Friday, January 28

Nigel Slater’s Recipes for Light and Tasty Christmas Starters | Food

I want you to kindly accompany me to the Christmas party. A couple of small, crisp and light dishes for fun and delight before starting to carve the roast bird and finish with the garnish.

First, something frivolous in a glass with some appropriate “bits” (I can’t really write the word “canapes” or “nibbles”), then proceed slowly with a light, jewel-bright first course or maybe even two.

I really mean light. I think an entree should tempt rather than satiate, ideally something fresh and crisp with bright clean flavors with toppings on the strong side. A plate of spicy flavors to whet your appetite for what is to come.

A nice salad of seasonal fruits and vegetables, fennel, beets, apples and red cabbages that are so good at the moment, it would surely be welcome and is what I will pass for the table. Like anything with ruby ​​red pickles or a citrus dressing. This year, my guests will receive a smoked salmon dish with homemade pink onion pickles, juniper and coriander seeds; Or, if you prefer, a crunchy red cabbage and apple dish with chunks of snow white goat cheese and a honey and walnut oil dressing.

I could continue with a twist or two of pasta ribbons, mixed with cream, parmesan, and black pepper (umami always brings me to the table), but they will be offered as small plates that will leave everyone wanting more. A small mound – just three bites – of pici or trofie cacio e pepe is what I have in mind.

Smoked salmon, beetroot and fennel

Onions here are an incredibly useful thing to keep on hand. You can start pickling them the day before if you wish. I like to keep some in the fridge to put on salads and on a sandwich. They will keep in a screw-top jar in the fridge for several days. For 4 people

For the onions:
red onions 150g
malt vinegar 50ml
cider vinegar 125 ml
sugar 1 tablespoon
Juniper berries 6
coriander seeds 1 tsp
black peppercorns a few
Water 125 ml

For the salad:
beet root 250g
fennel 150g
smoked salmon 250g
parsley a bunch

For the dressing:
Dijon mustard ½ teaspoon
White wine vinegar 2½ tablespoons
olive oil 6 tablespoons

Peel the onions and then cut them into thin slices. Pour the vinegars and 125 ml of water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the sugar. Lightly crush the juniper berries with a mortar or pressing down with the back of a spoon, then add to the vinegars with the coriander seeds and peppercorns. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, add the sliced ​​onions, pushing them down into the liquid, then remove from heat, cover with a lid and leave to infuse for an hour. Longer will not hurt.

Trim, peel and finely chop the beets. Remove the onions from their pickle juice and put the beetroot slices in it and leave for 30 minutes.

Make the dressing: Put the mustard in a small bowl or jar with a generous pinch of sea salt. Add the vinegar and then beat the olive oil with a small whisk or fork.

Trim the fennel, then slice it thinly, each chunk no thicker than a £ 1 coin, then place in a mixing bowl. Add the onions. Cut or tear the smoked salmon into pieces that you can place with the fork, then add it to the fennel. Take the beet out of its marinade and add the fennel, along with the parsley leaves. Mix 2 tablespoons of the pickle liquor with the dressing, then pour into the salad and mix gently.

Red cabbage, apple and goat cheese

Purple Reign: Red cabbage, apple and goat cheese.
Purple Reign: Red cabbage, apple and goat cheese. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin / The Observer

I prefer to peel clementines with a knife, treating removing all traces of pith as a challenge. You need a sharp knife. Anything that is left on is bitter and unpleasant, but it also gives the impression that you don’t care. The easiest way is to cut the top and bottom of the fruit, lay it straight on a cutting board, and then remove the peel by cutting down, turning the clementine as you go. You can then cut the fruit horizontally or into segments. For 4 people

Brussels sprouts 12
clementines 2
apples 2, small
hazelnuts 3 tablespoons toasted
red cabbage 4 large leaves
goat cheese as Ticklemore, 150g

For the dressing:
runny honey or maple syrup 1 tablespoon
lemon juice 1 tablespoon
peanut or walnut oil 1 tablespoon

Bring a medium saucepan of deep water to a boil. Cut and cut the sprouts in half, add them to the boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they are bright green. Drain and immediately pour the sprouts into a bowl of ice water.

Peel the clementines and then cut each one into thin slices. Put them in a mixing bowl. Cut the apples in half, core and thinly slice the apples and add them to the bowl. Cut the hazelnuts in half.

Wash the cabbage leaves, place one on top of the other, roll them tightly, and then cut them into fine pieces like fettucin. Mix in the cabbage, drained sprouts, apples, and clementines.

Prepare the dressing: put the honey or maple syrup in a small bowl with the lemon juice, a pinch of salt and some ground from the pepper mill. Whisk in the oil and pour over the salad. Cut the cheese into thin slices, add it to the salad and mix everything tenderly.

Follow Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater

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