Our Christmas Dinner

I usually document our Christmas dinner in December, in the main so that I can recall what we had and when, what we liked and what we wouldn’t get again.

In 2014 we went with an Aldi Four Bird Roast and though we enjoyed it, I wanted to have something different in 2015. Due to a range of reasons we didn’t pre-order any thing for lunch, so in the end it was a quick trip out to the local Morrisons. I bought a small turkey and a duck.

These were roasted in the over, taking about two hours. The flavour was pretty good and I managed to not over cook (or under cook) the roasts.

They were served with some traditional accompaniments, such as pigs in blankets and a range of stuffings.

The brussels sprouts were peeled and halved. These were then pre-cooked for a couple of minutes in boiling water. As we neared the serving time, in a hot frying pan I added a small amount of olive oil and fried off some pancetta. I then added the brusels with some pre-cooked chestnuts.

Overall a really nice festive meal.

Homemade Quiche

Quiche

I haven’t made quiche for a while now, but over the weekend decided to throw one together.

I made some shortcrust pastry and baked it blind in the oven in a flan tin. Everytime I do that I always think I should be using some baking beans, but I don’t have any, so I lined the top of the pastry with baking parchment and used another pan on top to keep the pastry flat. One tip I picked up from the television was to fold the pastry over the edge of the flan tin and once cooked this is carved off, and creates a level pie base.

I filled the base first with some fresh spinach and the cooked onions, peppers, mushrooms and pancetta. I then added some grated mature cheddar cheese. There are lots of choices when it comes to quiche fillings,

I placed the flan in the oven and then filled it, covering the rest of the filling with an egg and milk mixture.

The quiche is then baked in the oven until the egg has set and the top of the quiche has started to brown.

Delicious warm, it can also be served cold with salad.

Brussels with Chestnuts and Pancetta

Brussels with Chestnut and Pancetta

I once again cooked this accompaniment to the Christmas roast we had this year. It is very simple to cook, has festive overtones and really adds something special to the humble sprout.

I peeled and halved the sprouts, now I know some people will think that what is he doing, sprouts are supposed to be whole! Well what I want in this dish is for the sprouts to be a similar size to the chestnuts. The sprouts were partially cooked in advance, by placing in simmering water for about five minutes, drained and plunged into cold water and left to one side. You can do this earlier in the day so freeing up hob space for other things.

When you are close to serving time, in a hot frying plan, add a splash of olive oil and add the pancetta. I went for smoked pancetta, as I much prefer the stronger flavour and it goes well with the similarly strong flavour of the sprouts. Cook the pancetta until is just going crispy. The add the partially cooked sprouts and the chestnuts. I used the cooked and vacuum packed chestnuts from Merchant Gourmet. These are already prepared and cooked and are quick and easy to use. Next year I might use fresh chestnuts and prepare them myself. You can season with some black pepper, but no need to add extra salt, as the pancetta bacon adds the saltiness to the dish.

Toss and saute the sprouts and chestnuts with the pancetta and serve with your favourite festive roast.

Don’t buy the pasta!

Remind me please that if I ever go to Frankie and Benny’s again, don’t order the pasta!

You know for am American Italian Diner I am disappointed how they serve pasta, which in my opinion should be a signature dish for them. Similarly how difficult is it to get pasta wrong?

I should have remembered when I ordered the Philly Steak Bake which was not the best pasta dish I had eaten. I should have known better, you would think? The thing is back then my son had ordered the Spaghetti Oceana which looked great and according to my son was delicious.

Chicken Penne Romana

So this time I ordered Chicken Penne Romana, which was penne pasta with chicken breast, spicy pepperoni and pancetta bacon tossed with Mamma’s rich Neapolitan tomato and herb sauce. It came with the choice of fries or salad. Now why on earth did is come with fries, okay partly my fault I should have chosen the salad option! It is a very British thing I believe that to have potatoes and pasta together, you know lasagne and chips for example.

Next time, choose the salad, next time… well next time I won’t choose the pasta so it won’t be a problem.

So what about the pasta? Let’s be straight, it certainly wasn’t an awful dish, so bad I couldn’t eat it. No it was certainly edible and I did finish the dish. The thing is, it could have been so much better. The so called rich tomato sauce, was anything but rich, and lacked flavour and richness. It was too bland and it was this that really marked down the quality of the dish. When you read the description “tossed with Mamma’s rich Neapolitan tomato and herb sauce” you kind of expect that to be the case, the reality was that didn’t happen, the pasta was in the bowl and the sauce poured on top. If you wanted it tossed you were going to have to do that yourself.

It was a pity that the dish turned out the way it did, as the concept sounded really good.

Steak with Peppercorns and Pancetta

This is quite a quick meal and can be served with steamed vegetables and crispy potatoes.

I normally prefer ribeye cut of steak these days, with sirloin as second choice, as I prefer the flavour of ribeye. Rump, though cheaper, is often tougher than either ribeye or sirloin. I find fillet, not just more expensive, but often lacks flavour. Though in this dish it would work as the peppercorns and the pancetta add a striking flavour to the dish.

I prepare the steak by rubbing in some olive oil. Then in a plain unoiled hot pan I cook the steak. About half way through cooking I added some black peppercorns.

In order to save time, in a seperate pan I cooked off some pancetta and once they were nearly cooked added the mushrooms.

Removing the steak from the pan, once cooked, I added the pancetta and mushrooms and added half a tub of creme frache, which I let heat through.

I sliced the steak, put on the plate, poured over the sauce and served with steamed vegetables and crispy potatoes. It would also work well with plain rice.