moulds or into one big mould and cover with a small circle of baking paper. Then wrap each into a big square of baking paper and twist the ends on top. Wrap this into a square of foil and twist the ends then tie a rope around the mould, just below the rim and leave a loop – to retrieve the pudding after cooking. Cover and leave them to steep until the next day or two!

Put the puddings into a jam pan or a large cooking pan, pour some water in, being careful to only go halfway up the sides of the moulds – you will need to top up later but better not to drown the cakes… If unsure, you can stand the moulds on upturned jars or a small rack.

All ingredients together

All ingredients together mixed

Cover the pan with foil or a lid and cook on low flame  for 3 hours, checking the water level from time to time.

Let them cool down and put them under a cloth in a cool, dark corner of the house until Christmas day. A cellar would be ideal but failing that I have put mine under a bed!

On Christmas morning, you will need to steam them again in the same way for 2 to 3 hours. Serve warm, pour a thimble of rum over and set light to it!

I love the festive, lovely glow of anything flambéed! Love the smell it leaves behind too…

Stir and wish

Stir and wish for a happy Christmas day

 

 

 

 

Preparing for the festive season? Here some ideas…

I went to Borough Market last Friday morning, looking for some early Xmas spirit and I found: a bowlful of meaty Cep mushrooms, my 3-bird Christmas roast to order and some juicy medjool dates to stuff with marzipan, amongst other delights…

Where to get your Christmas shopping

Here is where to get your Christmas shopping…

My Christmas lunch menu is taking shape and the 3-bird roast from Borough Market will be its central piece. I wanted a traditional 3-bird roast but as there are only 5 of us and the goose version serves at least 8, I have settled for a more modest  version: So it is turkey breast and sausage meat with cranberries, inside a pheasant, inside a duck! The classic 3-bird roast is a pheasant inside a duck inside a goose, all boned and stuffed…

For starters, we will have a celery and stilton soup, then the roast with duck fat roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes, followed by a lemon posset with shortbread and a little of the traditional Christmas pudding – my husband insists! May be a glass of Port with it, although the pudding will be flambéd in rum.

I love using Christmas markets to furnish my table at this time of year and we plan to visit Winchester lovely English Christmas market and maybe even go for  a day to Birmingham German inspired market, one of the biggest in Europe.

In London, there are plenty to choose from and one of my favourites is already up in front of the Tate Modern and along South Bank. Visit at dusk for a really atmospheric experience.

Borough Market

Borough Market

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The countdown to Christmas starts on Monday the 1st with a suitable Advent calendar and then from the 4th, the decorations can go up. I will start with a Christmas wreath on the door and this time I will delay buying my Christmas tree until mid December, having learnt my lesson last year: I chose a majestic Nordman Fir tree but having bought it far too early, it was dry as fire wood by Christmas night…

Choose a beautiful wreath to hang on your door on the 1st!

Choose a beautiful wreath to hang on your door on the 1st!

A brioche fit for the Kings

Monday is the Epiphany, the arrival of the Kings and the last of the Christmas festivities.  For the occasion, the tradition in France is to choose a king by way of eating a crown-shaped-cake where a little figure (in older times a bean) has been hidden. Whoever has the symbol is the king for the day!

Half of France eats a cake made of frangipane and half eats a brioche based one. Being from the South, I chose this year to go for the brioche version. It is a moist brioche, filled with lemon peel, candied fruits and flavoured with orange blossom water. You can decorated it with more crystallised fruit or ground up  sugar.

Crown for the Epiphany

Crown for the Epiphany

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients list:

  • Fine flour (00), 300g
  • eggs, 4
  • Sugar, 75g
  • Bakers yeast, 1 tsp (or 15 gr of fresh yeast)
  • Butter, 150g
  • Orange blossom water, 2 capful
  • Milk, 100g
  • Candied peel and fruit, one cupful
  • one egg yolk

This is so easy to do in the Thermomix, I can’t resist to give you the step by step here but you can always make it in a bowl if you like!

Mix all the ingredients (but the egg yolk and candied fruit) in the Thermomix for 5 or 6 minutes on dough setting then empty the dough in a bowl and cover with cling film to raise for 1 hour.

Once the dough has raised, punch it back into shape by kneading air out of it. Mix the candied fruit into the dough and shape it into a crown. Use a silpat re-usable mat or a tray covered in oven proof paper. Decorate with crushed sugar and more fruit. Don’t forget to hide a “fève” or porcelaine figure in the cake and leave it to raise again for about one hour under a loose plastic bag – cling film would stick to the surface and ruin the look.

When it is risen, brush the top with a little yolk, decorate and bake at 160° for 25 minutes on the middle rack of the oven.

PS: I have to warn my readers it is pretty difficult to get good quality candied fruit in London, apart from lemon or orange peel and even that is hard to come by… I import mine from Provence where they produce the very best ones: Lilamand in Saint Remy de Provence or Maison Villaret in Nimes sell the “crème de la crème”: th variety is impressive, from apricots o chesnuts to wonderful melons. Though I have found good candied oranges or clementines in Italy too…  A good excuse for a bit of shopping abroad.

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These food-borne traditions are wonderful and  I am a sucker for all of them: I have to confess I do enjoy every one of them, from Christmas to Epiphany! I especially love sharing it all  with children around this time, especially the younger nephews and nieces for whom Christmas is still a new, fresh and magical time…

A beautiful wreath make for us by Peppermint Poppy alias Kenza

A beautiful wreath made for us by Peppermint Poppy alias Kenza

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Merry Christmas to all you love and peace on Earth for mankind

Merry Christmas to all you love and peace on Earth for mankind

Mince pies for Rudolph, a dram for Father C. and a present wrapped in sugar. Hope And Love to You ALL – Hope I have forgotten nobody!