cooking on the cut
with Lisa Munday
Winter has well and truly arrived with short days and cold crisp frosty mornings, as we enter into this extremely cold spell the clear skies have given us some beautiful sunrises and sunsets, not to mention that amazing full moon.
This year has flown by, I have now shared four Seasons with Canalsonline magazine and am looking forward to lots of exciting things happening in 2023.
With so many heart- warming recipes at this time of year we have all enjoyed slow cooking those casseroles and throwing together hearty soups and one pot meals.
Now though we are thinking towards our Christmas feast and treats. Let’s not wait until the big day for those lovely homemade stuffings, bread sauces and the somewhat underrated red cabbage and Brussels sprouts. We have already cracked into our nuts and chocolate stash, not to mention the Port and Brandy, oh and the Baileys, which of course are purely for culinary use!
I’ve done quite a bit of “pruning” when walking Rosie through the woods and have a very natural look in the boat this year, homemade wreaths and swags using trailing ivy, fir, juniper and rhododendron, I have also collected lots of pinecones throughout the year which double up as great firelighters!
So, the list of favourite seasonal ingredients is endless. The Christmas spices of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, star anise and ginger are essential for me, as are the use of chestnuts, walnuts and almonds with the fruits of cranberry, pomegranate, oranges and pears.
Parsnips, leeks, celeriac, red cabbage and of course sprouts are my favourite vegetables. For cheese it has got to be stilton and brie. Then those Christmas herbs of Sage and Bay are the perfect partner to Christmas meats, sausage and stuffing. It’s worth keeping some fresh herbs in as they make such a difference to any dish as opposed to using dried.
Store cupboard goodies are luxury mincemeat (if you don’t make your own) or make a basic mincemeat into luxury by adding extra chopped nuts, orange zest and brandy. A jar of goose fat is also a must for those luxury roasties.
A cooked gammon joint goes a long way. For me it has to be slowly boiled in cider and finished with a glaze using two tbsp Demerara sugar with ½ tsp mustard powder, studded with about half a dozen cloves.
- First soak the gammon in water overnight in the fridge. When cooking in a large saucepan it’s useful to sit it on a trivet using a small plate or tin, this stops the bottom from overcooking.
- The next morning after soaking drain and place in the pan, pour the cider over to cover and slowly bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour.
- I then transfer to a low oven or cook over the stove top for a further two hours on low heat.
- Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly before slicing off the thick part of the rind. Save the cooking juices to use as stock for soup.
- Score the fat in diamonds and place a clove in each diamond. Mix the mustard and sugar together and smear over the scored fat.
- Stand on a baking tray and spoon a little of the cooking liquid over the lean meat area.
- Finish by roasting in a hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
This a great dish to serve with a cooked gammon. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and gently fry a small onion or a couple of shallots finely chopped with 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped. Drain a tin of butterbeans and mash with a potato masher or whiz in a blender. Stir into the onion pan and heat through, stirring in 4 tblsp crème fraiche and season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Add a little cooking liquid from the meat if the consistency is too thick.
ROAST VEG TIPS
I Always boil potatoes, carrots and parsnips before roasting. Ensure the steam has totally dried off when draining before roasting to avoid soggy veg. Squash, leeks and onions can go straight into the pan. For roast potatoes, after par boiling, make sure the edges are roughed up by giving them a good a shake in the colander. If honey roasting, melt equal quantities of oil, butter and honey in a pan and always make sure the roasting tray is hot before the veggies go in. Don’t forget to check after about 10 mins and turn to evenly brown the edges. Sprinkle malden salt flakes and fresh ground pepper to finish.
Stuffing and bread sauce mixes are so cheap to buy, but not a patch on home made. It’s worth taking the time to make your own, they will keep in the fridge for a few days or freeze well.
MAKE YOUR SOUP SPECIAL by adding cheese croutons.
- Mushroom or Leek soups are perfect with stilton croutons. Just make stilton cheese on toast and cut into small pieces to add to the top of your soup bowl.
