WHY COOK SOMETHING DIFFERENT?
'In our family we don't all eat meat, so we love experimenting and deciding what delicious alternative we can have at Christmas. We often go for the luxury of a large baked fish - such as turbot or wild sea bass.
I'm a huge advocate for trying different options at Christmas, and especially with worries of a 'turkey crisis', I thought it would be great to share some fresh ideas for you and your family this year.
For example, I have friends in Madrid who cook pheasant on Christmas Day, braised in grapes which they get their children to peel for hours and then serve it with chickpea mash. A special, if not slightly laborious tradition, and completely delicious!
There are so many incredible options that it's hard to know where to begin but below you'll find some of my favourite show-stoppers.'
- Monika Linton
THE SPANISH LOVE A ROAST
There is a big tradition of making a Sunday roast in the north of Spain, especially in Northern Castilla, around Burgos - but not quite as we would recognise it in the UK. Usually the meat is the hero piece on the table, presented on its own, with vegetable dishes such as escalivada or grilled artichokes served first.
Despite the slight differences in how the Spanish enjoy their roasts, it doesn't mean that we can't take a Spanish inspired 'hero piece' and add all the traditional trimmings and sides. In the 'True Food of Spain' there are some fantastic dishes that would be wonderful, and definitely s different spin on a traditional turkey.
Here are a few favourites...
SPANISH 'HERO PIECE' RECIPES
Shoulder of Lamb Roasted in Cava Wine
Cordero al Cava
This is our executive chef Josep’s recipe, which works equally well for young and older lamb, as the cava keeps the meat juicy. He uses sweet pink onions from Figueres in the Empordà region of Catalunya, but shallots work well.
How to serve it
Serve it with braised white beans or fresh pochas, if you can find them, fresh minted green peas, or fried potatoes and peppers.
Serves 4 | Cooking Time: 1 hour
- 1-1.5 kg shoulder of lamb
- 4 whole medium-sized sweet onions, or shallots
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ bottle Cava
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4.
Take the meat from the fridge about half an hour before cooking to bring it up to room temperature and rub all over with salt and pepper.
Pour the oil into a deep baking tray.
Cut the foreleg section of the shoulder from the blade section, and rub each piece all over with salt and pepper. Place next to each other in the baking tray, along with the whole onions and the garlic, cut-side down and put in the oven. Roast for 10 minutes to brown one side of the meat, then take out and turn it over (if the meat is looking a little dry, sprinkle with a little water). Put back into the oven and brown the other side for a further 10 minutes.
Add the Cava and roast for another 20 minutes, basting and shaking the tray a little to make sure the juices are moving around. The total cooking time should be no longer than 40 minutes. Rest for about five minutes before serving.
Partridge with Soft Fruits and Baby Onions
This is a dish based on one that Ana Barrera serves at her Madrid restaurant. In Winter she serves the dish with braised lombardo (red cabbage) which is perfect for Christmas time!
She chops up the red cabbage, blanches it in salted water, then drains it. Then she sautés a chopped shallot and a chopped clove of garlic in olive oil until soft, adds the blanched cabbage to the pan with some toasted pine nuts and a teaspoon of sherry vinegar, and cooks it gently for 2-3 minutes until the cabbage is deep red. At the last minute she adds freshly chopped apple and seasons everything with sea salt.
- 4 partridge or 8 quail
- about 100g of butter
- 18 baby onions or shallots, peeled
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- a little plain flour for coating
- 100ml olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed lightly
- 100ml Cognac
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 2 leeks, chopped
- 1 parsnip, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- a sprig of thyme
- 6 strands of saffron, soaked in warm water
- about 1 and a half teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 25g good dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
- about 32 raspberries and 32 strawberries
for the marinade
- 4 carrots, to make 200ml of juice
- 3 onions, chopped
- 1/2 bottle of full-bodied red wine
If using carrots and onions for the marinade, put them in a juicer to blend. Put into a bowl with the partridge and quail, the red wine and enough water to cover. Cover with a plate and leave for 24 hours in the fridge.
Melt the butter in the pan, put in the whole baby onions or shallots and cook on a very low heat for 2 hours to soften and sweeten, stirring periodically.
Meanwhile, remove the partridge or quail from the marinade (reserving the liquid for later) and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Season, then coat them in flour.
Heat the olive oil in the pan, put in the birds and the garlic clove and brown very lightly on all sides. Remove the garlic, add the cognac, and flame. When the flame has died down, add the marinade liquid, together with the chopped vegetables, bay leaves, thyme, saffron, cumin, cinnamon and chocolate and bring to the boil. Be sure that the liquid covers the birds and vegetables. If not, add more water.
Turn down the heat, cover with a lid and cook gently for about an hour, depending on the size of the birds, removing the lid after half an hour to allow the sauce to thicken slightly. The meat is ready when it comes away easily from the bone.
Lift the partridge or quail on to a warm plate, then put the pan back on the heat and bubble up just enough to reduce the liquid further to a sauce consistency. Strain and pour over the partridge or quail, scatter with raspberries and strawberries and serve with the slowly-cooked onions on the side.
