Tag Archives: Christmas

A Guest Post by Anneli from Delicieux – A Very Merry French Christmas!

Finished dishLouisa and I both live in South West France in the rolling countryside of Gascony. Although we have never met in the flesh, we soon found that we have a lot in common; both being food bloggers, both growing our own vegetables, both having two small children of similar age, and of course, both having up and left the UK to pursue the good life here in France.

And what a good life it is too! I have been here now for five years and I absolutely love it. I feel spoilt to live somewhere so beautiful. I am touched by the unhurried way of life and the sense that time has almost stood still, both in the architecture of the villages and also in the mentality of the locals!

By that I mean this wonderful sense of doggedness that the French have about their traditions and their food. Always French wine, always local produce, always French cheese. And why not when what they have is so goddamn good! Why import goods when they have all they need right here?

I live in ‘duck’ country. Foie Gras, Confit and Magret are a staple on every restaurant menu in the Gers I think! And yet I am never bored by them. They are so quintessentially ‘French’ and they do them so well that they always delight. When I think of traditional French food, for me, it must include duck in some form or another.

Louisa and I got together to think of a blog challenge ingredient or subject we could both get our teeth into and Louisa suggested something for a traditional French Christmas. I immediately knew that I wanted to use duck so I did a bit of research to see how the French like it at this time of year.

It seems that they like to roast a whole duck and use chestnuts in the stuffing. In fact, upon further investigation, it would appear that chestnuts are a very traditional ingredient in Christmas cooking. I guess not so different from the British roast turkey with chestnut stuffing…

I decided to have a go at putting these traditional Christmas ingredients together in my own way and an idea began to form. I chose to use duck breast in this dish, for me it is the Rolls Royce of duck meat and it allows you to have more control when cooking it, keeping it nice and pink and moist.

To accompany my juicy duck meat, I made a chestnut puree with a little ricotta to make it super creamy. And I added a few ‘devilled chestnuts’ as well – just fried off in some paprika. These added another dimension and texture to the dish. All served alongside a crunchy yet soft potato rosti and some stir fried cabbage. It was winter on a plate. Rich, nutty, juicy and yummy. I would be very happy to eat this at Christmas – or any other day of the year!

Here’s how I did it:

Duck Breast with Chestnut Puree & Devilled Chestnuts served with a Potato Rosti & Cabbage  

Serves 2

 1 large French duck breast or 2 British duck breasts

4-5 smallish potatoes

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp olive oil

250g vacuum packed cooked chestnuts

1 tbsp Ricotta cheese

100ml milk

1 tsp paprika

1/3 of cabbage, shredded

  • First of all, peel your potatoes and par-boil them for 7 minutes in salted water. Then drain them and set aside to cool. Once cool, coarsely grate them and add the egg yolk and mixGrated Potato
  • Heat your oven to 150 F/180 C. Heat your olive oil in a frying pan and then split your grated potato in half and press into two metal rings if you have them. If not, just make two balls and then press each one flat to make the rosti. Fry on each side until nicely brown, 5-7 minutes each side. Then place them in the oven to keep warm and to ensure they are cooked all the way through.Rosti
  • Meanwhile, re-heat your chestnuts according to package instructions. For mine, I just pierced the vacuum pack and then cooked them in boiling water for 5 minutes.Chestnuts in pan
  • Release your chestnuts and set aside 10-12 to ‘devil’ later. Leave the rest in the pan and add the milk and using a hand held blender, blitz to make a thick puree. Add the ricotta and stir through. It should be as thick as cream cheese and a pale beige colour. Season generously. Set aside to heat though just before serving.
  • Now prepare your duck – score the skin in a criss-cross as in the picture and season on both sides of the duck. Heat a non stick frying pan and place the duck in the pan with no oil, skin side down and leave without touching it for 10 minutes to cook. Then turn the duck over and cook for 5 more minutes. Then remove, cover with foil and leave to rest for at least 5 minutes – longer if you want.Raw Duck
  • Meanwhile, to cook the cabbage, take a table spoon of the duck fat from the pan cooking the duck and add to another pan. Then fry your cabbage in the duck fat for 10 minutes until wilted and cooked through. Season well.
  • Chop your reserved chestnuts and toss them in the teaspoon of paprika. Heat another spoonful of duck fat in a small pan and fry your chestnuts in it for 4 minutes to ‘devil’ them. Also, gently reheat your chestnut puree.Devilled Chestnuts
  • When you are ready to slice your duck, pour any juices that have collected whilst resting into your chestnut puree. Then slice into at least 8 diagonal slices.
  • To serve, spread some puree across the middle of your plate. Place a potato rosti on one side and some cabbage on the other. Top the rosti with 2 slices of duck and the cabbage with 2 slices of duck. Finally, sprinkle the devilled chestnuts down the middle of the plate and serve.Finished dish

Blog by Anneli Faiers from www.delicieux.eu

Biog: I am a Private Chef  living South West France. I am a 36 year old, mother of two, living the rural dream. I love to cook all food and am inspired by fresh produce and the cuisine here in France. From rustic traditional dishes, to vegetarian, to fine dining, I try to cook it all and share my journey with you. Stop by and check it out.

