O come all ye taste­ful

Anna Jones’s Christ­mas spe­cial

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Anna Jones is a chef, writer and au­thor. Her lat­est book, The Modern Cook’s Year, is out now on Fourth Estate); an­na­jones.co.uk; @we_are_­food

Dur­ing this mag­i­cal sea­son, it is all too easy to fo­cus all our kitchen at­ten­tions on one meal. But it’s not al­ways the flavours of Christ­mas Day that I re­mem­ber most fondly; the days that lead up to it – with all the an­tic­i­pa­tion of the main event, filled with present-wrap­ping, stock­ing up, friends, par­ties, last-minute er­rands and the limbo days of frosty walks, board games and fresh in­ten­tions be­tween Christ­mas and new year – are the days I trea­sure most.

For many of us there will be a full house be­yond the 25th, and on th­ese days there is less need to stick with tra­di­tion ... so this is what I cook. While many of the dishes in this week’s col­umn would sit proudly on the Christ­mas ta­ble (the nut roast, sprouts and cream pie par­tic­u­larly), I’d proudly serve them as a meal in them­selves any time over the win­ter. The flavours, I hope, are a wel­come respite from the ever-present fes­tive favourites.

This year we’ll spend our Christ­mas with my sis­ter in Cal­i­for­nia. The sun will shine, but wher­ever in the world we are we’ll al­ways have our tra­di­tional Christ­mas din­ner. There is some­thing com­fort­ing, fa­mil­iar and al­most quite laugh­ably stub­born about it, but it’s th­ese tra­di­tions that we hold dear. We’ll make the chest­nut roast you’ll find here, the cele­riac and sweet gar­lic pie and the crown­ing veg­e­tar­ian gravy I wrote about last year, plus all the trim­mings.

In the days ei­ther side, though, things will be very dif­fer­ent. I will make this south In­dian curry to wake up our taste­buds on our first night to­gether. We’ll eat this cas­soulet from our laps on Christ­mas Eve. I’ll make the soup on Box­ing Day, its perky pick­led back notes and vi­brant pur­ple the per­fect foil to the last of the cheese board and any left­overs.

The car­rot bakes I will make in a dou­ble batch and keep in the fridge ready to cook up for late-night snacks, or to go with drinks. And the chest­nut and co­conut mont blanc pie ... well I’m pretty sure I’ll be mak­ing that a cou­ple of times be­fore Jan­uary – it is a par­tic­u­lar favourite; in­ci­den­tally, it’s ve­gan too, as many of th­ese recipes nat­u­rally are – to keep my brother and sis­ter happy. At this time of year there should be some­thing on the ta­ble for ev­ery­one.

Pur­ple pick­led cab­bage soup (on the cover)

Serves 6

500g red cab­bage, finely shred­ded 2 tbsp red wine vine­gar But­ter or olive oil, for fry­ing

1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped

3 sticks of cel­ery, finely chopped 2 ap­ples – cox’s are my choice 1½ tsp car­away seeds 1.5 litres vegetable stock

2 tbsp bal­samic vine­gar

2 tsp honey or agave syrup

50g wal­nuts, crum­bled

1 small bunch of dill, leaves chopped, fronds re­served for gar­nish­ing

4 tbsp sour cream or thick yo­ghurt Salt and black pep­per

1 Put the cab­bage into a bowl with a good pinch of salt and the red wine vine­gar, scrunch to­gether in your hands, then put to one side to pickle.

2 Warm a lit­tle but­ter or oil in a heavy­bot­tomed saucepan over a medi­um­low heat. Add the onion and cel­ery. Sweat, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for 15 min­utes, or un­til soft and translu­cent.

3 Mean­while, peel and core the ap­ples, then slice thickly.

4 Once the onions are soft and sweet, add the car­away seeds and stir for a minute. Turn the heat up a lit­tle, add the ap­ples and ¾ of the cab­bage to the onions. Fry for a fur­ther 5 min­utes, or un­til the cab­bage be­gins to soften.

5 Add the stock, bal­samic vine­gar and honey or agave syrup. Bring to a boil, then re­duce the heat, cover and sim­mer for 30 min­utes. Re­move the lid and sim­mer for another 10 min­utes.

6 Mean­while, heat some oil in a fry­ing pan. Once it’s re­ally hot, add the rest of the cab­bage and cook un­til it’s crisp. For the last cou­ple of min­utes add the wal­nuts and half the dill.

