Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Red Cabbage with Cranberries and Rioja

Time to get cracking:  a week long creative project, interspersed with lots of parties, a significant amount of chocolate and far too much Champagne. I am trying to lay down a few more things in the freezer, just to get ahead of the game for the weekend and to ensure that I don't spend the whole of saturday in the kitchen when I could be playing with the toys and relaxing with guests.

There are traditional dishes that a Christmas table needs to keep the ancestors happy. Roast potatoes, root vegetables and red cabbage are just a few of them. Even if there is only one person remaining in the house who likes red cabbage, you can't miss it out. This version has the sharpness of cranberries and Granny Smiths melded with the warmth of Rioja and a little zing of chilli to finish. A perfect foil to the richness of a Christmas roast.

Red Cabbage with Cranberries and Rioja
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly into half moons
1 small head of red cabbage, finely shredded
2 sharp eating apples (I used Granny Smiths), grated
100g fresh cranberries 
3tbsp soft brown sugar
350ml rioja or other fruity red wine
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the onion and fry slowly until softened but not coloured.
Add the cabbage, apples and cranberries to the pan and mix together well.
Sprinkle the sugar over the mixture and add the wine and hot pepper flakes (if using).
Cook at a very low heat for around 1 1/2 - 2hours until soft and melting together.
Season to taste with a generous sprinkle of salt and allow to cool.
The dish is now ready to freeze or leave in the fridge for up to 2 days until needed. The flavours improve with age.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Kilted Sausages and Cranberry & Apple Stuffing

Living in fear of being snowed in has led me to a new and very lovely place in my life: I am really quite organised for Christmas. Presents have been bought or (hopefully) are on their way. Cakes have been baked for home and for the Green Apple Cafe, canapes have been made and frozen and only interesting side dishes remain to be considered.

There is something so depressing about kilted sausages in a supermarket pack. Usually 12 miniature sausages with a wafer thin wrapping of bacon in a huge plastic pack. Why depressing? Well either you need lots of packs or you are getting one or at best two tiny sausages with your Christmas dinner. "That's enough for me," you might say, and while I might agree with you on the day, it is simply too frugal for that particular meal. So I need to make mine at home. Not rocket science but one of those little side dishes that is worth a little bit of time and effort sourcing the ingredients. A good butcher for the chipolata sausages (get lots), well cured bacon, I found some maple cured streaky bacon. Then simply run the flat of a knife along the streaky bacon to stretch it out a little thinner, then wrap each little sausage in a little kilt of bacon. Cook alongside the turkey as you would a very small pack of supermarket sausages. It is well worth a drizzle of maple syrup with a light hand just a few minutes before you take them out of the oven to accentuate the sweetness of the bacon.

A proper recipe this time for Cranberry stuffing. Another simple recipe but with the best ingredients, it makes a special addition to Christmas dinner. Either buy good sausages and split their skins to remove the sausage meat or speak to your local butcher and ask for their best shop-made sausage meat. This stuffing can be used in the traditional way to stuff a turkey but I prefer it cooked seperately

Cranberry, Apple and Pork Stuffing
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
500g good quality sausage meat
100g fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
2 green apples, peeled and grated
zest of one tangerine or small orange
1 egg

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
In a heavy frying pan, heat the oil, add the onion and saute until transluscent but not coloured.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, stir the onion together with all the other ingredients until well combined. The easiest way is to knead with your hands.
Either roll the mixture into small balls the size of walnuts or press into a loaf tin.(If you must, use it to stuff the turkey but this makes the turkey even harder to cook so I prefer to cook it seperately as a side dish)
For walnut sized balls, bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until cooked through. For stuffing baked in a loaf tin, bake for 45-60 minutes until golden and cooked throughout. Serve with turkey or with any roast dinner.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Fig and Goat Cheese Biscotti

Don't know about you but I have done the trawling through busy shops, wading through slushy car parks, rushing to the post office for last posting dates and late night list making and now I am more than ready to get started on the nice bits of Christmas. You know? The bits that make it all worthwhile. Decorating the house with the children, wrapping presents with the Pogues playing in the background and making Christmas biscuits: It's time to turn on the oven and get into baking mode, snowy stars to hang on the Christmas tree for the kids and these gorgeous savoury biscotti for me. 