Thanks for having me Louisa and Happy Christmas everyone!

And if you want to check out my own guest blog on Anneli’s site then please drop by to: www.delicieux.eu. Mine’s a very naughty but festive Chocolate & Chestnut Bûche de Noël.


Parsnip and Pear Soup

Parsnip & Pear Soup

There’s been a frenzy of activity in the Chez Foti kitchen this last week, brought on by my sudden and slightly panicked realisation we will be ten for christmas. Which obviously is very wonderful but I’ve got my work cut out! And after a few trials this is the soup I’ve decided to kick off christmas day lunch with, using our lovely parsnips and the last of the pears from the garden. It’s quite a light, yet creamy, soup flavoured with plenty of nutmeg and white pepper, and will be served with Parsnip Crisps (time permitting on the day!) and Mini Pear, Stilton & Shallot Tarts (blog coming soon!).

Parsnips

We’ve opted out of turkey for the main event this year and I’ve purchased a rather large piece of  imported British Beef instead (thanks to the lovely people at the Singing Frog Farm). The Roast Beef will be served with Yorkshire Puds, Chipolatas, Duck Fat Roasted Spuds, Roast Parsnips, Sprouts with Chestnuts, Roasted Pumpkin with Lardons and Lemon Butter Carrots. With lashings of Red Wine Gravy and Horseradish Sauce of course. As for the pud they’ll be my Great Granny’s Christmas Pudding, that my mum’s very kindly made this year and will be bringing over by special delivery. And for the christmas pud haters a Chocolate & Chestnut Bouche Noel (or Yule Log to you and me, but sounds a tad more sophisticated in French, made, photographed and now frozen and also coming to you in a blog very soon!). Oh I’m hungry just thinking about it. 10 days to go,  yikes!  Here’s a sneeky peek of the log:

My Chocolate & Chestnut Buche Noel, coming in a blog very soon!

My Chocolate & Chestnut Buche Noel, coming in a blog very soon!

Being full of seasonal goodness I’m entering my Soup to Ren Behan of Fabulicious Food‘s Simple and in Season bloggie event, this month hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage.

Simple and In Season

Parsnip & Pear Soup

Parsnip and Pear Soup

Serves 8 to 10

2 tablespoons of olive oil

25g of butter

a very large onion, or 2 mediums, diced

a kilo of parsnips, scrubbed and peeled

220g of pears, peeled and cored

a level teaspoon of ground white pepper

a level teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

2 bay leaves

2 litres of good quality chicken or vegetable stock

5 heaped tablespoons of half fat creme fraiche

A little milk for thinning (optional)

Heat the oil and butter in a very large pan on a gentle heat. Add the onions and saute gently for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile prep the parsnips. As mine are organic and homegrown I tend to leave the skins on but it’s probably best to peel them otherwise. Cut into 2 to 3 cm chunks. Throw the parsnips into the pan. Allow to cook for a further 10 minutes, regularly giving the pan a good stir so nothing catches.

Stir in the pears, white pepper, nutmeg and bay leaves. Then pour over the stock. Bring to a simmer. Allow to bubble away for 15 to 20 minutes or until the parsnips are very soft. Take off the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Remove the bay leaves then blitz in a food processor or blender or with a stick blender until silky smooth. Stir in the creme fraiche until it’s perfectly incorporated. I like my soups around this thickness but you may wish to thin some more with a little extra milk.

Serve immediately!

Here’s some other Chez Foti seasonal soups:

Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

Pumpkin & Bacon Soup

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup)

Parsnip & Pear Soup


White Chocolate and Cranberry Christmas Cookies

White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

I’ve had a bit of a spate of cookie baking lately. Due in the main to my new cooker and in keeping my promise to Mr F that it would feed him with a regular supply of biscuity goodies. He is rather fond of his biscuits to say the least, and gets very grumpy if there happen to be less than two spare packets in the cupboard (the number of which he can easily polish off in a single tea dunking session). And cookies I find are the perfect almost instantaneous biscuit hit. The dough’s frighteningly easy and quick to make and can handily be made in advance and stored for several days in the fridge or considerably longer in the freezer. Then simply brought out when the urge for a cookie takes over or guests arrive, cut up (even straight from the freezer) and placed on a baking tray. And voila 9 minutes later you have the most perfectly naughty fresh cookies to munch.  Or in my case one very happy husband.

Three sausage rolls of Cookie Dough

Three sausage rolls of Cookie Dough, ready to be cut and baked

And so here’s my recipe for Christmas Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks and Dried Cranberries. This makes enough for about 30 large cookies, but I split the dough into thirds and only bake one lot at a time. Which will be particularly handy for sudden guests over the festive period. I’m planning on stockpiling quite a bit of cookie dough over the next couple of weeks!

breakfast-club-logoI’m entering my recipe to a couple of bloggie events that are running this month. Firstly for my first ever time to the Breakfast Club challenge created by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours to encourage more interesting breakfasts. This month it’s being hosted by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash Chat and has the theme of ‘Brunch’. And as it’s Christmas my cookies make a wickedly good brunch snack with a cup or two of coffee (I can vouch for this).

