This is a Christmas dinner party menu for that’s quick and affordable. I made the starter, a paté, in 25 minutes. The main course is a simple roast that’s been tarted up a little with a shiny coat. And the dessert is a cheat, plain and simple: store-bought vanilla ice-cream that’s been given a cheeky Christmassy lift – and it really does taste like a traditional mince pie. That took five minutes, not including the shopping. Here’s how…
Brandied mushroom paté
250g mushrooms, sliced (browns, buttons or both)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Tbs brandy
50g butter plus more for topping
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 medium-sized sage leaves
Melt the 50g butter, then sauté the onions and garlic until soft, on a low heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook on a fairly high heat until half of the liquid has evaporated. Add 3 Tbs brandy and 6 sage leaves, finely chopped, and cook until there is only a little visible liquid left. Season with salt and pepper to taste, cook gently for another minute, and cool. Once cool, blend to a paste, but not too finely, as it’s better with some texture to it. Fold in the mascarpone and mix well. Spoon into ramekins, melt butter and spoon over the top, and place a sage leaf at the centre of each. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving, covered with clingfilm. Serve with melba toast or other suitable crisp biscuit.
Glazed, stuffed roast chicken
1 plump free-range chicken, wing tips and giblets removed
Stuffing (see separate recipe)
3 Tbs smooth apricot jam
1 Tbs English, German or Dijon mustard (not wholegrain)
3 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove the wing tips, discard any giblets and wash and pat dry the bird inside and out. Season the cavity and spoon in the stuffing, unless cooking the stuffing separately (in which case, add a halved onion and a few sage leaves to the inside of the chicken for flavour, which you can discard once it’s done). Rub 2 Tbs of room-temperature butter into the skin of the chicken, all over, then season with salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 180ºC oven for about 90 minutes, basting now and then. Make a glaze by melting 1 Tbs butter in a small saucepan and adding the apricot jam. Once it’s melted, add 1 Tbs olive oil and reheat, then stir in the mustard until smooth. The olive oil helps prevent blackening. After 45 minutes into the roasting time, pour over the glaze, and a little more after another half an hour. Turn off oven, cover with foil and keep warm until serving. I served mine with potatoes roasted in duck fat (after par-steaming them) but regular cooking oil will do fine. Don’t be afraid of Brussels sprouts, they’re a great traditional Christmas menu accompaniment. Just steam until al dente, refresh under cold water, drain and pat dry. Toss them in hot olive oil and season with salt and pepper before serving.
Traditional sage and onion stuffing
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs butter
1 or 2 slices day-old white bread, crumbled (leave in fresh air to dry out if too moist)
A handful sage leaves, chopped
1 whole star anise
1 egg, whisked
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté the onions and garlic in the butter until soft, with the star anise, then discard the star anise. Add the sage leaves and breadcrumbs, season with salt and pepper, and stir well. Cool to room temperature, and then stir in the whisked egg. Either stuff the cleaned and seasoned cavity of the chicken, or spoon into a greased oven dish and bake separately. Bake at 180ºC for about 45 minutes, or inside the chicken at the same temperature until the fowl is done.
Mince pie ice-cream
2l bought vanilla ice-cream (you can make this as cheap or indulgent as you like depending on how much you want to spend, but it’s perfectly good with a common-or-garden 2l tub special)
225g (i.e. about half a jar) fruit mincemeat
Leave the ice-cream out of the freezer to soften it a little, about 20 minutes. Scoop into a large bowl, spoon in the fruit mincemeat, combine thoroughly, and freeze until required. Either buy some suitable wafers for serving or toast and then finely chop some nuts to sprinkle over as a garnish. Or just serve it as it is.