What to eat in
Feast on fresh, seasonal ingredients during the festive season and enjoy Brussels sprouts, parsnips and cranberries
A traditional Christmas dinner is seasonal British cooking at its best. Potatoes, parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage and cranberries are all readily available in December, and locally grown produce should be easy to find at farmers' markets and farm shops – along with the turkey, of course!
Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts will almost certainly feature on your Christmas dinner plate. If you have childhood memories of sprouts as hard as bullets – or, even worse, boiled until mushy – it might be worth giving them another go.
To produce a perfectly boiled sprout – not too hard, not too soft – test regularly during cooking by piercing with a sharp knife. This should avoid over-boiling and prevent that unpleasant, over-cooked cabbage flavour. Small spouts will take about five minutes to boil, while larger specimens may take up to 10 minutes.
Brussels sprouts can also be sliced and stir-fried in olive oil – delicious if you add some garlic, chilli and grated root ginger. Or toss halved sprouts in melted butter, sprinkle chopped bacon over, and roast for 30 minutes.
Leftover cooked sprouts can be sliced and fried in butter with an onion and some mashed potato to create bubble and squeak – this makes a fantastic Boxing Day lunch, served with cold turkey or ham and a selection of chutneys.
However they're cooked, it's worth remembering that Brussels sprouts are packed with nutrients, including folate, iron, calcium, and vitamins A, K and C. So even if you don't enjoy eating them, at least you know they're good for you!
Parsnips are another important accompaniment to the Christmas turkey, and are usually served roasted. For sweet, honey roasted parsnips, par-boil chunks of parsnip for about five minutes until they are just beginning to soften. Mix two tablespoons of olive oil with a tablespoon of runny honey and stir into the drained parsnips, then roast in a hot oven for 20-30 minutes.
For a tasty vegetarian alternative to turkey, melt a generous chunk of butter in a large saucepan. Add a finely chopped onion, some crushed garlic and two teaspoons ground coriander, and fry until soft. Peel and grate two parsnips and two carrots and add to the pan – cover and cook for around five minutes until tender. Mix in 100g fresh breadcrumbs, the grated rind of an orange and two beaten eggs. Turn the mixture into a greased, ovenproof dish, and bake at 180˚C for 30 minutes.
From the end of November, fresh cranberries will begin appearing in shops. Freshly made cranberry sauce is so much nicer than sauce from a jar, and it's really quick and easy to make. Simply put 200g cranberries in a saucepan along with 75g sugar, 150ml orange juice and a teaspoon of mixed spice. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for five minutes. This can be made a couple of days beforehand and stored in the fridge – or make well in advance and freeze.
Cranberries can also be used in desserts, cakes and cookies – and their sharp flavour combines beautifully with the rich sweetness of chocolate.
Cranberry and white chocolate cookies
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
160g butter, softened
100g soft dark brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
150g fresh cranberries
75g white chocolate chips
50g white chocolate, to finish
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar and caster sugar together. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in the flour, mixing until just blended, then add the cranberries and chocolate chips. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper, allowing space for the cookies to spread. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170˚C for about 15 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are beginning to turn brown. Allow to cool. To finish off, melt the white chocolate and drizzle over each cookie.
Little Green Space December 2016