Nigella Lawson prepares her Christmas larder in advance, making chutney, jelly, spiced fruits, Christmas puddini truffles and Christmas cookies.
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# Jingle bell, jingle bell jingle bell rock
# Jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring
# Snowing and blowing up bushels of fun
# Now the jingle hop has begun. #
Much as I love Christmas, the shops are not where I want to be at this time of year.
# Jingle bells chime in jingle bell time. #
Queuing, panicking, and trying to find the parking space do not induce the seasonal spirit in me.
So cliched or not,
I'm going back to basics and I want to find a way of celebrating Christmas
that is less about shopping and more about enjoying, so this year I'm making presents.
Now I haven't magicked more hours in the day and I certainly
don't want to turn my kitchen into a kind of conveyer belt,
but time spent making effortless homemade
melon spiced chutneys, perfect presents,
and my irresistible Christmas Puddini bonbons
really is a kind of therapy in the middle of all this seasonal madness.
# Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock
# Jingle bell chime in jingle bell time
# Dancing and prancing in Jingle Bell Square... #
I would so much rather be in the kitchen
making presents than in the hell of the shops queuing up to buy them.
I have to say that although I'm not normally keen on the sort of
picture pretty, I have been totally overwhelmed by the lure of the cute
in the form of my Christmas Puddini bonbons.
I mean you can tell I've gone by the name I've given them.
You start off with some cooked and cooled Christmas Pudding.
You can either buy a little one early
or you can breath new life into last year's, just crumble that into a bowl.
Now we need some dark chocolate...
Let that melt while I pour over one of my favourite ingredients,
some Pedro Ximenez.
Pedro Ximenez -
I think I've made it clear I'm not a Spanish speaker -
is a particular grape variety, and what it produces is a sherry
that is so rich and raisiny and dark and treacly, look at it.
If you don't get that, just use sweet sherry.
I can't promise it'll be the same but it'll still work.
And then, smallish amount...
..of gorgeous oozy golden syrup.
Stir this together.
I have to say if I were to attempt making, you know,
proper homemade sweets with sugar thermometers and boiling points and all that fandango,
I'd go into a complete meltdown, but this is relaxingly easy.
When this is stirred together...
..we'll pour in the melted chocolate.
I just need to scrape this molten chocolate onto the pudding
and this, in effect, is the glue
that sticks the bits of Christmas pudding together...
..so that I can form my bulging baby Christmas Puddini.
Right, that's done.
Now to roll these out,
I feel I am best advised to put on my CSI gloves, never a hardship,
and now it is just a case of roll 'em, roll 'em, roll 'em.
# You gotta accentuate the positive... #
In effect, what I'm trying to create here
is that cannonball shape
of the original olde Christmas puddings only in dolls' house size.
# You gotta spread joy up to the maximum
# bring gloom down to the minimum... #
So these need to go in the fridge for a bit just to firm up.
Meanwhile I can get on with melting the white chocolate for the topping.
# Liable to walk upon the scene
# To illustrate my last remark... #
Now these are ready to come into their own.
The white chocolate has melted
and let a teeny bit dribble over the top.
It's meant to look like the drippy icing on the top of Dickensian Christmas puddings.
# You gotta accentuate the positive
# eliminate the negative... #
There we are, beautiful and snow-capped.
And now I'm going to cut out some holly berries and leaves from these candied cherries.
You will curse my name as you do this, I know,
they're so sticky and fiddly.
However when you're done, you will thank me.
Out of the red...
little holly berries.
And now out of the green candied cherries,
I'm going to make some leaves.
Although they look like miniature Christmas Puddings,
in fact they taste rather more like fruity chocolate truffles.
I mean, these babies have everything going for them.
# Don't mess with Mr In-Between. #
There's something so comforting about reading old cookery books,
especially books like these.
These are my stash of sort of chutney and jelly and pickling and preserving books.
This one, Let's Preserve It, a fantastic title in every way,
at a second-hand bookshop at the coast of Cornwall oh, ages ago,
I mean, but it's nearly as old as me, and it cost 28/- at the time.
And actually preserving is so cosy,
just the idea of things in jars, things in cans, and at this time of year, particularly,
I think, that idea of filling up shelves and hunkering down just makes you feel warmer and safer.
Plus, you know, the thing about chutneys and jellies and all that
is they do double duty
because they make fantastic presents, but also they are imperative for leftovers.
My Chilli Jelly, I have to have.
You haven't had a leftover turkey sandwich worth its name really
until you've had my chilli jelly with it.
I mean, once you've peeled and chopped the peppers and chillies
and just bunged them in the processor, you're away.
