Not everyone wants to eat meat at Christmas, while others simply like something vegetable-based as a side dish for the wealth of seasonal cold cuts. Either way, I have wanted to produce my take on the classic nut roast for a while, so here it is, served with an ivory-coloured pool of porcini and parsley sauce. There are crisp pastry parcels too, filled with tomatoes and scented with basil. For a supremely warming, nourishing main course or bolstering side dish I have included my favourite way with pearled spelt, where I cook it with stock then bake it with seasonal sprouts and something a little luxurious.
Spelt, sprout and artichoke bake
Creamy, like a savoury rice pudding, this is a particularly warming main course dish. The choice of vegetables is yours. I used the festive Brussels sprout, then tucked in some preserved, grilled artichoke hearts as a touch of luxury.
pearled spelt 500g
vegetable stock 1 litre
red onion 1
olive oil 2 tbsp
Brussels sprouts 350g
double cream 250g
preserved, grilled artichoke hearts 380g
Rinse the spelt and simmer in 800ml of the vegetable stock for 10 minutes till almost tender. Remove from the heat, drain and set aside.
Peel the onion, slice thinly then fry in the oil in a shallow pan till the onion is soft and just starting to colour. Slice the sprouts in half and place them, cut-side down, in with the onion. Let the sprouts brown very slightly.
Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. In a mixing bowl, stir together the cooked spelt, onions, sprouts and cream. Season generously then tip into a baking dish. Drain the grilled artichoke hearts and tuck them into the spelt mixture. Bake for 30 minutes.
Porcini nut loaf
Everyone has their favourite recipe for Christmas nut loaf, to serve either to those who don’t wish to eat meat or as a side dish. This is mine. The sauce is essential, adding a silky, woodsy note.
dried porcini 30g
vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts 200g
shelled brazil nuts 100g
chestnut mushrooms 275g
flageolet or cannellini beans a 400g can
fresh breadcrumbs 100g
mild honey 2 tbsp
dark soy sauce 3 tbsp
For the porcini parsley sauce
the porcini soaking liquid
parsley a handful (about 3 heaped tbsp when chopped)
double cream 200ml
Put the dried porcini in a small bowl and cover with 200ml of freshly boiled water and set aside.
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Line a 24cm x 9cm x 6cm high loaf tin with clingfilm, leaving enough overhanging to cover the top. Put the chestnuts, brazil nuts and mushrooms in the bowl of a processor and blitz till coarsely chopped, about the texture of coarse grit. Add the drained and rinsed flageolet and the eggs and blitz briefly. The beans should still have some texture. Stir in the fresh breadcrumbs, honey and soy sauce.
Fold in the soaked and drained porcini, retaining the liquor, and season carefully with black pepper and a little salt. Pile into the lined loaf tin, taking care to push the mixture into the corners and smooth the surface gently. Fold the overhanging film over the top and place in a roasting tin half filled with hot water. Bake for 45 minutes.
To make the sauce, pour the reserved porcini soaking liquor into a shallow pan, and reduce by about half over a moderate heat. Chop the parsley quite finely. Pour in the cream and stir in the parsley. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with the sliced loaf.
Tomato and goat’s curd pastries
Crisp pastry parcels filled with tomatoes and goat’s curd, and served with a black garlic mayonnaise. Black garlic, sweet and mild, is available from major supermarkets.
Makes 6, serves 3
medium-sized tomatoes 6
goat’s curd 150g
olive oil 5 tbsp
basil 8 large leaves
filo sheets 3
For the garlic mayonnaise
egg yolks 2
red wine vinegar 1 tbsp
black garlic 2 cloves
olive oil 100ml
Slice the top from each tomato, then scoop out and discard the seeds with a teaspoon. (I add them to stock if there is some on the go.) Season the inside of each tomato with salt and black pepper, then fill each with the goat’s curd. Place the top on each tomato.
Make the mayonnaise: put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and add the red wine vinegar and black garlic. Whisk to break up the garlic a little, then slowly beat in the olive oil, a little at a time, gently increasing the amount till you have a thick, subtly garlicky cream.
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Blitz the olive oil and basil leaves in a blender or processor. Cut each filo sheet in half. Place a half sheet of pastry on a lightly floured surface, place a tomato on top then wrap and lightly secure the pastry by twisting at the top. Place on a baking sheet and brush with basil oil. Repeat with the other tomatoes.
Bake for 10-15 minutes till crisp and golden. Serve with the black olive mayonnaise.
White chocolate orange salad
blood oranges 4
ruby grapefruit 1
fine quality white chocolate 100g
double cream 1 tbsp
Grand Marnier 2 tsp
pistachios, shelled 2 tbsp, roughly chopped
Remove the peel from the oranges, grapefruit and clementines with a sharp knife then slice the fruit thinly. Arrange the slices on a plate, slightly overlapping.
Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a heatproof china or glass bowl balanced over a pan of simmering water. When the chocolate has softened, stir in the cream and Grand Marnier very carefully. Trickle the melted chocolate over the fruit slices, scatter with the pistachios and refrigerate for a few minutes till set.
Pomegranate seed brûlée
double cream 500ml
vanilla pod, split lengthways 1
egg yolks 5
caster sugar 150g
pomegranates 2, seeded
Pour the cream into a thick-bottomed saucepan, throw in the halved vanilla pod, and slowly bring to the boil. Beat the egg yolks together with 3 tbsp of the sugar until slightly thickened.
As soon as the cream starts to boil, pour it over the egg yolks and sugar. Remove the vanilla pod, return the custard to the heat and stir till it starts to thicken a little. It is essential that it does not boil. Cool the custard quickly by putting the pan into a sink of cold water and beating with a wooden spoon till it has stopped steaming. This will both reduce the temperature and stop the custard curdling.
Scatter some of the pomegranate seeds over the base of four dishes, then pour over the custard and refrigerate for four hours till set. Scatter the remaining seeds over the surface of the custard. Melt the rest of the sugar and a little water, say a tablespoon, in a small pan over a moderate heat. Leave to simmer, watching carefully, till deep golden brown. Spoon the caramel over the custards and refrigerate briefly till crisp.
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