Thursday 27 December 2007

Christmas dinner for two

Each year E and I have an intimate dinner for two at home to celebrate Christmas before the larger family dinner on Christmas day. (Actually we had company this year – our cat sat on the floor and watched the whole time but I am just thankful she isn’t the type to jump on the table.) It is a nice opportunity to set a festive table, play some carols and feel Christmassy. E hails from the UK where they do Christmas so well. He misses the Christmas lights, the Christmas number 1 on the pop music charts, Christmas television specials, Christmas movies. We may not have dark cold nights to showcase festive lights, but we did have Hogfather on the telly and unseasonally wet and cold weather outside.

I have already posted about our dessert and now here is the main course. I love a traditional Christmas dinner on the actual day, but I also enjoy the opportunity at our dinner for two to experiment with different festive menus. I chose dishes that felt a little special and looked festive.

The showpiece I chose was a broccoli and tomato roulade. A roulade is something that always feels a little out of the ordinary in my kitchen as it is the sort of dish that I fear and avoid – too many eggs and too much risk of things that can go wrong. But I was feeling brave. And I liked the green and red of broccoli and tomato. This was the roulade recipe with the least eggs, and Sarah Brown included it in an ‘impromptu’ dinner menu so it couldn’t be so difficult, could it?

The next time I do a roulade I will be seeking advice beforehand. I was fine til I had rolled it. Then suddenly nothing I read made sense. How was I to get the roulade from the teatowel to the platter? I have realised on re-reading the recipe that I should have wrapped it in greaseproof paper rather than just a teatowel but nevertheless it was like lifting a rag doll with no spine whatsoever. It looked fine on the teatowel – despite the tomato sauce staining my teatowel for life – but collapsed in a landslide once I transferred it to the plate. Never mind, it still tasted delicious – broccoli and tomato are a classic combination and the lightness of the eggs was pleasing.

The salad is one I have done before. It needs a bit of time because the pecans slowly cook in a cool oven, but it looks spectacular. I love the chewy crunchy spicy sweet pecans and the interesting mix of colours and textures. I am not a big fan of goat’s cheese and left it out but the recipe was quite sweet and needed the strong saltiness which can be found in cheese. The rest of the meal balanced it enough but next time I will add something like parmesan or fetta.

Lastly I did some potato parsley stars. They look so cute and festive. They are so simple, that it still amazes me a little that they work. They are merely mashed potato cut out into stars like biscuits or scones. My head says that mashed potato shouldn’t act like a dough but it does. They possibly were a bit crunchy as I didn’t quite have the oven space on the top shelf or the proper temperature to follow instructions but I liked the chewy well-cooked outside and creamy mashed potato inside. Definitely a recipe to impress kids and adults.

Broccoli Roulade with tomato sauce
(from Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Cookbook)
Serves 4

225g broccoli (I used more, maybe twice this)
40g butter
2 tbsp wholemeal flour (or gf flour)
150ml milk
3 eggs, separated
2-3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
½ tsp chives, chopped

Tomato sauce:
450g tin of diced tomatoes
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp marjoram (I used mixed herbs)
1 tbsp tomato paste

First, make the tomato sauce. Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cover and simmer over gentle heat 15-30 minutes until you have a thick sauce (it took me 30 minutes).

While tomato sauce is cooking begin to prepare the roulade. Chop the broccoli into small florets and place in microwave for 2-3 minutes. (Sarah says to steam broccoli and then chop it but I wasn’t about to burn my fingers this way).

Preheat oven to 190 C. Line a 33cm x 2cm swiss roll tin with baking paper.

Melt the butter and stir in flour. Cook over low heat about 2 minutes. Add milk gradually, stirring to avoid lumps. Bring to boil so that it thickens. (Sarah then says to simmer 2-3 minutes but I am not sure why and I didn’t). Remove from heat. Add egg yolks, broccoli, parmesan and herbs. Mix well. Season. Whisk egg whites til stiff but not dry, and gently fold them into the broccoli mixture.

