I am certainly never one to turn down a chance to relax around the table with friends or family eating delicious food and drinking fantastic wine. But, the idea of cooking a feast leading up to Christmas doesn’t gel for me. Keeping it easy and comforting is the only way.
Delicious soups will always bring cheer to a wintry evening. So, I thought it would be good to share a couple of ideas for winter warming soups.
Soups are big, flavoursome and hearty and full meals in their own right.
ROAST CAPSICUM, TOMATO & HARISSA SOUP
Harissa is a fiery, Middle Eastern spice paste that can be added to soups, sauces and dips. You can make your own, but Belazu do a fabulous Rose Harissa available in Waitrose or Ocado.
6 red capsicums
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3 x tins 400g chopped cherry tomatoes and juice
1 litre vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of harissa paste
Chopped chestnuts (optional for Christmas time)
Salt and pepper
• Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
• Place capsicums (halved) on a roasting tray for 30 minutes, turning once. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and set aside for 30 minutes. When cooled, peel the capsicum skins, keeping all the flesh.
• Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat and gently fry the onion until soft. Add the garlic, cumin, ground coriander and fry, stirring for 1 minute.
• Increase the heat to medium and add chopped tomatoes and the capsicum flesh. Cook for 5 minutes.
• Add the vegetable stock, harissa paste, salt/pepper and simmer for 30 minutes.
• Place the soup in a food processor and process until smooth. Return to the saucepan, season and keep warm.
• Serve the soup topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt, fresh coriander leaves and chopped chestnuts.
• Serve with some chunky fresh bread (heated from oven is best).
MEXICAN TOMATO SOUP
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Chipotle chilli paste (Mexican Discovery brand readily available)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Bunch of coriander leaves and stems
2 carrots peeled, finely diced
1 celery stick, finely diced
50g chorizo chopped (recommend using the Unearthed brand in Waitrose or Ocado)
1-2 fresh chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
2 x 400g cans cherry tomatoes and their juice
250ml vegetable stock
1 pot G’NOSH Sweet Black Bean dip
4 tablespoons sour cream
• Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.
• Add onion and olive oil, cook for 5 minutes to soften the onion. Add the chipotle paste and cumin, keep stirring for 5 minutes.
• Add finely chopped coriander stems (reserve leaves) to the saucepan, along with the carrot, celery, chorizo, fresh chilli, garlic and oregano.
• Fry gently for a further 10 minutes then add the tomatoes. Rinse the tomato cans with a little water then add this liquid to the saucepan, along with the stock.
• Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
• Add the G’NOSH Sweet Black Bean dip and cook for 5 minutes until warmed through.
• Divide the soup among four bowls, top with the sour cream and coriander leaves.
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We had a fun time in the G’NOSH office when we shared our @gnoshers Twitter account with award-winning Chef, Pâtissier, Chocolatier and Waitrose Consultant: the wonderful Will Torrent.
Our followers tweeted away to Will with their Christmas cooking conundrums during the two hour live session – and they were in safe hands, as Will works with top celebrity chefs including Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith.
If you missed out on the live session on Twitter, fear not…check out Will’s answers below – you’ll see that our foodie friends Gizzi Erskine and Eric Lanlard also joined in on the fun.
1) @eric_lanlard “@lisafaulkner1 @eric_lanlard @itvlorraine @reallorraine if you need any Christmas cooking help come along to @gnoshers 3-5 and use #AskWill”
2) @MindyBhachu “I’m in need of inspiration for an innovative turkey stuffing recipe – what do you recommend?”
Will: “Turkey stuffing: loads of bacon, sausage meat, cranberries, orange and vodka – why not!”
3) @leiladukes “Braised red cabbage is my favourite part of the Christmas feast. How do you make yours?”
Will: “Always use Mulled Wine, makes it really Christmassy and tastes lovely… I grate fresh nutmeg on when I serve it too…”
4) @HannahSollosi “What spices would you recommend me to use to make a pukka Christmas Pudding?”
Will: “Go for cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mixed spice and orange for your pud – classic but awesome”
5) @elliottwvr “Any tips on how to use leftover Turkey?”
Will: “ Leftover Turkey: Breadcrumb it, fry it like chicken melanzane.”
6) @Pirate_Cheryl “Any ideas on things to serve with pork pies (a family tradition) on Boxing day morning other than the usual leftovers?”
Will: “With your pork pies – Christmas spiced coleslaw, piccalilli and the G’NOSH Beetroot dip”
7) @FISG “What’s the best alternative to a festive turkey for Christmas that can feed 11?”
Will: “A beautiful mulled cider glazed ham will be a perfect alternative to your turkey this year”
8 ) @Charkette “Hello Will, do you have a good recipe for homemade Cranberry sauce? Thanks”
Will: “Cranberry sauce – frozen cranberries, grated orange zest, orange segments and grand mariner, sugar to taste”
9) @mrskatware “Aussie friend’s first Xmas in the UK – what’s the ultimate Xmas comfort food I could make for her?”
Will: “Can’t beat traditional turkey with all the trimmings…and plenty of booze”
10) @SarahPickers “what are you best tips for making sure the turkey doesn’t end up dry but cooks all the way through?”
