Short and Sweet Nigella's Christmas Kitchen


Short and Sweet

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# Gee, it's great after bein' out late

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# Walkin' my baby back home... #

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It was coming to Paris one Christmas time when I was not much more than a child

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that I really began my lifelong love affair with twinkling lights.

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Seeing the city aglow won me over.

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And although I admire French formality in its own way,

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I have to say, in my kitchen, I want everything more cosy, more familiar,

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so although I concede to tradition, say, with a roast rib of beef,

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I borrow from tradition too with my port and Stilton gravy.

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It just gives it a new edge somehow.

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And I have to admit my Prodigious Pavlova is never going to win a place

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in one of those beautifully symmetrical French patisserie windows,

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nonetheless, I say to you it is gorgeousness on a grand scale.

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# She's afraid of the dark, so I have to park

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# Outside of her door till it's light... #

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Christmas and chocolate, you know they go together,

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and I'll grant you, my Christmas Rocky Road with its amaretti and brazil nuts

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doesn't have the sophistication of these French fancies,

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nonetheless, pleasure-wise, it is right up there.

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# Eats and then it's a pleasure again

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# Walkin' my baby

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# Back home... #

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Well, Rocky Road is a well-travelled terrain for me.

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I'm talking about the confectionery bar full of crunch, goo and chew.

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But I've got to do my special seasonal version.

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Start with butter... A promising start!

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And next, chocolate, dark.

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And milk.

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And to help the butter and chocolate melt together,

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an amber swell

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of golden syrup.

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Look how beautiful...

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I love this.

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So, heat on, and while everything melts in the pan over that low heat,

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I can get on with some heavy-duty bashing.

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Now, a usual Rocky Road has digestive biscuits.

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This special Christmas version has amaretti.

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And these are so strange. They taste a bit of almond and apricot kernels.

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They often come wrapped in those little, almost rice paper wrappers

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that you can light and they waft up to the ceiling, or so I'm told.

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Right.

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And now...

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bash them.

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You don't need to be too fanatical and pulverise all of them, however stressed you're feeling.

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The idea is to get rubble,

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flavoursome rubble,

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but a bit of sandy grit will help the chew factor as well.

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C'est fait!

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A Rocky Road crunch bar doesn't normally have nuts in it,

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but you've got to have brazils at Christmas.

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There's something about that waxy chew that's just so familiar.

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It might be more logical to chop these with a knife or in a machine,

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but this is just easier.

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And infinitely more pleasurable.

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I mean, in the same way, I could have chopped the chocolate, but the buttons need nothing.

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So again I want some large pieces and some smaller.

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It's the variety in texture that makes this.

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I think everything should be just about melted together now.

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That is perfect.

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I could dive in right now, frankly!

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But to become a Rocky Road, we have to add everything.

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So, first, my Christmas nuts.

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Then the special party biscuits.

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In go some glace cherries as red as Rudolph's nose.

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And, well, you couldn't have a Rocky Road without marshmallows.

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And in they go.

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Difficult to stir everything together, but not impossible.

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It may feel and look as if there's not enough chocolate to bind everything together, but there is.

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CRUNCHING

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Oh, I love this sound of the Rocky Road.

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The path to temptation.

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Well, that's it.

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It probably makes your life easier if you just get a throwaway foil tray to put it all into,

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so clatter it down.

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And although I make a perfectly respectable effort

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to smooth everything down,

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the real truth is the surface will be a bit bumpy,

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but the point about this Christmas Rocky Road

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is that by the time it's had its thick blanket of icing sugar snow on top,

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you won't notice, you won't care.

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So this probably needs about an hour or two in the fridge just to set,

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then it can be sliced, adorned and made festive.

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# Those are marshmallow clouds being friendly

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# In the arms of the evergreen trees... #

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I like to cut the cooled slab into squares

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before I dust with a snowy flurry of icing sugar.

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# Oh, the world is your snowball

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# See how it grows

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# That's how it goes

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# Whenever it snows

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# The world is your snowball just for a song

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# Get out and roll it along

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# It's a yum-yummy world made for sweethearts

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# Take a walk with your favourite girl... #

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I think the expression "as camp as Christmas" comes to mind.

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# In winter it's a marshmallow world... #

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So you can see I am rather keen on Christmassiness.

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In fact, I like to wallow in it. I'd go for the full-body immersion if I could.

