Indian Panch Phoron Damson Achaar

After chatting on instagram with my friend Harriet, aka ‘The Nutritional Bean’ about damsons and what to do them – damson wine or chutney was my go-to response, my mother independently called me moments later to ask if I wanted any. Seeing it as a sign, I said yes and she arrived later that day with said damsons, as well as a bounty of other fruits and veg from the garden. Juicy sweet yellow plums, pears and some runner beans and tomatoes. The damsons were so ripe that they were about to turn and go off, so I felt an Indian achaar (chutney) would be a good way to work with them quickly. Indian achaar is different from those made with vinegar, which allows them to keep for a month or two. An achaar is often made and eaten on the same day with dal, rice and/or curry. Whatever fruit or vegetable that needs eating you can make into an achaar. This is my mango  achaar recipe.  They are always deliciously tangy, spicy, sweet and sour and work so well with Indian and Sri Lankan food.

The magic ingredient, which I have spoken about many times over the last nine years of writing this blog, is the Bengali five spice known as ‘panch phoron’. It is often used in achaar in West Bengal. You can either make your own – by reading this post – or you can pick up panch phoron at any Asian grocers and I have even seen some of the large supermarkets stock it. When it comes to de-stoning the damson you can either do it the long way (which was my option) by cutting it half and then scoping out the stone or invest in a cherry and olive pitter, which will also fit damsons. It’s definitely on my Christmas wish list.

 

Like all chutneys it does involve adding a good measure of sugar to counterbalance the acidity. As you will only be eating one or two spoonfuls per person per sitting, it ends up balancing itself out, but be aware that it does seem quite a lot at first glance. Taste test as you go and if you find your damsons are not too acidic then you can add less sugar.

Whilst you can eat the chutney with Indian snacks, curries or dal, the achaar also works really well with cheese. It lasts in the fridge for 3-4 days. Have you had any damsons this year? If so how are you using them? I would love to know.

 

Indian Panch Phoron Damson Achaar

Makes a small bowl full

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 small dried red chillies

1 tsp panch phoron/Bengali five spice

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

655g (or thereabouts) damsons, stone removed

2 tbsp raisins, optional

1 tsp grated ginger

3-4 tbsp sugar (you can use caster or brown)

salt, to taste

 

  1. In a deep pan heat the oil and then add the 2 dried chillies. Allow them to begin to darken – it may make you cough a little – this is normal.
  2. Next add the panch phoron (fenugreek, nigella, fennel, black mustard, cumin seeds) and allow them to begin to splutter.
  3. Next add the turmeric quickly followed by the damsons. Give a good stir then add the fresh ginger and raisins.
  4. Add the sugar, a little at a time and taste as you go. Depending on the acidity of the damsons depends on how much you will require.
  5. Allow to bubble away on a low heat for 15 minutes. Add a little salt if required.
  6. Allow to cool and serve with Indian food or cheese, it works really well with both – just probably not together.

 


Zhug – Yemeni Hot Sauce – perfect for a BBQ or Sandwich Filler

Chutneys, sauces, pickles and sambals you name it and I’ll probably love it. They really lift a meal whether you are eating modern British, Mexican, Indian, Levant or even having a simple sandwich for lunch. So when a pal mentioned whether I had heard of zhug, my response was yes, heard but not knowingly tried. He swore it was his go-to condiment, especially for BBQ, and sent me his favourite recipe for it.

The name ‘Zhug’ sounds rather cool you have to admit. Pass the zhug, if you please! Yes it definitely has a certain ring to it. It’s a Middle Eastern hot sauce originating from Yemen and then adopted by the Israelis  when the Yemenite Jews fled to Israel. It has now become a staple condiment in Israeli cuisine and I can certainly see why.

When I looked through the ingredients it was not too dissimilar to chimichurri, chermoula or even salsa verde. There are many varieties using both green and red chillies, but I opted for the green variety today. Cumin, cardamom and caraway seeds are used and these are combined with both fresh coriander and parsley. It’s zingy, hot and fresh all at once and would work equally well with meats, fish or cheese. It takes minutes to prepare and can easily be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or two.

