The day after Christmas is a strange time. Too much food the day before and too much spending in the run-up always leave me with a slight feeling of grubbiness and a definite desire to rein things in.
On Boxing Day, thoughts turn to the New Year and resolutions that may or may not take shape. I shouldn't feel hungry I'm sure of that, because I've overindulged yet I still crave something to eat: very definitely quieter food, less showy, but satisfying nonetheless, and easier to make and eat. Here are four dishes that can be quickly assembled and enjoyed at any time of day with whoever may be around.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627. Her book 'A Year in My Kitchen' (Quadrille), is the 2007 Guild of Food Writers' Cookery Book of the Year
Earlier this year, on National Apple Day, 21 October, we made toffee apples at Petersham from some lovely heritage apples grown at Brogdale. I was pleased as punch with how they looked small and charmingly shaped and sure that we would have had none left at the end of the day. Sadly I was wrong. Just as I watched children's eyes light up as they saw them, I also watched their parents steer them away, discouraging them from eating something they saw as indulgent and sugar-coated. Sugar-coated they are but once one small shard of sugar is bitten through, inside is a beautiful English apple. Old-fashioned in the extreme, devoid of any colourings or flavourings, toffee apples are a treat for any time of year.
250g/8oz golden caster sugar
125ml/4fl oz water
6 organic English apples
1tbsp vegetable oil
6 sturdy sticks
Place the sugar and water in a pan over a low heat and allow the sugar to dissolve. Once it has dissolved, turn the heat up and cook, without stirring, until a golden caramel has formed this will take eight to 10 minutes. The caramel will brown around the edges of the pan first; when it does so, swirl the pan once or twice to mix it into the centre. While the sugar is cooking, pierce the base of each apple with a wooden stick by at least an inch. When the sugar is an even colour, remove from the stove, and dip in the apples one at a time to coat evenly. Sit to harden on a baking tray, greased with the oil. Once cool, remove from the tray and serve. '
Smoked haddock chowder
Chowders are the ultimate comfort food, warm, wet and full of goodness a meal in themselves, they make a perfect light lunch or simple supper.
1kg/2lb undyed smoked haddock
1 litre/13/4 pints whole milk
2 rashers smoked streaky bacon
1 leek, washed and trimmed
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100ml/31/2 fl oz double cream
The grated zest of an unwaxed lemon
A small handful of curly parsley, very finely chopped
2tbsp toasted breadcrumbs
Check the fish for any small pin bones and remove carefully. Pour the milk into a wide- based saucepan and add the peppercorns; place over a medium heat and bring to just under a simmer. Add the smoked haddock and remove from the heat. Set aside until the haddock is cooled. The heat of the milk will be enough to poach the fish.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan over a gentle heat. When it is melted, add the bacon and cook for two to three minutes or until they are lightly browned.
Add the leek, carrots, celery, potatoes, thyme and bay leaves and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes or so until the vegetables begin to soften.
Drain the haddock, reserving the poaching liquid. Once the fish is cool, remove from the skin and flake the flesh, keeping it in large chunks. Add to the softened vegetables, then strain slightly and cook until the potatoes and carrots are tender. It is important that the milk doesn't boil.
Stir in the cream and warm through, then discard the herbs and check the seasoning. To serve, ladle the chowder into warm soup plates and scatter over the lemon zest, toasted breadcrumbs and finely chopped parsley.
White bean and pumpkin gratin with rosemary dressing
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g/7oz dried white beans, such as cannellini, soaked in water overnight
2 bay leaves
1 small bunch of lemon thyme
100ml/31/2 fl oz crme fraiche or double cream
1tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
120g/4oz fresh white breadcrumbs
60g/21/2 oz grated Parmesan
50g/2oz unsalted butter, melted
The zest of an unwaxed lemon
For the rosemary salmoriglio
1 bunch of rosemary, leaves only
A good pinch of sea salt
50ml/2fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
The juice of one lemon
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Place the squash in a baking tray, drizzle over the oil, season and roast for about 25 minutes, until soft.
Drain the beans and place in a saucepan large enough to hold them comfortably. Cover with cold water, add the bay leaves and lemon thyme (do not season), bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cook until tender; this will take 40 minutes. Drain and reserve.
