Nigella Lawson prepares her Christmas larder in advance. Here she fills the freezer with roast pumpkin and sweet potato soup, mincemeat pies and other goodies.
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# The snow is snowing... #
They don't call it the bleak midwinter for nothing.
As the nights close in and the weather turns, home can seem a long way away.
But what saves me from eternal decline
is the knowledge that just around the corner
is the irrepressible sparkle of Christmas.
Cynics may carp, but I wallow in it all.
And the minute the city begins to transform itself
with the festive sparkle, so does my Christmas kitchen.
Cloves, cinnamon and of course cranberries
add a spicy depth to my star-topped mince pies.
I need the velvety warmth of my roast squash and Stilton soup.
And my star from the east, a gloriously spicy lamb tagine
with dates, with its red onion, coriander and pomegranate relish.
# ..How much it may storm
# You see I've got my love
# To keep me warm... #
Here's my moment, when at last I've got the time
to enjoy being in the kitchen,
cooking and sharing my table with friends.
But the all-important thing is to hold on to all of that
and not get overwhelmed by the burdens of feeding everyone.
I know it's difficult. You have an ally, and your best friend at this time of year is the freezer.
Time for a little drink, I think.
The drink I need is my lychini.
What it is, really, just a martini but infused
with the fragrance of lychee, which I think are very Christmassy.
Right, get everything I need.
Very simple. I do it by ratios,
which means you can do either a glass or a pitcher.
So, one part chilled vodka...
one part white rum,
and two parts creme de lychee.
I know it's a fancy ingredient,
but this time of year demands a little bit of excess.
And I'm going to do what every barman would hate,
and that's add some ice.
And now my final touch, a little garnish of lychee.
I'm using canned, I'm afraid, simply because when I peel a fresh lychee
I just massacre it and I've got nothing to look pretty in the drink.
It's so hard to describe the taste of a lychee.
In fact, I don't think it's got a taste so much as a scent.
It's like spring blossom at Christmas.
# ..What do I care how much it may storm?
# Cos I've got my love to keep me wa-a-a-rm. #
A bit of novelty is all well and good at this time of year,
but Christmas is really about tradition,
and this is where mince pies,
my little star-topped mince pies come in.
I used to think that, really, it wasn't worth your effort
making your own mince pies, and it wasn't so long ago I thought that.
And it's true. You can buy perfectly decent mince pies at the shops,
but I feel so safe and secure knowing that at Christmas
I've got just a load of these stashed in my deep-freeze.
The thing is, not only are mince pies very easy to make,
but it's just so gratifying.
And this gorgeous feeling is all too easy to achieve.
First you've got to make your pastry.
I make a very straightforward, plain pastry.
I don't think mince pies need any sweet dough at all. Nothing rich.
Measure out 240g of plain flour into a dish, and into that flour,
just cut up about 60g of chilled butter
and little teaspoons of the same weight of vegetable fat,
and sit that in the deep-freeze for about 20 minutes.
And it's that brief immersion in the deep-freeze
that makes the pastry so pliable and relaxingly easy to roll out,
and later so tender and flaky to eat.
And while the flour, butter and vegetable shortening are in the deep-freeze,
squeeze an orange into a little jug, add a pinch of salt
and put that into the fridge.
So after these 20 minutes, put the flour with the frozen fats
into a free-standing mixer
and then start mixing until
you've got what looks like a pale pile of rather porridge-like crumbs.
And then, once that happens,
you start pouring in the salted, chilled orange juice.
I use the juice of an orange rather than just water for two reasons.
One, because the scent of orange is just so Christmassy.
Also, it's the acid in the orange
that helps the pastry stay so tender.
So when the dough's at this point of just looking like it's about to cohere into one whole,
squidge it together and then form it into three fat little patties.
Just wrap these in cling and put them in the fridge.
If the pastry was simple enough,
the mincemeat, real home-made mincemeat, is child's play.
It's the work of moments.
That's if you call just tipping things into a pan and letting them simmer "work".
We start off positively...
with some ruby port. Mm!
Look at that.
Then some dark brown sugar. So treacly-smelling.
And the minute you put the heat on,
you can smell that waft of mulled wine,
which is essentially what's going on here.
Now, my mincemeat is a slightly modernised, lighter version, even,
which is surprising, I know.
So instead of some grated cooking apple,
I'm adding fresh cranberries.
