Our very simple table setting for Christmas
Sweet potato, hazelnut and spinach en croûte, served with red wine and juniper gravy, from the Cornucopia cookbook.
I made this dish for Christmas last year, and loved it so much I had to make it again. It's a lot of work, as well as being very rich and filling, so making it once a year is enough for me!
I'm going to share the recipe with you here, because I can't find it anywhere online. It seems a shame not too. Of course, all credit for the recipe goes to Cornucopia.
Red wine & juniper gravy
1 large onion
Leaves of a head of celery
3 field mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
10 juniper berries
2 tbsp plain flour
A few stalks of thyme
A few stalks of sage
1 heaped tbsp of tomato puree
50ml shoyu/soy sauce
1 heaped tbsp unrefined brown sugar
200ml vegetarian red wine
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Roughly chop the onions, carrots, celery, leek, mushrooms and garlic.
Cover the base of a large pot with a generous splash of olive oil, over a medium heat.
Add all the chopped vegetables, the bay leaves and juniper berries.
Stir briefly to coat with oil, cover with a lid, reduce to a low heat and leave to sweat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing sticks and burns.
When the stock has fully sweated, add the flour and cook over a very low heat for five minutes, stirring continuously.
Add the thyme, sage, tomato puree, soy sauce, water and a good twist of black pepper.
Cook gently for 30 minutes, stirring occassionally.
While the gravy stock is cooking, in a medium pan gently heat the sugar over a very low heat. When melted, add the wine. The sugar will crystallise but will melt again.
Simmer the sweetened wine for 10 minutes to burn off the alcohol, and then set to one side.
Place a fine sieve over the wine/sugar pot and pour the gravy stock into it. Stir and press with the back of a ladle to squeeze as much liquid from the mixture as possible.
When finished, discard the vegetables and whisk the liquid so it mixes. This can be prepared the night before and heated on the day. It will keep for about 3 days in the fridge.
En croûte filling
3 medium sweet potatoes (500g)
2 bulbs of garlic
EV olive oil
25g each fresh sage/thyme/parsley (or a small bunch each)
600g red onions (divide into two batches of 300g)
125ml vegetarian red wine
250g baby spinach (washed)
Half teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 free range eggs
Salt and pepper
Preheat over to 180c. Puncture skin of sweet potatoes, place on a baking tray and roast until soft (about 40-45 minutes).
Set aside to cool and remove the skins, slice them lengthways into quarters. (I left them whole and it looked quite attractive when the pastry is sliced).
Meanwhile, place the hazelnuts on a tray and roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
Set them aside to cool and then rub vigrously to remove the loose skins.
At the same time, roast the garlic. Slice the tops off both bulbs, pour in olive oil, ensuring all the cloves are coated, add salt and pepper.
Roast garlic in oven until soft, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
When cooled, squeeze the soft flesh out, discard the skins afterward.
Chop the fresh herbs very finely and thinly slice the red onions. Set 300g of the onions to one side.
Cover the base of a large pot with olive oil and place over a medium heat. Add 300g of the onions, coat with the oil. Place lid on the pot, reduce to a low heat and allow onions to sweat for 15 minutes.
Add the red wine to the pot, and reduce over a low heat for 15 minutes, to burn off the alcohol.
Remove from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs, and most of the finely chopped herbs (keep aside a small bit for garnishing at the end.) Season to taste.
Coat a frying pan sparsely with olive oil, place over a high heat and add half of the baby spinach. Add some salt and pepper and wilt the spinach until no moisture remains in the pan. Repeat with the remainder of the spinach.
In a food processor, grind the remaining 300g of raw red onions, the flesh of the roast garlic, the wilted spinach and the nutmeg.
Add one egg and half of the roasted hazelnuts, blend for one minute.
Add the second egg and blend for another minute until completely smooth.
Add the remaining hazelnuts, pulse for a few seconds until just roughly chopped. Season to taste.
You can make all of the above the night before to save on time, on the day
When you are ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 180c and prepare an egg wash by whisking 1 free range egg and a pinch of salt.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out your pastry into a 34 x 26cm rectangle, with the longest side facing you.
Transfer the rolled pastry to a large baking tray, with 8 cm of the pastry flopped over the side of the tray. This is the side that will fold over the filling.
Leave a border of 3cm around the pastry so it won't bubble out while it bakes.
Cover 15cm of the pastry with the herb and onion stuffing.
On top of the onions, place half of the spinach mixture on top of the onions.
Nestle the sweet potato batons lengthways into the centre and cover with the remaining spinach mixture.
Cover this with the reaminder of the pastry, ensuring it is securely sealed on all sides, brush the pastry all over with egg wash.
Slice an attractive pattern in the pastry, and grind some black pepper over the pastry.
Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, allow for 10 minutes rest after removing from the oven.
Slice, serve and enjoy!
We had ours with roast potatoes and grilled vegetables. My meat-eating family adored it. I think its set to become my Christmas tradition.
A note to say: you may end up with twice as much onion and spinach mix as you need. I set this to one side in the fridge, and then remade this a couple of days later. I used shop bought shortcrust pastry for this, you can make your own, but this was much more convenient for me!
A bûche de Noël, with chestnut cream filling.
As you can see the glossy skin of the yule log came off in parts when I gently removed the baking parchment from the cake when it cooled. I added some festive glitter, and left it as is, excusing it as a 'rustic' look. You can add cream to the outside to conceal this, but I don't like very creamy desserts personally.
I made cranberry, almond and dark chocolate biscotti to give as gifts, by adapting this BBC Good Food recipe. It certainly made the kitchen smell like Christmas!