So do you have a go-to favourite condiment? My favourite – other than Zhug –  is my Chipotle – see here.

Zhug – Yemeni Hot Sauce

adapted from Aglaia Kreme book ‘Mediterranean Hot and Spicy’

6 green birds eye chillies, seeds kept in (or removed if you prefer it less hot)

8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 tsp freshly ground caraway seeds

1tsp freshly ground cumin seeds

1/2 tsp freshly ground green cardamom

50g fresh coriander, leaves and stalks

50g fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves only

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

juice of 1 small lemon

100ml extra virgin olive oil

 

  1. Place the black pepper, caraway, cumin and cardamom seeds in a spice/coffee grinder to create a smooth powder.
  2. Then place all the ingredients into a blender and blender until smooth, adding the extra virgin olive oil a little at a time to loosen up the sauce.
  3. Store in a sterilised jar and place in the fridge until ready to use.

Great in sandwiches, with falafel wraps, BBQ meats and fish, over couscous – basically most things savoury.


Coconut Chutney (and a top tip at removing a coconut shell)

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Have you ever had trouble getting into a coconut or rather removing the outer shell so that the sweet flesh within is easy to tuck into? If you have then you are going to love the following tip.

All you need to do is the following:

  1. Place the coconut in the freezer for 30-45 mins.
  2. Remove from the freezer and then use a rolling pin to bang down on the coconut whilst holding it in your other hand. The outer shell will break away.
  3. Easy hey!

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Drinking the coconut milk is a whole lot easier this way I find.

So on to the coconut chutney.

Once you have the naked coconut you then need to peel it – the outer skin comes away so easily. Then it is simply a matter of grating the coconut.

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Using a whole coconut does produce a lot of coconut chutney, but I find it lasts for up to a week in the fridge no problem. A dollop on the side of some spiced semolina – upma, from my previous post, works wonders or equally it would be great with any south Indian curry. In southern India they eat coconut chutney as part of breakfast, lunch or supper so if you take a similar attitude it will be used up pretty fast!

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Coconut Chutney

1 coconut

2 tbsp chana dal, roasted

2 fresh green chillies

*****

tempering

2 tbsp vegetable/coconut oil

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

pinch of asafoetida/hing

2 dried red chillies

7 curry leaves

1 tsp salt

  1. Remove the shell from the coconut by placing it in a freezer for 30 minutes and then banging down on it carefully with a rolling pin.
  2. Remove the skin from the coconut using a potato peeler and then grate the coconut.
  3. In a frying pan dry roast the chana dal so they begin to bronze slightly. Let them cool and then use a spice grinder to grind them up.
  4. Place in a smaller blender along with the grated coconut and fresh green chillies. You will need to add a little water to loosen it up (the amount of water added depends on how thick you like your chutney! I tend to use 300ml). Blend to form a smooth paste. Add a little salt to taste.
  5. In a frying pan heat the oil and when it is hot add the mustard and cumin seeds, the dried chillies, curry leaves and hing. Move around the pan for 20 seconds before pouring over the coconut chutney.
  6. Stir into the chutney and serve.

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Spiced Masala Paneer Skewers, Coriander/Mint Chutney and Bejewelled Couscous

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I was recently approached by the the UK’s number 1 tableware provider, Denby Pottery to come up with an exciting vegetarian BBQ recipe for their blog. They kindly provided me with some of their china from the  ‘Imperial Blue’ range, to present the food. I ended up creating spiced masala paneer skewers, coriander and mint chutney and bejewelled couscous. As well as cooking the paneer skewers on the BBQ they can equally be cooked on a griddle pan or under the grill so are super versatile.

Take a look at my recipe and post here and I would love it if you can share it through your social channels.

Hope you are all having a wonderful summer (winter if you are in the southern hemisphere).

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Indian Inspired Peach Chutney

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Gloriously ripe and deliciously sweet juicy peaches are in season right now. They are great to eat fresh or in a salad perhaps with some mozzarella, parma ham and some fresh basil with a little olive oil and black pepper flecks sprinkled on top. I sometimes like to transform them into an Indian inspired chutney that is so versatile and delicious that you’ll be making pots of it in no time at all.

