One of my favourite things about Christmas is entertaining. I’m never happier than when there are guests at our table, and the house is filled with the sounds of chinking glasses and chatter. I was delighted, then, when Waitrose asked me to share one of my favourite recipes for easy Christmas entertaining. In our house, we traditionally invite friends and family over for dinner on Boxing Day. It’s a great way to relax and unwind after the big day, and I tend to make a huge ‘Boxing Day pie’ using leftover turkey and ham, then just serve it simply with mashed potato and steamed veg. Of course, you don’t have to wait until Boxing Day – this pie is just as delicious using chicken instead of turkey, and it can be made well in advance and kept in the fridge ready to pop into the oven. Here’s how to make my festive pie:
Stir-up Sunday is coming, people! I absolutely love this weekend as, for me, it properly signifies the start of Christmas. The kitchen is filled with the warming scents of orange and spice, and there’s lots of stirring and steaming: all my favourite things! If you fancy making your own Christmas puddings this year, I’ve added the ingredients list nice and early so you can make sure you have everything ready. Remember that, if you follow this recipe, you’ll actually need to start on the Saturday as I recommend steeping the fruit overnight – also, do remember that steaming the pudding takes about five hours, so don’t start everything too late or you’ll be steaming when you should be sleeping! So, for the Christmas pudding recipe 2017, I’ve kept it simple: no figs, no apricots, just a lot of cranberries and plenty of spice. Here’s how to do it:
So here it is, my very last post before Christmas! I’ve been writing this blog for 10 years now (I know!) and every year, I say the same thing: if you’re cooking the Christmas lunch – and getting stressed about it – remember it’s your Christmas too. I’ve got loads of tips here to make the day as stress free and laid back as possible for you, so you can enjoy your Christmas day with your family and friends. So find a quiet corner, Treat yourself to my perfect frozen whipped cream hot chocolate, grab a notebook, have a read through and take few minutes to make a plan. And remember, it’s basically just a big roast dinner, and this guide will help you do most of the work on Christmas Eve so you can spend as much time as possible with the family, and as little as possible in the kitchen on the big day!
I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but when Mr E was little, his favourite treat was his mum’s ‘pastry jammy cakey things’ – basically a jam tart with a cake topping. Over the years I’ve made these in various different forms, but he especially loves the Christmassy mince pie version. We’re Christmas lovers here at Number One, and Christmas starts basically as soon as Mr E’s birthday is over in mid-November (we just about manage to reach December 1st before the tree goes up). This year, I’ve added festive clementine and cinnamon to the cake mix, but sadly still not thought of a decent name for them, so ‘clementine and cinnamon cakey mince pies’ will have to do.
So it’s Stir-up Sunday this weekend, the day when families traditionally make their Christmas puddings. This is a two-day kind of Christmas pudding recipe so I tend to start it on the Saturday then finish on Stir-up Sunday. Whenever you start this recipe, bear in mind that the finished pudding takes 5 hours to steam, so don’t start it too late in the day! This one is a vaguely orange and cranberry Christmas pudding, as I like the colour and flavour combo, but feel free to use whatever ingredients you fancy.
If you’re anything like me, the best bit of the build up to Christmas is all the lovely food shows on the telly. I have all the Nigella Christmas shows recorded and love having them playing in the background while I’m working. I also like all the programmes on Good Food (look out for Rachel Allen’s Christmas Cake Diaries) and Food Network UK (especially Barefoot Contessa – I love the way she says ‘budderrrrr’). If you’re going to be setting your TV box to record this Christmas, here are a few you shouldn’t miss. I’ve arranged them in date order – hopefully that’s more convenient than by channel:
Food Network: Rosemary Shrager’s Classic Christmas: Saturday 14th December, midday
Not sure if this is new (I think so) but it does look good.
BBC2: Tom Kerridge Cooks Christmas: Monday 16th December, 8.30pm
Following on from his amazing Proper Pub Food, Tom turns his considerable skills to Christmas dinner. Only half an hour? But we LOVE Tom Kerridge!!
BBC2: The Great British Bakeoff Christmas Special: Tuesday 17th December, 8pm
Not a huge bakeoff fan, but I do love Mary Berry. Definitely worth a watch.
BBC2: Food and Drink Christmas Special: Wednesday 18th December, 8pm
Apparently they’re bringing Food and Drink back for a new series next year. Mary Berry features in this one too.
BBC2: The 12 Drinks of Christmas: Thursday 19th December, 9pm
Alexander Armstrong and Giles Coren are brothers-in-law, apparently. This is their countdown to the best drinks of the festive season.
Channel 4: Gordon Ramsay’s Festive Home Cooking, starts: Friday 20th December, 8pm
If you missed his original Home Cooking series, you should try and find it on catch up. It’s fabulous. Really looking forward to this.
