#88 Christmas Pudding: Part 2, #102 Brandy Butter

The next most most exciting thing about Christmas dinner after the turkey, is probably the flaming Christmas Pudding. I had already made the puddings back in November, so now it was time to steam them for the big day. The pudding needs steaming for three hours, so you need to put it on in good time. However, that is the only thing you need to do, other than checking to see if the pan has boiled dry, so all is good. Turn the pudding out onto a serving dish and warm up some brandy either in a metal ladle or a small saucepan and light it (it won’t light unless you warm it first). Turn off the lights and pour it over the pudding. If this fails to impress the family, throw them out into the cold, cold winter street and tell them to come back when they’ve got some Christmas cheer. Serve with brandy butter, cream or custard.


To make brandy butter (or hard sauce, as it used to be called), cream 4 ounces of butter, when you’ve done that, beat in 4 ounces of icing sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of brandy, some freshly grated nutmeg and a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like. Allow to set in the fridge. Make this in advance – I made it a few days before the big day.

#88 Richard Boston’s Guinness Christmas Pudding – 3.5/10. Pretty disappointing this pudding was. It tasted really good, but was extremely stodgy and soft. I think I’ll use half breadcrumbs, half flour next time.

#102 Brandy Butter – 6.5/10. Nice, but very rich indeed. Think I prefer good old custard.

#101 Parsley and Lemon Stuffing

A turkey wouldn’t be a turkey without stuffing. This is the one Griggers suggests to have with turkey. It contains no sausagemeat, so it’s quite light and the lemon and parsley flavour cuts through the richness of all the other roast items on your Christmas dinner. It’s also choc-full of butter, so it helps keep the turkey nice and succulent.


Begin by cutting the crusts off a large white loaf of bread and blitz it in a food processor until it becomes crumbs. Lay the crumbs on a large baking tray and allow them to dry out in a cool oven – you don’t want them to brown so 80ºC will be enough. Weight out 8 ounces of the crumbs (freeze the rest) and put in a large bowl and mix in the zest of two lemons and the juice of one, a bunch of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of chopped thyme, a teaspoon of dried marjoram, 8 ounces of creamed butter, 3 eggs and a good seasoning. Mix the ingredients with your hands and stuff the main cavity of the turkey with it. You probably won’t use it all, so freeze the rest in balls so you can put them in the cavity of chickens for your Sunday Roast.

#101 Parsley and Lemon Stuffing – 7/10. A nice fresh and light tasting stuffing. I reckon it’ll go better with chicken than with turkey.

#100 Roast Turkey

The one-hundredth recipe had to be the Roast Turkey really didn’t it? It is the centrepiece of the whole dinner, perhaps the day. I bought us a nice free-range one from Frosts in Chorlton. I’m glad I was allowed to do it, as my Mum always panics about the turkey and over-cooks it by about two hours; in fact, over the last few years, she’s taken to over-cooking it the day before! It took some persuasion for us to cook the bird on the day: “Well I’m not getting up at 6 to put it in!”. Obviously, I didn’t get up at 6. I stuffed the turkey as recommended by Griggers with lemon and parsley stuffing. If your Christmas turkey tuned out to be, well, a bit of a turkey, try it this way next year. One doesn’t like to blow one’s own trumpet, but it was the best Christmas turkey we ever had at home; though it wasn’t really down to me, but to Jane Grigson.


The first thing to do is to remove the giblets and stuff the bird. You can stuff the cavity or the neck end, it doesn’t really matter. Next, calculate the cooking time of the turkey: 30 minutes per kilo if it’s below 7 kilos (15 lbs). If you are cooking a monster, add an extra 20 minutes per kilo after that. You must include the weight of any stuffing you’ve used too. Put the turkey on its side on a rack in a roasting pan and smear it all over with 6 ounces of slightly salted butter. Cover with a double layer of foil and cook at 190ºC for the appropriate time. Just under halfway through the cooking time, turn the bird onto its other side, and then in the final half an hour, put it on its back and remove the foil so it can brown nicely. Season with salt and pepper. Baste it a few times, if you like. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes before you carve it. In fact, we left it for about an hour and it was still juicy and hot, so don’t feel you have to rush or anything. Skim off the fat from the juices in the pan, then make your gravy by boiling up the juices with a quarter of a pint of dry white wine and thicken with flour or gravy browning. Add enough hot vegetable stock to achieve the right thickness.

