Have yourself a foodie little Christmas

It's that time of year again and amid the snowpocalypse, the fear of presents not yet arrived, there is a little oasis of calm that I call my kitchen.  I make no secret of it, I love cooking and find it incredibly relaxing, especially at Christmas when everyone else seems to be losing their heads.  Tomorrow I'll be kicking off preparations and start creating the feast for Saturday's big day (probably listening to music very loudly, singing badly and drinking a little bit of wine in the process).

Potato Pancakes

These great little pancakes can be made and cooked in advance, as I'm doing tomorrow, and then put in a warm oven for 10 minutes before serving.  The Russians ate these topped with caviar, I'm going for smoked salmon and sour cream with a glass of fizz for my guests as they arrive.

Serves 6

155g Floury potatoes, boiled and mashed
15ml Easy blend dried yeast
175g Plain flour
oil for frying

To serve

A slice of Smoked Salmon
A spoonful of Sour Cream
Lemon wedges
or whatever else you fancy!

Put the pancake ingredients in a large mixing bowl and slowly add 300ml lukewarm water, mixing well.

Cover with a clean tea towel and put the bowl in a warm place for 30 minutes until the mix doubles in size.

Once the mixture has risen, heat a large, non-stick frying pan and warm your oil.  Drop spoonfuls of the pancake mixture (remember, these are nibbles so don't go too big!)  onto the hot oil (be careful not to splash hot oil!) and cook for 2 minutes each side or until lightly golden.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside (at this point I'm popping them in the fridge overnight) ready to be topped with the salmon and cream and served with a glass of something bubbly to your eager guests.

Christmas Ham

Serves 6 with enough for sandwiches

I first posted this recipe in 2007 but I felt that it deserves a re-posting because frankly it's amazing.  The bubbling pan smells of Christmas!  Thanks to my mother (and possibly St. Delia) for the recipe.

Middle Cut Gammon (Approx 1kg 75g / 3 1/2 lbs)
1 Onion
1 Pint Dry Cider
1/2 tspn Black Peppercorns

2 tbspn Dark Brown Sugar
1 tbspn Wholegrain Mustard

Place Gammon in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Discard this water.

Add the bayleaf, peppercorns and onion to the pan and 3/4 of the cider. Top up with water until gammon is covered.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour, topping up with water to keep the ham covered.

Once the hour is up, remove the gammon and leave to cool then using a sharp knife remove the rind, leaving a small layer of fat. Score the joint and place in a roasting tin. Mix the mustard and sugar together and press onto the fat and side of the ham. Pour the rest of the cider into the pan and roast at Gas Mark 6/425F/200C for 45 minutes, basting regularly with the cider and juices

Choc Chestnut Pots

As you may have noticed, I'm all about taking the stress out of Christmas and preparing as much as I can the day before.  This means when my guests arrive on Christmas day I won't be sweating in the kitchen but instead can enjoy their company (that's the plan at least) and these little beauties fit the bill just right.  Don't like/can't find madeira?  Try brandy instead.

Serves 6

250g good quality plain chocolate
60ml madeira
25g butter, diced
2 eggs, seperated
225g unsweetened chestnut puree
Whipped Cream to decorate

Break up the chocolate into squares and put in a saucepan with the madeira and melt over a gentle heat.  Once the chocolate is melted, take the pan off the heat and add the butter slowly, a few pieces at a time and stirring until smooth and glossy. 

Add the egg yolks and quickly beat them into the chocolatey mix.  Next, beat in the chestnut puree.  This is quite lumpy so make sure you keep beating until the mixture is smooth again.

In a seperate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks (you can do the cheffy "holding the bowl over your head" thing if you really want to).  Stir in a tablespoon of the chocolate mix before folding in the rest of the chocolate mix, being careful not to knock the air out of the mousse.

Spoon the mix into little ramekins and refrigerate until set (I'm leaving them overnight).
Take them out 30 minutes before serving and top with some whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.

Pancake and choc pot recipes taken from "Appetizers, Finger Food, Buffets and Parties" Edited by Bridget Jones (No, not that one)

What are you cooking for Christmas?  Do you have any family traditions or quirky recipes to share?

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!


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