Right, you need jam sugar for this,
that's the trick, that's what makes it easy.
And jam sugar is simply sugar that's had pectin added...
Look at that gorgeous snowy mountain...
Otherwise it is so much work and this makes it easy-peasy.
And on top of the sugar, some cider vinegar -
splosh it in.
I want the sugar to dissolve into the vinegar
but I think it's important not to stir
because the whole point of the gorgeousness of the jelly is that it is clear.
And now, time to add...
..this incredible Christmas confetti.
The colour seeps its way into the vinegar
so you end up with a coral jelly flecked with fiery crimson.
OK, so whop up the heat because I want this to come to a really rollicking boil,
I mean volcanically, for about ten minutes.
It's wise to take a look at it every now and again
because although I want fieriness and explosiveness,
I don't want it to boil over.
This is really hot stuff and boiled enough.
I'm just going to let it cool a bit away from the hot ring, not just because it is piping,
but because, as this cools, those beautiful flecks of pepper
disperse themselves evenly, which we've already shown look lovely in their jars.
You need sterilised jars, but don't panic, by sterilised
I mean jars that have been through dishwasher cycle.
The only important thing is you don't put your finger
inside one and then desterilise it.
And because I am quite clumsy, I think a jam funnel is in order.
I don't trust myself to pour neatly so
you're to ladle it into these jars.
Oh, so gorgeous.
And the thing about this, well, like all preserves and chutneys,
is that it really does double duty,
because not only is it a present that you want to give,
or I'd want to receive,
but as well, you have to keep some back because for me,
this is compulsory with Christmas leftovers.
Well, this should keep the home fires burning over Christmas.
There are some pickles that I have to have in my store cupboard all year round,
but some just say Christmas to me.
For many years I had a godfather who would send me
some crystallised ginger for Christmas,
and I used to think, "What kind of a present is this?"
But then when I got a bit older, I thought well, you know, I could use it in cooking
and I did and I started making my beetroot and ginger chutney.
And now, frankly, it just makes my Christmas
and since I give it as presents as well,
I like to think it makes other people's too.
Anyway, it's very simple and straightforward to make.
You peel and chop cooking apples, fresh beetroot, and red onion.
Tumble them into fairly large saucepan,
grating some fresh ginger and chop up some of
your crystallised ginger and add that too.
The thing here is that the peppery warmth of both gingers
really counters both the earthy sweetness of the beetroot
and the sharpness of the apple.
It makes the perfect chutney.
So into this pan, sprinkle some soft light brown sugar,
some salt, and ground allspice.
Pour over some red wine vinegar and just stir to mix,
and only then do you turn the heat on.
Let this come to boil, let it bubble for about an hour,
just stir every now and again, and after about that time,
most of it will be mushy but you'll still have a few chunks of beetroot and it'll be ready.
Simply pour into your warmed, sterilised pots
and you should have enough to fill about six, and you're done.
# I cried through many endless nights
# Just holding my pillow tight
# Then you came into my lonely days
# With your tender love and sweet ways
# Now I don't know where you come from, baby
# Don't know where you've been, my baby
# Heaven must have sent you
# Into my arms
# Now in the morning when I awake
# There's a smile upon my face
# You've touched my heart with gladness... #
Hello, good morning. How can I help?
Good morning, oh, you CAN help.
I'd like ten double espressi, please.
Take away or drink in here?
I'll have one here, the rest to take away.
-Please have a seat, I will bring you your coffee now.
-I need it.
Do you think it's safe to take these off now?
There are six of us for brunch
and I have a fairly big spread planned,
not least because we need to absorb last night's excesses.
Mind your back, it's very, very, very hot.
I've got my triple cheese and onion strata, which is a rather fantastic combination,
somewhere between a savoury bread and butter pudding and a cheese souffle.
I've also got my antioxidant fruit salad, much needed I may say,
and that's just mangoes cubed, with blueberries, pomegranate seeds,
and just a spritz of lime and it is fantastic.
It goes very well with my spruced-up vanilla cake,
which is an easy creation
but so sweet and rich and buttery and I need a slice now.
Now I would be daunted by this
were it not for the fact that by some miracle
I had the presence of mind or presence of something,
maybe not mind, to totter about and get the strata ready last night.
Luckily, it's a very straightforward exercise.
# Call me
# Irresponsible... #
You just need a baking dish and in it you layer some slices of bread,
I like to use stale-ish baguette.
And then in a processor, put a ball of mozzarella, some Parmesan,
and some Cheddar along with a bunch of spring onions, some sour cream,
six eggs, and blitz everything to mix. It's as simple as that.