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But the difficulty at Christmas is that we're all busier, rather than less busy,

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so we have less time to get everything feeling right,

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so I need what I think of as a rapid-fire repertoire,

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a sort of fast route to that feeling of festiveness and "feelgoodery".

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One of my seasonal stand-bys is my steeped fruits. Very simple.

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Get a jar. Into this jar you get some dried fruit.

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Mixed dried fruits are good, but any you want.

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Then I pour over these some thick, dark, rich and sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry,

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though rum would be perfect as well.

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Just leave those for a while.

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Then if you need an instant pudding,

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frankly, some vanilla ice cream from the deep freeze and a spoonful of these steeped fruits, you're there.

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Sometimes, when I just need a bit of Christmas spirit,

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I put a spoonful into the jar and eat it as it is.

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Talking of which, my winter spiced vodka is so fantastic for this time of year.

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Get some ordinary vodka, nothing special,

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and in it put a cinnamon stick, a dried chilli pepper,

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some cardamom pods, cumin seed, coriander seed,

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and after a little time, the colour and flavours of these spices just permeate the vodka.

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For a Christmas Bloody Mary, I mean, nothing beats this.

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Now, while it's true I always have a jar or a tin of cookies or biscuits in my kitchen,

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at Christmas, I want it to have more of a kind of grotto feel,

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so that does mean my Christmas chocolate cookies.

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Easy as anything.

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Just get out a food processor and in the bowl put some soft unsalted butter, some good cocoa powder,

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some caster sugar, plain flour,

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bicarb and baking powder, and just blitz to mix.

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You will have a very soft, brown, sticky mixture, but you're not rolling anything out.

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You're just pinching out walnut-size pieces of this dough,

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rolling it in your hands, putting those balls in the oven,

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a moderate oven for about a quarter of an hour, and take them out.

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When you take the biscuits out of the oven, you will see that they have a rather cracked finish,

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but it makes them look so home-made and comforting.

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And anyway, what goes on top, the Christmas glaze, is a thing of deep joy.

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All you need now is a saucepan which you put on the hob

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and into the saucepan goes icing sugar, cocoa powder,

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some boiling water from the kettle and a little bit of vanilla.

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And heat this, stirring, until you have a dark brown, shiny, drippy glaze.

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You can either pour this or spoon it or dribble it over the biscuits

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and once the glaze is on, you can scatter over your Christmas sprinkles.

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The ones I love the most are the ones that are called nonpareils.

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They are teeny little pinprick dots - red, green and white.

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They are gorgeous, but you could use any that make you happy.

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# La mer

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# Qu'on voit danser

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# Le long des golfes clairs

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# A des reflets d'argent, la mer...

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# Des reflets changeants sous la pluie... #

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-Je vous souhaite un tres agreable repas. Bon appetit!

-Merci.

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You know, a steak and chips is just a steak and chips. I mean, lovely.

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But the seasoned butter the French put on steaks makes it so special.

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And I first had this, God, a lifetime ago, when I was in Paris, here.

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I suppose it's in the back of my mind when I do my roast rib of beef with its gravy.

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It's not just a seasoned gravy, but really a seasonal gravy

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because the two flavourings are port and Stilton

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and I don't think there is anything more evocative of a true British Christmas.

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# La mer les a berce

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# Le long des golfes clairs... #

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I don't want to stir up old animosities

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and the French do a perfectly nice steak,

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but when it comes to beef, it has to be British.

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We're not called "les rosbifs" for nothing

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and I must say I do think a proper roast rib of beef like that

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makes for a real "stand up and clap" feast and that's what I want.

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Now, I would never normally peel onions for going in a roasting tin,

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but I want to actually blitz and blend the onions

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to make the gravy later,

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so it's easier to peel now than pull out charred bits of skin later.

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I'm not sure I am very good at cutting onions thinly,

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but, in a way, that's an advantage

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because if you cut the onions thinly, they all burn too much.

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They'll char a bit in the tin,

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but that adds such deliciousness, almost barbecue deliciousness to the gravy later.

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Now we're ready for the "grand assemblage".

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I have my allium platform for the beef

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and I have this magnificent rib of beef

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to sit on the onions.

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Oh, look at this beauty!

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The reason why the beef was out and not in the fridge is that I think it's incredibly important

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for meat to go into the oven at room temperature, not fridge cold.

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I add some garlic oil ready to seep into the beef and down on to the onions.