The cheeseboard is my very favourite part of any meal and at this time of year, the usual water biscuits and oatcakes are just not good enough. These biscotti are dense, rich and a great addition to a cheese platter although I quite like them on their own with a cocktail. You can't beat the mix of strong flavoured cheese with the intense sweetness of dried fruit. You could replace the goat cheese with a blue cheese or even with a strong cheddar. However, if you make them, it is definitely worth making double and giving these away wrapped in cellophane as a gift.

Fig and Goat Cheese Biscotti

350g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
100g soft goat cheese, crumbled
100g soft dried figs, chopped into 1cm chunks

Pre-heat the oven to 180C
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl.                                                       
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.
Add the wet ingredients into the dry along with the goat cheese and figs.
Mix together until the dough comes together, if it is too dry, add a little more milk until you have a workable dough.
Form into two long, wide logs (approx 7cm x 30cm) on a baking tray and bake in the oven for around 30 mins until risen and golden.
Allow to cool a little then cut the logs into 2cm wide slices.
Put these back on the baking tray and bake again for 10-15 mins till golden and crispy.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Brandied Chocolate Cranberries

Now this is a proper Christmas recipe to get you in the mood: cranberries, chocolate, alcohol all encased in a wee nothing-at-all of a nibble. Seasonal music is playing, snow is falling heavily outside so I am having an urge to create completely frivolous food , the sort of food you only have time and inclination to make during the holidays.

I found these Chocolate Cognac Cranberries in the American Oprah Magazine and such is my love of those extremely Christmassy berries, I was excited to find a new way to play with them. This recipe is fiddly to make and very messy but so grown-up and delicious it is worth all the effort. 

Brandied Chocolate Cranberries
300g sugar
juice of one lemon
300g fresh cranberries
150ml brandy
100g good dark chocolate (I used Green and Black's maya gold)

Put sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with 500ml cold water.
Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Lower the heat to a simmer then add the cranberries and heat for 1 minute.
Strain the berries and allow to cool.
Toss the cranberries in the brandy and marinate for a few hours or overnight.

When you are ready to coat in chocolate, drain the cranberries (reserve any remaining liquid and use as the base of a champagne cocktail) and allow them to dry a little  on some greaseproof paper.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, then use two forks to toss each cranberry in the chocolate then place on greaseproof paper to set. Store in the fridge or freezer. Serve after dinner with coffee.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Butternut Squash and Beetroot Crumble with Dunsyre Blue

Ok, so we live in a small village - the shops here are great, but even they have been challenged this week with erratic deliveries and limited stock. I have been desperate all week to make a huge pot of winter beef stew (maybe with a touch of dark chocolate and a little cinnamon, reminiscent of a mole sauce) or a pot of my mum's amazing lamb stock soup but instead of beef or lamb bones, I left the ravaged shop with a pack of beetroot and a large butternut squash. 

Butternut squash risotto? Goat cheese and beetroot salad? I wanted (needed?)  rich, warming, comfort food. Something to match the weather, to warm us up after a day of sledging and trudging and shivering. This was rich, creamy and so calorific, it almost defeated the purpose of eating such healthy vegetables. Next time, I might make it with a base of tomato passata and marmite instead of cream but either way, with crusty bread, it will make a wonderful snow day lunch. Tomorrow however, I am venturing out to the big shops in Edinburgh and I WILL come back with beef and chocolate so bring on the beef stew.

Beetroot and Butternut Squash Crumble
1 butternut squash, peeled (approx 500g)
1 250g pack of vac-packed beetroot
1 284ml carton double cream
75ml milk
salt and pepper 

Preheat your oven to 190C.
Thinly slice the butternut squash and beetroot and layer in an ovenproof dish. Season each layer with a little salt and pepper.
Whisk together the cream and milk and pour over the vegetables.

for the crumble mixture:
100g butter
100g flour
75g oatmeal
100g Dunsyre Blue, (or other earthy blue cheese) crumbled
50g Parmesan cheese

Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. 
Stir in the oatmeal and blue cheese. 
Scatter the crumble mixture over the vegetables then sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes.