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Life is a Christmas Day picnic


Peppermint Cherries

Turkey and all the trimmings in the middle of what could turn out to be a hot summer (Christmas) day. Hmmm. Not really conducive to that vast, hot meal with three veg followed by a luxurious Christmas pudding with brandy sauce, is it?

But there are other ways of doing the turkey thing on the big day. The better supermarkets are making it much easier for us these days by offering cold, ready to eat alternatives to whole uncooked birds or cuts of gammon, and quite frankly you could assemble an entire Christmas-themed picnic without having to prepare anything yourself, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you don’t mind putting in a bit of effort, you can prepare the makings of a homemade paté, a turkey or gammon salad and a light but still fruity alternative to the old Christmas pudding, pack everything into airtight containers in a chilled cooler bag, and head off to the beach or anywhere with a lovely view, and picnic the day away.

Make everything look suitably Christmassy by taking along a festive disposable tablecloth and napkins, Christmas crackers, and small gifts for everyone to open. You’ll need a properly chilled cooler bag, as turkey or gammon can spoil easily in the heat.

The starter here is a light, bright paté which you can eat with crusty bread or crackers, the main event is a simple salad using shop-bought ready to eat smoked turkey, and the dessert is a very yummy and unusual creamy peppermint crisp dip with fresh cherries.

Smoked trout paté

3 or 4 spring onions, chopped finely

100g oak-smoked trout (or smoked salmon)

250g mascarpone

1 scant teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Salt and pepper to taste

 Blanche the chopped spring onions in boiling water for 1 minute, turn out into a colander and refresh under cold running water. Drain and pat dry with kitchen paper. Chop the trout ribbons into small pieces and place in a blender with the mascarpone. Add the paprika, mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, seasoning and the spring onions, and blend until smooth and fluffy. Serve with crusty bread.


Turkey Salad with Almonds and Pecans

 Turkey salad with toasted nuts

750g ready to eat smoked turkey

1 red onion, sliced thinly into rings

6 courgettes, sliced into ribbons

5 small San Marzano tomatoes (or other small tomatoes), halved

3 or 4 radishes, halved and then thinly sliced

Baby butter lettuce leaves

50g salted pecans and almonds

1T verjuice

1T best extra virgin olive oil

1t lemon juice

1t triple sec liqueur

Salt and pepper to taste

Blanche the sliced red onion in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain, refresh under cold running water, drain again and pat dry. Cut the courgettes into ribbons using a potato peeler, blanche in the same way, drain and pat dry. Toast the salted nuts in a dry frying pan for a minute or two, tossing, but don’t let them burn. Mix together the dressing ingredients. Store all items in plastic containers to take on your picnic. Once there, arrange the butter lettuce leaves around the edge of a suitable serving dish, sprinkle over the radish, dot with curls of courgette and red onion rings, scatter over the nuts, and drizzle the dressing over. Drape slices of cold turkey over it.

 Peppermint Cherries

400g fresh cherries on their stalks

2T cold water

2T sugar

250g marscarpone

1 x 49g peppermint crisp chocolate

1T triple sec or crème de menthe liqueur (optional)

Heat the water and sugar together over a low heat in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Leave to cool. In a bowl, stir the cooled syrup into the mascarpone to sweeten it. Place the whole unopened peppermint crisp (in its foil wrapping) on a chopping board and bash it all over, on all sides, with a mallet or the handle of a knife. Open the foil and pour the contents onto the board, and chop it up as you would parsley. Stir all but a tablespoon of this into the mascarpone. If you like, stir in a tablespoon of liqueur to give it a kick. Serve in a bowl, garnished with the remaining crisp, with the fresh cherries to dip in the minted cream cheese. Odd, but it’s really good.


First published in Weekend Argus December 2011


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