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And now, my seasoning.

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I like meat well salted, especially on the crust,

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because the beef itself will be gorgeous.

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Not only do I want it to have a really flavoursome, savoury coating,

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but all these flavours will go into the gravy.

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Some thyme...

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And the heat of some cayenne pepper.

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A rib of beef like this is celebratory enough,

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but what makes it really festive is my port and Stilton gravy.

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You can see how little work this involves.

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It just needs to go into the oven and for a joint this size, just under four kilos, four ribs,

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in a really hot oven, I would give it two hours because I like my meat very rare.

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PIANO MUSIC: "O Christmas Tree"

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Everybody needs a party piece pudding and for me that's a pavlova.

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In fact, my Prodigious Pavlova.

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What makes my life easier is I can get it started a day or two ahead.

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I call this "prodigious" because you need eight egg whites.

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These need to be whisked until you have a stiff, thick mixture that will hold its snowy shape.

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When you've got to that stage,

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slowly, gradually, cautiously whisk in 500 grams of caster sugar.

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This is a lot of sugar, but they've got a lot of egg whites.

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By the time all the sugar is incorporated, the egg whites will form gleaming alpine peaks.

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Over this mixture sprinkle, like fresh snowfall,

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four teaspoons of cornflour,

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and then add two teaspoons of white wine vinegar

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and half a teaspoon of vanilla.

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And it's these ingredients that give the pavlova its wonderful marshmallow consistency.

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I find it helps me if I draw a 25-centimetre circle on some baking parchment,

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then using the meringued whisk, I dot four little corners of egg white,

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turn the baking parchment over on a sheet and then I'm ready to dollop on the meringue.

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Because I invert the pavlova base before turning it out on a serving plate later,

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I like to make sure the top is smooth, rather than domed.

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This now goes into a pre-heated 180 degree oven

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and immediately turn the temperature down to 120.

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After an hour, turn the oven off,

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but leave the mega-meringue in there to cool completely.

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OK, poinsettia time.

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So what's in the poinsettia then?

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Fizzy wine, as opened here, some Grand Marnier or anything orangey and sweet, and cranberry juice.

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So not only is it Christmas, cranberries, but also poinsettia.

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CORK POPS There you go.

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Oh, my goodness me! May I say..."chapeau"!

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LAUGHTER

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# Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

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# Well, it doesn't show signs of stopping

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# And I brought some corn for popping

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# The lights are turned way down low

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# Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

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# When we finally kiss good night

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# How I'll hate going out in the storm

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# But if you really hold me tight... #

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-It's what they call "quaffable".

-That's well quaffable!

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# The fire is slowly dying

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# And, my dear, we're still goodbye-ing... #

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May I leave you at the helm? I want to do a bit of last-minute tinkering.

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# Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

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# When we finally kiss good night... #

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Now, the thing is about this beef,

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it's the way it's seared on the outside which is going to make it taste so gorgeous.

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I'm going to try and transfer it in one piece to the board

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because I think it's really important that meat stands

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and it's that which makes all the juices go back into the centre.

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A slight operation is called for.

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I need the onions

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that are now lovely and almost semi-caramelised, but braised, not crispy,

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to go into the blender.

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I don't need them straight away, but this is as good a time as any.

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And a bit of the fatty juices to go into a saucepan.

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There is a reason I do it like this

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because I know that most people make gravy straight into the oven pan,

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but I find you just get a room full of smoke.

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I don't want that right now. It will ruin everything.

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So, into the saucepan and I will get on with the gravy.

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Right, heat on.

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I don't like terribly floury gravies, but I want a small amount.

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Just a teeny bit of flour.

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Whisk this into the juices from the pan.

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And because this is a port and Stilton gravy,

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the first thing that goes in is some ruby port.

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< CHATTER AND LAUGHTER

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They're happy enough with their poinsettias.

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Look at this, fantastic Biba pink.

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I'm not bothering with real stock.

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This is organic stock from a pot.

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Into the blender with the onions.

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I doubt they'll even notice this.

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Right, I think it's best to turn off the heat while I whisk this in

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because I don't want any lumps and this is probably the easiest way of avoiding it.

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Right, I promised a port and Stilton gravy.

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Here is the Stilton. It will melt very quickly.

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Couldn't have Christmas without Stilton.

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Hmm!

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Just give a quick stir.

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It doesn't matter if there are big blobs now because it will melt in.

