A Delicious little Christmas Eve supper

How about planning a delicious little Christmas Eve supper that can be slipped into the oven, something comforting to soothe your shattered nerves, when you are exhausted and fraught from trying to remember a zillion things, and doing your best to be all things to all men. A convivial family supper around the kitchen table is the true spirit of Christmas.

First pop a bottle or several of Prosecco into the fridge ‘just in case’ you feel like a little fizz. If a pot of tea seems more likely to hit the spot the bubbly will be well chilled for Christmas Day anyway.

French Peasant Soup would be delicious, its quite filling so if you opt for just soup and pud everyone could tuck into a second or even third bowl. While you are at it, make three or four times the recipe, it freezes brilliantly, little tubs are ideal and can be defrosted very quickly if some pals unexpectedly drop in and look as though they are not going to leave until they get fed!

For main course, a gratin would be easy and delicious. It takes a bit of putting together but it can of course be made ahead and just slipped into the oven until it is heated through and it is crunchy and bubbly on top.

Another alternative would be my sister Lizzie’s ‘supper in a pot’ which is so comforting and filling.

A green salad of winter leaves with a good punchy dressing made from really good extra virgin olive oil will make you feel less full so you have room for pudding. Dessert could be an Apple and Mincemeat Tart or maybe a Toffee and Date pudding with Butterscotch Sauce, or a Cool Yule Fruit Salad.

Alternatively forget pudding as such and just cut the Christmas Cake and enjoy a little slice with a glass of sweet sherry or ice wine.

Whatever the choice lets not forget to thank the good Lord for all the delicious food, spare a thought and share with those around us who are in need, and above all remember and reflect on the real reason for the celebration.

A very Happy Christmas to all our readers.

French Peasant Soup

This is another very substantial soup - it has 'eating and drinking' in it and would certainly be a meal in itself particularly if some grated Cheddar cheese was scattered over the top.
Serves 6

6 ozs (170g) unsmoked streaky bacon (in the piece)
Olive or sunflower oil
5 ozs (140g) potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
2 ozs (55g) onions, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic (optional)
1 lb (450g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1 x 14 oz (400g) tin of tomatoes and their juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½-1 teasp. sugar
1¼ pints (750ml) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 ozs (55g) cabbage (Savoy is best), finely chopped

Chopped parsley

Remove the rind from the bacon if necessary. Prepare the vegetables and cut the bacon into ¼ inch (5mm) dice approx. Blanch the bacon cubes in cold water to remove some of the salt, drain and dry on kitchen paper, saute in a little olive or sunflower oil until the fat runs and the bacon is crisp and golden. Add potatoes, onions and crushed garlic, sweat for 10 minutes and then add diced tomatoes and any juice. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Cover with stock and cook for 5 minutes. Add the finely chopped cabbage and continue to simmer just until the cabbage is cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley and serve.

Mediterranean Peasant Soup

Add ½ Kabanossi sausage thinly sliced to the soup with the potato. ¼ lb (110g) cooked haricot beans may also be added with the cabbage at the end for a more robust soup.
Winter Green Salad with Honey and Mustard Dressing
For this salad, use a selection of winter lettuces and salad leaves, e.g. Butterhead, Iceberg, Raddichio, Endive, Chicory, Watercress, Buckler leaf, Sorrel, Rocket leaves and Winter Purslane Mysticana. Tips of purple sprouting broccoli are also delicious and if you feel like something more robust, use some finely-shredded Savoy cabbage and maybe a few shreds of red cabbage also. 

Honey and Mustard Dressing
6 fl ozs (150ml) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils, eg. sunflower and arachide
2 fl ozs (50ml) wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teasp. honey
2 heaped teasp. wholegrain honey mustard
2 cloves garlic

Mix all the ingredients together and whisk well before use.

Wash and dry the lettuces and other leaves very carefully in a large sink of cold water. If large tear into bite sized pieces and put into a deep salad bowl. Cover with cling film and refrigerate if not to be served immediately. Just before serving toss with a little dressing - just enough to make the leaves glisten. Serve immediately.

Note: Green Salad must not be dressed until just before serving, otherwise it will be tired and unappetising.

Lizzie’s Chicken Hot Pot

This basic technique may also be used with lamb or pork.
Serves 6-8

8 potatoes
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
2-4 carrots, peeled and sliced ¼" thick
4-8 ozs (110-225g) streaky bacon, cut into lardous
free range organic chicken ( 6- 8 portions, e.g. 4 chicken breasts and 4 thighs or drumsticks cut into manageable size pieces)
salt, freshly ground pepper
chicken stock 
few sprigs thyme

Medium-sized Le Creuset type casserole 

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Regulo 8. 

Peel the potatoes, four thinly and the others in thick slices. Arrange a layer of thinly sliced potatoes in the base of the dish. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

A layer of thinly sliced onion comes next, then the carrot and bacon lardons, season again. Lay the chicken pieces on top. Another sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper and a sprig of thyme. Finally an overlapping layer of thickly sliced potatoes. Pour boiling stock over the lot to come about half way up the side. Cover. Put into the preheated oven and cook for 40-60 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the potato is crisp and golden on top. 