Will: “Definitely go for a brined turkey, will always keep your turkey moist…”
11) @DanDDandy “I’d like to cure my own salmon for Christmas morning so it’s not just the ordinary, any easy way/tips? Please :-)”
Will: “Use a standard salt cure, but add the G’NOSH Beetroot dip for a great colour and flavour”
12) @ChloecGreen “I love crispy roast potatoes what do you suggest I add to ensure that their crunchy and golden throughout?”
Will: “Crispy roasts… par boil them to the max and give them a good fluff the night before Put in the fridge and then hot goose fat!”
13) @deborahgould88 @gnoshers I don’t like Christmas pudding, what alternative dessert do you suggest? #askwill
Will: “try my@UKPamperedChef Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding: https://new.pamperedchef.com/iceberg-uk/original/P4439-112012uk-wills-xmas-recipe.pdf as an alternative to Xmas Pud!”
14) @LiamKeogh1987 “If you want to make a wheat free Christmas pudding, what can you replace the flour with?”
Will: “Go for a mix of ground almonds and hazelnuts with some gluten free flour…”
15) @EmilyLKeogh “Any ideas for edible Christmas gifts that I can make in advance?”
Will: “I’m going 2 make mulled fruit jam this year in little kilner jars & also some Mulled Wine truffles that really simple”
16) @HanBaker “A q for the experts at @gnoshers… Any tips for a good cranberry sauce this Christmas? Also how far can I make it in advance?”
Will: “Go for loads of orange zest & some segments in with the cranberries and add some Grand Mariner or Vodka for a nice twist”
17) @unearthedSimon “any quick to make but exciting homemade chocolates that could be served after a Christmas meal?”
Will: “100ml Mulled Wine, 100ml Whipping Cream into pan and bring to boil. Pour over 400g of dark chocolate – mix, set, spoon and roll”
18) @budget “I love sprouts and parsnips, but my family hate ’em… what can I do with them to help win the oldies over?”
Will: “peel the sprouts like cabbage and fry in butter with some spices and loads of pancetta. Parsnips roasted with maple syrup!”
19) @SophieMuir2 “Got any tips to avoid a dry Turkey? I’ve never attempted mum’s #ChristmasDinner before!”
Will: “place it into a brine the night before (recipes online) which will guarantee moistness! Lots of butter too! ”
20) @david21cummins “So.. @willtorrent – I’m in charge of the starter every Christmas. What’s a quick, easy, but impressive dish to serve?”
Will: “Beetroot cured salmon, chive blinis and G’NOSH beetroot, mint and chilli dip on top. Delicious”
21) @mysterydesign “We’re having mulled wine in the office. What’s an easy to make Christmas canapé to go with this festive drink?”
Will: “just go for good quality chocolate truffles – always a winner and perfect with mulled wine!”
22) @MichaelLeCouill “what’s your nicest gravy recipe?”
Will: “roast chicken wings with root veg, bottle of good red wine and some beef & chicken stock – bring to the boil and then reduce.”
23) @Iman_db “how do make stuffing? Not from a packet!!!”
Will: “Sausage meat, chopped bacon, Christmas spices, dried fruit – mix together and there you go!!”
24) @JaneTomlinson “G’NOSH dips have really fresh/light flavours – what’s the best way to use them to cut-through ‘heavier’ Christmas food?”
Will: “In my Spiced Pork Wellington, I use the G’NOSH Babaghanoush instead of mushrooms – light but rich at the same time”
Whether you’re an accomplished cook with no time or a total kitchen-phobe, opening your home to guests and throwing a dinner party can be stressful.
With the start of party season underway, here are some tips to make entertaining hassle-free and enjoyable…because we know you want to be out there having fun, not chained to the stove all evening!
1. A welcome drink.
Serving your guests a cocktail on arrival looks imp ressive, but is actually easy to make. A classic Kir Royale is simply a splash of crème de cassis topped with champagne (or sparkling wine if you prefer, called Kir Petillant).
2. Presentation is key.
With a little effort, your dinner party dishes can look restaurant quality. An easy to make starter is a Pate of Smoked Mackerel with Lemon & Herbs. Made by simply blending together flaked smoked mackerel, cream cheese, lemon, horseradish, chopped parsley and chives, it takes a maximum of 15 minutes to prepare before chilling.
Serve it on each person’s plate in a gorgeous mini Kilner jar or glass ramekin, accompanied with some toasted bread – we guarantee your guests will be impressed.
3. Always buy great quality ingredients: they sing out for themselves.
For example, accompany your pate with a really good sourdough baguette cut into thin diagonal slices, toasted and served with an artisan olive oil.
4. Stick to what you know.
If you’re time-pressed to plan the dinner party, stick to a fail-safe dish for your main course that you know everyone will love. If you don’t feel your ‘signature’ dish has the dinner party wow-factor, think about substituting some of the ingredients. For example, a classic Lasagne, can easily be updated to a Spinach & Gruyere or Wild Mushroom & Truffle variety.
5. Don’t worry about making everything from scratch.
With the great range of ingredients available widely, don’t feel guilty about not making every element of your meal from scratch.
A fuss free dessert that is always popular is Eton Mess. To create a winter twist on this summer classic, buy some meringue nests and crumble into chunks, add a dash of Cointreau to whipping cream and top with clementine and passionfruit, layered in a sundae glass.
6. Finishing touches.
Round off the meal with an espresso cup of rich hot chocolate. Just make up a batch of hot chocolate in your usual way, but add half milk and half pouring cream for a more decadent finish. Top with good quality dark chocolate shavings or mini marshmallows.
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