there is an art when it comes to entertaining at Christmas time. the most important thing is the planning. I am working with Robert welch on their campaign the art of Christmas, focusing on the art of preparing. To get things down to an art i find that Organising the menu is the first thing I do each year, then it’s all about the preparation. I like to get a start on this the day before. Anything that can be done in advance is done the night before. I peel the carrots, score the crosses in the sprouts, make the stuffing and wrap the bacon around the sausages. Having great equipment like sharp knifes makes things so much easier too. by being super organised it takes the stress out of things on the day, so you can enjoy it with your family and don’t have to spend your whole Christmas in the kitchen.
As well as the menu I like to plan the table decorations. This year I decided to keep things quite restrained and got a linen table runner and some foliage from the garden. to make things extra special I am using the beautiful cutlery from Robert welch and this stunning carving set. I think having special cutlery that you can bring out on special occasions makes the dinner feel fancy and add a unique touch.
I know that pork is not technically the normal meat eaten on Christmas but if I am cooking at home there is never more than four of us and pork seems to be the meat that everyone loves.
Cooking it with apples and cider makes it extra special.
Pork with apples and cider
· 2kg British free-range pork shoulder, try and get one that is boned and tied, skin scored for crackling
· 300ml chicken stock
· 200ml cider
· 1 tbsp demerara sugar
· Whole garlic bulb, halved across the middle
· Small bunch fresh sage leaves
· 8 eating apples I used some pink ones for this
Preheat your oven to 180°C/fan160°C/ gas 4. Rub salt all over the pork and put in a large roasting tin I used smoked salt for extra flavour. Mix the stock, cider and sugar and pour into the tin then add the halved garlic bulb and half the sage leaves. Roast for 1 hour. Meanwhile, cut apples in half and add to tin after the first hour.
Roast for another hour or until a thermometer pushed into the middle of the meat reads 65C. Remove the apples and garlic from the tin and put onto a plate, Remove the pork and put into a clean pan, turn the oven up to 240°C/fan220°C/gas 9 and roast for 15-20 minutes until the skin is crackled and crisp. Remove from the oven and rest for 20 minutes.
Pour the juices from the original baking pan into a sauce pan and simmer over a medium heat, add the rest of the sage and to reduce thickened sauce. Serve the pork with the apples and sauce.
I also cooked stuffing, pigs in blankets. Swede, honey roasted carrots and parsnips, sprouts with onions and bacon, roast potatoes and cauliflower cheese.
A cheeseboard is must for most families. We usually have one on boxing day with cold meats left over from the day before. they are great if you have a few people coming over and you don’t want to cook another big dinner. on boxing day in our family, we have cheese and crackers, leftover meat and mash potato and sausage rolls and then we always have yule log for pudding. I tend to spend a lot of time in front of the tv watching Christmas movies so a buffet type tea like this is so much easier as everyone can just help themselves. I used the Radford cheese knife set.
Things to include
· Pickles and chutneys
· Grapes, figs, pears
· Pickled onions
· Cured meats
· Pork pies
For this one I roasted some grapes and I also roasted some ricotta drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I preheated the oven to 200c and tossed some oil on the grapes and drizzled some balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper over the ricotta and roasted it for 25 minutes.