Nigella Lawson prepares her Christmas larder in advance. Inspired by a trip to the chocolate haven of Paris, she demonstrates a few richly sweet recipes.
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# Gee, it's great after bein' out late
# Walkin' my baby back home... #
It was coming to Paris one Christmas time when I was not much more than a child
that I really began my lifelong love affair with twinkling lights.
Seeing the city aglow won me over.
And although I admire French formality in its own way,
I have to say, in my kitchen, I want everything more cosy, more familiar,
so although I concede to tradition, say, with a roast rib of beef,
I borrow from tradition too with my port and Stilton gravy.
It just gives it a new edge somehow.
And I have to admit my Prodigious Pavlova is never going to win a place
in one of those beautifully symmetrical French patisserie windows,
nonetheless, I say to you it is gorgeousness on a grand scale.
# She's afraid of the dark, so I have to park
# Outside of her door till it's light... #
Christmas and chocolate, you know they go together,
and I'll grant you, my Christmas Rocky Road with its amaretti and brazil nuts
doesn't have the sophistication of these French fancies,
nonetheless, pleasure-wise, it is right up there.
# Eats and then it's a pleasure again
# Walkin' my baby
# Back home... #
Well, Rocky Road is a well-travelled terrain for me.
I'm talking about the confectionery bar full of crunch, goo and chew.
But I've got to do my special seasonal version.
Start with butter... A promising start!
And next, chocolate, dark.
And to help the butter and chocolate melt together,
an amber swell
of golden syrup.
Look how beautiful...
I love this.
So, heat on, and while everything melts in the pan over that low heat,
I can get on with some heavy-duty bashing.
Now, a usual Rocky Road has digestive biscuits.
This special Christmas version has amaretti.
And these are so strange. They taste a bit of almond and apricot kernels.
They often come wrapped in those little, almost rice paper wrappers
that you can light and they waft up to the ceiling, or so I'm told.
You don't need to be too fanatical and pulverise all of them, however stressed you're feeling.
The idea is to get rubble,
but a bit of sandy grit will help the chew factor as well.
A Rocky Road crunch bar doesn't normally have nuts in it,
but you've got to have brazils at Christmas.
There's something about that waxy chew that's just so familiar.
It might be more logical to chop these with a knife or in a machine,
but this is just easier.
And infinitely more pleasurable.
I mean, in the same way, I could have chopped the chocolate, but the buttons need nothing.
So again I want some large pieces and some smaller.
It's the variety in texture that makes this.
I think everything should be just about melted together now.
That is perfect.
I could dive in right now, frankly!
But to become a Rocky Road, we have to add everything.
So, first, my Christmas nuts.
Then the special party biscuits.
In go some glace cherries as red as Rudolph's nose.
And, well, you couldn't have a Rocky Road without marshmallows.
And in they go.
Difficult to stir everything together, but not impossible.
It may feel and look as if there's not enough chocolate to bind everything together, but there is.
Oh, I love this sound of the Rocky Road.
The path to temptation.
Well, that's it.
It probably makes your life easier if you just get a throwaway foil tray to put it all into,
so clatter it down.
And although I make a perfectly respectable effort
to smooth everything down,
the real truth is the surface will be a bit bumpy,
but the point about this Christmas Rocky Road
is that by the time it's had its thick blanket of icing sugar snow on top,
you won't notice, you won't care.
So this probably needs about an hour or two in the fridge just to set,
then it can be sliced, adorned and made festive.
# Those are marshmallow clouds being friendly
# In the arms of the evergreen trees... #
I like to cut the cooled slab into squares
before I dust with a snowy flurry of icing sugar.
# Oh, the world is your snowball
# See how it grows
# That's how it goes
# Whenever it snows
# The world is your snowball just for a song
# Get out and roll it along
# It's a yum-yummy world made for sweethearts
# Take a walk with your favourite girl... #
I think the expression "as camp as Christmas" comes to mind.
# In winter it's a marshmallow world... #
So you can see I am rather keen on Christmassiness.
In fact, I like to wallow in it. I'd go for the full-body immersion if I could.
But the difficulty at Christmas is that we're all busier, rather than less busy,
so we have less time to get everything feeling right,
so I need what I think of as a rapid-fire repertoire,
a sort of fast route to that feeling of festiveness and "feelgoodery".
