New Year's feast: Delicious, but effort-free...

Skye Gyngell's simple yet delicious celebratory feast can be prepared largely in advance perfect for the host who wants to make the most of tomorrow night's festivities
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This New Year's Eve I am going to cook a simple, uncomplicated dinner largely because I feel I've already cooked enough this holiday season. I also want to keep work to a minimum so I can enjoy the evening with family and a few close friends.

Both the first course and dessert can be made in advance. The potato, porcini and rosemary soup can be made in the morning and simply left to sit, covered, on the stove to heat up when you are ready to eat, while the meringues with lemon curd and cream can be made a day or so ahead of time, only to be put together when the time feels right. Which leaves just the main course to be paid attention to on the day.

The cleaning-up is also in my thoughts, and on that score I am most definitely spoilt, as I am used to cooking these days with a team to clean up around me. I feel slightly lost and even a little confused when confronted with a pile of dirty dishes, but fortunately this supper can be prepared in increments.

This dinner may be simple but I don't feel I have compromised on its essence. Warm, cosy and unpretentious, it feels good enough to eat right now.

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

Potato, porcini and rosemary soup

This soup is beautiful, warm and elegant, with wonderful earthy base-note flavours. It does contain very little water and an unusual amount of olive oil, but don't be put off by that. One taste and you'll know it's good for you. We make this soup with fresh porcini in early and mid autumn, but it is just as good at this time of year with dried porcini. Serve the soup simply on its own; it needs no further accompaniment.

Serves 4

180g/6oz dried porcini
300ml/1/2 pint warm water
120ml/4fl oz good extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
6 sprigs rosemary, leaves only
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 small dried red chilli
1kg/2lb Roseval potatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
60g/21/2oz Parmesan, grated
The juice of half a lemon
A bunch of curly parsley, leaves only, very finely chopped

Start by placing the porcini in a bowl. Pour over the warm water and leave for 10 minutes or so for the porcini to soften and for the water to be infused with their lovely, musty flavour.

Place a large heavy-based pan over a low heat, add a tablespoon of the olive oil and when just warm, add the shallots. Cook over a low heat for five minutes to soften.

Chop the rosemary finely and add to the shallots along with the garlic. Crumble over the chilli and stir well to combine.

Slice the potatoes into ¼-inch rounds (do not bother to peel, as the skin is delicious). Strain the porcini, reserving the infused water. Chop fairly roughly and add to the pan with the potatoes.

Add the rest of the olive oil, a good pinch of sea salt and a little freshly ground black pepper, stir to coat and cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Pour in the reserved water and continue to cook until the potatoes are tender and beginning to fall apart. Add the Parmesan and the lemon juice. Sprinkle over the chopped parsley, taste one final time and add what you feel is necessary perhaps a little more pepper and a pinch or two of salt. Ladle into warm bowls and serve. '

Bavette with caramelised endive

Bavette, or skirt steak, is a most underrated cut of beef; cut from the flank, it is packed full of flavour with the added bonus of being inexpensive. Well marbled with fat, it is best marinated for a long time (even for a couple of days) before being seared over a high heat and served rare. Here, I have served it simply with caramelised endive sweet and sharp, it works so well with the beef. It needs nothing else to complete this dish save perhaps for a very simple salad of lamb's lettuce with walnuts and segments of oranges, dressed lightly with a walnut-oil dressing.

Serves 4

1 skirt steak (800g-900g/13/4lb)
2 garlic cloves
140ml/1/4pint of tamari or light soya sauce
250ml/8fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
3tbsp red-wine vinegar
A few sprigs of lemon thyme
A generous grind of black pepper

For the braised endive

6 Belgian endives
50g/2oz unsalted butter
1tbsp caster sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the steak of any sinewy bits. Then separate the thick end of the cut from the thinner end and place into a non-reactive bowl. Slice and chop the garlic, and mix with the tamari or soya sauce, olive oil, vinegar, thyme and pepper. Pour over the meat. Cover and leave to marinate over night or, better still, for a couple of days in the fridge.

When ready to serve, prepare the endive. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Slice the endive in half lengthwise and lay cut side up on a roasting tray. Dot over the butter and sprinkle over the sugar. Season and place on the middle shelf of the hot oven. Roast for 25 minutes or until golden.

While the endive is roasting, heat a grill, hot plate or large, heavy based frying pan. Remove the meat from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and place over a high heat.

Cook the meat for 60 to 90 seconds on either side, remove from the pan and allow to rest for eight to 10 minutes.

Place the marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Slice the beef across the grain into strips. Pour the warm marinade over the meat and serve with the endive.

Meringues with lemon curd and cream

Serves 4

For the lemon curd

The grated zest of two unwaxed lemons
The juice of 2 lemons
125g/4oz caster sugar
3tbsp water
75g/3oz unsalted butter
A small pinch of sea salt
2 whole eggs
4 egg yolks

For the meringues

Four organic free-range egg whites at room temperature
A small pinch of sea salt
240g/8oz caster sugar
1/4tsp vanilla extract
120ml/4fl oz rich Jersey cream, to serve

Heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2. Place the lemon zest, juice, sugar, water, butter and salt into a small heavy based saucepan. Heat slowly over a low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. In a bowl, whisk together the whole eggs and yolks. Drizzle the hot lemon juice into the eggs, whisking all the time, then pour the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens; this should take about five minutes. Pour the warm curd into a bowl and set aside to cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to use. The curd will keep for two to three days in the fridge.

For the meringues, line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and add the salt. Using an electric or balloon whisk, gently beat the whites, slowly at first until they begin to break down and froth slightly. Increase the speed and beat until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time. Finally, beat in the vanilla. The meringue should be stiff and glossy.

Place generous spoonfuls of meringue on the baking tray at even intervals. Place in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 120C/250F/Gas1/2. Cook for 45 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the meringues to completely cool in the oven. Remove and store in an airtight container for up to three days.

To assemble, place the meringues on a plate, spoon over the lemon curd and serve the cream separately in a bowl for people to take as much or as little as they please.

The Forager by Wendy Fogarty

Petersham's food sourcer on where to find a bottle or two to make your New Year's Eve go down smoothly...

Whisky: Both members and non-members can enjoy events at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society's tasting rooms, including this year's Hogmanay feasts. www.smws.co.uk

Perry: Perry from Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire can be sourced from the Three Counties Perry Slow Food Presidium. www.threecountiesperry.co.uk.

Real ale: Real ales, cider, perry and beers from British micro-breweries can be ordered from The Real Ale Shop in Twickenham. www.realale.com

Cider: James and Cathy Lane's Gospel Green Cyder sells out every year as soon as it is released in spring why not start your own New Year's ritual by buying early and storing for your celebration? gospelgreen@onetel.net.uk

Somerset cider brandy: Julian Temperley's 15-year-old Somerset Alchemy is a wonderful English alternative to Scottish malt whisky. www.ciderbrandy.co.uk

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