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As well as eating this chutney as a condiment to Indian dishes I also love it in sandwiches, with some cold or hot meats, fish, halloumi or any nice stinky and smelly cheese come to think of it. It’s perfect to take along on a summers day picnic – the sweet chilli notes adding that necessary kick to cheese baguette perhaps!

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If your peaches are beginning to turn, then this is another great way to use them up. If you like this recipe try making my mango and tomato one which all require the Bengali five spice known as ‘panch phoron’. You can find it in your local Asian grocers or you can easily make your own and store it in a sealed jar for months – here is my recipe.

 

Peach Chutney

1 tbsp groundnut oil (or equivalent)

1 tsp panch phoron – Bengali five spice

1 large dried chilli, broken into 2 or 3 pieces

1/2 tsp turmeric

5 large juicy peaches, stone removed and cut up roughly into 2 cm cubes

2 tbsp plain flour

50ml cold water

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 large storage jar

1) Heat the oil and then add the panch phoron, dried chilli pieces and turmeric. Move them around the pan for 20 seconds before adding the juicy peach pieces. Stir into the ingredients and simmer gently.

2) In a small bowl add the flour and cold water and stir until smooth. Add to the peaches in the pan.

3) Add the salt and sugar and continue to simmer until the peach chutney has thickened. This will take no longer than 6 minutes. If you require it thicker add a little more flour.

4) If eating on the same day, allow to cool completely before serving. If eating at a later date sterilise your jar by washing it thoroughly and then placing in a warm oven for 15 minutes. Add the chutney and once it has cooled it can be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks.


Tamarind and Date Chutney

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I promised you a delicious chutney and here it is. This tamarind and date chutney is perfect with samosas, pakoras, popadoms you name it, it’s great with pretty much everything. It takes no time to prepare and is the perfect accompaniment with an Indian snack.

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It’s simply a case of putting all the ingredients together in a blender and whizzing together to form a smooth chutney. Check that you like the taste and add more lemon, chilli, salt or sugar as you see fit. It’s literally that simple.

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I hope you all have a really wonderful Christmas. If you are hosting or feeding the crowds cooking an Indian meal on the days after Christmas will come as a welcome surprise for everyone. This pork and onion curry is quick to assemble and good at feeding a large number or perhaps this vegetarian spicy black bean curry. If you go to my ‘Recipe Library’ you will find lots of alternative recipes to choose from.

Merry Christmas

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Tamarind and Date Chutney

23 dates, stoned and chopped in half

150 ml water

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 lemon, juice only

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2tsp tamarind concentrate

  1. Place the dates into a magimix/blender and blend to break up the dates. After they have been broken up add the water and whizz again in the blender.
  1. Add the chilli powder, lemon juice, salt, sugar and tamarind concentrate and whizz until the chutney becomes as smooth as possible, which will be around a minute.

Store in the fridge until ready to use. Can store in an airtight container for over a week.


Green Tomatoes – Two Ways

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During half time we went and spent some time at my parents house, which is hidden away in the depths of the Sussex countryside. Life slows down and allows you to become at one with nature. I love living in the city and am not the type to rush out to rolling green hills at every opportunity, but that said now and again it really does ones soul the world of good. Breathing in fresh air, getting properly muddy and having walks in the woods. Also if the truth be told I love my folks wood burning fire that warms the house and wafts woody smells throughout.

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My mother is Mrs green fingers and has an enviable vegetable patch, which supplies my father and her with bountiful crops of endless vegetables and fruit. She has been overrun with green tomatoes this year and had a couple of troughs full sitting in her pantry so I asked if I could take one to make into a chutney and a relish back in London.

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The result has been pleasing and I wanted to share both recipes with you. They are perfect to bring out with pretty much any cold meat, especially any type of pork product.

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The photo above and below are of the cucumber and green tomato relish.