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And a little redcurrant jelly.

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Always in gravies, I think.

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It marries very well with the port here in colour as well as taste.

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One final touch -

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some of the juices that have run out of the beef when it's been standing.

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All important, this.

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And while I admit this is not the most beautiful of gravies,

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I feel its taste, like love, blinds you to its flaws.

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Hey, ready to pour!

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-George! If I pour this out, will you take the gravy?

-Yeah, sure.

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Hey, that's it.

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OK!

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Oh, blimey!

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Fabulous! APPLAUSE

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Listen, before you clap, you have to see my very bad carving.

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JAZZ MUSIC PLAYS: "O Christmas Tree"

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The Stilton is fantastic. It's so Christmassy.

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This is the idea, in gravy form.

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You really taste the port in it and that's quite odd. It's rather spicy.

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I can leave them for a while.

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Now for the Prodigious Pavlova.

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I did manage to squeeze a bit of time when I whipped some cream,

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which can be slathered on top.

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You can do this slightly in advance,

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but I prefer to get the component parts done and then have a quick assembly.

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It's quite nice sometimes to have a moment to get a bit of breath in before I can eat any more!

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Right, I've scooped out my passion fruit

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and the lychees I just want to have torn up.

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You can either peel fresh lychee or use canned.

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They're being torn into strips.

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I wouldn't give it too much thought.

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I've got such a soft spot for canned lychee. It reminds me of my childhood.

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OK, stir together

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and I'm ready to anoint the creamy base.

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I always put passion fruit on my pavs.

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The lychee just make it a bit more Christmassy.

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I also do a winter raspberry ripple

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by blitzing some thawed frozen raspberries with icing sugar

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and drizzling it on top.

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Again it's that sour touch which is so good

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with that marshmallow of the meringue base.

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I think we'll be able to squeeze this in just.

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After the magnificence of that beef, I need something I can be proud of now.

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And my Prodigious Pavlova is certainly that.

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-Oh!

-That looks fantastic!

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JAZZ MUSIC CONTINUES: "O Christmas Tree"

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# Stars shining bright above you

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# Night breezes seem to whisper "I love you"

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# Birds sing in the sycamore trees

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# Dream a little dream of me... #

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I never quite understand why it is that leftovers are talked about

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as if they're some sort of drab, mournful thing,

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and I expect people to start saying, "Well, leftovers, like death and taxes, will always be with us."

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I love leftovers and especially at Christmas.

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I have to say I think I can plan whole menus just to make sure I get the leftovers I want.

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But the thing about leftovers too, I think,

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is that they can propel you into new and different ways of cooking,

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which is really how my Asian beef salad came into being.

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At this time of year, I can really crave some cleansing heat and sharpness

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which is exactly what this dressing provides.

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So I start off unabashedly with some brown rice vinegar

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and then an equally generous amount of soy.

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It's that salty, sour tang of Asian dressings that I adore.

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And the interesting thing is the way they're matched with sweetness,

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all taste sensations met and fully satisfied.

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So, a bit of brown sugar.

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Asian dressings tend to be rather lean and light, so I only want a teeny bit of vegetable oil

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and a few drops of sesame oil.

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And now the heat, not from chilli, but from ginger,

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which is actually quite good during the cold season

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to ward off a few sniffles.

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This is a fantastic dressing to keep in the fridge all over Christmas because it goes with everything

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and you can just stash a jar of it in the fridge.

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It's fantastic with cold turkey, just as an ordinary dressing on salads, prawns.

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Quite a lot here, but I like a lot.

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This has punch.

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And now a spring onion. I'm just gonna snip it in.

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And while I adore the pungency of coriander,

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I also want it for the aesthetic element

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because this extraordinary greenness really makes the pink roast beef zing.

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Right...

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Like a Bond Martini,

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this dressing is shaken,

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not stirred.

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It gives about the same uplift.

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Pour some over the salad now and keep the rest in the fridge for the next few days.

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And now coriander.

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# Sweet dreams till sunbeams... #

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This is my salad of solace. Oh!

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# Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you

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# But in your dreams whatever they be

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# Dream a little dream of me

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# Dream a little dream of me

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# Dream a little dream

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# Of me-e-e... #

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-Voila votre cafe.

-Merci.

-Je vous en prie.

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# Sur les quais du vieux Paris

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# De l'amour boheme

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# C'est le paradis... #

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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.


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