Toffee and Date Pudding with Butterscotch and Pecan Nut Sauce

Serves 6-8
225g (8oz) chopped dates
300ml (1/2pint) tea
110g (4oz) unsalted butter
170g (6oz) castor sugar
3 eggs, free-range and organic
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bread soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon Espresso coffee powder

Butterscotch Pecan Sauce

110g (4oz) butter
170g (6oz) dark soft brown, Barbados sugar
110g (4oz) granulated sugar
285g (10oz) golden syrup
225g (8fl oz) cream
1/2 teaspoon pure Vanilla essence
50g (2oz) chopped pecans

20.5cm (8inch) spring form tin with removable base.

Set the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.

Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes. Brush the cake tin with oil and place oiled greaseproof paper on the base.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour. Add the sieved breadsoda, Vanilla essence and coffee to the date and tea and stir this into the mixture. Turn into the lined tin and cook for 1-1½ hours or until a skewer comes out clean.

To make the Butterscotch pecan sauce: 
Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla essence and the pecans. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.

To Serve
Pour some hot sauce on to a serving plate. Put the sticky toffee pudding on top, pour lots more sauce over the top. Put the remainder into a bowl, and to serve with the pudding as well as softly whipped cream.

Apple and Mincemeat Tart

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from 'hot hands' don't have to worry about rubbing in the butter. Use it for a variety of fruit tarts. It can be difficult to handle when its first made and benefits from being chilled for at least an hour. Better still, if rested overnight.
Serves 8-12

225g (8oz) butter
50g (2oz) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free-range and organic
340g (12oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

675g (1½lb) Bramley Seedling cooking apples
110g (4oz) sugar
⅓-½ jar mincemeat

egg wash
castor sugar for sprinkling

To serve
softly whipped cream
barbados sugar

1 rectangular tin, 18cm(7 inch) x 30.5cm (12 inch) x 2.5cm (1inch) deep or 1 x 23cm (9inch) round tin
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.

First make the pastry. Beat the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 1 hour otherwise it is difficult to handle. 

To make the tart
Use a little less then two/thirds of the pastry to line the choose tin.

Roll the pastry 3mm (1/8inch) thick approx. Spread a layer of mincemeat on the pastry. Peel, quarter and dice the apples into the tart tin. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, stars, heart shapes or whatever takes your fancy. Brush with egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar. Serve. 

Foolproof Food

Cool Yule Fruit Salad

Serves 10-15
Equal volumes of:

ripe melon, balled
ripe papaya, sliced thinly and cut into squares.
ripe mango, sliced
passion fruit seeds
ripe pineapple, diced
ripe kiwi, sliced and quartered.
ripe banana, sliced
pomegranate seeds 

A glass bowl

Lime Syrup

8 oz (225g) sugar
8 fl oz (225 ml) water
2 limes

First make the lime syrup. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes; allow to cool. Meanwhile remove the zest from the lime either with a zester or a fine stainless steel grater and add to the syrup with the juice of the lime. 

Prepare all the fruits in individual bowls and cover with lime syrup.

Arrange the fruit in layers in a glass bowl. Cover and allow to chill and marinate for an hour at least.

To Serve
Ladle carefully into serving bowls so each guest gets a mixture of fruit. Serve alone or with softly whipped cream.

Cooks Book 

Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini published by Phaidon

This is the first cookbook by Rose Carrarini who co-founded the much-imitated delicatessen Villandry in London in 1988, and now serves her signature simple, fresh and natural food at Rose Bakery, the Anglo-French Bakery and restaurant in Paris. Rose holds a passionate philosophy that “life is improved by great food and great food can be achieved by everyone”. 

This book includes recipes for over 100 of Rose Bakery’s most popular dishes, from breakfast staples such as crispy granola to afternoon treats, including sticky toffee pudding and carrot cake, as well as soups, risottos and other dishes, perfect for a light lunch.

Banana Cake

You need very ripe bananas for this cake.
Serves 8

150g (5oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
180g (6oz) caster sugar
3 eggs
3 bananas, about 350g (12oz) total weight, mashed
110ml (3½fl.oz) buttermilk, or a mixture of milk and natural yogurt
1 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)
½ teaspoon salt
350g (12oz) plain flour, sifted
100g (3½oz) chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4
Butter a 25cm (10inch) loaf tin and line its base with parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugar until they are light and creamy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the bananas and the buttermilk or milk and yogurt.

Mix together the bicarbonate of soda and salt and carefully fold into the mixture with the flour, then fold in the walnuts.

Using a large spoon or spatula, combine the mixture well and spoon into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool the cake in the tin before taking it out.


Chocolate and Banana Cake
Use the same recipe, and add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder to the flour. Fold in 200g (7oz) chopped dark chocolate at the same time as the walnuts.
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About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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