Christmas Ideas

This year has been very busy with small groups booking their own private classes cooking their own choice of food at a date and time to suit, and I have been asked to teach evening classes again in York.     In response to several requests I have added a few workshops before Christmas  and a few in the new Year.  So if you are thinking of getting some ideas for canapes and nibbles, Christmas breadsor Christmas sweet treats,and would like to join us they are running on the three Saturdays before Christmas.   I have also added some baking, pastry bread and novice classes in the New year if you would like to book them for a Christmas present.  You can book via our website and Eventbrite or  contact me direct via phone or email.  Of course if you prefer you can still book your own private for 4-8 friends family or business colleagues.  

I am sure most of you will have your Christmas cakes made now and Christmas shopping underway. After such a mild Autumn it is difficult to think of Christmas being so close. We all like to cater for friends and family so it is important not to create meals which need a lot of last minute cooking,so if you have time, spend a little time each week creating a dessert or main course that will freeze, saving you time and spreading the cost in a few weeks.  If you have a slow cooker it needs to come out of the cupboard for your Christmas pudding on the day to save space or gently bubble away with a beef in beer or red wine, or a tasty casserole of chicken or beef and copious amounts of root vegetables topped with a herb and pancetta or horseradish dumpling when you return from a long walk or day at the sales.  

Salmon en croute is another alternative make ahead dish which enjoys variety of toppings from asparagus, lemon and creme fraiche to wilted spinach and pinenuts bound in ricotta or a simple soft cheese and lime with coriander.  Some recipes suggest using both sides of the salmon and sandwiching the  filling in between, but this can prove difficult to serve as it can slide about when slicing. Often it is easier to pile the filling on top of one side and wrap up in puff pastry with the topping uppermost and the seam underneath.  Koulibac  is a Russian alternative and has flaked salmon mixed with rice and other flavourings for a more economical buffet dish.

Chocolate is a must at Christmas and not only does it set itself without the use of gelatine, it can be bought in a variety of flavours to couple with a liqueur to liven up a dessert.   Chocolate mousse cake slips down easily at the end of a meal and can be made in advance and frozen. It is a truffle style mixture on sponge or I have known it in between two layers of sponge. Chocolate collars or adding a fruit mousse to a chocolate moulded bowl takes presentation to a new dimension.  Oranges or clementines desserts are very seasonal -  caramel oranges served with a baked cheesecake or simple crepe Suzettes are a make ahead dishes. Gluten free ideas are chocolate roulade and brownie made with ground almonds, lemon pavlova roll or any meringue or pavlova based dessert.

A roast Christmas dinner can cook itself, but it is all the accompaniments that go with it, and you want to enjoy spending time with family instead of in the kitchen.   Homemade stuffing can be made and frozen in the form of a roll wrapped in pancetta or individual tartlets of your favourite stuffing encased in a pancetta or prosciutto cup.  A large rosti potato can be cooked and frozen in advance and variations can be with a mixture of potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes and/or ham. An alternative starter  is a beetroot and horseradish rosti with poached egg and smoked salmon   Always remember to drain and squeeze the grated vegetables before adding the egg and cooking. Yorkshire puddings if cooked until very crisp will freeze and reheat if the family cannot be without them and you cant find room in the oven, and adding a little marmalade to cranberries whilst cooking rather than orange juice speeds up cranberry sauce reduction.

I hope some of these suggestions have tickled your grey matter with inspiration for the festive season


Chocolate truffle gateau
2 eggs
50g caster sugar
50g plain flour
 Double quantity of modelling paste & Cocoa to dust

Grease and line the base of a 9” spring from mould or loose bottomed cake tin.
Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick enough to leave a trail when the whisk is removed. Fold in the sifted flour with a large metal spoon.  Turn into the prepared cake tin and bake in a preheated oven gas 5 190c 15-20 minutes until firm and risen.
Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

250ml double cream
250g plain chocolate
15ml 1 tbs liquid glucose
2 tbs 30ml liqueur or brandy

Melt chocolate and brandy together over a pan of water.
Whip cream to soft peaks. – Just until you can see the trail of the beaters.
Cool the chocolate slightly then fold the two together.
Cut the cake in half and place the bottom back into the loose mould.  Place the truffle on top and then place on the top half of the cake.  Chill until firm. To serve remove from the tin and cover the sides in modelling paste like big petals or a large band of chocolate. Dust with cocoa