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Green tomatoes are simply tomatoes that have not ripened in the sun. Change in weather can mean that some of your crop just aren’t able to make the transition from green to red. That said you can bring the whole plant inside and there are ways to help them turn red – see here for tips, but my mother had already picked the remaining tomatoes, most of which were green.

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To eat raw, whilst still green, would not be advisable as they are tart, however by cooking and making into a chutney or relish brings them into their own and sweetens them enough to make a fabulous little preserve.

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Both recipes require a fair amount of chopping so if you can gather in helpers that will certainly speed up the laborious part of the preparation.  The above photo shows the layered vegetables in the colander sprinkled with salt – they leave them like this overnight.

The photo below is the pickling spice that is used in the chutney but not the relish!  I have made my own pickling spice – you can add whatever you fancy, but I decided upon bay leaves, green cardamom, black mustard seeds, dried chillies, whole cloves, cinnamon bark, allspice and peppercorns.

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Once you have made either the relish or chutney – or both, once sealed in jars, leave to rest in a dark, cool place for a couple of weeks for the chutney and 1 week for the relish. The chutney will last longer – around a year, whilst the relish should be eaten within 6 months. Once open store in the fridge and eat with in a couple of weeks.

Both recipes below I have adapted from ‘The Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles’ by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew

Green Tomato Chutney

makes approx 8 jars. I mainly use Wares of Knutsford 250ml Mason jars

2.3 kg green tomatoes, chopped

600g cooking apples, chopped – cored and peeled

600g onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1.5 tbsp salt

1 small muslin bag full of pickling spice (see below)

800ml cider vinegar

600g granulated sugar

**********************************

Pickling spice

1/2 tsp allspice

2 bay leaves

3 green cardamom pods

1 tsp black mustard seeds

2 inch piece of cinnamon bark, broken into pieces

4 cloves

5 peppercorns

2 dried red chilli

1 small piece of muslin cloth

some string

You can also add dried ginger, cassia, coriander seeds

1. After roughly chopping all the tomatoes, apples, onions and garlic place them in a large pan (or two if you need to) and add the salt. Add the muslin full of pickling spice, securely tied, along with half the vinegar and bring to the boil.

2. Once it has reached boiling point, reduce the heat and let it simmer for an hour stirring at regular intervals to aid with the softening of the ingredients.

3.  In a separate pan add the remaining cider vinegar and sugar and gently heat, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once this has happened pour into the main pan and give a good stir. The chutney needs a further hour and a half to simmer and become thick.

4. In the last half hour of number 3. wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water and then place in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 110 degrees and then let the jars and lids (do not place the lid on the jar) sterilise for 30 mins.

5. Once the jars and lids have sterilised and the chutney has become thick remove the muslin and then spoon the hot chutney into the warm jars and seal. I find this wide neck funnel, immensely useful during this process as it means I keep the rims of the jars clean. I tend to put a waxed disc on top (was side down), although I think with the two piece gold disc and screw band lid it is probably not necessary.

6. Label and store in a cool dark place and leave to mature for a couple of weeks before opening. It will last for up to a year.

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Cucumber and Green Tomato Relish

Makes approx 5 jars

2 cucumbers, cubed 1cm

900g green tomatoes, cubed 1cm

4 onions, finely chopped

1.5 tsp salt

350ml white vinegar

150g demerara sugar

200g granulated sugar

1tbsp plain flour

1/2 tsp mustard powder

1.  Layer the cubed cucumber, green tomatoes and finely sliced onions in a colander placed over a bowl and sprinkle each layer with salt. Leave to drain for minimum 6 hours or overnight if you can.

2. Removing the salty liquid and place the vegetables in a large pan along with 320ml of the white vinegar. The remaining 30ml of white vinegar will be used later! Add both sugars to the pan and gently heat, stirring to allow the sugars to dissolve. Simmer gently for 40 minutes.

3. In a bowl add the flour, mustard powder and remanding white vinegar to form a paste and then add to the relish. Simmer for a further 20 mins or until the mixture is thick.