#100 Roast Turkey – 9.5/10. I love Christmas dinner, so I’m really glad that I did the turkey for the 100th recipe. This is a foolproof methods for doing your Christmas/Thanksgiving bird; succulent, tasty, not in the slightest dry. Bloody marvellous.

A Christmas Nosh Up

I’m in that post-Christmas dip before New Year’s Eve, so I thought I’d update the Christmas recipes I did over in Pudsey. I go home to Pudsey, Leeds, every year for Christmas to stay with my Mum and Dad, and probably always will. I like it. My Mum is the person that, unknowingly, got me into cookery, as she was a baker and therefore as a kiddiwink, it was baking we did on rainy days; making cookery a form of relaxation for me. Anyways, this was the first time I’d been let loose on the actual Christmas dinner, but thought it would be the perfect thing to do – take some of the stress off Mum on the day (though she did insist on doing the veg, so it was a team effort) plus doing something impressive for recipe 100! I shall be adding them over the next few days hopefully, though I’m off to the pub now – my mate Charlotte has moved in today and therefore cannot be arsed unpacking…

#99 Baked Carp

Thank goodness for Britain’s lax laws on immigration, if we were a bit more like Australia we’d have no Eastern Europeans. ‘What does this have to do with the price of fish?’ I hear you ask (at least I would if you’re from Yorkshire). Well, your average Pole has a Christmas feast on Christmas Eve or a massive 12-courser on Christmas Day, either of which involves a baked carp. There’s only one carp recipe in English Food and I assumed, like most of the freshwater fish recipes, I would have to order it in especially, or even learn to fish. (FYI: I intend to learn to fish in 2009; a new skill instead of a resolution.)But what did I spot in the fishmongers in Manchester Arndale Market? Yup, a shed-load of giant carp. Thought I’d better snap one up before Johnny Foreigner gets hold of them all. If you see one, or even catch one, try this recipe; it’s an early Nineteenth Century recipe, apparently, so it’s the kind of thing that George III would’ve eaten, and there was nothing wrong with him!

Serves at least 6…

Choose a carp weighing around 3 pounds and ask the fishmonger to scale, gut and clean the fish* (and cut the head off, if you’re squeamish about these things). When you get home wash the carp in 6 tablespoons of vinegar dissolved in 4 pints of water. (Not sure why, may be to get rid of the slime – several freshwater fish produce slime). Whilst it’s draining, select a baking dish that will fit the fish snugly (to achieve this I unfortunately had to cut the head off). Smear the bottom of the dish with 6 ounces of butter and lay the fish on top. Season with salt and pepper, and add a quarter teaspoon each of mace, nutmeg and cloves, a bouquet garni (I did parsley stalks, bay and some pared lemon rind), a generous teaspoon of anchovy sauce and a chopped onion. Top up with dry white wine, so that the carp is almost covered. Cover with foil and bake at 200ºC for 40 to 50 minutes.


When done, put it on a serving dish and strain the cooking juices into a heavy based pan. Bring to the boil and allow to reduce slightly. Mash 2 ounces of butter with a tablespoon of flour and drop knobs of the mixture gradually whilst whisking to thicken. Once thickened, season with salt and pepper, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a little cream. Pour some sauce over the carp, and serve the rest in a sauceboat.

FYI: If you’re concerned as the potential damage to stocks of carp by this sudden increase of demand, the common carp is either farmed these days, or lakes are stocked with them. In fact they are considered a bit of an evasive species, so tuck in ladies and gents.

#99 Baked Carp – 7.5/10. I really liked this dish; I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I’ve not really eaten freshwater fish much (except for salmon, which I don’t like). I was very surprised at it’s subtly fishy and oddly gamey flavour. The very English mace-laced sauce was lovely. If you get the chance to lay your hands on one over Christmas, get it bought, though I’m not sure I’d replace my turkey with it!

