Monday, 10 December 2012

This Is Uni Christmas Dinner

There is something quintessentially British about a roast dinner, particularly at Christmas, and I'm sure I'm not alone in saying it's my favourite day of the year. We've just had our last weekend at university before the holidays, so we decided to make it our honourary Christmas so we could celebrate together. Earlier in the week we Christmas-ified the house, and yesterday Jamie and I went out to pick holly before I embarked on the epic mission that was the roast dinner. It was beautiful.

 Not just the food (though that was pretty darn good if I do say so myself), but the company and the laughs and the cracker-hats and just everything. It was a good day. BUT I'll stop being sentimental now and get on with the recipes - I'm going to go through all the elements (in the order I started making them), so this'll be quite a long post, but it'll be totally worth it, promise.

Meat substitute:
I decided to make some awesome veggie pies, because I couldn't find anything nice in tesco. This made enough for four of us, as I did gluten-free red onion and rosemary sausages for Zosia.
- 1x 500g pack puff pastry                                            - 150ml white wine                         
- 25g butter                                                                  - 1½ tbsp plain flour
- 6 shallots, roughly chopped                                       - 250ml veg stock          
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed                                              - 75ml double cream                   
- half an onion (save the other half for gravy)              - sprinkle of dried thyme            
- 4 new potatoes, peeled and chopped                        - salt and pepper             
- 1 pack asparagus tips, washed and chopped              - 1 egg       

1. Melt the butter in a pan and add the shallots, onion and garlic, then cook until soft and just beginning to colour - about 8 minutes.
2. Add the thyme, new potatoes, asparagus (not the tips yet) and wine, and boil 'til the wine has almost gone. Add the flour and stir well.
3. Pour in the stock and add the tips of the asparagus, then season to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring fairly regularly so it doesn't stick to the pan.
4. Add the cream and cook for another 3 minutes. Voila, filling done.
5. Roll out the pastry to about 1cm thick, then cut into small and large circles (I used a cup for the smaller ones and a bowl for the larger). Put the smaller ones on an oiled baking tray, then pile on as much filling as you can stack up, leaving a rim around the edge. Wet the rim and then put the larger pastry circle over the filling, making sure it sticks to the rim of the smaller circle. If you like you can also make decorations for the top, and stick those on with water too.
6. Beat an egg, then brush the pies with it. This will make them all golden and lovely. Once that's all done, they want about 30 minutes at 200°C in a preheated oven.

Roast potatoes:
This, like the yorkshire puddings, is Andy's recipe - a mix of his ideas, Nigel Slater's and Nigella's. A mix which certainly works, because roast dinners should not be as good as Andy's are, so I'm copying.
1. Begin by heating about 1-2cm of vegetable oil in a roasting dish at 200°C.
2. Peel enough potatoes for the number of people, and put into a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil, and cook for a MAXIMUM of 5 minutes.
3. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then put the colander on top of the empty pan and place the pan lid on top for about 5 minutes, or until you're ready for them. This will steam dry them and make them extra crunchy later.
4. Sprinkle over some plain flour (or semolina powder if you have it - I was on flour) and some salt and pepper, then do the hokey cokey (aka shake it all about) and get them all scuffed.
5. CAREFULLY, place the potatoes into the super-hot oil, making sure they're completely coated. Really do be careful - I was rushing too much yesterday and I have the burn-marks to prove it.
6. Put the dish back into the oven and let the potatoes cook for 35-40 minutes, checking and turning them half way through.

I over-did them a bit, but honestly it just added to the crunch. YOU CAN'T LOSE WITH THESE.
Yorkshire puddings:
This was my first time making Yorkshire puddings, though I've had Andy's and Mum's homemade ones for years. Mine therefore weren't quite as awesome as hoped, but practise makes perfect.
Ingredients (makes 12 - you'll need muffin tins):
- 4 eggs
- 250g plain flour (I used gluten free)
- 350ml milk
- pinch sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to at least 240°C, and fill each muffin tin cup with 1cm of vegetable oil. Put the tins in the oven for the oil to heat while you prepare the batter.
2. Whisk the eggs, milk and salt in a bowl for about 5 minutes using an electric whisk, longer if by hand. The mix should increase in size and be all bubbly, then leave to stand for 15 minutes.
3. Whisk in the flour a little at a time 'til there are no lumps. You should have a smooth batter, and the oil in the oven should be beginning to smoke slightly. 
4. Evenly distribute the batter into the muffin tins (I found it was about 4tbsp per cup), being very careful 'cos they're pretty darn hot. Bake for 20-30 minutes, leaving plenty of space for them to rise. Do NOT open the oven door while they're cooking, or they'll sink and it will be sad.

No, mine weren't as spectacular as Andy's, but it was my first time. And also I was using gluten free flour which is a bitch to work with. So really, all in all: SUCCESS.
Roast carrots and parsnips:
1. Grab enough carrots and 'snips for the number of people, then peel them all and top and tail them.
2. Carrots - chop roughly in diagonal-ish chunks, then place in one half of the baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a handful of either tarragon or thyme. You can also add garlic too, if you fancy. Give them a good stir so they're completely coated in everything.
3. Parsnips - chop either into small chunks, or cut them vertically and keep them long and thin. Pop them in the other half of baking dish and do the olive oil/salt and pepper thing like with the carrots, then give them a squirt of either honey or maple syrup. Stir to coat.
4. Cook for 30-45 minutes at 200°C, taking out to stir every 15 minutes or so to prevent them burning on top.

I forgot to get a picture of them cooked, but you can see them on the finished plate.
Cheesy leeks:
This is my Mum's recipe adapted from a Jamie Oliver one, and for me no roast is complete without them.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
- 800g leeks, washed and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 30g butter
- tsp mustard (French is always best)
- 200ml single cream
- 100g cheddar cheese, grated
- thyme (6 sprigs fresh/decent sprinkle of dried)

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the garlic, leeks and thyme. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the leeks have softened and shrunk down.
2. Tip into a baking dish, then season, add the cream, mustard and half the cheese and mix together.
3. Top with the remaining cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes, 'til golden and bubbling.

This is not my picture. I forgot to take one... though in my defence I was incredibly busy. I'll update this the next time I make them, and for now you can have Jamie Oliver's as a rough guide (although I use a deeper dish and fill it more).
You can use whatever you like for these - I used a pack of tender-stem broccoli, some green beans, a few handfuls of kale and some sprouts. Because even though I hate sprouts, it's Christmas, and in my house that means being given two sprouts and being made to eat at least one of them. It's all good fun.

1. Chop the broccoli, sprouts and beans how you want them. Melt some butter in a saucepan, then add the broccoli and sprouts. Cook these for about 8 minutes, stirring regularly, and then add the beans and cook for another 5 mins.
2. Finally add the kale, and cook for about 3 more minutes, until it's shrunk down. Then season well and add a good squirt of lemon juice, and serve.

I made up a pint of Bisto caramelised onion gravy, to which I added a teaspoon of marmite, a dessert spoon of cranberry sauce and (after frying in olive oil 'til soft) the other half of the onion left over from the pie filling. Waste not want not.

Merry Christmas, all.