4. Similarly to point 4. in the instructions for the green tomato chutney, sterilise the jars and then spoon the contents of the relish into each one, remember to push the relish down firmly so that there are no air bubbles. Add the waxed disc, waxed side up (if using) and place the gold disc and screw top lid on top.

5. Store in a cool dark place for a week before using. Use within 6 months. Once opened store in the fridge and eat within a couple of weeks once opened.


Embracing Autumn and Chutney Making

Autumn has definitely arrived here in England and I for one LOVE the season.

10 reasons to embrace autumn:

1) The dramatic burnt orange, golden and red leaves on the trees is breathtakingly beautiful and it always manages to impress me with its vibrant hue.

2) Kicking the crisp fallen leaves as you walk gives us all – old and young alike – that inner thrill.

3) Roaring fires to warm up by whilst drinking hot chocolate or warm apple cider.

4) Big warm jumpers to keep us roasty toasty. Everyone looks great in autumn fashion.

5) Harvest Festival, Bonfire Night, Halloween and everything that is associated with them.

6) Hearty comfort food such as casserole, stews and soups become regular staples.

7) The smell of woodsmoke – it has to be one of my all time favourite smells.

8) Foraging for blackberries, crab apples, rose hips, elderberries

9) Eating all the foods that are now in season: the above as well as, apples (cox, gala, spartan, egremont, russet), celery, endive, mussels, kale, fennel, spinach, beans, leeks, beetroot, swede, pumpkin, spring onions, carrots, turnips, cauliflower, squash cabbage (autumn, red, spring green, winter white and savoy), marrow, potatoes and parsnips

10) Making chutneys, pickles and preserves.

What do you like most about autumn? Don’t be shy, leave a message below.

Photo sourced by PicoCool 

Last year I cooked a huge batch of Kashmir chutney and sweet piccalill which made great little christmas gifts and recently I decided to make some pickled peach and chilli chutney. They were selling huge batches of peaches at the market so I thought that they would be perfect for this chutney. I tend to make double the portions of the amounts below as they last for up to 6 months so are easy to keep and store.

Pickled Peach and Chilli Chutney

Sourced from the Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew

Makes about 450g/1lb

475ml cups cider vinegar

275g light brown muscovado sugar

225g dried pitted dates, finely chopped

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground mace

450g ripe peaches, stoned and cut into small pieces

3 onions, thinly sliced

4 fresh red chillies, seeded and finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

5cm/2inches fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 tsp salt

1.  In a large pan place the vinegar, dates, sugar, allspice and mace and gently heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is completely dissolved.

2. Bring to the boil and then add the peaches, sliced onion, chopped chillies, crushed garlic, grated ginger and salt continuing to stir occasionally.

3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes – by which time the chutney should have thickened.

4. Spoon the hot chutney in steralised jars – either by boiling them in water first or putting them in the dishwasher. I place a waxed disc on top – waxed side down and then place the lid on top.

You need to store them in a cool, dark place where the chutney can mature for at least 2 weeks before eating. They will last up to 6 months.

Another great way to eat the chutney is with grilled chicken served in warm wraps or with ricotta or goats cheese and some crusty bread.

Taken just after point 2) above and before it has been cooking for 40-50 mins


Indian Style Tomato Chutney

I adore condiments with my food no matter what the origin of the food. Chutneys, mustards, jellies, pickles, dressings – you name it, I love to have the option of having them on my plate supporting the meats and/or vegetables and giving the dish that extra added dimension. So you can just imagine how in heaven I was when Mr B’s grandmother, known as Dida, cooked this simple tomato chutney for us when we visited her in Kolkata a while ago. We were all given a little bowl of the chutney to eat alongside our dal and vegetable dishes and it tasted sublime. The combination of hot and spicy with sweet undertones  made the chutney completely addictive.

Tomatoes are to me what I imagine chocolate is to many people. I could give up eating chocolate tomorrow, but tomatoes……well that would be seriously hard. In fact for Easter my parents gave me a tomato plant instead of a chocolate egg, knowing that I would get more enjoyment out of that than a chocolate egg.  I eat tomatoes pretty much everyday and without doubt they are my absolute favourite fruit as they are just so versatile and can completely transform dishes. If you have any tomato recipes that you think I would like please send me an email to chilliandmint@gmail.com as I would love to try them.