- If you have some tomatoes looking a little past it, roast them by drizzling with olive oil and placing a few garlic cloves, herbs and pepper over them, add a little balsamic if you have it, then blitz to a puree to use in soup or sauces. Cheddar croutons are great with a tomato soup.
- Finely shred some spring onion or chilli and fry to top your soups or add a dash of cream or flavoured oil.
- Grate any cheese over such as parmesan or cheddar.
- Toast a few flaked almonds or crumble a few tortilla crisps over.
- Butternut squash soup goes well with toasted sage leaves or crispy shallots and bacon bits or a dash of coconut milk if it’s a spicy soup.
- Cut about three to four slices of bread into small cubes. Gently toast on the stove top, in the oven or dry fry in a pan and set to one side. I use sourdough or any crusty bread for better texture.
- Meanwhile, finely chop 1 carrot, 1 stick of celery, 2 cloves of garlic and a small onion (I use my mini chopper it saves so much time) and gently fry in oil and butter. Add freshly ground black pepper, chopped sage and thyme if you have it or a mixture of dried herbs.
- Keep moving round the pan to avoid catching. Then add half a pint of stock and stir well.
- Turn off the heat and top with the dried bread cubes and finely chopped walnuts and a few sage leaves fried in a little butter. Cover the pan and leave for ten minutes.
- Then remove the lid and fork through to mix well. Dot with a few pieces of butter to finish.
- If not using straight away this will reheat or crisp up in the oven.
I make a larger than necessary pan full of this stuffing and use it as a crunchy topping over baked cauliflower cheese, casseroles or toss through cooked sprouts with bacon lardons.
CHRISTMAS RED CABBAGE Is the perfect partner to red and white meats or just with brown lentils as a casserole. Here’s my version. I don’t use all the cabbage, saving some for a winter salad with the addition of white cabbage, raisins, orange juice and sweet honey dressing.
- Finely chop 1 to 2 red onions depending on size and fry in about 75g butter in a pan or casserole dish .
- Add 1 red cabbage finely sliced, 1 finely chopped apple, 1 tbsp chopped dried fruit such as prunes or raisins, 3 tsp soft brown sugar, juice of 1 small orange, 3 tbsp red wine, 1/4 pint stock, 4 cloves, 1 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, salt and pepper.
- Thoroughly mix all the ingredients to coat the cabbage well, cover and simmer for about an hour until the cabbage is tender and cooked. Can be cooked on the stove top or in the oven and will keep well for five days or freeze.
PEP UP YOUR PEAS
With fried sliced potato, leek and shallot. Stir in a little mint sauce to serve.
This is an alternative way to cook your sprouts and particularly good with cold leftover meats. Slice them in half lengthways from the top, make sure they are dry if you have washed them otherwise they won’t go crispy. Roast in the oven tossed in oil. Meanwhile, gently fry two garlic cloves with finely chopped onion or shallot, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a generous drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Once the sprouts are cooked and crispy on the edges combine with the other ingredients and sprinkle over some chilli flakes, chopped spring onion and toasted nuts such as almonds or cashews.
MY MINCE PIE RECIPE
For sweet pastry use 150g plain flour with 75g unsalted butter rubbed in until like breadcrumbs, add 50g sieved icing sugar, 1 egg yolk and zest from ½ orange. Bring together with 1 tbsp cold water and shape into a ball, flatten into a disc and chill for half an hour. Roll out and line the tart tins with discs of pasty, prick with a fork and add the mincemeat filling. I add brandy, orange zest from the other half of the orange and a few extra chopped nuts such as walnuts. Place the pastry lids on and brush the edges using egg to seal, pierce a little hole in the tops to let out the steam. Cook at 180 fan or gas 6 for about 10 to 15 mins. Dust with sieved icing sugar when cool and enjoy with a glass of sherry!
Merry Christmas to everyone and a Happy and safe boating New Year!