Nigella decamps to the countryside for her cosiest Christmas yet. Against a backdrop of crackling log fires and sparkling lights, Nigella shares her tips for relaxed entertaining, bringing new flavours to the festivities and the cosiness of familiar fare.
Inspired by the beauty of her surroundings, Nigella throws a party, serving platters of devilled eggs and a sparkling cocktail. She creates a feast of roast duck with orange, soy and ginger, alongside garlic and parmesan mashed potato gratin and sour-sweet soused red cabbage with cranberries, made in advance to make life that little bit easier. There is also an exotic take on brussel sprouts.
For dessert, there is a glorious sticky toffee pudding, made all the more delicious with an effortless, no-churn brandy salted caramel ice cream. For a simple fireside supper, Nigella rustles up a warmly spiced Moroccan vegetable hotpot with a dill and pine nut couscous, and chocolate pistachio meringue cookies for a sweet after-dinner treat.
Nigella Christmas recipes:
1. Forgotten cookies
These little cookies – described by one friend as tasting like a cookie within a cookie – are really a mixture between a meringue and a cookie. Hence they’ve become known at home, where they’re immensely popular, as Merookies, and are ideal with a cup of coffee after dinner. They are called “forgotten” as, just like the ‘Forgotten Pudding’ in Nigella Express, they are not baked, but put in a hot oven, which you immediately turn off, leaving the cookies to bake in the fading residual heat overnight. I find it all too easy actually to forget them, and always put a post-it sticker on the oven to remind me they’re in there, so I don’t burn them to a cinder by preheating the oven to cook something else in it the next day.
2. Garlic and Parmesan mash
I’m not, as a rule, one for flavouring mashed potatoes, but this version is a worthy exception. Because the garlic cloves are boiled with the potatoes, they make their presence felt sweetly rather than shoutily, and the Parmesan provides a gentle tang.
3. Sticky toffee pudding
My STP is altogether deeper and darker than the original version: it is still sweet, but the muscovado sugar and black treacle give it an almost savage intensity. It seems redolent of ginger, cloves, allspice – and yet none of these spices are used. It’s a miracle. I don’t understand it – but then, miracles are not to be questioned.
4. Devilled eggs
While devilled eggs had their moment in the UK – at about the same time the hostess trolley held sway – they are an essential part of the American entertaining tradition. There’s not much that can get me squeezing a fancy-nozzled piping bag, but this recipe – even if mine diverges somewhat – compelled me to. Although they are a bit fiddly to make, they’re not difficult, and they are always a major hit. And I’m talking about genuine enjoyment not ironic amusement. As many as I make, I never have a single one left over.
5. Christmas Martini
While there is nothing intrinsically Christmassy about this cocktail, I do feel this is the season for sweet drinks. Both the dark raspberry and the emphatic chocolateyness of the cocoa liqueur ably fit that bill, but the generous hit of vodka means that their sugariness is held to account. Rich and warming, that first a sip gives you an instant Christmassy fireside glow. I let a sprig of rosemary play the part here of festive fir.