This instantly-fixed cheese and egg sauce gets poured over the bits of bread in the dish
and just cling wrap the dish,
put it in the fridge so everything can get absorbed overnight,
and the next morning all I have to do is take this out of the fridge
and put it into the oven.
# I'm irresponsibly
# Oh oh oh oh
# Mad about you. #
Feel handsomely revived now and ready to lurch into action,
buoyed up by the prospect of my espresso martini,
but first I want to take the strata out of the fridge
so it comes to room temperature.
Not bad, all things considered.
Preheat the oven,
and I am ready for my spruced-up vanilla cake.
The Spruced Up refers really to the shape, so the tin does all the work,
it's a very easy cake.
You don't have to use a spray;
I just as often pour some oil on some kitchen paper
and smear it on, I quite enjoy this.
Now, everything just goes in the processor.
Modest amount of butter, whole packet bar maybe a piece of toast.
It's a big cake, though.
350 grams of plain flour,
sugar 300 grams,
sprinkle it in.
Many eggs, a whole packet of six,
that's what makes it so rich, gorgeous and golden.
I love it freshly sliced,
but I have to say if you put a slice in the toaster,
it comes out almost like French toast
only you don't have to fry it.
Vanilla, quite a lot because it's that vanilla-iness
that makes the cake so distinctive.
And some bicarb,
not a lot, otherwise you get that soapy flavour,
but the reason I'm using bicarb
and not baking powder is hugely scientific and I won't go into it.
Not just cos it's the morning
but it's because I've got some natural yoghurt, half a tub.
The yoghurt makes the sponge incredibly tender.
And now, a blitz and the batter is made.
Oh, what a beautiful batter,
perfectly plain but anything but austere.
I mean, you can get about 20 slices out of this so don't fret.
Now there are lots of nooks and crannies you can see
in a tin like this,
but it will come out.
You just have to coax the sides of the cake a little with your fingers,
about 15 minutes after it's come out of the oven.
Oh, this gorgeous oozing buttercup yellow.
I've got a sheet in the oven
which will help should there be any spills, not that I'm expecting any.
So that's it, ready to be baked.
The cake needs around an hour in the oven
until it's cooked through and golden.
While it cools, I get on with my fruit salad.
Simply mix diced mango, blueberries,
and some pomegranate seeds with a spritz of lime.
Finally, of course, the strata needs half an hour,
and you're about there.
Right, my cake is cooked and cooled.
You can see it's come away from the sides,
I'm going to ease the central bit,
and I think this is ready to be unmoulded.
So, a bit of a grand operation this,
I hold my breath...
And you wait because when it's had its dusting of icing sugar,
the hills really will be alive.
Too much healthy eating going on.
Espresso Martini, anyone?
Espresso, anyway, it's really, really strong stuff, quite bitter,
some butterscotch schnapps or toffee vodka, it doesn't matter.
I think it's almost better not to know what goes in here,
it tastes so delicious but it feels bad when you say it all.
OK, coffee liqueur. And I feel slightly embarrassed pouring it in
cos it sounds like it's incredibly alcoholic
and of course it is, but doesn't taste it.
I like your minimal measures!
I know, it's only because I want it to be equal parts
and of course it's a martini,
or it started off in some vague form as a martini.
Look, there's a lot of us!
And you can ice yourselves up.
-Pass them round, she said.
-Isn't it really good?
-It's like a pick-up, isn't it?
It does make you want to glug it.
Ok, sit down, sit down, everyone.
I'm going to get some food to soak this up.
Very good. What's next?
Ah, this is lovely, puffy and golden.
I love the way the little circles of bread become scorched
and just infused with egg and cheese.
It's like a toasted cheese sandwich but a celestial one,
as if eaten by angels.
I'm going to snip a few chives on top
to echo the spring onions that are inside.
Now I think I'm going to rush it to the table while it's still hot.
OK, mind your back, it's very, very, very hot.
Woo! I say.
Cheese and onion strata, shall I do you the first bit and you can take over?
OK. What does strata mean?
Because it's layers, like a bread and butter pudding only savoury.
-Good staple anti-hangover stuff.
-What's in it again?
Cheese, egg, bread.
It smells divine.
I'm afraid it is really addictive.
On top of all those carbs, I've got you a cake, Maria.
-I'm going to go and get it. Let them eat cake.
# Oh, the weather outside is frightful
# But the fire... #
Now we can see it in its full seasonal splendour.
# And since we've no place to go... #
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
# Man, it doesn't show signs of stopping
# And I've brought me some corn for popping
# The lights are turned way down low
# Let it snow! #
-OK now, look...
