If you’ve not yet read my post ‘Homage to the Buffet’, then please do. It’ll put all of the below into perspective and make this post look a lot less like a big long list, which is essentially what it is.
SO, on Boxing Day, as I’m sure you’re very aware, we had family over and I created a buffet. It wasn’t a buffet in the traditional sense, as we sat around the table (despite not really having enough chairs) and there wasn’t a prawn ring in sight. However, I still maintain that it was a buffet, as I made everything in advance and it was a ‘help-yourselves-while-I-drink-wine’ kind of affair.
Here are the things we had:
- My ultimate potato salad. My niece (who always said she didn’t like potato salad) said she loved it. Anyone who says they don’t like potato salad, will love this version. Until now, the recipe has been a closely guarded secret, locked in a safe, flanked by 24 hour security. However, in the spirit of Christmas, I have decided to share it with the world. The recipe is below.
- Cranberry and stilton bread. A Paul Hollywood recipe, which I have tweaked ever so slightly. Recipe below.
- Chorizo and sunblushed tomato bread (in the photo above). Same recipe as the cranberry and sitlton, just without cranberry and stilton. It’s with chorizo and sunblushed tomatoes instead. No cranberries. No stilton. Just chorizo and sunblushed tomatoes. I’m not sure I’m making myself clear here.
- Game pie. Definitely NOT made. I don’t think I could handle seeing what actually goes into one of these. They taste incredible though. We got ours from the ever-miraculous Abel and Cole. Organic, amazing quality meat and not too much jelly. Lip smacking served with lots of tangy pickle.
- Chicken liver and brandy pate. Another Abel and Cole treat. This most certainly isn’t everyday food. Unless you’re actually aiming for gout.
- Watercress, blood orange and pomegranate salad. I don’t really need to give you the recipe for this, do I? It is all three of these ingredients, tossed in a bowl. The juices of the fruit create their own dressing. It’s an amazing, refreshing, Christmassy combination which goes with anything. My hero Nigel Slater is fully responsible for this. I love you, Nigel. No, really. I do. Nigel.
- Scotch Eggs. I made these from scratch and I am never going back! They were really pleasurable to create and an absolute doddle. They didn’t last long enough for me to even get a photo, however this is a link to the incredibly helpful article I found, which contains some lovely scotch egg pictures, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into. The recipe at the bottom is the exact one I used. And the article contains the word ‘Pulchritudinous’. Do you need much more? If you don’t have the time or inclination to read it, instead, please remember this ancient housewife’s saying: ‘If you’re to be making scotch eggs three, use panko breadcrumbs: crunchy they shall be’. Please use panko breadcrumbs kids. They’ll permanently change the way you view and cook fried, crumbed food. They’re easy to get and cheap as well, I got mine from Sainsburys (see ye here). They’re amazing.
- Mince pies. Obvs. We had tons left, so last night I invented mince pie trifle. Yesterday morning, I woke up knowing nothing of the existence of mince pie trifle. Yesterday night, I went to bed, hammered, on a raging sugar come down, knowing quite a bit about the existence of mince pie trifle. It’s only for the brave. Recipe (if you can call it that), below.
- Chocolate and Chestnut Cake. Sort-of seasonal, rich, deep, sensual, filthy, FILTHY, cake. Recipe and sexy photo here.
Here are the things we were meant to have, but didn’t:
- Christmas coleslaw – burnt. Every year I make this with the left over spiced red cabbage from Christmas dinner. It’s so simple: red cabbage, grated carrot, grated onion, full fat mayonnaise. That is it. It’s incredible with turkey and lashings of butter on fluffy white bread. The only rule is to squeeze the carrots one you’ve grated them. Squeeze, y’hear? If you don’t, you get watery coleslaw. This isn’t a crime, it just makes your bread soggy. Soggy bread makes me think of duck ponds and bird tables in winter. Not very appetising. So, yeah, I burnt it. It looked great before it went in the oven (see here if you’re on Twitter), but the recipe I followed (half way down this page) meant the cabbage was quite dry and as such, all the juices very quickly disappeared. I’m free-styling next year.
- Homemade piccalilli – went manky. Great recipe, courtesy of my other TV cook boyfriend, Hugh Fearnley Whttingstall. However, something went terribly wrong with the pickling process. I definitely sterilised my jars and they were the right sort of jars, but I opened one on Christmas morning and the sights and smells that confronted me were what could only be described as Jurassic, sulphuric swamp. And only a few days previously I had proudly given some to my Mum (a chutney/jam master) for Christmas. I then had to call her and tell her in no uncertain terms not to eat it, as I was worried it might make her very, very ill. Merry Christmas, Mum. Love you.
