Over the last couple of months, we’ve been up to our elbows in dried fruit and nuts, spices and an excess of brandy here in the FFO Kitchen as we’ve made preparations for the festive season. We’re now well into the swing of things; sorting Christmas orders for cakes, puddings, mince pies, meals for those moments when friends and family drop in at short notice, chutneys, pickles, gift hampers… and that’s not to mention the drinks parties, dinners, carol concerts and winter weddings we’re also catering for! With our new menus out, this time of year is always busy for us but it hasn’t been all work and no play; we’ve also found time to taste test some great new products and ingredients ready for winter entertaining. There was great excitement in the kitchen last week when a new range of chocolate arrived for us to test in our desserts and this week we’ve put aside an hour or so to try some different coffee and tea blends.
Brandy soaked Christmas pud
When it comes to our own Christmases (it still seems a long way off at the moment, many mince pies still to make!) we’re anticipating the usual arguments at home over tradition vs. ‘something different’! Should we eat turkey or goose on Christmas Day or go for venison, beef or perhaps rabbit this year? Will it be fish again on Christmas Eve or shall we ring the changes with an Indian or Thai meal? We’re about half and half in our families for those who’d welcome a bit of variation and those in favour of convention, although everyone seems to agree that whatever is eaten for the main course, there must be a Christmas pudding to follow, even if the alternatives turn out to be more popular!
We’re also about half and half of those in favour of or anti brussels sprouts; there would be outrage from some if they didn’t appear at the Christmas table but for others their absence certainly wouldn’t be missed! If you are serving them this year, there are countless ways of adding a bit of interest; in the past we’ve shredded them and served with crushed juniper berries, tossed them with broken chestnut pieces, sautéed them with cubes of pancetta, added lemon and thyme or apple and walnut oil…no doubt they’ll appear in a new guise this year!
If you are looking to keep the Christmas flavours classic this year but would like to vary things just a little bit, why not try serving mulled cider (apple or pear) or white wine? You can use the same spices that you would for mulled red wine (try experimenting with cardamon and star anise) but honey works well instead of sugar and ginger and slices of apple (and some juice) are also good additions.
Don’t forget to look out for those ingredients in season and at their best at this time of year. Among the highlights:
rabbit, goose, mackerel, apples, pears, celeriac, brussels sprouts, turnips, beetroot, salsify, jerusalem artichokes, leeks, chestnuts, wild mushrooms…