You can use frozen. Don't bother to thaw them.
Ah, look at those!
Spice. You need spice.
Got to have spice in mincemeat.
Some ground ginger, a spoon.
The same of cinnamon.
And half of ground cloves.
And smelling this, you really sense the medieval origins of mincemeat.
Give it a stir,
so that all their gleaming redness
is slicked in the dark, spiced syrup.
I like it when it starts bubbling. Right, some dried fruit.
You have to have dried fruit. That is essentially what mincemeat is.
I never used mixed peel because I don't like it.
And strangely, I'm not using suet here, so for once
I'm keeping company with the healthy-living brigade.
This is actually quite light but what's so fantastic about it
is that it's rich and boozy,
but fresh and fruity at the same time.
Some dried cranberries.
These will glisten like garnets later.
And finally...the zest and juice
of a clementine, or satsuma. Whatever you've got.
That orange snow on all the gleaming, gorgeous redness.
I want the juice but I can't be bothered to get a proper squeezer.
Just do it by hand.
Get some pulp out this way too, which is good.
So this needs to simmer for 20 minutes.
And while that is happening, I can get on with rolling out my pastry.
Right, so, this has cooled a little.
So the piece de resistance, some brandy.
Droplet of almond extract.
Slightly more generous splosh of vanilla.
And a squirt of honey.
I like to beat this quite a bit with my wooden spoon.
Not that I want mush, but more
just to encourage it to turn into berry-beaded paste.
Well, this beautiful cranberry-studded mincemeat is cool,
and so I can fill these teeny little pastry cases.
If I could sing, I would be bursting into a carol now.
But I really can't, so it's just going on inside my head.
# Sleigh bells ring Are you listening?
# In the lane snow is glistening... #
What I find makes my life easier, which is important at all times,
but never more so than at Christmas,
is that I can cook all of these in one go.
Just in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.
And then the ones that I want later,
I will pop, cooled,
in the deep-freeze, ready to be reheated at a later date.
And the thing is that frozen, thawed, reheated,
they are still perfect.
gorgeous, spicy, gooey interior.
# ..He'll say, "Are you married?"
# We'll say, "No man
# "But you can do the job when you're in town"
# Later on we'll conspire
# As we groove by the fire
# To face unafraid
# The plans that we've made
# Walking in a winter wonderland
# La-di da-di-da di-da-di-da... #
I've come down into the icy depths
to stash away my mince pies in the freezer,
not that they'll last very long there, I have to say,
unlike a lot of the stuff I keep frozen.
For example, I've got some chicken necks and feet, bought in the hope
that I would make some fantastic soup.
They're known in the trade as walkie-talkies.
And that is some ostrich.
A hangover from my rare meats phase, short-lived, I have to say.
But the thing about the deep-freeze at this time of year
is that it's really a seasonal store cupboard for instant meals.
A case in point is my sweet potato and butternut soup.
I have to have a regular supply of this at this time of year,
because it really is one of my firm freezer favourites.
# Merry Christmas baby... #
Peel and chop an onion and then chop and de-seed a butternut squash. Don't bother to peel it.
Then don't bother to peel, either, a sweet potato, but slice it
and put all three on a baking tray.
# ..Merry Christmas baby... #
Sprinkle with some cinnamon and nutmeg,
and drizzle over with some olive oil, regular stuff.
Then put in a hot oven for about an hour.
# ..Gave me a diamond ring for Christmas
# And I'm living in paradise... #
This would be a fantastic no-fuss vegetable dish just as it is.
For now, I'm after soup,
so I'm going to blend it.
The un-peeled sweet potato and butternut
and the bits of almost-charred but certainly softened onion
go into the blender.
It's better to do it in two or three batches, really.
And now into the blender, about 500ml of vegetable stock.
And when I say stock,
it's just hot water and vegetable bouillon granules.
A teeny bit more.
Right. It's quite helpful if you've got a blender
with one of these steam outlets at the top.
Otherwise wait until the soup is a bit cooler when you blend.
And the moment of truth.
There we are.
It could hardly be simpler.
I do like a little flourish at the end though.
So, against the sweet graininess of the soup,
I'm going to add a drizzle of buttermilk,
although you could use natural yoghurt, and blue cheese.
Salt and sour, against this honeyed richness.
I know it looks a bit too thick right now
but I've got some more broth which I can use to thin it down
and get it to just the right consistency.