*If you are lucky enough to have a fish with roe inside, ask the fishmonger to keep it aside, as you can make a stuffing with it – I didn’t get any, but it’s the look of the draw. Obviously I can’t comment on it’s loveliness, but have a go and tell me about it: Start by softening a small onion in butter. Meanwhile, mix an ounce of breadcrumbs with some milk to turn them to a paste. Mix the onions in along with the chopped roe, a tablespoon of chopped green herbs, a teaspoon of grated lemon rind and ½ teaspoon of anchovy essence. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stuff the fish with the mixture and sew it up.

#98 Cawl

Butters and I went for a nice walk around Chorlton Water Park and the Mersey Valley. We lucky in that it wasn’t totally pissing it down with rain, as the weather has not been good of late. It was still pretty chilly though so I wanted to make something simple, nourishing and warming for when we got back. I plumped for the Welsh soup, Cawl (pronounced “cowl”, according to Griggers). Cawl is simply Welsh for soup, but it’s far from a light soup-starter; it’s a meal in one. I assume it’s a peasant dish; it is simple in its ingredients and methods, is cheap, and requires time to make it well. It’s basically the Welsh equivalent of Irish stew or Cock-a-leekie. What I like about this one is that the meat is cooked as a joint and sliced at the end and served with the vegetables and soup. To be really Welsh, marigold flowers can be added as a garnish, but I thought that was going a bit too far…

These measures make loads of Cawl – enough for 6 to 8 people.

Start off by browning your meat in some beef dripping; you need pounds altogether, either beef brisket of shin of beef, but best is to use one pound of beef and a pound of smoked hock, gammon or bacon. I went for brisket and a giant piece of smoked bacon. When browned, put in a large saucepan or stockpot. Next, brown 2 sliced onions and 3 carrots, parsnip, turnips or some swede cut into chunks; a mixture is best. Once they are browned, add them to the meat and cover with cold water, add salt and two stalks of chopped celery. Bring to the boil slowly, skimming off any scum that may rise to the surface. Add a bouquet garni (I used parsley, thyme and bay), sea salt and pepper to season, turn to a very low heat and simmer for at least three hours. I actually did all this the day before, so that we didn’t have to wait very long to eat when we got back.


About half an hour before you want to eat, add a pound of small potatoes (or larger ones cut up), and ten minutes before add a small white or green cabbage that has been sliced. When the potatoes are cooked the soup is ready. Finely slice 2 or 3 leeks and sprinkle them on top of the soup; the heat of the soup will cook them. Remove the joints and slice them up, putting some of each kind in each bowl, along with some of the veg and stock.

#98 Cawl – 7/10. A delicious, warming and beautifully clear soup. The meat was falling apart and the smoked bacon gave the whole thing a really delicious flavour. Definitely one of the best soups so far. This will become a staple winter dish, I think.

#97 Welsh Light Cakes

For breakfast the next day, Charlotte and I wanted something hot and homely and went down the pancake route. I spotted this one as Charlotte is half-Welsh so I thought it befitting. These are great they’re made from a thickish bubbly batter that contains cream of tartare and soured cream – two secret ingredients. They’re served in quite an American fashion – piled up high with slices takes out of them. Get the made – they’re easy, so you get back much more than you put in!

Beat together 6 rounded tablespoons of plain flour, 2 of sugar and 3 of soured cream along with a pinch of salt and 3 eggs until smooth. Next, mix together ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and a rounded tablespoon of cream of tartare with 4 tablespoons of water. Quickly add it to the batter and stir in enough milk or buttermilk to make a batter that’s “not too thick” – a tricky one when you’ve no frame of reference; I think the consistency of thick double cream.


Now heat up a frying pan or griddle and add a little oil. Coat the pan and pour off any excess. Ladle a small amount in the centre of the pan to make small pancakes. Don’t swirl them around like crepes, they should be thick. After a minute or two flip it over and cook for another minute. Pile them up on a plate, spreading each one with butter. Serve in wedges with something nice and sweet – maple syrup or, as we used, golden syrup.

#97 Welsh Light Cakes or Pancakes – 9/10. Officially my favourite pancake. I know you can make crepes with normal average store-cupboard ingredients, but these are something special. Light, fluffy and slightly sour in taste, they went perfectly with the sweet golden syrup. Whenever anyone stays over, these will be made for breakfast every time. Me and Charlotte liked them so much we made seconds! Oink!