For some reason I am always ridiculously tired at the end of a year – and psychologically I have a renewed sense of energy and excitement at the beginning of the new one. I don't really know why that should be the case, because it is really only one day that melts into another – yet I feel it is a cause to celebrate.
As a teenager and in my early twenties, New Year's Eve was always disappointing, the evenings never seeming to pan out in the way I had planned. So for a while I gave up on it altogether – until I realised the best way to usher in the new year was by cooking a celebratory meal and keeping it very low-key.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com
Horseradish is the absolutely perfect accompaniment to beef – its deep, sharp, peppery flavour enlivens the meat and shakes it up. I am sure that there are some very good shop-bought varieties of this around, but making your own takes no time at all and I think it is more delicious, fresh and vibrant.
250ml/8fl oz crème fraîche
2 tsp red-wine vinegar
2 inches of fresh horseradish root,
peeled and grated finely
A good pinch of sea salt
Place the crème fraîche in a bowl and stir in the vinegar and grated horseradish. Mix well to combine. Add a little salt and taste; add more if you think necessary.
You can make this in the morning and set in the fridge until you are ready to eat. Allow it, however, to return to room temperature, as food cold from the fridge very rarely tastes its best.
Nutty and sweet, this gratin makes a nice change from the more traditional ones made from potatoes
13/4kg/31/2lb medium-sized parsnips (if they are too big, their flavour and texture becomes woody)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small bunch of thyme, leaves only
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
20g/3/4oz unsalted butter
250ml/8fl oz chicken stock
2 yellow onions, finely sliced
150ml/5fl oz double cream
150g/5oz freshly grated Parmesan
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Peel and slice the parsnips into eighth-of-an-inch rounds. Place in a bowl and season with the salt and black pepper, thyme and garlic.
Add the butter to a saucepan and place over a low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onions and cook until soft and translucent – this will take between eight and 10 minutes. Once soft, remove from the heat and add to the bowl in which the parsnips are sitting. Using the same pan, add the stock and cook until reduced by a third, add the cream and cook for a minute or so longer.
While the stock is reducing, turn the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4.
Pour the stock over the parsnips and toss lightly to combine. Arrange nicely in an oven-proof dish. Scatter over the Parmesan – dot the remaining butter and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until the parsnips are tender and the top golden-brown.
This gratin tastes best when it is still hot, so serve immediately.
Panettone bread-and-butter pudding
I love both panettone and pandoro and would happily eat either every morning for breakfast. The distinction between the two is that panettone is laced with candied peel, while pandoro is simply without. Use either, as suits your taste. The panettone is, I think, best since its warm smell of oranges, vanilla and icing sugar makes for a delicious bread pudding.
6-8 slices of panettone, two-inch thick, crusts removed
Soft, unsalted butter for spreading
220ml/71/2fl oz double cream
300ml/10fl oz whole milk
125g/4oz caster sugar
5 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
The zest of one orange
1 tbsp caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Butter each slice of bread on one side and arrange in an ovenproof dish large enough to sit the bread comfortably
Place the cream and milk into a pan and bring to just under a simmer. Remove from the heat. Place the sugar, yolks, whole eggs and vanilla extract into the bowl and whisk well to combine. Stir in the orange peel and slowly pour the warm custard over the buttered bread. Leave to stand for half an hour. This is important, as it allows the custard to soak properly into the bread. Place the oven dish into a roasting tin and pour enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the dish. Sprinkle over the sugar and bake on the middle shelf for 40 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let stand for five to 10 minutes before serving. Pass a jug of pouring cream around the table for those who want it.
Pickled red cabbage
Both sweet and sour, this is the perfect accompaniment to rich, creamy food.
1 red cabbage, outer leaves removed
1 knob of unsalted butter
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 Cox's apples, cored, sliced into thin wedges
200ml/7fl oz apple juice
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Slice the cabbage in half, and using a small, sharp knife, cut out the core. Now slice as finely as possible. Place a large, heavy-based pan on top of the stove over a medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt but not brown. Add the onion and cook until soft and transculent – this will take about 10 minutes. Now add the cabbage and apple and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring every so often until the cabbage has begun to wilt. Add the apple juice and vinegar and place a lid on the pot and cook for half an hour, by which time the cabbage will be soft and mellowed in colour. Season generously with the salt and pepper and add the balsamic. Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to use. The cabbage can be made a few hours prior to serving.
Roasted fillet of beef
It is imperative when cooking meat to use the best quality you can. Fillet of beef is undeniably expensive – but my theory is that there are certain times when a celebration is called for and it is then worth spending just that little bit more. If possible, look for grass-fed organic beef.
1 tbsp olive oil
1.2kg/21/2lb fillet of beef – ask your butcher to trim the fat
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7. Place a large, heavy-based fry pan over a high heat and add the olive oil. Season the meat very generously all over – this is important, as it is the salt that will help form a crisp crust. Once the fry pan is really hot and the oil is sizzling, brown the meat really well all over without fiddling with it too much – just allow it to get a really good colour before turning and browning the other side. Then remove from the pan and lay on a baking tray.
Place on the middle shelf of the oven and roast for no more than 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minute or two, then wrap in several layers of foil. Leave to rest in a warm place for at least 20 minutes – the longer, the better. Just before serving, remove from the foil and carve into generous slices. Arrange on a warm serving plate and let guests help themselves.