Thick and velvety,
but not gloopy.
If you're having this to help you after a Christmas party hangover,
I suggest a few drops of really devilishly hot chilli oil.
But for now, I'm content to make my blue cheese drizzle.
Now, an advanced taste of the Christmas Stilton.
Just crumble it in.
And although I like buttermilk, it can be hard to get,
so any runny plain yoghurt is fine.
So the salt here with the cheese and the sour tang of the buttermilk
combine absolutely brilliantly.
That's it. And we blitz again.
Right. We need to pour.
A perfect counterpoint to this in colour as well as taste.
Now, if you're making the soup in advance,
you may find you want to add some liquid as you reheat.
For now it's perfect, and I think I can afford a ladle or two.
And yes, I know my blue cheese swirl is a bit '80s...
..but, you know, what's wrong in that?
Nirvana for Noel.
# ..Merry Christmas pretty baby
# You sure been good to me
# Well I haven't had a drink this morning
# But I'm all lit up like a Christmas tree... #
For me, Christmas is about the cosiness, the comfort of traditions.
And my way of heralding in the season is by making sure
I'm at a table loaded with food and surrounded by friends.
One of the suppers I like to do most for friends at this time of year
is something which is luscious and full of Eastern promise.
A tagine studded with dates and cooked in pomegranate juice.
And with this scented and spiced stew
I like to festoon and adorn it with my pomegranate and red onion relish.
A fantastic tangle of puce onion and scarlet beads,
and flecked with green coriander.
But much as I love tradition, I adore making new discoveries,
and my latest and, I have to say, most enthusiastic discovery
is from an American 1950s diner classic.
The girdle-buster pie, which I've adapted and made my own
by layering up crushed digestive biscuits with butter
and chocolate chips and then a cool, smooth layer of coffee ice-cream.
And on the top, the gooiest, chewiest bourbon-laced butterscotch.
And it's incredibly easy to make, not least because the freezer does all the work.
First you process some digestive biscuits
along with some soft, unsalted butter and some chocolate chunks.
You should end up with a damp, sandy rubble which you just tip out
and press into and up the sides of a flan dish.
Put this into the freezer for about an hour to firm up.
Slightly soften some good, shop-bought coffee ice-cream,
just enough to be scooped
and spread into the prepared case,
and then cover with cling and stick this back into the freezer.
And now for the girdle-buster pie's crowning glory.
You do need to cook the butterscotch sauce but it's not hard.
Pour some golden syrup into a saucepan
and melt it on a low heat with some butter and muscovado sugar.
Now turn up the heat a bit and bring it to the boil, and let it bubble away for five minutes.
Now turn off the heat and add the bourbon.
Then stir in some double cream,
and it's the cream that turns the caramel in the pan
into a butterscotch sauce.
Let this cool but not set.
Then pour it gloopily and glossily
over the ice-cream layer in the flan dish.
This is a real seasonal splurge,
but as Mae West said, "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful."
# Some folks think you're happy
# When you wear your smile
# What about your tribulations?
# And all...all of your trials?
# Smile at lots of things
# The good the bad the hurt... #
This tagine is the traditional way
I kick off my seasonal spirit-lifting suppers.
Just need to be roughly chopped.
There's something so reassuring, I always find,
about the way so many recipes start with, "Chop some onions."
And in this tagine, these onions are cooked so softly and so slowly
that they really infuse everything with glorious sweetness.
And sweetness, I think, is both festive and comforting.
And what better combination?
So, heat on.
Some oil. Just flavourless vegetable oil
or ordinary not extra virgin olive oil will do.
After Christmas I use goose fat.
And now the onions...can cook.
Ah, I love the sound of the sizzle.
It's like when you have a fire and it crackles.
Such a cosy-making sound.
I should confess that I often call a stew a tagine
just because I think it makes it sound
so much more exotically alluring,
but this actually can properly be called a tagine
because its inspiration is entirely Moroccan.
So these onions are soft,
and now they can be spiced up
because I'm after the scent of the souk.
Some turmeric to lend its fabulous goldness.
And I love the peppery warmth you get from ground ginger.
Some ground cumin.
For me, that is the scent of the Middle East.
And finally, because this is a "more is more" time of year,
I'm telling you, you can dispense with the scented candles
if you make this tagine.
That's it, and I'm ready for my lamb.