Slow-cooked Pheasant with Aubergine and Pomegranate
- 2 pheasants, oven-ready and legs tied together
- plain flour, for coating
- 1 clove of garlic
- 4 peppercorns
- 4 cloves
- a pinch of cumin
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1/2 a bottle of white wine
- 100g pomegranate seeds, to serve/garnish
For the marinade
- 4 carrots, chopped, for juicing
- 4 apples, chopped, for juicing
- 4 onions, chopped
- 1/2 a bottle of white wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 head of garlic, skin on, roughly chopped
- 1 leek, roughly chopped
- 6 cloves
- a sprig of thyme
- about 6 threads of saffron, infused in a little water
For the confit aubergine
- 1 large aubergine, roughly chopped, around 1 cm
- 250g sugar
- 1/2 a cinnamon stick
- 1 clove
Season the pheasants inside and out and put them into a bowl.
Put the carrots, apples and onions for the marinade into a juicer. Add to the pheasants, along with the wine and the rest of the marinade ingredients, which should be enough to completely cover the birds (if not add a little more extra apple juice or wine). Cover with a plate and leave in the fridge for 1-2 days, depending on whether the bird is truly wild, or farmed.
When you are ready to cook, start the confit aubergine first, as this will take about 2 hours. It might seem like a long process, but it concentrates the flavour deliciously into the absorbent texture of the aubergines.
First, blanch the aubergine in a pan of boiled water for about a minute, making sure you keep pressing it down under the water and turning it over. Drain, and discard the water.
Put the aubergine back into the pan with the sugar, cinnamon, clove and 250ml of water. Bring to the boil, then straight away take the pan off the heat, and leave to get cold (this will take around 30 minutes). Put back on the heat, bring to the boil, then take off and leave until cold again.
Repeat this process about 6 times in all over a period of around 2 hours. The last time, don't leave to get cold as the confit hardens as it cools.
Meanwhile, take the pheasants out of the marinade. Pat them dry a little with kitchen paper, season them again, then coat in flour.
Heat some olive oil in a pan, put in the pheasants and the garlic clove and brown the pheasants very lightly on all sides. Add the marinade liquid, together with the peppercorns, cloves, cumin and bay leaves. Add the chopped onions and carrots and the 1/2 bottle of wine, if using, or 375ml of water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and cook gently, covered, for 1 - 1½ hours (or even longer), although this will depend on the size of the pheasants and whether they are male or female (females are more tender).
Lift out the pheasants on to a warm plate, then strain the liquid through a fine sieve back into the pan and bubble up until reduced by two-thirds to make a sauce. Pour this over the pheasants. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve with the confit aubergine.
Oxtail Braised in Red Wine and Chocolate
This recipe for oxtail is from Ana Barrera and is made with a dark, red wine sauce. It does take longer planning as the oxtail needs to tenderise in the wine for a day before being cooked, and then it is at its best if you serve it the day after it is cooked. It is good served with boiled or fried potatoes.
- 1 kg oxtail, cut into medallions 4cm thick
- 1 litre red wine
- 4 onions, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 2 leeks, finely chopped
- 2 parsnips, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 12 black peppercorns
- 4 cloves
- 8-10 threads saffron
- sea salt
- 5cm cinnamon stick
- 1 head of garlic, whole but trimmed top and bottom
- 50g dark chocolate
- 2 tablespoons Cognac, optional
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, if needed
Put the oxtail into a bowl with the red wine, ensuring that the liquid covers the meat. Leave in the fridge for 24 hours.
Take out the oxtail, reserving the wine marinade, and season the meat with salt and pepper.
Put the meat into a large casserole with the reserved wine marinade and all the rest of the ingredients together with 500mls of water.
Allow to simmer extremely gently – just with the occasional bubble disturbing the surface – for 3–3½ hours (if you have a heat diffuser, use this underneath the casserole). Add a little more water if necessary during cooking, and towards the end, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
The stew is ready when the meat comes away from the bone easily. Take off the heat, cool and then leave for 12 hours in the fridge to rest.
The next day, put the oven on to low, and put a serving dish in to warm. Scoop the fat off from the surface, return the pan to the hob and gently heat through.
Lift out the oxtail, arrange in the warm serving dish and put into the oven while you strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Bubble up gently for about 10 minutes, stirring all the time until you have a sauce that is the consistency of a thick syrupy gravy. Pour over the oxtail and serve.
Vegetarian and Vegan options
Vegan Pulses Pie
A vegan pie can bring a lot of colour and flavour to a vegetarian or vegan Christmas dinner. There is a brilliant recipe by Anna Jones which you can find here: Goodwill Pie
Pumpkin & Squash
Another delicious option is to empty the seeds from a pumpkin or squash and fill it with cheese and baking it for an hour in the oven.
It creates an incredible rich, veggie cheese fondue. It is delicious served with potatoes and green vegetables. We sell some lovely cheese that work perfectly for baking and melting. Try a Puig Pedros.