It's the week before Christmas. The roast is ordered, the pudding is sorted, the wines are bought. But it's the food in between the celebratory meals that interest me more and it's time to give it some thought. I like fats and carbs as much as anyone but over the next two weeks there also need to be plenty of vegetable-based dishes and fruity puddings. I know I will be craving lively, stimulating, bitter and tangy flavours that ingredients like anchovies, capers, mustards, pickles, ketchups, citrus, herbs and spices deliver.
This year, apart from feasting days, there will be no menus here. There will be a list of dishes that will be 'just the thing' at some point over the holiday to jolt the tastebuds. This is a time to enjoy being in the kitchen not to be chained to it. There will be soft polenta with spiced-up winter greens; roasted cauliflower with anchovies and capers; a sharing pan of spicy, hot Shakshuka; escarole for a warming bowl of Caldo Verde to come home to after a long walk; Griddled chicory with goat's curd; punchy Puttanesca sauce for the inevitable plate of pasta; and a pre-cooked octopus to serve with potatoes, mayo and smoked paprika. There are sure to be lemons for granita or curd; maybe a 'SweetMeat Cake', a tart which gives candied citrus a starring role rather than a supporting one; frozen fruit purees for ice cream and sorbets that are a reminder of summer on the allotment; and it's very likely there'll be a stash of Hot Gingernut biscuits in the kitchen.
Here's another dish that fits-the-bill. A marriage of raw celeriac and a punchy mustard mayonnaise, here served with raw Chestnut mushrooms, toasted hazelnuts and shards of hard cheese. It's a blatant rip-off of a dish I've enjoyed at 40 Maltby Street. Celeriac, also known as Celery Root, is one of the best winter vegetables and is at its peak right now. It makes a good Celeriac Soup but, for me, its flavour and texture is best appreciated raw.
|Celeriac Remoulade with Chestnut mushrooms|
Celeriac Remoulade with Chestnut Mushrooms
1 medium celeriac, trimmed, peeled and cut into julienne strips (put into a bowl of cold acidulated water until needed and dry on kitchen roll before using)
250ml (9 fl oz) mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, according to taste
300g (12 oz) good, firm Chestnut mushrooms
50g (2 oz) toasted hazelnuts (skins rubbed off), and cut in half
75g (3 oz) Parmesan or a hard English cheese like Berkswell, peeled into strips with a potato peeler
Extra Virgin olive oil & lemon
Salt and pepper
Sprig of Parsley, finely chopped
Mix the strips of celeriac with the mayonnaise and mustard. Pile onto plates. Slice the Chestnut mushrooms finely, preferably on a Mandolin, and scatter over the celeriac remoulade. Top with the hazelnuts and strips of cheese. Season with pepper and a little salt. Add olive oil and lemon to taste. Scatter the chopped parsley on top and serve.
I'll be baking bread to go with this. Well that's the plan. It's entirely possible that we'll have so many leftovers to consume that we'll get through to New Year's Day fuelled entirely on meat and two veg and, of course, cheese. I really hope not.
This will be my last post before Christmas. Do have a good one - I think we all need it this year.