I'm going for diced leg here. And I have to say that
even if you're not using a traditional tagine,
there's no need to, it's good to use a wide and shallow casserole
simply because you can brown the meat more
and you need less liquid. Do you know what?
I'm going to put it all in at once.
I probably shouldn't...
but, hey, let's live a little.
You don't need to be too fastidious
about browning the meat.
I just want to stir slowly...
to give it a light searing.
Now, you can't have Christmas without dates,
and there is something about having rich fruit
in meat dishes that does feel even more Christmassy to me.
These are so gorgeously sticky.
To punctuate that grainy sweetness
of the dates, but to keep it in its exotic milieu,
some pomegranate juice with that sour, sharp tang.
Beautiful colour as well.
Don't need too much. Top up with water.
Now all I need is some salt
And to give this a good stir.
If you're using a regular casserole, you can just put the lid on
and pop this in a really low oven for about two hours.
But if you are using a tagine, with its conical, funnel-like lid,
it almost turns this into an oven
of its own and I can leave it there with its hat on,
simmering gently for about two hours.
And when my guests arrive, I have to say,
they'll be met with the most fabulously-welcoming smell.
# The snow is snowing
# And the wind is blowing
# ..But I can weather the storm... #
OK? Drink time. Thanks for doing that.
You can't have too much of this, actually. You really can't.
Can I hand you these, a lychee in your lychini?
Now, it has got a kick to it.
-I'm sure it has.
-I won't give you too much.
-Yeah, thank you.
It is, but I can't really...
I put some of the juice in the drink.
Take the two bottles out.
I'm going to leave you just for a moment,
-only because I'm going to feed you before you drink more.
# ..I've got my love to keep me warm... #
I'm making my red onion and pomegranate relish.
I've got a red onion here which I'm going to cut in half,
and then slice into fine half-moons. Steady.
And these go into the pomegranate juice.
And on top of the pomegranate juice and on the onions,
I'm going to add some lime juice.
The lime juice, along with the pomegranate juice,
offers acidity, which not only takes the harshness out of the onion,
but it also helps make it a fantastic, almost lit-up, pink.
Those are almost ready. The tagine is ready.
Time for the final jubilant assembly. You wait.
Lift the macerated onion out of the steeping liquid.
Beautifully pink. And we're going with my hot-pink tablecloth,
which I'm very pleased about.
Now some pomegranate seeds,
and then some salt.
And then some more pomegranates,
because I cannot resist those beautiful jewels.
And a little seasonal snipping, with my red scissors, of coriander.
It's all come together.
Pomegranate and red onion relish for the tagine.
I know. Not subtle, is it? I put the B in subtle.
# ..Just watch those icicles form
# What do I care if icicles form...? #
I'm going to give you some of this soup and you can help yourselves.
# ..I've got my love to keep me warm
# Off with my overcoat
# Off with my gloves
# Who needs an overcoat?
# I'm burning with love
# My heart's on fire
# And the flame grows higher... #
I'll be back in a moment.
Well, if I'm kicking off Christmas, I start as I mean to go on.
This is no time for restraint. Hence, of course...
in all its gluttony-gratifying glory. Look at that.
I just so love the mixture between
crumbly, knubbly, chocolaty biscuit and the smooth ice-cream, so cold.
And then, of course, that bourbon-laced butterscotch.
Don't say I never look after you.
It's cruel but it's necessary.
It is what it says.
# ..So I will weather the storm
# What do I care how much it storms?
# I've got my love to keep me warm
# I've got my love to keep me warm... #
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
# Santa baby forgot to mention one little thing
# A ring
# I don't mean on the phone Santa baby
# So hurry down the chimney tonight
# Hurry down the chimney tonight
# Hurry...tonight. #
Nigella Lawson enjoys the run-up to Christmas and prepares her Christmas larder in advance. Cooking at Christmas is a wonderful piece of slow-down therapy but that doesn't mean that you have to be tied to the stove the entire time. Getting ahead and filling the freezer can be the answer to a Christmas prayer.
After mixing a lychee martini, Nigella cooks roast pumpkin and sweet potato soup with a Stilton swirl, mincemeat pies and her Star from the East, plus a lamb and date tagine - all wonderful to eat straight away or to store in the freezer for the arrival of last-minute guests. And if they have any room left, Nigella's 'girdle buster' pie more than lives up to its reputation.