Alessandra Mascoli is back with some more exotic recipes for you to try over the Christmas holiday. Give them a go and make your festive supper sing…
I bet you’ve already planned your Christmas dinner, haven’t you? And let me guess…you’re having roast turkey/goose, chipolatas, a variety of traditional trimmings and, of course, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. That’s perfect! But why not give your traditional dinner an exotic twist by following some of these easy recipes? That way, you can surprise your guests and spice up your tried and tested Christmas classics.
A French Starter: Salade De Chèvre Chaud
What’s France famous for? Forget the Eiffel tower, every foodie knows that France is all about great wines and rich cheeses. In the first of my four festive dishes, rich cheese absolutely steals the show.
Salade de chèvre chaud is a typical French starter: light, tasteful and easy to prepare. It consists of a fresh, green salad, served with rarebits and a tangy vinaigrette sauce.
Let’s start by cutting a French baguette into slices. Cover each of the sections with a layer of goats cheese and then place them onto a roasting tin. Grill in a preheated oven – between 160° and 180° – until the cheese starts to melt.
In the meantime, make the vinaigrette sauce by whisking a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, olive oil and white vinegar and then set out your favourite kind of salad – I love butter lettuce – in as many dishes as people dining. If you want, you can even add other raw vegetables to the salad – such as carrots à la julienne or spring onions.
When the goats cheese rarebits are ready, place them on top of the salad – three slices of bread per dish – and liberally sprinkle with vinaigrette.
As the French say, Bon appetit!
A Vegetarian Alternative: Vegetable Pie
Meat dishes lead every Christmas dinner. But what if one of your guests is a vegetarian? Or maybe you fancy a lighter, healthier main course along with your roast. The answer is this delicious vegetable pie – made of potatoes, broccoli, carrots, celery and chestnuts.
You begin by boiling 5/6 medium potatoes in hot, salty water and then peel and mash them. Once mashed, add a knob of butter, 2/3 eggs and a sprinkle of grated parmesan. Meanwhile, in a pan, stir-fry 2 chopped carrots, 2 chopped celery sticks, some previously boiled broccoli and chestnuts. Grease a cake pan, sprinkle on some bread crumbs – you won’t need to do this if you’re using a silicone pan – and then fill it with ¾ of your mashed potatoes, leaving a hole in the centre. Tip your stir fried vegetables into the hole in the mashed potato and, if you like it, some mature grated Cheddar. Smooth on the remaining mashed potatoes and then cover your cake pan with kitchen foil. Bake in a preheated oven for about 30/40 minutes (180° C). When the pie is ready, let it rest for a few minutes and then turn it out on a platter.
Delicious AND healthy.
A Mediterranean Touch: Roasted Peppers
Like the British, the Italians also serve their Christmas dinner with a variety of trimmings and vegetables. My personal favourite has always been roasted peppers in olive oil. A startlingly easy recipe, this dish can be made one or even two days in advance because, despite the name, those peppers should be served cold.
You start by placing a variety of red and yellow peppers on a roasting tin covered with kitchen foil. How many peppers? It’s really up to you. I like to base my quantities on the amount of people I’m hosting – however, you should probably include at least 2 peppers of each colour.
Put the peppers in a preheated oven and let them roast for about 30/40 minutes (250° C), turning them every now and then until their skins have blackened. When they’re cooked, turn the oven off and leave them inside to rest. Once they have cooled down, peel them, remove all the seeds and trim them into neat rectangles.
Pour some olive oil into a sealing container and then layer some of pepper slices inside. Sprinkle with salt, chopped garlic and more olive oil and then repeat with the next layer of peppers. Continue in this way until you’ve used up all of your ingredients. Let it stand in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving.
An Easy-Peasy Treat: Mascarpone Cream
Straight from my own book of family recipes, this traditional sweet cream from Northern Italy is usually served with Panettone or Pandoro. However, it’s also excellent all by itself – think milk puddings and custards. As if all that wasn’t enough to convince you, it’s really quick and easy to make. Ingredients include: Mascarpone, eggs and sugar. (You should count one egg and one tablespoon of sugar for every 100 grams mascarpone).
First things first, mix mascarpone in a large bowl, adding egg yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon to avoid lumps. Stir until you have a nice, smooth consistency. In another bowl, whisk egg whites together until they form stiff peaks; add them to the mascarpone. Mix the contents together gently in a clockwise motion (never changing direction) and then from bottom to top, until – once again – you have a smooth cream. Eventually, add a spoonful of whisky.
Small tip: unless you’re serving the cream to accompany a cake, add only ¾ of the egg whites. This way, your dessert will be even more creamy.