Food For Thought: Christmas Indulgence

It is a time of year that is ruled by traditions and most are second nature, but when you start to look at the history behind these treasured rituals, you start to discover just how special this time of year really is.

It is a time of year that is ruled by traditions and most are second nature, but when you start to look at the history behind these treasured rituals, you start to discover just how special this time of year really is. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are rumoured to have started Stir-Up Sunday – the annual stirring of the family Christmas pudding signified the last Sunday before the beginning of the Advent Calendar (now better known as the count down to chaos!) Originally from very humble beginnings, the first versions of Christmas cakes were a mixture of meat and spices, enabling privileged households to prepare and preserve food ahead of time for the big feast on the 25th. Each stir of the batter on this Sunday was meet with a wish from family members and for a further security of prosperity, a coin added to the centre of the pudding. The lucky recipient thought to receive wealth and good health for the year ahead. Boiling of the cake was an obvious attempt to extend the life of the pudding, that and the addition of copious amounts of alcohol. The extended shelf-life also allowed the transportation throughout the British colonies and is possibly why we have a Christmas cake or pudding, in one form or another, on our tables for the big feast on the 25th. @annabelleats

Christmas Recipes

Raspberry, Limoncello and Panettone Trifle

I have to confess, I have only ever made jelly from scratch once and it was last Christmas. It was a disaster and I had no desire to try it again until I was given this recipe from an amazing Adelaide pastry chef. Once you taste it made from scratch, you will never look at packet jelly again – promise! Ingredients: • 250g mascarpone • 4 tablespoons icing sugar • 600ml whipping cream • 500g panettone • Limoncello • Fresh raspberries Raspberry Jelly Ingredients: • 550g caster sugar • 1L water • 1 orange – juiced • 1 lemon – juiced • 750g raspberries (frozen or fresh) • 30g leaf gelatine Method: The night before: 1. Bring the caster sugar, water and citrus juice to a boil. 2. Add the raspberries and simmer for five minutes. 3. Blitz and pass through a fine sieve. 4. Measure out 1.5 litres of the raspberry liquid and keep warm over a low heat while you soak the gelatine. 5. Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water until soft. 6. Add the gelatine to the raspberry liquid and stir until it has dissolved completely (do not boil once the gelatine has been added). 7. Strain the liquid into the base of a large trifle bowl and leave to set overnight in the refrigerator. 8. Whip the icing sugar and mascarpone until soft. 9. Add the cream and whip until soft peaks form. 10. Place a layer of the cream mixture over the top of the set raspberry jelly. 11. Slice the panettone into discs and then quarters. Puzzle the slices to form one even layer on top of the cream. 12. Generously splash with limoncello. 13. Repeat the process and finish with remaining whipped cream and garnish with raspberries.

Gingerbread, Poached Pear and Nutmeg Custard Trifle

This trifle is ridiculously easy and equally delicious, perfect if you are time-poor but still want to fill the trifle void. Ingredients: • 500ml milk • 200ml cream • 1 vanilla pod – split lengthways • 4 egg yolks • 45g caster sugar • 1 tablespoon cornflour • Whole nutmeg • 500g gingerbread – thickly sliced • 4 poached pears – peel and poach in sugar syrup with a cinnamon stick until tender • Cognac or rum • Caster sugar for the brûlée top Method: 1. Bring the milk, cream and vanilla pod to a simmer for four to five minutes. 2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. 3. Whisk the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar until pale and thick. 4. Pour the hot milk and cream over the egg yolks, whisking continuously. 5. Return the mixture to the saucepan on medium heat. 6. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. 7. Remove the vanilla pod and grate a pinch of fresh nutmeg into the custard. 8. Leave to cool before assembling the trifle. 9. Tightly pack slices of gingerbread over the base of the serving dish. 10. Generously splash with cognac or rum. 11. Cut the poached pears into eighths and remove the core, place over the gingerbread in one layer. 12. Pour a layer of custard until the pears are completely submerged. 13. Repeat the process and leave to set in the refrigerator overnight or for at least three hours. 14. Optional embellishment – sprinkle the top with a generous layer of caster sugar and, using a blowtorch, caramelise until dark and toffee-like.

Christmas Cake and Whipped Chestnut Cream

The spare Christmas cake always in my pantry was the inspiration for this recipe, well, that and a love for French chestnut cream! Ingredients: • 500g Christmas cake • Cognac or sherry • 300g plum or cherry jam • Block of dark chocolate • 250g sweetened chestnut cream • 600ml whipping cream Method: 1. Slice the Christmas cake into 1 cm slices and place in a fan pattern around the base of a shallow serving bowl. 2. Generously splash with cognac or sherry. 3. Spread the jam over the top of the sliced cake (you can thin the jam slightly with some water from the kettle, if needed). 4. Whip the chestnut cream for three minutes to loosen, add the whipping cream and whip to soft peaks. 5. Spoon the whipped chestnut cream over the cake base. 6. Grate dark chocolate over to garnish and leave to set in the fridge for three to four hours.  

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