7 Stir the rest of the dill into the

soup and sea­son to taste. Now, you can leave this as it is, but I like to blitz it to a vi­brant pur­ple soup.

8 La­dle the soup into warmed bowls and top each with the cab­bage and wal­nuts, a spoon­ful of sour cream or yo­ghurt and some more dill, if you like.

Squash and chest­nut roast

I use roasted squash, seeds, pis­ta­chios and chest­nuts to make the base of this tart, which is topped with baked ri­cotta and chilli-spiked greens. Ve­g­ans can use silken tofu here in­stead of ri­cotta – just spice it as you would the ri­cotta and then bake un­til it starts to brown.

Serves 4-6

For the nut roast base

½ but­ter­nut squash (about 600g) 100g shelled pis­ta­chio nuts 100g sun­flower or pump­kin seeds 100g vac-packed chest­nuts

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp maple syrup

Grated zest of 1 un­waxed lemon Leaves from a small bunch of thyme, Salt and black pep­per

For the top­ping

2 ba­nana shal­lots

A head of cavolo nero

A few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked A pinch of dried chilli

500g ri­cotta or silken tofu

1 lemon

1 Pre­heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Pop the squash on a bak­ing tray with some salt and pep­per and a driz­zle of olive oil, then roast in the oven for 30 min­utes, or un­til golden.

2 While the squash is roast­ing, put the pis­ta­chios and sun­flower or pump­kin seeds on a bak­ing tray. Roast along­side the squash for the last 5 min­utes.

3 Re­move the tray of nuts and seeds and tip them into a food pro­ces­sor with the roast squash, chest­nuts, olive oil, maple syrup, lemon zest, thyme and a good pinch of salt and pep­per. Blitz into a fine-tex­tured mix­ture.

4 Tip the nut roast mix­ture into an oiled 24cm loose-bot­tomed tart tin. Use the back of a spoon to press it down into the edges, then make a slight in­dent in the mid­dle. Roast for 40 min­utes, or un­til crisp at the edges.

5 Warm some olive oil in a fry­ing pan over a medium heat, add the shal­lots and fry un­til crisp. Add the cavolo nero, thyme and dried chilli, then cook for another few min­utes, un­til the edges are start­ing to crisp, then tip on to a plate.

6 Whip the ri­cotta with the juice of the whole lemon and half its zest, plus a good pinch of salt and pep­per.

7 Take the nut roast out of the oven and let it sit for 20 min­utes, then spoon the ri­cotta on top us­ing the back of a spoon to cre­ate lit­tle ups and downs.

8 Scat­ter the nut roast with the shal­lots and greens. Serve in gen­er­ous slices with all the trim­mings on Christ­mas Day or with a sim­ple salad for a more sim­ple din­ner.

Shred­ded sprouts with shal­lots, golden beans and pota­toes

An all-in-one side for any Christ­mas ta­ble. I eat it as the main event too, with some good bread, sharp ched­dar and mus­tard. Ve­g­ans can omit the parme­san or use a ve­gan one.

Serves 4-6 as a side

2 tbsp ex­tra vir­gin olive oil or but­ter 250g pota­toes, un­peeled, scrubbed and cut into small cubes

1 large shal­lot, finely chopped 1 gar­lic clove, finely sliced

400g tinned can­nellini beans 500g sprouts, peeled and finely shred­ded)

Juice of ½ lemon

50g parme­san (I use a veg­e­tar­ian one) Salt and black pep­per

1 Heat a large fry­ing pan over medium heat and add a good glug of olive oil or but­ter. Add the pota­toes and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 5-8 min­utes, lift­ing the lid to turn ev­ery few min­utes. Scrape the bot­tom and mix the pota­toes around a few times dur­ing cook­ing, so they brown evenly and don’t stick.

2 Next, add the chopped shal­lots and the beans. Cook for another 5 min­utes, al­low­ing the shal­lot to brown a lit­tle and the beans to crisp and brown too. 3 Stir in the shred­ded sprouts and cook for a few more min­utes, or un­til the sprouts start to brown and soften. Squeeze over the juice of half the lemon, grate over the parme­san and sea­son un­til it tastes great. Serve straight from the pan with more parme­san for grat­ing over.