Place the crme fraiche in a pan with the mustard and bring to the boil; reduce by a third, add the garlic and season. Place the cooked beans, garlic and roasted pumpkin in to a gratin dish; pour over the crme fraiche mixture. In a separate bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the Parmesan, scatter over the beans and finish by pouring over the melted butter and sprinkling on the lemon zest. Place in the oven and cook until golden and bubbling.
While the gratin is cooling, pound the rosemary leaves with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar until the rosemary is bruised. Add the lemon juice and olive oil. Just before serving, spoon the rosemary over the hot gratin and serve, as we have here, with Swiss chard, or a simple green salad and warm bread. '
Warm salad of lentils, roasted tomatoes, chorizo and goat's cheese
This salad is an alternative to all things Christmasy. Perhaps, like me, you might be craving something a little more punchy something very different from anything you may have eaten the day before. I love chorizo rich, smokey and oily, it works well with sharp, clean accompaniments such as rocket or dandelion. It also makes a very good filling for sandwiches and is wonderful with scrambled eggs.
4 plum tomatoes
1tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Handful of rocket leaves
170g/6oz soft young goat's cheese
For the dressing
2tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar
Pinch of sea salt
Good grinding of ground black pepper
60ml/21/2fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
Heat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas3 and start by roasting the tomatoes. Slice in half lengthwise and lay cut-side up on a baking tray. Place the sugar, salt and ground black pepper in a small bowl and mix together thoroughly. Sprinkle over the tomatoes and roast in the oven for two hours. The tomatoes will become caramelised and semi-dry. Remove and drizzle with a little olive oil and set aside.
While the tomatoes roast, place the lentils in a large pan and just cover with unsalted water. Place on a medium heat, bring to the boil, turn down and simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes, until tender.
To make the dressing, place the mustard, vinegar and a little salt and pepper in a bowl; stir together to combine and whisk in the olive oil.
Place a non-stick saucepan over a high heat and add a tablespoon of the olive oil. Slice the chorizo into one-inch slices and fry in the pan until they are brown; this should take approximately two minutes. Turn and cook for a further two minutes. Remove from the pan and lay the slices on kitchen paper to drain any excess oil.
To assemble the salad, crumble the goat's cheese into a bowl, add the rocket, and cooked lentils. Drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil over the top. Divide among four plates; arrange the roasted tomatoes and chorizo on top and spoon over the dressing. Serve with warm bread.
The Forager by Wendy Fogarty
Petersham's food sourcer on essentials you should stock up on to cover all basesover the Christmas period...
It won't matter how many family, friends and neighbours drop by as long as you're stocked up on these indispensables listed below. Please shop in your high street or village and support the small, local and independent retailers whose staff are best-placed to answer any questions.
Beans and pulses: Health-food and ethnic-food stores carry the most varieties puy lentils from France are readily available
Extra-virgin olive oil: Our favourite this year is Valentini's oil from Abruzzo. Fruity yet delicate and without the harsh peppery bite of Tuscan oils, it is incredibly versatile. Available from www.lescaves.co.uk
Verjuice: The juice of unripe grapes, this is a wonderfully delicate and balanced replacement for vinegar and can be used for deglazing, in sauces, dressings and desserts. Maggie Beer's Verjuice is available from Harvey Nichols Food Hall ( www.harveynichols.com) and Petersham
Irish oats: McCann's Steel-Cut Oats ( www.mccanns.ie) are unprocessed, with the oat groat simply cut to enhance their flavour. Ideal for porridge or making oatcakes
Mustard: A good Dijon or English mustard is the indispensable ingredient for binding leftovers to make bubble 'n' squeak; available on the high street nationwide
Sherry: As an aperitif or an ingredient in cooking savoury and sweet dishes, sherry is arguably the Christmas ingredient most overlooked for its diversity. To help you look beyond the 'dry, medium and sweet' descriptors, go to www.sherry.org/english/index.htm or buy The Perfect Marriage: The Art of Matching Food & Sherry Wines from Jerez, produced by the Sherry Institute, with a foreword by Heston Blumenthal and recipes from leading chefs including Skye
Cane sugar: An essential ingredient for baking. Plantation Reserve sugar from Barbados is coarser and lighter than beet sugar and wonderfully rich in flavour. And to ease the conscience, the West Indies Sugar & Trading Company even invests funds back into development projects. See http://www.plantationreserve.co.bb for stockists
Preserved stem ginger: Known for its digestive properties, ginger is one of our great ingredients. Preserved in light syrup, use it to make cakes that store forever. Again, widely available nationwideReuse content