Our Great Christmas Food Miracle reveals the secret of keeping everyone happy with three brilliant Christmas recipes.
Last night I enjoyed an evening of bliss. I piled the fire with logs until it was roaring like a lion, poured a cheeky mid-week glass of rouge and settled down to wrap presents as I watched Roman Holiday. A pocket of calm in a month of being pulled in more directions than a cat’s cradle.
The only slight fly in the ointment is my fear of smudged gift tags from a tear or two shed as Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck shelf true love in favour of duty. Which brings me to my theme, duty. I’m sure duty has driven many of us to tears at some point around Christmas. Duty to invite. Duty to visit. Duty to our spouses and our children.
Keeping Everyone Happy
Often it’s impossible to keep everyone happy. This is as true of the big issues – who to spend Christmas with – as it is for the little stuff – like what to eat on Christmas Day. Even as I write I can feel the gasps of horror that I consider what we eat on Christmas Day to be little stuff…. Perhaps I was just testing you, because I know from experience that there are people out there for whom the whole Christmas dinner thing is a very big deal.
Normally sane people turn into tyrannical despots in the face of even the teeniest tweak to the menu. I have a friend who dared to serve pigs without their blankets one Christmas and her in-laws huffed for the rest of the day. Her mother-in-law still brings it up. Each time she’s invited asks, ‘Will the pigs have their blankets?”
The thing is, she’s a perfectly nice woman. I’ve met her and assessed her for signs of Assad syndrome. There are none. Christmas is enough to turn normal people into monsters and send the poor person who has the duty of keeping them happy into hysterics like poor Princess Anne in Roman Holiday. Especially if they receive the news that a vegetarian is coming….
Unless you’re a vegetarian yourself nothing is going to send a Christmas cook into a spin like news there’s a vegetarian coming. And don’t think that a desire not to eat fluffy animals is going to save you from being slaughtered on Christmas Day if you get it wrong. Vegetarians are as prone to losing all festive perspective as anyone – possibly even more sensitive – so don’t even think of saying “Well there are so many vegetables, they can just eat those,” or “Oh, you can’t have the gravy? I thought it was just meat you didn’t eat.”
My advice is, accept your fate with the same grace as Princess Anne/Audrey Hepburn. Unless you’re 100% sure everyone is happy to abandon tradition then save your creativity for the leftovers and do make an effort for the vegetarian – I’m sure it will be appreciated.
Turkey Fried Rice
First up, a handy recipe I’ve nabbed wholesale from Steph at I am a Food Blog. I could add a little twist to it and present it as my own but I never have. Perhaps because I’m all cooked out by leftovers time. All I want is something tasty enough to enliven a jaded palate that I can get on the table quick.
Being American, the recipe does measure in cups but precision isn’t a big deal so you can either think in handfuls or use an actual cup.
1 onion, chopped
2 cup leftover vegetables, roughly chopped (not potatoes, too starchy)
2 cup leftover turkey, roughly chopped
4 cups cooked rice,
1 – 1½ cups spring onions, sliced
2-3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce, or to taste
4 lightly beaten eggs
freshly ground pepper,
Spring onions, sliced, to garnish
Heat the oil in a large wok, over a medium high heat. Add the onions, vegetables and turkey. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and meat starts to slightly crisp up. Add the rice and fry, stirring occasionally and breaking up the rice until the rice is crispy and heated through.
Stir in the spring onions and season with soy sauce to taste. The rice should be extremely hot, steamy and starting to crisp. Turn up the heat if needed.
Pour the lightly beaten egg into the rice, stirring quickly to coat each kernel of rice with egg. Fry until egg is crispy and cooked through. Season with pepper to taste and garnish with spring onions.
My other half has been knocking this out with turkey leftovers on and off for years. It’s not madly original – it’s barely even a recipe – but it is something the whole family will eat. It does go to work on a jaded palate and it’s quick.
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 tbsp curry paste
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
400g tinned tomatoes
200g spinach leaves, washed
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the peppers, cook for another few minutes, then add the chopped garlic and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Stir in the curry paste and keep stirring for another couple of minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and 150ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 mins.
Turn the heat down, stir in the turkey, and cook for another 2-3 mins. Lastly add the spinach and cook until wilted. Serve with rice and freshly chopped coriander, mango chutney and plenty of naan.
Vegetarian Christmas Pie with Greens, Chestnuts and Feta
Now I promised you something to keep the vegetarians happy so I have gone straight to Riverford Organics who I know give lots of thought to the non-meat Christmas question.
Crucially this isn’t a predictable nut roast, but tread carefully, some vegetarians look forward to a nut roast in the way carnivores anticipate a big, dry bird. That said this is wonderfully Christmassy AND it can be made in advance, frozen and whipped out to de-frost ready to slide, trouble free into the oven on Christmas Day.
400-500g chard, spinach or kale (be generous if using spinach)
200g cooked, peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped
100g walnut pieces, toasted
80g currants, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes & drained
200g feta cheese, crumbled
leaves from 4 sprigs thyme
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground allspice or ground cloves
3 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
salt + pepper
500g all butter puff pastry
Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper.
Pull any hard stalks from the greens, wash the leaves and blanch them in boiling salted water until just tender (or steam them). Drain and rinse immediately under plenty of cold water. Drain again and squeeze out the leaves, chop finely and place in a mixing bowl. Add the chestnuts, walnuts, currants, thyme, spices and olive oil. Set aside 2 tbsp of the beaten egg, then add the remaining egg to the leaves and combine everything thoroughly. Add the feta and mix in carefully so that the pieces of cheese do not break up. Season with salt and black pepper.
On a lightly floured surface roll out the pastry 3mm thick into a rectangle roughly 25 x 30cm. Pile the filling in a thick tube along the shorter edge and carefully roll up into a cylinder. Brush a little egg where the pastry joins to seal and trim off any overlapping pastry. Place on the baking sheet. Brush the pie with the rest of the egg and cut a few diagonal slashes in the pastry so steam can escape. Bake for 30-40 mins or until golden and the pastry is cooked through. Serve with cranberry sauce.