Christmas TTTI’m also entering this month’s Tea Time Treats, an event held jointly by What Kate Baked and Lavender and Lovage. The theme this month is Chocolate and these cookies so happen to be equally good with a cuppa at the end of the day (which I can also vouch for!).

White Chocolate & Cranberry Christmas Cookies

Makes 30 large cookies:

225g of butter, very soft

175g of light muscovado sugar

175g of caster sugar

2 medium free range eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

350g of plain flour

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon of salt

200g of white chocolate, chopped into small chunks

150g of dried cranberries

Simply beat the butter until very soft (which is much easier to do if it’s been left to warm up out of the fridge for a while). Then beat in the sugars, then the eggs and the vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and creamy. Employ any spare children to do this bit for you!

In another bowl combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Slowly add the dry mix to the wet until  fully combined. Stir in the chocolate and cranberries. That really is all there is to it!.

Divide the mixture into three. Dollop each third onto a length of cling film. Using the cling film to hold the mixture together (it’s very soft and almost unworkable with bare hands) form into a long sausage shape, about 20 cm long and 5 cm wide. Twirl the ends of the cling film to secure into shape and pop into the fridge to firm up. Repeat with the other two thirds.

It’s good to use after about 30 minutes of firming up time. The dough will keep like this for several days in the fridge or much longer in a freezer.

When ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 190º/Gas 5. When it’s up to temperature, remove a section of dough from the fridge or freezer. Cut the sausage dough into 1.5 cm rounds, and simply place the rounds as they are, but very spread out, on a large baking sheet. They’ll melt down into a flat cookie shape all by themselves, my kids love to watch this.

Pop in the oven for 9 to 11 minutes. They’re ready when almost firm in the middle and a little brown. Remove from the tray immediately and cool a little on a rack before eating.

White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

You might also like:

Cheesy Biscuits:                                     Super-Fruity Banana Mini-Muffins

Cheesy Biscuits

Francesca Super Fruity Banana Mini Muffins


My Great-Granny’s Christmas Pudding!

Yipppppeeee!  It’s the second day of December, the advent calendars are up (and choccies gobbled), decs soon to be up, the kids are excited beyond belief, and father christmas will be coming down that chimney before I can even spare a thought for sending my chrissie cards…as usual!

And it’s time to get cracking with the christmas puds. If you’ve never made one before I urge you to, they really are very easy. And this recipe, that’s been passed through several generations of my mum’s family, is honestly the best christmas pudding I have ever EVER eaten. We’re not sure quite how old it is, but it was certainly the recipe that my Granny and Great-Granny always used, albeit with a little tweaking here and there over the years. My mum’s highly successful tweaking omitted the suet, nor indeed any fat at all, and the result is a much lighter and less cloying, though somehow more delicious pud. And the secret un-tweaked ingredients that make this pud so extra special? Carrots and potatoes! Would you believe? But it really really works!

In writing this post I am also entering the ‘Christmas Carrot Competition’ organised by lovethegarden.com and the brilliant award winning food blogger eatlikeagirl.com to find the most creative and scrumptious carrot recipe. I think you’ll agree you can’t get much more creative with a carrot than the traditional Christmas pudding, my Great-Granny should be proud of herself!

To make 2 medium sized puddings (2 x 2 pint basins, each serving 6 people):

225g mixed dried fruit

225g sultanas

225g potato, finely grated

225g carrots, finely grated

225g breadcrumbs

225g soft brown sugar

115g currants

115g dried apricots, chopped

85g glace cherries, quartered

55g almonds, chopped

a little grated nutmeg

½tsp cinnamon

Place all of the ingredients in a very large bowl and mix thoroughly. The best way to do this is to get right in there and mix with your hands.

Butter your pudding basins and add the mixture evenly. Press it down a little, the puddings should come to about ½ inch from the top of the basin. Place a circle of greaseproof paper on top of the mixture within the basin.  Cover the entire basin and part way down the sides with a couple of layers of foil, tie some string tightly around the sides of the basin to secure in place.

Place each pudding in a large saucepan (you must have a lid for it). The pudding should NOT be tight fitting and there should be ample space around the sides. Poor in boiling water until the level reaches ¾ of the height of the basin. Place on the hob with the lid on and bring back to the boil and simmer gently for 5 hours. As the water level in the pan drops top up with boiling water, you will probably have to do this 3 or 4 times. After 5 hours take off the heat and leave to cool in the pan.

The pudding will now keep for up to a month in the fridge or a year in the freezer. Please note that these puddings don’t keep for lengthy periods in the fridge in the same way as puddings that contain preserving suet do.

When you want to eat your pud, boil for one hour in the same way as above. Turn out of the basin and serve!


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