Spread mixture into prepared swiss roll pan and bake for 17-20 minutes. (Actually I may have baked it a little longer to get a little golden colour on the roulade, although it was still a fairly pale colour!)

Turn out onto a clean (old) teatowel covered with a fresh sheet of greaseproof paper. Spread the filling over the roulade and roll it up, using the teatowel. Don’t worry if it cracks slightly (this is what Sarah says but she doesn’t give any clarification on how to stop it cracking when trasnferring it from teatowel to platter. See my comments above for more whinging). Sarah now says to sprinkle with grated cheese before returning to oven for 5 minutes before serving. I didn’t do this or garnish with slices of tomato (or cherry tomato) but as I was too demoralised by it collapsing but if yours is looking good, this is probably a good suggestion.

Avocado, Pear and Pecan Salad
(Adapted from Tesco Magazine)
Serves 4

2 tbsp golden syrup
3 tbsp pecan nuts (approx 12-16)
1 large mild chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
75g mixture of baby spinach and rocket
½ - 1 pear (I used half a packham pear), cored and thinly sliced
½ - 1 avocado, diced
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
½ red pepper, thinly sliced
100g goats cheese or fetta cheese or parmesan shavings or nutritional yeast (optional)

1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp strawberry balsamic vinegar (or raspberry vinegar)
1 tsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 120 C. Mix golden syrup, pecans and chilli. Spread on a baking tray - I put baking paper on the baking tray – because past experiences have shown these nuts stick to the tray easily, and I mixed them up on the tray. Bake up to 1 hour, tossing regularly until caramelised and crispy – or until an hour is up, because in my experience, it is easier to notice they are caramelised and crispy when they cool.

Whisk dressing ingredients together and season. Toss remaining salad ingredients together except cheese. Drizzle dressing on salad and toss to coat. Just before serving scatter pecans and cheese over salad.

Potato Parsley Stars
(from Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Christmas)
Serves 4-6

900g potatoes (I used 750g)
25g butter
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Grated nutmeg

Peel potatoes and cut into chunks. Boil til tender. Drain really well then dry and little over heat. Mash with parsley, butter and seasoning to make a smooth, stiff dough.

Turn out dough onto a floured board and ‘knead’ til smooth (which for me meant just trying to push it all into a smooth ball). Press dough out to 1cm thickness on a floured board (if the board is not floured when you press it out, the stars will stick to it – I can tell you from experience). Using a star shaped cookie cutter, cut out star shapes and use an eggflip/spatula to transfer to tray lined with baking paper.

Bake in 200 C oven about 30 minutes til golden (that is Rose’s advice. I actually had other things cooking and in my oven it was about 60 minutes moving them around shelves with the oven temperatures ranging from 180 C to 230 C – but I am willing to believe Rose’s advice in an ideal situation). She also advises you can freeze them and bake or grill from freezer – if freezing you should only bake for 20 minutes before cooling for the freezer.

On the stereo:
Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails: Various Artists


  1. Johanna,
    Everything here looks yummy! I will definitely be trying that pear/avocado combo, and I adore the idea of the potato stars.

    (And. . .could that be a Waterford millenium champagne flute I spy on the table? Love it--especially since my Honey and I bought the same set to ring in 2000!).

  2. thanks Ricki - the stars are so impressive and so easy - and it was a good meal.

    Well spotted re the waterford millenium glasses - we got ours in 2000 as a wedding present and I love having them for special occasions.

  3. That looks like such an amazing meal, one I would love to sit down too! Roulade has scared my this far too, but this looks yummy!
    Those potatoes were a really good idea!

  4. thanks Holler - I can reassure you that the roulade tasted good even if it collapsed - now I am determined to try it again some time and see if I can conquer the roulade :-)

  5. I like those stars! I think I shall make them soon.
    Happy New Year.

  6. thanks SpacedLaw - happy new year to you too - hope the stars make you happy!


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