All I need after this
is for Christopher Plummer to sing Edelweiss to me,
and my Christmas will be perfect.
# But if you'll really hold me tight
# All the way home I'll be warm
# And the fire is slowly dying
# And, my dear we're still good-byeing
# But as long as you love me so
# Let it snow! Let it snow! And snow! #
Very good, I can see why it might be even better toasted.
It's in a way more pudding than a cake.
This is really good.
I'd quite like to have this with a cup of coffee in the morning.
this is how it's really delicious.
You dip it in the espresso martini.
# But if you'll really grab me tight
# All the way home I'll be warm
# Oh, the fire is slowly dying
# And, my dear We're still good-byeing
# But as long as you love me so
# Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow! #
No-one ever goes hungry in my house,
not a surprise anyway, least of all me.
I have to say I do regard Christmas
as a bit of an excuse for many special eating opportunities.
If I know I've got the oven on anytime this time of year,
I always sneak in a potato or two so that I can bake them
in readiness for only the most delicious snack of the season,
my fully-loaded potato skins.
You want the potatoes baked
until they're fairly crisp on the outside but fluffy on the inside.
There are few things, I think, as disappointing as
an undercooked baked potato or a too-cold bath.
Now as soon as you can bear to cut them
do so, I have asbestos hands, so they are steaming.
Scoop out that fluffy interior,
doesn't matter if some is left inside the potato skin.
and put those back on the tray,
like boats ready to be charged up.
The great thing about this light little snack
is that it's so easy to do,
and although I love it as a solitary delight,
it's fantastic to wheel out
when you've got a lot of people to feed and fill up.
And now, this is the joyous part, there are many additions.
First I want a spring onion,
in a manner of speaking.
I want some really strong cheese in next, either Cheddar,
good Cheddar, or Red Leicester, or whatever takes your fancy.
On top of that
I want a good splodge of sour cream.
This helps everything melt together.
And a splosh of Worcester sauce for tang.
Only a little salt, don't need much,
but quite a good grinding of pepper.
And this gorgeous mixture
just needs to be forked together.
Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with a plain baked potato
with butter melting through it,
but, you know, this IS the season of excess.
Now my empty vessels are ready to be loaded.
I don't have any guilty pleasures because I don't think that pleasure
is something you should ever feel guilty about,
but these are absolutely my guiltless pleasures.
They really are bulging....
A bit more cheese on top.
And into the oven to ooze and melt and warm through.
# When the temperature dips
# I miss my baby's arms... #
Oh, how they call to me.
I'm going to risk the heat in my greed.
# Knows just how to keep me warm
# It may be zero degrees... #
Now there is no hardship eating them like this,
but to be fully loaded,
you need bacon,
and I did snaffle some off the table at brunch.
Crumble that over...
A fully-loaded potato skin, my Christmas treat.
# Winter nights can be awful cold
-# Without someone to hold
-Someone to hold
-# But when I have him next to me
# Baby, I'm in ecstasy
# It may be winter outside
# But in my heart it's spring
# How much joy and pleasure baby... #
Nigella is back in her kitchen at a time when the nights are drawing in and most of us are up for a bit of extended kitchen work. As always, Nigella's mantra is that cooking should be fun - if it becomes stressful then you are not doing it right. This series reveals how Nigella enjoys the run up to Christmas and how this year she will be preparing her Christmas larder in advance, prepping party food for the freezer and revealing some of her sanity preserving short cuts that make even the most routine recipes redolent with Christmas sparkle!
Christmas is a state of mind but it is a difficult state to achieve if you finish work on Christmas Eve and are expected to be as mellow as a tipsy Santa the next day - ice queen more like! Nigella's answer is to start early by filling her shelves with homemade seasonal beetroot and ginger chutney, bright red chilli jelly (fabulous with cold ham and spiced beef), spiced fruits steeped in Ximinez sherry (poured over Cornish ice cream) and winter spiced vodka.
This episode is not just about condiments - Nigella will be making her Christmas puddini truffles destined for the store cupboard but unlikely to last there for long. Nigella's Christmas cookies are welcome gifts but the most comforting aspect of all this work is the sense that Christmas doesn't have to come "off the shelf".
This stocking filler will create a sense of homely Christmas industry but it isn't all solitary work. Nigella opens her doors to a few friends for a pre-Christmas brunch. Featuring an espresso martini, triple cheese and onion strata, a glazed and toasted vanilla cake 'brioche' and an anti-oxidant fruit salad, which could come in handy for the weeks ahead!