Lit­tle car­rot and chick­pea bakes with two sauces

Makes 16 small cakes

400g tinned chick­peas

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

2 small car­rots, grated (about 150g) 200g cashews, soaked for 10-15 min­utes A bunch of coriander, leaves picked A bunch of mint, leaves picked

Zest of 1 lime

A pinch of dried chilli flakes

Olive oil

Salt and pep­per, to taste Coriander and cress, for sprin­kling

For the chutney

The rest of the bunch of mint The rest of the bunch of coriander Juice of 1 lime A pinch of salt A pinch of co­conut or light brown sugar A splash of olive oil or wa­ter

Ta­mari, honey and lime sauce

2 tbsp ta­mari Juice and zest of 1 lime 1 tsp rice wine

1 tsp honey

2 tsp sesame oil

1 Pre­heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Line a bak­ing tray with parch­ment.

2 Drain and rinse the chick­peas, then set aside. Toast the spices in a dry fry­ing pan un­til fra­grant.

3 Add a splash of oil to the pan. Add the car­rots and cook for 5 min­utes, or un­til soft and a lit­tle drier. Mean­while, drain the cashews and blitz ⅔ of them – chop the rest of the cashews and set aside.

4 Add the chick­peas to the blitzed cashews. Pulse un­til roughly com­bined, then add the car­rots, spices, a few sprigs of the coriander, a few sprigs of the mint, the lime zest, a pinch of salt, chilli and olive oil, and pulse again.

5 Tip into a bowl and add the

Many of th­ese dishes would sit proudly on the Christ­mas ta­ble, but I’d proudly serve them as a meal in them­selves

chopped cashews. The mix­ture should bind nicely, form­ing a ball.

6 Pinch off golf-ball sized pieces of the mix­ture and roll th­ese into balls be­fore flat­ten­ing into lit­tle cakes. Put the cakes on the parch­ment-lined tray and re­peat un­til you have used all of the mix­ture, to make about 16 lit­tle cakes.

7 Driz­zle the cakes with olive oil and pop them in the oven. Cook the cakes for 12-15 min­utes be­fore flip­ping and driz­zling the other side with olive oil and bak­ing for another 12-15 min­utes.

8 While the cakes are bak­ing, get on with mak­ing your dip­ping sauces. Blitz all the in­gre­di­ents to­gether to make the chutney, taste and sea­son as needed. Whisk up all the dip­ping sauce in­gre­di­ents for the ta­mari, honey and lime sauce.

9 The cakes are ready when they are slightly golden on each side. Serve on a plat­ter sprin­kled with coriander, cress, and with lit­tle bowls of the dip­ping sauces on the side.

Christ­mas eve ‘cas­soulet’

Crisp, fried but­ter beans, gar­lic, mus­tard, bay, oven-crisped bread and smoky roots, a one-pan hearty win­ter din­ner to feed a crowd.

Serves 6-8

Olive oil

400g root veg­eta­bles (car­rots, swede, cele­riac, potato, parsnip all work well), peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces 1 leek, washed, trimmed, roughly sliced 1 gar­lic clove, peeled and finely chopped 1 red chilli, de­seeded and finely chopped 2 bay leaves

A pinch of smoked salt or sea salt and black pep­per

2 tbsp di­jon mus­tard

1 tbsp whole grain mus­tard

400g tinned chopped toma­toes 400g jar hari­cot or can­nellini beans, drained, or 400g tinned, drained

1 litre hot vegetable stock

A bunch of fresh thyme

4 slices of sour­dough bread

1 Set the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Heat a glug of olive oil in an oven­proof pan over a medium heat. Throw in the root veg, leek, gar­lic, chilli and bay, and a pinch of the smoked salt and some pep­per, then turn the heat down and cook for 10 min­utes, or un­til the leeks are soft and sweet and the roots have be­gun to soften and brown.

2 Next, add the mus­tards, tinned toma­toes, beans and the stock. Sim­mer for 2 min­utes, then take off the heat. Check the sea­son­ing.

3 Scat­ter over the sprigs of thyme, then tear the slices of bread into chunks and push them into the gaps.

4 Driz­zle the lot with olive oil and pop it into the oven for 30 min­utes, or un­til the beans are crisp in places, the sauce is thick and has sweet­ened, and the bread is crisp and golden. Al­low it to sit for a few min­utes be­fore pil­ing on to plates with lemony green salad.

Ker­alan tamarind curry

A curry I ate on Christ­mas day in Ker­ala – the only part of In­dia where it seems like Christ­mas.

