For me New Year's Eve is simply an excuse to have a really grown-up party and to be a bit decadent. It's time to pull the stops out and get in a few luxury ingredients to serve to your friends and loved ones. It is the end-of-year celebration after all, and time to reflect on all that's happened and think about the year ahead.
In my case, this will mean saying goodbye to Caprice Holdings, where I have been working for the past 17 years, and looking forward to my new business projects. I've had a good innings, but now is the right time to move on to pastures new. As you may have read, I had my sights set on The Riverside restaurant in West Bay, Dorset, which sadly didn't work out, but I'm sure something else will come up in the south-west. I have a London site, too, which is going to be in Smithfield Market near my mate Fergus Henderson's restaurant St John. I'm going to re-open it as an oyster and chop house, a bit of old London, with the menu focusing on British oysters and meat on the bone. In case you think that sounds a bit masculine, there will be lots on the menu for the girls, too.
Nothing says "special occasion" like a plate of well-dressed oysters (a selection of oysters is my choice for New Year's Eve). I'm going to do some Maldon and west Mersea rocks served in different ways so that my guests can just take their time and snack at their own pace. Notice I haven't used that ghastly word "grazing" that seems to be the new way to eat. But that's what cows do, isn't it? I'm also going to serve pure Duchy of Cornwall natives because they just don't need messing with, not even a touch of shallot vinegar.
Serve your oysters on crushed ice and seaweed if possible or you could use chilled, coarse sea salt crystals.
Adding a little spice to oysters is rather a nice way to help them down, especially with a glass of sherry. However, I wouldn't interfere with the pureness of natives and recommend sticking to rock oysters for this recipe.
8 oysters, shucked
For the dressing
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
3cm cucumber, halved, seeded and finely chopped with the skin on
1tbsp coriander, finely chopped
The juice of 1 lime
1tbsp red wine vinegar
Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing and transfer to a small bowl for serving. You can either dress the oysters with the dressing or let your guests help themselves.
Oysters with spicy sausage
Oysters served with spicy sausage is traditional Christmas fare in Bordeaux, and is called lou-ken-kas. The contrast in taste between the ice-cold oysters and the gentle heat of the sausage works perfectly. I suggest using the mini cooking chorizo from Brindisa but if you can't find one, then try to find a spicy pork sausage.
I have helped to develop a particular sausage to serve with our oysters with Peter Gott of Sillfield Farm in Cumbria, which are somewhere between a chorizo and a merguez. You don't need a recipe for this dish simply shuck the oysters and serve with the grilled spicy sausages separately.
Deep-fried oysters with daikon dressing
Mark Edwards at Nobu cooked this dish when a few chefs were invited to the Dom Perignon chteau a few years back. It's a simple dish to create if you can get the kadafi pastry, which is a Mediterranean pastry used for both sweet and savoury dishes. It's also sometimes referred to as kadaif or konafa.
The pastry is most commonly seen in the windows of Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern food stores in various sweet and sticky national dishes. It has its uses, though, in snacks or starters like this, so if you find some, then keep it in the freezer for future use. Alternatively, you could use a tempura batter instead.
12 rock oysters, shucked and shells reserved
A tablespoon of flour mixed with a little water to make a thin paste
150-200g Kadafi pastry
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
Wasabi, to serve
For the daikon dressing
1 small firm daikon (white radish), peeled
1tbsp rice wine vinegar
1tbsp shredded coriander
Pre-heat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep fat fryer.>
Cut the daikon into very fine 2cm matchsticks (you can use a mandolin for this if you wish), then place in some iced water.
Remove the kadafi from the packet and cover with a damp cloth while you're using it, or it will dry out before you know it. Pull the kadafi strands apart into sections enough to wrap an oyster in one layer. Rub a little of the flour and water paste on to each oyster and wrap the pastry around each oyster fairly loosely and place on a tray then store in the fridge until required. It's advisable to make these pretty close to serving time otherwise they will go soggy.
Mix the daikon with the rice vinegar and coriander and half fill the oyster shells. Deep fry the oysters for a minute or so until coloured, turning with a slotted spoon during cooking until golden, then drain on some kitchen paper. Put the oysters back in the shell and place the tip of a teaspoon of wasabi on each and serve immediately.
Surf and turf
Lobster and beef may seem an odd concoction, but it's always been popular in the States, and the combination looks great lined up on a wooden board down the middle of the dinner table. If you don't want to splash out on lobster, prawns are a little more cost effective. (Waitrose are currently selling great fresh prawns from the Red Sea.)
Beef fillet can end up being rather bland considering its very high price, and although you are always guaranteed tenderness, you don't get that depth of flavour, which I think is the most important thing. The problem is that fillets tend to get cut out of the carcass while it is hanging, so that no weight is lost, and the trimming left on the meat is minimal. I like to leave the crust and fat on my fillet and as intact as possible, as that's where all the flavour is in the bits that butchers and chefs trim off. So, if you can persuade your butcher to hang the fillet on the carcass for a couple of weeks and not to put his knife to it, you'll be in for a real treat.
1 fillet of beef weighing about 1-1.5kg
4 small live lobsters
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp chopped thyme leaves
1-2tbsp olive oil
100g butter, softened
Pre-heat the oven to 220/gas mark 7. Place the lobsters in the freezer for about an hour (I hate doing this part, but what can you do?), then with a heavy chopping knife on a chopping board insert the point of the knife through the head and cut each lobster in half. Crack the claws with the back of the knife, then season and lay on a baking try.
Heat a roasting tray in the oven for about 10 minutes with the olive oil. Season the fillets and roast the fillet for 30 minutes, turning it 3-4 times during cooking and keeping it rare.
Meanwhile pre-heat a grill, season the lobster flesh and rub the flesh with butter. Grill for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the size and making sure that you baste every so often.
Serve the beef cut into 1cm slices and arrange on a big platter or board with the lobster.
Serve with a simple green salad or maybe roasted endive simply season the endive and roast in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a moderate oven for about an hour until they are caramelised and golden. I quite like to squeeze the juice of an orange or two over them when they are almost cooked.
Prune and armagnac tart
This is a classic, rich French tart that should finish off your New Year's supper perfectly before you get stuck into the real armagnac. You can make it as large or small as you wish by just amending the quantities; I suggest you cook this in an ovenproof serving dish or a non- stick shallow tart tin that you can turn out. The shape is up to you; it can be rectangular or round, or even square if you wish.
200g butter puff pastry, rolled to about 1/3cm thick
1 litre double cream
70g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split, and seeds scraped out
4 egg yolks
20 no-soak prunes just covered in armagnac or brandy and left overnight
You'll need roughly a 25-30cm x 3-4cm deep round tart tin or you could use a rectangular one measuring about 30cm x 20cm. Prick the pastry all over with a fork. Cover with greaseproof paper or foil, then fill with baking beans to stop the pastry rising. Leave to rest for at least an hour in the fridge.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Put the cream in a saucepan with the sugar, vanilla pod and seeds. Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring with a whisk every so often until it has reduced by half and thickened. Bake the tart case for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Discard the vanilla pod, scraping away any seeds and leave to cool a little, then whisk in the egg yolks. Drain the prunes if there is any liquid left (add this to the cream) and dot around the pastry. Pour the cream into the tart and return to the oven for 10-12 minutes until the tart just begins to colour. Leave to cool and serve at room temperature. Happy New Year!Reuse content