Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas things - salt cod, barley pudding, sprouts, chestnuts

I have done an encore in the New Statesman (where I used to write a food column): a piece about Christmas food. It includes a couple of recipes. The first is a brandade of salt cod (it's a rather luxurious way of eating something associated with asceticism on Christmas Eve); the second, an Armenian pudding consisting of sweetened pearl barley.

A brandade is a good deal easier to make now we have food processors. I had a culinary disaster when I tried to follow Richard Olney's recipe in his otherwise marvellous Simple French Food, beating the fish with olive oil in a saucepan over high heat. All that happened was that the flesh firmed up and fried.

Two further Christmas tips.


Perhaps one wants sprouts with the Christmas dinner simply to be steamed or boiled, and tossed in a little butter. But, if the rest of the meal were not so rich, I should recommend steaming (or boiling) them for just a couple of minutes, slicing them, and sauteing them in sunflower oil, with garlic. Stir in a little soy sauce at the end. Some people say that you should not cook them in water at all, but simply shred and fry them.


Peeling chestnuts is a bit fiddly, but manageable, and worth it - the flavour beats that of chestnut puree. Slit the shells with a knife, and drop the chestnuts in boiling water; turn off the heat, cover, and leave for five minutes. Remove the chestnuts and peel them one-by-one - they will not be impossible to handle. Yesterday, I stuffed some cabbage leaves with sausage meat mixed with chestnuts whizzed with a clove of garlic, and the grated zest of a lemon.

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