I will make this south In­dian curry to wake up our taste­buds on our first night to­gether

Serves 6

500g pota­toes, cut into 3cm pieces 1 cau­li­flower, leaves re­moved (about 500g), cut into medium flo­rets

1 tsp turmeric

Olive oil

Salt and black pep­per

2 onions

4 gar­lic cloves

5cm fresh gin­ger

2 green chill­ies

1 large bunch of fresh coriander

2 tsp black mus­tard seeds

2 tsp fenu­greek seeds 2 tsp fen­nel seeds A hand­ful of curry leaves 2 tbsp tamarind paste 400g tinned toma­toes 1 x 400ml tin co­conut milk 2 lemons: 1 zested and juiced, 1 re­served for serv­ing

A small bunch of rain­bow chard (about 300g), stalks finely chopped and leaves torn into bite-size pieces

1 Set the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Put the pota­toes and cau­li­flower into a roast­ing tray. Coat with the turmeric, a bit of olive oil, salt and pep­per. Roast for 25 min­utes, or un­til the ends of the veg have slightly charred.

2 Peel and finely slice the onions, gar­lic and gin­ger. Finely slice the chill­ies and coriander stalks. Now put your largest roast­ing tray on the hob over a medium heat and add a good splash of oil, then add the spices and curry leaves. Fry for 2 min­utes, then add the chopped onions and gar­lic. Cook for about 15 min­utes, or un­til soft and golden, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally.

3 Take the cau­li­flower and pota­toes out of the oven, then add th­ese to the big tray along with the toma­toes, co­conut milk, the zest and juice of a lemon and a can­ful of wa­ter. Bring to a sim­mer and stir to coat every­thing in the sauce. Put into the oven for 25 min­utes.

4 Gen­tly mix in the chard stalks and the shred­ded chard leaves and scat­ter them on top. Then put the tray back in the oven for 5-7 min­utes un­til the greens have wilted and started to crisp at the edges.

5 Take out of the oven and serve with pick­les, cha­p­atis and rice cooked with a cou­ple of car­damom pods, star anise and cin­na­mon.

Chest­nut and co­conut mont blanc pie

This pie is a meet­ing of two of my favourite pud­dings: the cream pie and the mont blanc – those lit­tle whipped pud­dings made to look like snow­capped moun­tains. Th­ese are eas­ily made ve­gan if you use dark agave in­stead of honey, as I will this year.

Serves 6- 8 For the crust

75g al­monds 75g pecan nuts 120g med­jool dates (6 fat ones), pit­ted 1 tbsp set honey or agave A pinch of ground gin­ger

For the fill­ing

250g of chest­nut puree 4 pieces of crys­tallised stem gin­ger, finely chopped

1 tsp vanilla paste, or the seeds from a pod

2 tbsp set honey 4 mar­ron glaces (op­tional) 4 clemen­tines, peeled and sliced in rounds

For the cloud cream

2 × 400g tins of full-fat co­conut milk, chilled

1 tbsp set honey

Seeds from 1 vanilla pod

To fin­ish

Mar­ron glaces, to taste

Dark choco­late shav­ings, for sprin­kling

1 Put your co­conut milk in the fridge to chill while you get on with the crust. Put the nuts into a food pro­ces­sor and blitz un­til you have a chunky crum­ble. Add the dates, honey and gin­ger and pulse a few more times, un­til the whole lot comes to­gether.

2 Grease a 20cm spring­form cake tin and line with parch­ment. Press the crust mix into the tin, mak­ing a lip around the sides about 1cm deep. Re­frig­er­ate the crust for at least 1 hour.

3 Mean­while, make the fill­ing. Mix the chest­nut puree with most of the stem gin­ger, vanilla, honey and most of the mar­ron (if us­ing). Put to one side.

4 Make the cloud cream: scoop the thick white top layer from your tinned co­conut milk and put it into a bowl. Add the honey and vanilla seeds and whisk un­til thick, like whipped dou­ble cream, then re­frig­er­ate for 20 min­utes.

5 When you are ready to eat, pile your chest­nut mix­ture into the mid­dle of the crust, and top with the sliced clemen­tines. Give the co­conut cream a fi­nal stir, then spoon it on top of the chest­nut fill­ing and use the back of a spoon to cre­ate pretty swirls.

6 Top with some grated dark choco­late, the rest of crys­tallised gin­ger and chopped mar­ron glacé.

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