With this recipe you can keep it simple and just use tomatoes, but I like to add a little dried fruit so as to blend the flavours. You can add a couple of dried prunes, dates, apricots or mango. Experiment and see which you like to compliment with the tomato.

Dida cooks her chutney without the tomato skins on, however, for speed and because I don’t mind them, I have left the tomato skins on. If you prefer a smoother texture then simply boil the tomatoes in a pan of boiling water for five minutes and then strain them and you will find the tomato skins easily come away from the body of the tomato.

Indian Style Tomato Chutney

Makes 1 bowl, 4-6 servings

300g tomatoes, chopped in half if using cherry and quartered if using larger size

1 inch of ginger, grated or chopped finely

2 dried red chillies

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tbsp olive/mustard/nut oil

1/4 (quarter) tsp salt

4 tsp sugar (to taste)

3 slices of Aam Shatwa (dried mango), or dried apricots, dried prunes, dried dates – optional

1. Warm the oil in a pan and when it is hot place the two dried red chillies into the oil. You want to fry them until they turn black, which will take a few minutes. For those of you who have seen or made my homemade mango chutney you will remember that frying the dried chillies will make you cough. My mother-in-law assures me that it helps those with nasal congestion, so if you have any issues in this area get involved at this part of the recipe as it is sure to help your ailment!

2. When the dried red chillies have blackened add the remaining ingredients and stir. The tomatoes will release juice as they warm in the pan. Squash the tomatoes with the back of a fork so that they become limp. Taste the chutney and add extra sugar if required.

3. Leave to simmer for 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes have completely softened and then transfer into a bowl to cool. Serve at room temperature.

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Christmas Check List

I’m back. My computer has been on the blink, coupled with the fact that Mr B, big A and little Z have been frolicking in the snow in Bavaria, which has made it harder than usual to blog.

It’s Christmas eve and the troops arrive at 2pm. I am hosting this year so it’s going to be full on. Thankfully Mr B is a very able pair of hands in the kitchen too, so together we’ll keep the food preparation flowing and the mulled wine topped up in everyones glasses. Am I prepared?

Presents wrapped – check

Food all delivered – check

Christmas foliage scattered around the house – check

Sufficient beverages to appeal to everyone – check

Carols on the ipod to the ready – check

Recipes all lined up – check.

I have had a few requests asking what I am cooking so here goes:

Christmas eve 

Starter: A medley of Thai starters -spring rolls, prawn toast,dim sum.

Main: Seabass with a chilli and ginger baste – (Daddy if you are reading this I promise there will not be too much chilli!) This is a recipe from my recent course at Billingsgate market fish course. I will post it up in the new year in more detail.

Pudding: a surprise (I am still working on this one)

Christmas Day

 Lunch-

Starter: smoked salmon

Main: Turkey, stuffing balls made of pork, fresh herbs and apple, sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta, bread sauce, roast potatoes,  parsnips, caramelized carrots, red cabbage

Pudding: Christmas pudding, mince pies, Bill Granger’s vanilla-poached apricots and cheeses

Supper – (if people are still hungry)

Bill Granger’s puy lentil soup, game pie, cheeses, fresh salad

followed by christmas cake and fruit

Boxing Day

Brunch: Eggs Florentine with my hollandaise sauce on toasted muffins

Looooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnngggggggggggggg WALK

Supper:

Starter – Mushrooms with fresh herbs on toast

Main – Christmas ham with potatoes and my homemade chutney and piccalilli (recipe up on my site soon I promise)

Pudding – Leftovers from Christmas day

27th

Breakfast – Mexican toast (think French toast Mexican style!)

Lunch – Ham, Turkey and Leek Pie – recipe from lovefoodhatewaste.

The troops leave.

Have a wonderful christmas everyone and I’ll be back very soon with more recipes and photos.