One of my seasonal stand-bys is my steeped fruits. Very simple.
Get a jar. Into this jar you get some dried fruit.
Mixed dried fruits are good, but any you want.
Then I pour over these some thick, dark, rich and sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry,
though rum would be perfect as well.
Just leave those for a while.
Then if you need an instant pudding,
frankly, some vanilla ice cream from the deep freeze and a spoonful of these steeped fruits, you're there.
Sometimes, when I just need a bit of Christmas spirit,
I put a spoonful into the jar and eat it as it is.
Talking of which, my winter spiced vodka is so fantastic for this time of year.
Get some ordinary vodka, nothing special,
and in it put a cinnamon stick, a dried chilli pepper,
some cardamom pods, cumin seed, coriander seed,
and after a little time, the colour and flavours of these spices just permeate the vodka.
For a Christmas Bloody Mary, I mean, nothing beats this.
Now, while it's true I always have a jar or a tin of cookies or biscuits in my kitchen,
at Christmas, I want it to have more of a kind of grotto feel,
so that does mean my Christmas chocolate cookies.
Easy as anything.
Just get out a food processor and in the bowl put some soft unsalted butter, some good cocoa powder,
some caster sugar, plain flour,
bicarb and baking powder, and just blitz to mix.
You will have a very soft, brown, sticky mixture, but you're not rolling anything out.
You're just pinching out walnut-size pieces of this dough,
rolling it in your hands, putting those balls in the oven,
a moderate oven for about a quarter of an hour, and take them out.
When you take the biscuits out of the oven, you will see that they have a rather cracked finish,
but it makes them look so home-made and comforting.
And anyway, what goes on top, the Christmas glaze, is a thing of deep joy.
All you need now is a saucepan which you put on the hob
and into the saucepan goes icing sugar, cocoa powder,
some boiling water from the kettle and a little bit of vanilla.
And heat this, stirring, until you have a dark brown, shiny, drippy glaze.
You can either pour this or spoon it or dribble it over the biscuits
and once the glaze is on, you can scatter over your Christmas sprinkles.
The ones I love the most are the ones that are called nonpareils.
They are teeny little pinprick dots - red, green and white.
They are gorgeous, but you could use any that make you happy.
# La mer
# Qu'on voit danser
# Le long des golfes clairs
# A des reflets d'argent, la mer...
# Des reflets changeants sous la pluie... #
-Je vous souhaite un tres agreable repas. Bon appetit!
You know, a steak and chips is just a steak and chips. I mean, lovely.
But the seasoned butter the French put on steaks makes it so special.
And I first had this, God, a lifetime ago, when I was in Paris, here.
I suppose it's in the back of my mind when I do my roast rib of beef with its gravy.
It's not just a seasoned gravy, but really a seasonal gravy
because the two flavourings are port and Stilton
and I don't think there is anything more evocative of a true British Christmas.
# La mer les a berce
# Le long des golfes clairs... #
I don't want to stir up old animosities
and the French do a perfectly nice steak,
but when it comes to beef, it has to be British.
We're not called "les rosbifs" for nothing
and I must say I do think a proper roast rib of beef like that
makes for a real "stand up and clap" feast and that's what I want.
Now, I would never normally peel onions for going in a roasting tin,
but I want to actually blitz and blend the onions
to make the gravy later,
so it's easier to peel now than pull out charred bits of skin later.
I'm not sure I am very good at cutting onions thinly,
but, in a way, that's an advantage
because if you cut the onions thinly, they all burn too much.
They'll char a bit in the tin,
but that adds such deliciousness, almost barbecue deliciousness to the gravy later.
Now we're ready for the "grand assemblage".
I have my allium platform for the beef
and I have this magnificent rib of beef
to sit on the onions.
Oh, look at this beauty!
The reason why the beef was out and not in the fridge is that I think it's incredibly important
for meat to go into the oven at room temperature, not fridge cold.
I add some garlic oil ready to seep into the beef and down on to the onions.
And now, my seasoning.
I like meat well salted, especially on the crust,
because the beef itself will be gorgeous.
