“So this is Christmas, and what have you done?” Can you believe it? Another year is nearly over and with 2024 around the corner, we have just enough time for the annual conversation regarding the Christmas dinner.
During the month of December, I’ll be using this column to contribute my two cents on how to navigate the big day. For what it’s worth, my Christmas cooking is usually pretty tasty, with very little washing-up and minimum fuss. I marvel every year at the amount of conversation one meal can generate. It is the season for the “celebrity chef” to down tools momentarily and hit the campaign trail. There will be radio discussions, TV debates, magazine interviews, Christmas jumper photo shoots, one-off TV specials and even newspaper columns. As I write this, I’ve looked at myself in the mirror.
Let’s be honest: Christmas cooking is completely overblown. Follow a few key points and it’ll be a breeze. Firstly, remember you are not opening a Michelin-starred restaurant for one night only, so no need to panic. Yes, it’s the one time of the year when people get a sense of a restaurant service at home, cooking for large numbers, but it’s also a lot of fun. I use my general life phrase here: KISS (Keep it simple, stupid). It’s great advice for overcoming many of life’s challenges. This month’s recipes will focus on versatile ingredients, saving on washing-up, not overloading the oven for hours on end and reducing waste at a time of year where it gets out of hand.
First up, it’s a humble sausage roll. It’s perfect as a party bite, Christmas Eve nibble, big day starter, cold lunch, or even for feeding the kids when you’re on the move. It also uses cost effective ingredients and depending on how much effort you put in, can be a showstopper too (I expect to see everyone placing thyme leaves in perfect formation on their pastry). I’ve also added in a savoury chutney recipe that can be made in bulk and used across the festive season as well. Use it on cheese boards, in your turkey sandwich or even add a spoonful to jazz up gravy.
There is also a cheese and onion tarte fine. It sounds fancy, but I just didn’t feel that cheese and onion puff slice would sell it enough. This is a lovely vegetarian dish that can be served as a starter, WFH lunch or cut into little fingers like you see here, for a pre-dinner canapé. Like the chutney, the onion jam can be made in bulk and kept for weeks in the fridge. It’s lovely with sausages and mash, in fact.
Both dishes use shop bought puff pastry, a staple in my freezer at home and a great way of turning leftover bits into full dishes. The key is to always cook it on a preheated tray to achieve crisp pastry. By the way, nobody will give out if you use shop-bought chutney or onion jam either.
Welcome to Christmas 2023, let’s keep it simple.