What can I do for dinner on Christmas Eve that is easy but still feels special?
Paul, London E9
“My habit of serving some kind of fish dish on December 24 is unshakable,” writes Nigel Slater in The Christmas Chroniclesand who am I to object? This used to mean fish cake – “usually made of haddock, prawns and mussels in a creamy sauce covered with deep ridges of mashed potatoes” – but now it often takes the form of puff pastry that smuggles hot smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, leeks, new potatoes, parsley and tarragon.
Also in #TeamFish is Young kate, author of The Little Christmas Library, who favors Spaghetti with Clams (using vermouth instead of wine) or crab toast. “I’m a huge fan of toast for dinner, especially the night before I have a big meal.” You don’t need to do much with the crabmeat either: “Add a little lemon juice, maybe tarragon or dill, and lots of black pepper.” However, a good butter on your toast is non-negotiable.
Fish stew also meets simple but luxurious requirements, says chef Danielle Alvarez placeholder image, author of Always add lemon. Specifically, a number of saffron and tomato: sauté the onions, garlic, fennel and chilli flakes until soft, add a little white wine, saffron, preserved tomatoes and a splash of good fish stock. Álvarez brings all of this to a simmer, adds clams, mussels, and if you feel like it, lobster, then cover the pot and steam until the clams begin to open. Finally, put in pieces of white fish (sea bass, maybe) and cook for five more minutes. “Serve with garlic mayonnaise and crusty bread for dipping.”
Christmas Eve dinner has always been very important Alex JacksonHome: “Mom used to cook fish with lentils, but I changed it for pheasant biryani.” Okay, this isn’t particularly simple, but hey nonetheless. A simpler idea, says Soho’s Noble Rot head chef, is mushroom and sauerkraut stuffed pierogi: “Fry the onions in oil, add chopped mushrooms, soaked and dried porcini, caraway and garlic. Then when the mushrooms are cooked, pour in coarsely chopped cabbage, cover a lid and cook until it tastes good. “Once cool, add to dough circles, fold, boil in batches and serve with fried onions. , sour cream and lardons.
As Nigella Lawson so sensibly puts it in Cook, eat, repeat: “Now I realize that the parties were just an excuse to eat cocktail sausages.” So while we may not have large gatherings, we can still eat canapes for dinner. Lawson mixes cold-pressed rapeseed oil, black molasses, marmalade, and salt, then places half on top of the sausages. Drizzle them with more oil, cook for 30 minutes, add the remaining sticky mixture, and return to the oven for the last 10 minutes.
However, if time is of the essence, Jackson backs you up with a quick sauce for gnocchi or cavatelli. Boil the cavolo nero with sliced garlic, drain it, saving a little water, then “bombard with olive oil and a little cooking water, and that’s it.” Alternatively, warm up from any outdoor party with a bowl of oatmeal rice. Trine Hahnemann, author of Scandinavian green, boil arborio rice with milk, season with salt, then serve hot with butter and a pinch of cinnamon sugar. Oh, and a generous glass of gløgg.
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