Christmas dinner. It’s the centrepiece of the big day. And it’s getting trickier.
This year, you may be heading out for the festive feast, or popping over to a family member’s.
But if not, you may find yourself ruing the day you agreed to host the high-pressure annual event, especially in today’s age.
Firstly, there are the grandchildren, who won’t touch a vegetable without bribery. Next, the daughter in law; whose nut allergy is an all-too-often topic of conversation. Or maybe you yourself struggle to stomach some of the more traditional aspects of the Christmas dinner.
However, the Christmas pudding is often the most divisive.
Nuts, no nuts?
Should you let it mature longer than a fine Scottish whisky?
Where are the protective goggles so you don’t singe your eyebrows like last year?
It can be an unwelcome distraction. But, with it being an important part of the day to many, what about a pudding which could accommodate more? A Christmas pudding with a twist, per se.
We give you the chocolate and cherry Christmas pudding.
Chocolate and cherry Christmas pudding
To make, you will need:
200g (7oz) frozen dark sweet cherries defrosted, plus extra cherries, left whole, to decorate the pudding
1 Conference pear
100g (3.5oz) raisins
100g (3.5oz) sultanas
100ml (3.5fl oz) brandy
100g (3.5oz) bar dark chocolate
100g (3.5oz) unsalted butter, plus 2 tbsp for greasing
2 large eggs
50g (1.8oz) plain flour
100g (3.5oz) dark soft brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tbsp cocoa powder
50g (1.8oz) fresh breadcrumbs
For the chocolate brandy sauce
100g (3.5oz) bar dark chocolate
120ml (4.2fl oz) double cream, plus extra to serve
2 tbsp golden syrup
3 tbsp brandy (optional)
- Drain the cherries in a sieve over a bowl. Cut them in half. Peel the pear, then grate it coarsely.
- In a large bowl, combine the cherries, pear, the raisins, sultanas and brandy. Stir well and cover with cling film.
- Heat in the microwave on high for 3 mins, then leave to cool for 5 mins to let the fruit plump up. Break the chocolate into squares while you wait.
- Tip the chocolate and butter into the hot fruit. Stir, then leave to melt. Let it cool, uncovered, for about 15 mins.
- Meanwhile, rub 1 tbsp butter around the inside of a 1-litre pudding basin.
- Lay two sheets of foil over each other and butter the one on top. Holding both sheets together, fold a 3cm pleat across the middle of the foil and set aside.
- Beat the eggs together in a small bowl. Sift the flour, sugar, mixed spice and cocoa powder on top of the chocolatey fruit, then add the breadcrumbs, eggs and 1/4 tsp salt.
- Stir everything together with a wooden spoon – it will be quite a wet mixture. Tip it into the buttered basin.
- Cover the pudding with the buttered foil (buttery-side down), and scrunch it over the edge of the basin. Tie string tightly under the lip of the basin, and make a string handle to help you lower the basin in and out of the saucepan later.
- Trim the foil so that a frill of about 5cm is left sticking out, then tuck the frill up and under itself neatly. The aim is to keep the pudding watertight beneath.
- Put a heatproof saucer into the very large saucepan, then put the basin on top. Pour in just-boiled water to come halfway up the basin.
- Cover the pan and steam the pudding for 2 1/2 hrs. Test the pudding is cooked by inserting a skewer through the foil – if there is any wet mixture, steam for 15 mins more then check again. The pan should be simmering rather than boiling hard. Top up the water levels as it cooks, if you need to.
- To store, let the pudding cool and leave in a cool dark place to mature. Don’t unwrap the foil. You can make this pudding up to two months before eating.
- To reheat, steam in a pan for 30 mins, or microwave on medium for 5 mins. Remove the foil to microwave, covering with cling film instead.
- For the sauce, break the chocolate into squares. Put all the ingredients in a small pan and heat gently, stirring, until smooth. Serve the pudding topped with any remaining cherries, the sauce and a dollop of double cream.
So, that’s pudding sorted for the big day. What about an amuse-bouche or something quick yet festive and tasty for the days and nights of entertaining pre-and-post-Christmas?
We have you covered there, too.
To make, you will need:
320g (11.3oz) puff pastry sheet
Mugful of grated cheese (e.g. mix of 60g (2.1oz) cheddar with 25g (0.9oz) parmesan)
Flour, for dusting
2 tbsp milk
Toppings of your choice (optional) – e.g. poppy seeds, dried oregano and sesame seeds
- Unroll the pastry and sprinkle most of the cheese over one half of the sheet. Fold the pastry in half to cover the cheese and seal it in.
- Dust your rolling pin and work surface with a little flour and put your pastry sheet on it. Roll it out until doubled in size.
- Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Using cookie cutters, cut the pastry into shapes and put them on the prepared baking sheets. (Put the cutters on the dough close together so that less pastry is wasted. You can fold the trimmings back on themselves and re-roll to cut out more shapes.)
- Brush the shapes with milk and add a pinch of cheese and a sprinkling of your chosen topping, if using.
- Bake in the oven for 10-12 mins or until risen and golden, then transfer to a serving plate. Will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.
Now that’s starters and dessert ticked off, we come to the main.
Christmas ham with sticky ginger glaze
To make, you will need:
1 uncooked ham (about 5kg/11lb), soaked according to the butcher's instructions
1 large onion, thickly sliced
5 cm (2in) piece fresh ginger, sliced
Small bunch fresh thyme
Sprigs of bay leaf, to garnish
For the glaze
175g (6.2oz) light muscovado sugar
2½ cm (1in) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
10 kumquats, thickly sliced and any pips discarded, plus extra for garnish
3 pieces preserved stem ginger in syrup, cut into small matchstick-size strips
1 tsp ground ginger
- Preheat the oven to fan 160C/ conventional 180C/gas 4. Weigh the ham and calculate the cooking time at 25 minutes per 500g (17.6oz). Scatter the onion, ginger, thyme and cloves over the base of a large, deep roasting tin. Put the soaked ham on top and add water to 3-5cm deep. Cover the whole ham and tin with two or three layers of foil (making a tent over the ham to allow the steam to circulate), sealing the foil around the edges of the tin. Bake for 1½ hours, then reduce the oven to fan 140C/conventional 160C/gas 3 for the remaining 2 hours 40 minutes of the cooking time. When the ham is cooked, remove it from the oven. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
- Now make the glaze. Put the sugar and 100ml (3.5fl oz) water in a medium pan. Heat gently until the sugar melts, add the fresh ginger and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the kumquats and cook for a few more minutes, just until they soften. Scoop out and reserve the kumquats, discard the ginger and add the stem ginger strips. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and let the mixture bubble for 3-5 minutes until thick and reduced by just under half. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Line a clean roasting tin with foil and oil it. Unwrap the ham and put it in the foil-lined tin. Cut off the skin, leaving a layer of fat all over. Using a sharp knife, score the fat into a diamond criss-cross pattern. Turn up the oven to fan 200C/conventional 220C/gas 7.
- Rub ground ginger over ham, then brush over all but a couple of spoonfuls of the glaze, distributing stem ginger strips. Scatter over kumquat slices, studding cloves through some to secure. Drizzle over remaining glaze. Roast for another 20 minutes or until golden and sticky and kumquats start to colour. Serve garnished with halved kumquats and sprigs of bay leaves. If serving hot, allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
So, there you go. Three slightly different dishes to your traditional Christmas dinner.
Make sure you let us know which one went down best this festive period.