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Christmas Menu on a brandy theme

Beef in Puff Pastry with a layer of mushrooms

Christmas Menu

Brandied paté – Beef Fillet in Puff Pastry with Mushrooms – Baked Brandy Bananas

The tang of liquor is as much a part of the Christmas spirit as fruit, nuts and those silly costumes Santa Claus wears. Flame brandy or whisky over a pudding, add a glass to yourself along the way a la Keith Floyd, and the headier side of the yuletide is ignited.

At Christmas time a generous splash of whisky or brandy or a liqueur like Drambuie, Grand Marnier or Van der Hum in a paté, is just the thing to get a Christmas dinner going.
For the second Christmas dinner menu compiled for you in the run-up to Christmas, brandy is the theme, but for any of these recipes you could substitute whiskey or a liqueur – but go easy with the liqueur on the main course if you don’t want your pie tasting like a Christmas pudding.
Yes, pie. The centrepiece of this menu, ideal for a Christmas Eve dinner, is beef fillet wrapped in puff pastry with a layer of mushrooms, a variation of Beef Wellington, which has a layer of paté.
But first, a very buttery duck liver (or chicken liver) paté with the butterscotch tang that comes from flaming the pan with brandy before you blend, with a dessert of bananas baked in brandy with a brandy syllabub, inspired by Delia Smith’s book, Delia’s Christmas. Recipes have been adapted.

Brandied pate
250g chicken (or duck if you can find any) livers
225g butter
2 Tbs brandy
2 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

Brandied paté

Melt 25g butter in a large frying pan and fry the (cleaned) livers, turning frequently. Remove with a slotted spoon to a blender. Melt 150g of the remaining butter in the same pan. Pour in brandy and flame, scraping the pan, and add to livers. Add mustard, thyme, nutmeg, garlic and seasoning. Leave to stand for 10 minutes, then blend thoroughly.
Divide into ramekins. Melt remaining 50g butter and pour over. Place two sprigs of thyme in the butter, protruding. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate. Remove from fridge half an hour before serving with melba toast or similar.
For a relish to accompany this, macerate 50g currants in a goodly splash of Van der Hum or other liqueur for an hour, mix with 4 heaped Tbs Christmas mince, and spoon a dollop on to the plate alongside the ramekin.

Fillet of beef in puff pastry

800g thick-end fillet of beef (aka the chateaubriand, or the long, narrower middlecut of a fillet)
300g ready-made puff pastry
15g dried porcini mushrooms
1 large onion
325g brown mushrooms
40g butter
Grated nutmeg
1 tsp peanut oil
Brandy for basting
Flour for rolling
1 beaten egg
Salt and pepper
275ml full-bodied red wine
Beef stock

Make the filling in the morning or previous day. Soak porcini for 20 minutes. Chop onion and fresh mushrooms finely and sauté in butter, add grated nutmeg, salt and pepper, simmer on low heat for half an hour, stirring now and then. Squeeze out excess liquid from porcini, chop finely and add to pan (keep the mushroom liquid). The pan liquid should all evaporate. Spoon into a bowl and chill.
Season the cleaned and dried beef fillet, heat peanut oil in a pan on a high heat, brown thoroughly all over. Remove to a plate and brush all over with brandy. Leave to cool to room temperature.
Add reserved mushroom liquid to pan, let it reduce a bit, then add red wine and seasoning. Simmer and reduce by one-third.
When mushrooms and beef have cooled, flour a board and roll out puff pastry. Spread one-third of mushroom mixture in the centre of the pastry about the size and shape of the fillet, bearing in mind that the pastry has to wrap around the whole fillet (it’s the same principle as cutting paper to wrap a present, Daisy). Pack remaining mushroom mix on top of and around the fillet. Roll up the pastry on one side, brush the join with melted butter, roll over and pat to close. Do the same at each end, trimming off the excess pastry to cut into shapes for decoration. Brush melted butter all over, add decorations, then brush them too.
Place on a greased baking sheet and cook in a preheated 230 degree oven for 25, 30 or 35 minutes depending on how rare you would like the meat cooked.

Bananas Baked in Brandy with a Brandy Syllabub

6 bananas sliced on the diagonal
75g raisins (crimson are best)
3 Tbs brandy
3 Tbs soft brown sugar
1 dessert spoon grated orange zest
1 tsp grated lime zest
2 Tbs orange juice
1 Tbs lime juice

2 Tbs brandy
2 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs soft brown sugar
150ml double cream
Grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 180. Half an hour before cooking the bananas, soak raisins in the brandy for 30 minutes. For the syllabub, whisk the sugar, lime juice and rum in a bowl and leave for 10 minutes. Then pour in cream and whisk to soft peaks. Cover with clingfilm and chill.
Sprinkle half the soft brown sugar over the base of a suitable ovenproof dish and arrange bananas on top. Sprinkle raisins and brandy over them, then the zest and juices, and the remaining sugar. Cover with foil and bake on top shelf of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, then remove the foil for another five minutes. To serve, give the syllabub a whisk and spoon some alongside on the plate. Very Merry Christmas!

First published in Weekend Argus December 2010

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