ITV: Let’s do Christmas… with Gino and Mel (daily), starts Sunday 15th December, ends Christmas Eve.
Mr English loves Gino and Mel. They have a great 0n-screen relationship and do have a great giggle. I thought Gino was doing a Christmas spesh too, but I can’t find it anywhere.
And for after Christmas, there’s Jamie’s Festive Feast on 30th December at 8pm on Channel 4.
If anyone’s got any that I’ve missed, please do let me know and I’ll add them in!
I have a lovely friend, Helen, who I’ve known (electronically) for years and who writes the fabulous website The Foodie Gift Hunter. She is THE go-to person for gift ideas and, frankly, if you like food it’s a great read even if you’re not searching for a gift. We both share a penchant for the ridiculous, the kitsch and the corny, plus we also share a love of cook books. This year, we challenged each other to a little Christmas cook book-off, if you will. A kind of ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ of our Christmas cookbook selections.
So without further ado, pop pickers… (and in the style of ‘Fluff’ Freeman), here are my top ten Christmas cookbooks:
A Simply Delicious Christmas by Darina Allen. Published in the late 80s, I love it not just because its Irishness reminds me of my years spent living in Cavan, but because the original owner of my copy marked her favourite recipes with Novena cards (they’re like little Catholic prayer cards).
Elizabeth David’s Christmas. I have quite a few of Elizabeth David’s books. Like Rick Stein, I love her writing for the elements of travel (and wisdom) as well as her recipes. This Christmas compilation by Jill Norman is wonderful. I love the eccentricity of it all (goose giblet stew, anyone?) but there are some Christmas classics in there too.
the cnristmas cookbook (I love that Amazon have spelled it incorrectly) – by Nanette Newman. Another 80s classic here. Nanette Newman is so full of warmth – the perfect family Christmas positively oozes from these pages. This is also a great one to refer to for some lovely oldy fashionedy recipes if you’re going a bit retro at your party: chicken with avocado and grapes, for instance, and an AMAZING cheesecake recipe called Eli’s Cheesecake, which I make throughout the year, not just at Christmas.
Not strictly a Christmas book, but Cooking With Mickey and the Disney Chefs by Pam Brandon gets my vote. As you know, I’m a bit of a Disney nutcase, and I was lucky enough to have dinner with Pam Brandon at Walt Disney World on a press trip. I nearly spontaneously combusted when she introduced herself. She writes the Disney Food Blog as well, which is a thing of beauty. This book contains THE BEST Eggs Benedict recipe I’ve ever tried, perfect for Christmas morning.
Peterson’s Holiday Helper: Festive Pick-me-ups, Calm-me-downs, and Handy Hints to Keep You in Good Spirits by Valerie Peterson is a great fun book which comes out every Christmas at English Towers. It contains great recipes, hilarious tips and great cocktails and is a total giggle to read. Everyone should have one.
Scandinavian Christmas is a new one this year. Trine Hahnemann’s delightful book contains scrummy Skandi recipes (including some great cookies to make with kids) and is a joy to read. It would make a great present for any Christmas addict.
Possibly my favourite, just for the sheer joy I get from reading it is Christmas with Paula Deen: Recipes and Stories from My Favorite Holiday. Completely bonkers and full of her more mental recipe suggestions, including ‘The Best Damn Blueberry Muffin You’ll Ever Eat’ – you’ll need to stock up on massive amounts of cream cheese and sticks of buddderrrr, and may die of a coronary afterwards, but God you’d die happy. Merry Christmas Y’all!
The original and best, Merry Kitschmas: The Ultimate Holiday Handbook by Michael D Conway is the book that started my love of Christmas books. Here’s my original post on the subject. I still love it, and try to recreate those AMAZING candy cane cocktails every year.
Christmas would not be Christmas without Martha Stewart telling you how to hand make a personalised gift tag made out of gingerbread. I have several Martha Stewart Christmas books (I know, right?), but Christmas With Martha Stewart Living is still my favourite. It doesn’t matter that I sit and flick through it whilst drinking a cocktail and eating my way through a box of Celebrations – in my head I’m at my sewing machine, painstakingly making presents for each of my loved ones.
Lastly, but certainly not leastly, is the wondrous Nigella. This one comes out every year too – her Chocolate Christmas cake has been made many times, and hey, who cares if you need 8 eggs and several hundredweight of specialist items to create the dishes. It’s Christmas. No cook should be without Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities.
And that’s it. Around the Christmas tree in my ten favourite books. Do tell me yours!
Oh and by the way, this post contains affiliate links, which means that if 100,000 of you buy a book via the links, I’ll get about 2p. Thanks!
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