- Paul Hollywood 8 strand plait – too ambitious. I’m a big fan of Paul. He’s probably my third TV food boyfriend after Nige and Hugh. However, I started on the sloe gin quite early on Boxing day, and the idea of creating one of his plaits quickly became unpalatable. I will do it one day though. If you’ve not seen this plait before, watch this. You’ll see why gin and 8 strand plait do not make good bedfellows.
So that’s what I did, here’s how I did it:
Ultimate Potato Salad.
Everyone has their own method of making potato salad. This one’s mine, passed to me by my good friend Louise. In my opinion, these are the key ingredients:
- Waxy, clean potatoes. Chopped into 3cm squared chunks.
- Full fat mayonnaise. We’re doing this properly. Full fat is essential.
- Full fat greek yoghurt. As above.
- Juice from a jar of pickled onions. This is the secret ingredient.
- Diced red onion.
- Chopped fresh dill.
- Chopped fresh parsley.
Boil the potatoes for around 10 minutes in salted water (until a fork goes right through one with very little pressure). After draining them leave them in the colander over the sink to dry out (my mum taught me that). Dry, fluffy potatoes absorb more of the juicy stuff.
While they’re cooling, start on the sauce in a separate bowl. Everyone has different tastes, but I start with two tablespoons of mayonnaise, one tablespoon of yoghurt and half a tablespoon of pickle juice. I then add the diced onion. The key is to keep tasting, adding and adjusting until you get the right flavour, quantity and consistency for you. I think the perfect consistency for potato salad sauce is of runny yoghurt.
As soon as the potatoes are cool, add the sauce. Then stir through a generous handful of each of the herbs. You can never have too many in my opinion.
BOOM! Ultimate potato sald. Gawjus.
Cranberry and Stilton Bread.
(Taken from Paul Hollywood’s book ‘How to Bake’ – available now)
This might look and sound like hard work, but it’s foolproof and you’ll be beaming with delight once you’ve made it. You won’t believe you’ve made it, it’s that good. You can leave it plain as an easy-to-make everyday loaf, or you can add you own mix of ingredients. As the bread is quite robust it can withstand lots of different ingredients. In the future, i’d like to try it with:
- Coriander and green olives
- Maple roasted pecans
- Cheddar and ham
- Pepperoni and onion
The only thing I would say about this bread is that that it’s a little too salty for my taste, however I don’t use salt much, so I notice it very readily in recipes. I haven’t tried it with less salt yet, I’m a bit too scared as I know it’ll affect the texture and quality of the bread. I think I just to man up on this one.
(Makes 1 loaf)
- 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 10g salt
- 10g instant yeast
- 30g unsalted butter, softened
- 320ml cool water
- 100g dried cranberries
- 150g Stilton, crumbled
Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the butter and three-quarters of the water and turn the mixture round with your fingers. Continue to add the remaining water, a little at a time, until you’ve picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all the water, or you may need to add a little more – you want dough that is soft, but not soggy. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl and keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.
Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead. Keep kneading for 5-10 minutes. Work through the initial wet stage until the dough starts to form a soft, smooth skin.
When your dough feels smooth and silky, put it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until at least doubled in size – at least 1 hour, but it’s fine to leave it for 2 or even 3 hours.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper.
Tip your dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Without knocking it back, flatten it out with your hands, then roll out using a rolling pin into a rectangle, about 35 x 25cm. Turn the dough 90 degrees if necessary, so you have a long edge facing you. Sprinkle the cranberries and Stilton on top as evenly as you can. Roll the dough up from the closest edge into a sausage. Press along the seam to seal it. Coil the sausage into a spiral and put it on the prepared baking tray.
Put the tray inside a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for 1 hour, or until the dough is at least doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it lightly with your finger. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 220C and put a roasting tray in the bottom to heat up.
When the dough is risen and feels light to the touch, fill the roasting tray with hot water and put the bread in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a wire rack.
Mince Pie Trifle.
Vile, evil, mistress. I can’t even give you the words to explain how this came to be. As such, I’m doing the recipe in the form of a filthy, sordid photo diary. You’re clever people. You can work out what’s going on without too much detail.
And that’s where it all went downhill. I have to say, it was bloody lovely. But I’m not hurrying back there. I think it’ll be a yearly treat. An antidote to Christmas come-down.
Right, anyway, I’m off. I’m still in my pyjamas and it’s half 6 at night. I did tell you the mince pie trifle stole my dignity, didn’t I?