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Festive Feasting

PUBLISHED: 16:11 27 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:22 20 February 2013

Set your kitchen aglow with the glory of Christmas cooking by trying these delicious seasonal recipes by Gideon Hitchin, a Senior Chef at the River Cottage HQ and Bath Canteen. Photography by Martyn Norsworthy

Set your kitchen aglow with the glory of Christmas cooking by trying these delicious seasonal recipes by Gideon Hitchin, a Senior Chef at the River Cottage HQ and Bath Canteen. Photography by Martyn Norsworthy

Set your kitchen aglow with the glory of Christmas cooking by trying these delicious seasonal recipes by Gideon Hitchin, a Senior Chef at the River Cottage HQ and Bath Canteen. Photography by Martyn Norsworthy

Festive Feasting



Set your kitchen aglow with the glory of Christmas cooking by trying these delicious seasonal recipes by Gideon Hitchin, a Senior Chef at the River Cottage HQ and Bath Canteen. Photography by Martyn Norsworthy



For those of us that like to pretend that supermarkets dont exist, winter is a time of frugality. We shun those farmed fish on the fishmongers slab, pooh-pooh the imported new potatoes, and shudder at the strawberries mocking us from their plastic punnets. We are the lonely long-distance runners, kept warm only by the knowledge that we are the pious, faithful followers of Nature and that when all of the unsustainable trappings of Western living fall away, we will be able to survive. But that said, there is surely room for some frivolity between the Brussel sprouts?


This month (which is, after all, a whole month and not just its most famous day), I have given you a store-cupboard party menu. Yes, theres a simple salt-fish brandade (a traditional French dip), but guess what? Its boiled in loads of cream and garlic! Wash it down with an expensive sweet white wine and suddenly winter doesnt seem so bad.


Goose? Sounds a bit difficult already, doesnt it? Well, you can just buy one goose breast or a couple of duck breasts and roast them. Mission accomplished. Slice them up and toss them with some crumbled blue cheese and caramelised onions and you have a version of the classic bistro dish of steak Roquefort. Again, remember this is a month of celebration (and that red wine is good for you) and wash it down with something full-bodied, to keep the cold out.


Nothing could be more frugal than a humble pancake. But why not dress it up a little? Surely it should go to the Christmas party, too? Well then, smother it in Cointreau and drape a few segments of orange over it. See? Its transformed from a dowdy little pudding into an exotic seductress, dancing on your tongue. My tongue seems to be running away with me... maybe I shouldnt have celebrated quite so much during courses one and two. But it is Christmas after all!



Brandade of Salt Cod (or even better, Pollack) and Melba Toast



Serves 4


Ingredients


4in piece of salt cod (or pollack), soaked for 48 hours (ask your local fishmonger)


1 large baking potato


250ml double cream


1 head of garlic, chopped


4-6 slices of toast (brown or white)


Olive oil


Chopped parsley


Lemon juice



1 Dry the cod and fry in plenty of olive oil with the garlic. Stop cooking before the garlic burns.


2 Pour in the cream, boil for five minutes and then set aside. Peel, chop and boil the potato until very soft. When cooked, lightly mash and add the fish and cream mixture until all is combined. Allow to cool before seasoning with black pepper, lemon juice and chopped parsley. Put into a serving dish and trickle over some olive oil.


3 Slice the toast in half to make it very thin, then toast again on the uncooked side until quite brittle. Serve on the side and use to dip in the brandade. You could drink quite a sweet white wine with this starter.



Salad of Goose, Blue Vinney and Shallot Dressing


Serves 4


Ingredients


1 goose breast (or 2 duck breasts)


10 shallots, very finely chopped


250ml olive oil


100g Blue Vinney cheese


Winter leaves of your choice



1 Oil and season the goose breast, then roast in a hot oven for approx 20 minutes or until very pink in the middle. Rest in a warm place, covered for an hour, until the middle turns nicely pink but is not too rare.


2 Shallot dressing: meanwhile, saut the shallots in a little olive oil. When golden (not dark) add the rest of the olive oil and bring them to below a simmer, so they are gently stewing. Cook for about 30 minutes, then allow to cool.


3 Cut the warm goose into slices about 3mm thick and put them into a warm mixing bowl. Shave the cheese with a vegetable peeler and add to the meat along with plenty of the shallot dressing. Finely scatter in the leaves and toss all lightly together.


4 Serve with chips or saut potatoes on the side, and plenty of full-bodied red wine.



Crpes Suzette with Seville Oranges and Cointreau


Serves 4


Ingredients


250g plain flour


2 eggs


500ml milk


Vanilla (seeds of 1 pod or 1 tsp of essence)


200g caster sugar


8 Seville oranges


1 small bottle of Cointreau


1 bottle of sparking white wine (optional)



1 Break up the eggs and mix with the flour and two tablespoons of caster sugar to form a thick paste. Thin with the milk and add the vanilla. Fry the batter in a little melted butter to make eight thin pancakes. Place in a low oven to keep warm.


2 Wipe the pan clean and add the rest of the sugar and slowly caramelise over a low heat. Zest and juice one orange and juice another three. Segment the other four.


3 Add the zest to the juice in a small bowl. When the sugar has melted and turned brown, remove from heat and carefully add the juice and zest. Return to the heat and stir to dissolve the caramel into a syrup. Off the heat, add 150ml Cointreau. Return to the heat and carefully flamb.


4 When the flames have died down, allow to cool a little before dipping your pancakes in the syrup and folding them onto your plates. Put the orange segments on top of them, drizzle over any remaining syrup and eat with a cocktail made of one part Cointreau to four parts sparkling wine. Happy Christmas!



River Cottage Canteen @ Komedia, 22-23 Westgate St, Bath, BA1 1EP; 01225 471578

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