Thought for Food

With Christmas on the way, this month our celebrity chef is getting a trifle excited for the festive season…


Last December I explained I had just finished filming Chopping Block, well, guess what, we have done it again. We have just finished series two, and this time we slightly changed the format so we had only three couples at the beginning of the week. The pressure is on for them to get through to the end of the week.
This year we have also got some really accomplished cooks, which makes it a lot more challenging. The program will be transmitting in early spring.

Christmas – here we are again! This year we are doing something completely different. believe it not, I have one vegetarian and two pescatarians in my family, I don’t quite get it, probably because I’m a carnivore! Anyway, we are going for a Spanish Tapas-come- Mediterranean type thing, so it’s a huge sharing feast, but I will cook some poussin stuffed for those who want some meat.

My menu will be: large prawns seared in butter and garlic, chickpeas with yoghurt topping and pitta croutons, roasted cauliflower with citrus and tahini sauce, and also cauliflower fritters with roasted red pepper dip. There’ll also be mutabbal batinjan aubergine dip with pomegranate seeds, tabbouleh, sambousek, roasted lobster, and of course roast poussin with rice fruit and nut stuffing. This will be very different, I will let you know how it goes.

If you are planning to do a traditional Christmas, with a little pre-planning, the chaos can be a ghost of Christmas past. At the end of the day, remember, Christmas lunch is just a roast – and there’s plenty of elements in a roast that can be prepared days, if not weeks, ahead. We all deserve to have some time to enjoy the festivities. There’s absolutely no need to peel veg or whisk up your bread sauce on Christmas morning! I like to relax, like the rest of my family, on Christmas Day, before starting on the Christmas lunch. So for me, I will get the bulk of the Christmas cooking done and put away in the fridge, where it will be fine for a few days.

For a flavoursome gravy, put vegetables like carrots, parsnips, celery, onions and garlic underneath your joint or bird. The vegetables will caramelise and get covered in all the juices from the meat, and the caramelisation will bring an
added depth of flavour to the gravy.

I make my gravy a month before. I simply freeze it in a container, and defrost on the day. I then add the juices from my Christmas turkey to it before serving. Bread sauce also freezes well, but it also keeps for a remarkably long time in the fridge – just make it a few days before, and you won’t even need to defrost it. Cranberry sauce can also be made ahead. You can even freeze your stuffing in an ovenproof dish, so once it’s defrosted, you can pop the dish straight into the oven.

Cold desserts can be made ahead and served straight away – my raspberry and rum trifle is ideal. Making this in individual glasses means you don’t have to serve it out yourself, saving you even more time! It does look quite spectacular made in one large bowl if you want to give it a go. And of course do not forget the Christmas pudding. What ever you decide to do, an alternative lunch or a traditional lunch, plan it well and have a great Christmas and a very Happy New Year.


(Serves 4)


• 4 tablespoons rum
• 200ml double cream
• Toasted flaked almonds
• 100g ground almonds
• 100g caster sugar
• 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
• 25g soft unsalted butter
• 20g plain flour
• 3 egg whites
• 6g gelatine leaves
• 700g frozen raspberries
• Icing sugar, to taste
• 2 tablespoons boiling water
• 500ml double cream
• 2 vanilla pods, split open lengthways
• 10 egg yolks
• 80g caster sugar

First make the sponge base. Put the ground almonds, caster sugar, whole egg and egg yolk, butter and flour in a large bowl and stir together. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Using a metal spoon, fold two tablespoons of the whites into the almond mixture, then gently fold in the rest. Do not beat.

Pour the mixture on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and bake in the centre of an oven preheated to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool on the parchment.

Using a pastry cutter, stamp out circles of the sponge and use to line the bottom of four large wine glasses. Drizzle a tablespoon of rum over each one and leave to soak in.

To make the jelly, soak the gelatine in cold water for 15 minutes, then squeeze dry. Meanwhile, set aside a dozen of the best-looking raspberries. Rub the remainder through a sieve to make a thick juice. Sift in enough icing sugar to sweeten. Put the squeezed gelatine in a bowl with the boiling water. Stir to dissolve, then add to the raspberry juice. Mix well and pour evenly over each glass of sponge. Place in the fridge to set.

To make the custard, put the cream and the seeds scraped from the vanilla pods in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the hot cream, then return the mixture to the saucepan, bring to the boil and stir until it thickens. Cover with cling film, placing it directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin forming, and set aside to cool.

Pour a thick layer of the custard into each trifle glass. Whip the 200ml cream until stiff, then pipe or spoon some into each glass. Decorate with the reserved raspberries and the flaked almonds.
Twitter: @RosemaryShrager
Cakes, Bakes & Puddings by Rosemary Shrager,
Published by Hamlyn £18.99 (