Not only do I want it to have a really flavoursome, savoury coating,
but all these flavours will go into the gravy.
And the heat of some cayenne pepper.
A rib of beef like this is celebratory enough,
but what makes it really festive is my port and Stilton gravy.
You can see how little work this involves.
It just needs to go into the oven and for a joint this size, just under four kilos, four ribs,
in a really hot oven, I would give it two hours because I like my meat very rare.
PIANO MUSIC: "O Christmas Tree"
Everybody needs a party piece pudding and for me that's a pavlova.
In fact, my Prodigious Pavlova.
What makes my life easier is I can get it started a day or two ahead.
I call this "prodigious" because you need eight egg whites.
These need to be whisked until you have a stiff, thick mixture that will hold its snowy shape.
When you've got to that stage,
slowly, gradually, cautiously whisk in 500 grams of caster sugar.
This is a lot of sugar, but they've got a lot of egg whites.
By the time all the sugar is incorporated, the egg whites will form gleaming alpine peaks.
Over this mixture sprinkle, like fresh snowfall,
four teaspoons of cornflour,
and then add two teaspoons of white wine vinegar
and half a teaspoon of vanilla.
And it's these ingredients that give the pavlova its wonderful marshmallow consistency.
I find it helps me if I draw a 25-centimetre circle on some baking parchment,
then using the meringued whisk, I dot four little corners of egg white,
turn the baking parchment over on a sheet and then I'm ready to dollop on the meringue.
Because I invert the pavlova base before turning it out on a serving plate later,
I like to make sure the top is smooth, rather than domed.
This now goes into a pre-heated 180 degree oven
and immediately turn the temperature down to 120.
After an hour, turn the oven off,
but leave the mega-meringue in there to cool completely.
OK, poinsettia time.
So what's in the poinsettia then?
Fizzy wine, as opened here, some Grand Marnier or anything orangey and sweet, and cranberry juice.
So not only is it Christmas, cranberries, but also poinsettia.
CORK POPS There you go.
Oh, my goodness me! May I say..."chapeau"!
# Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
# Well, it doesn't show signs of stopping
# And I brought some corn for popping
# The lights are turned way down low
# Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
# When we finally kiss good night
# How I'll hate going out in the storm
# But if you really hold me tight... #
-It's what they call "quaffable".
-That's well quaffable!
# The fire is slowly dying
# And, my dear, we're still goodbye-ing... #
May I leave you at the helm? I want to do a bit of last-minute tinkering.
# Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
# When we finally kiss good night... #
Now, the thing is about this beef,
it's the way it's seared on the outside which is going to make it taste so gorgeous.
I'm going to try and transfer it in one piece to the board
because I think it's really important that meat stands
and it's that which makes all the juices go back into the centre.
A slight operation is called for.
I need the onions
that are now lovely and almost semi-caramelised, but braised, not crispy,
to go into the blender.
I don't need them straight away, but this is as good a time as any.
And a bit of the fatty juices to go into a saucepan.
There is a reason I do it like this
because I know that most people make gravy straight into the oven pan,
but I find you just get a room full of smoke.
I don't want that right now. It will ruin everything.
So, into the saucepan and I will get on with the gravy.
Right, heat on.
I don't like terribly floury gravies, but I want a small amount.
Just a teeny bit of flour.
Whisk this into the juices from the pan.
And because this is a port and Stilton gravy,
the first thing that goes in is some ruby port.
< CHATTER AND LAUGHTER
They're happy enough with their poinsettias.
Look at this, fantastic Biba pink.
I'm not bothering with real stock.
This is organic stock from a pot.
Into the blender with the onions.
I doubt they'll even notice this.
Right, I think it's best to turn off the heat while I whisk this in
because I don't want any lumps and this is probably the easiest way of avoiding it.
Right, I promised a port and Stilton gravy.
Here is the Stilton. It will melt very quickly.
Couldn't have Christmas without Stilton.
Just give a quick stir.
It doesn't matter if there are big blobs now because it will melt in.
And a little redcurrant jelly.
Always in gravies, I think.
It marries very well with the port here in colour as well as taste.
One final touch -
some of the juices that have run out of the beef when it's been standing.
All important, this.
And while I admit this is not the most beautiful of gravies,
I feel its taste, like love, blinds you to its flaws.
