Sunday, 15 December 2013

Week 43- The Big Christmas Freeze

For once, I'm not talking about the weather! We've got family coming from all over for Christmas (some driving up from the South of France even) so the last thing I want to hear about is snow and ice.

No, I'm talking about filling up your freezer to make life easier during Christmas week- and spreading the cost too. Forget diamonds, at Christmas the freezer is a girl's best friend.

Already, many of the recipes featured on recent blogs have been safely tucked away in the freezer- chicken liver parfaits from last week, celeriac gratin from the week before, melba toasts, mince pies, breadcrumbs for stuffing and bread sauce, crispy wontons for mille feuilles..
Crispy wontons
I've also baked rye bread (to go with the salmon starter on Christmas Day), sliced it and frozen it ready to take out as I need it
Rye bread
and made smoked salmon pate (smoked salmon trimmings blitzed with cream cheese, lemon juice and pepper) for piping into canapes.

This week however I made some extra starters, mains and puddings to have on hand when I need them, as guests arrive: tartelettes a l'indienne, cakes aux olives for starters, a massive ragout with minced beef for making chili, lasagne, spag bol or whatever people feel like, and some chocolate and coffee expresso cups in case people can't manage a Christmas pud on the big day.

For the tartelettes, I lined a twelve hole muffin tray with shortcrust pastry discs, then used some leftover chicken jalfrezi for the filling: the meat I chopped and distributed evenly between the tarts. I then mixed the leftover curry sauce with two beaten eggs and a splash of milk. I poured the mixture into each of the tart cases and cooked the batch in a medium to hot oven (190 degrees) until the pastry was starting to colour and the filling was domed and golden as well as firm to the touch.
Tartelette a l'indienne
( I also experimented with filo pastry roughly laid in two of the muffin holes - and it worked just as well, as you can see above.)

The cake aux olives have featured often on the blog, as they are without doubt my my most popular recipe. If you missed it before- here is how to make them.

Mix 100g of self raising flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, a pinch of salt, 100g of grated flavoursome cheese (mature cheddar, gruyere, emmental), 80 ml of olive oil, 3 beaten eggs, 150 g of chopped olives, 1 pot of natural yoghurt and a splash of milk together in a mixing jug. If the mixture is too stiff, mix in more milk. You are aiming for a thick spoonable cake batter.

Spoon or pour into muffin cases and bake at 200 degrees until risen and golden.

Cakes aux olives

Next, I prepared an enormous batch of beef ragout to go in the freezer. I used the slow cooker to save effort (and let it cook away whilst I'm busy with other stuff.) Soften 2 white onions and a teaspoon of minced garlic in some olive oil, then brown 1 kg of minced beef. Put it all in the slow cooker with 2 cartons of chopped tomatoes (I like the ones with extra olives added), a splash of red wine, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a good squirt of tomato puree and plenty of salt and pepper. Leave to bubble away for a few hours until rich and thick.

Slow cooker beef ragout

For the puddings, break up 150g of dark chocolate (70% cocoa solid) in a bowl and pour on 90ml of hot strong coffee. Finish the melting process in the microwave for 1 minute and then stir in a tablespoon of rum. Meanwhile separate 3 eggs and beat the whites to the very soft peak stage. When the chocolate has cooled a bit, whisk in the egg yolks and then fold into the whites. Pour the chocolate mixture into little espresso cups, cool and then freeze these in
plastic containers.

Chocolate and coffee pots

Now, like the USS Enterprise, my freezer cannae take much more. 

All I need now is for the guests to arrive - and for the festivities to begin!

Happy holidays!

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