Hey, ready to pour!
-George! If I pour this out, will you take the gravy?
Hey, that's it.
Listen, before you clap, you have to see my very bad carving.
JAZZ MUSIC PLAYS: "O Christmas Tree"
The Stilton is fantastic. It's so Christmassy.
This is the idea, in gravy form.
You really taste the port in it and that's quite odd. It's rather spicy.
I can leave them for a while.
Now for the Prodigious Pavlova.
I did manage to squeeze a bit of time when I whipped some cream,
which can be slathered on top.
You can do this slightly in advance,
but I prefer to get the component parts done and then have a quick assembly.
It's quite nice sometimes to have a moment to get a bit of breath in before I can eat any more!
Right, I've scooped out my passion fruit
and the lychees I just want to have torn up.
You can either peel fresh lychee or use canned.
They're being torn into strips.
I wouldn't give it too much thought.
I've got such a soft spot for canned lychee. It reminds me of my childhood.
OK, stir together
and I'm ready to anoint the creamy base.
I always put passion fruit on my pavs.
The lychee just make it a bit more Christmassy.
I also do a winter raspberry ripple
by blitzing some thawed frozen raspberries with icing sugar
and drizzling it on top.
Again it's that sour touch which is so good
with that marshmallow of the meringue base.
I think we'll be able to squeeze this in just.
After the magnificence of that beef, I need something I can be proud of now.
And my Prodigious Pavlova is certainly that.
-That looks fantastic!
JAZZ MUSIC CONTINUES: "O Christmas Tree"
# Stars shining bright above you
# Night breezes seem to whisper "I love you"
# Birds sing in the sycamore trees
# Dream a little dream of me... #
I never quite understand why it is that leftovers are talked about
as if they're some sort of drab, mournful thing,
and I expect people to start saying, "Well, leftovers, like death and taxes, will always be with us."
I love leftovers and especially at Christmas.
I have to say I think I can plan whole menus just to make sure I get the leftovers I want.
But the thing about leftovers too, I think,
is that they can propel you into new and different ways of cooking,
which is really how my Asian beef salad came into being.
At this time of year, I can really crave some cleansing heat and sharpness
which is exactly what this dressing provides.
So I start off unabashedly with some brown rice vinegar
and then an equally generous amount of soy.
It's that salty, sour tang of Asian dressings that I adore.
And the interesting thing is the way they're matched with sweetness,
all taste sensations met and fully satisfied.
So, a bit of brown sugar.
Asian dressings tend to be rather lean and light, so I only want a teeny bit of vegetable oil
and a few drops of sesame oil.
And now the heat, not from chilli, but from ginger,
which is actually quite good during the cold season
to ward off a few sniffles.
This is a fantastic dressing to keep in the fridge all over Christmas because it goes with everything
and you can just stash a jar of it in the fridge.
It's fantastic with cold turkey, just as an ordinary dressing on salads, prawns.
Quite a lot here, but I like a lot.
This has punch.
And now a spring onion. I'm just gonna snip it in.
And while I adore the pungency of coriander,
I also want it for the aesthetic element
because this extraordinary greenness really makes the pink roast beef zing.
Like a Bond Martini,
this dressing is shaken,
It gives about the same uplift.
Pour some over the salad now and keep the rest in the fridge for the next few days.
And now coriander.
# Sweet dreams till sunbeams... #
This is my salad of solace. Oh!
# Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
# But in your dreams whatever they be
# Dream a little dream of me
# Dream a little dream of me
# Dream a little dream
# Of me-e-e... #
-Voila votre cafe.
-Je vous en prie.
# Sur les quais du vieux Paris
# De l'amour boheme
# C'est le paradis... #
Nigella Lawson enjoys the run-up to Christmas and prepares her Christmas larder in advance. She takes a trip to Paris to explore the chocolate haven of this famous city and, armed with inspiration, she then demonstrates a few richly sweet recipes including a chocolate rocky road and her favourite Christmas pavlova.
Nigella has a series of short cuts and culinary tips that will transform the familiar Sunday rib of beef to become a Christmas treat with her port and Stilton sauce. Also on the menu is a Thai beef salad and poinsettia cocktail.