I know that I'm a few days early here, but last week I gave you recipes for an alternative Christmas lunch, so this week I want to look slightly ahead to a delicious brunch for Boxing Day or New Year's Day.
Brunch is one of those meals that we all love but somehow don't often get round to cooking – but at this time of year we often have a house-full of guests and a late and leisurely breakfasty lunch which can roll on into the afternoon (and possibly the evening, too) is just the ticket. Brunch dishes fall into a slightly different category than your run-of-the-mill lunch and dinner fare – they're often a bit more playful and consist of anything from comforting stodge to lighter and healthier fare.
At this time of year they are made from all those bits and pieces in your fridge and pantry that are just waiting to be used up; it's hard not to indulge in the national pastime that is buying far too much food over the festive period.
In fact, I quite enjoy rummaging through people's fridges and creating brunchy dishes out of things that were probably destined for the bin – all those festive birds and stuffings and hams are delicious when chopped up with potatoes and veg and fried with an egg on top.
Spiced prawn soup
If you followed my suggestions for last week and are planning to make the prawn salad for your Christmas Day starter, you can use the leftover shells to make this soup. If you have any prawns left, you can add them at the end with the coriander.
A good knob of butter
500g cooked shrimps or prawns in the shell or prawn shells
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped and washed
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1tsp fennel seeds
A good pinch of saffron
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of thyme
1tbsp tomato purée
100ml white wine
80g pudding rice
2 litres fish stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium chilli, finely chopped
A piece of root ginger weighing about 40g, scraped and grated or finely chopped
2tbsp chopped coriander
Melt the butter in a large, thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the prawns, onion, leek, garlic, fennel seeds, saffron, bay leaf and thyme for 4-5 minutes with a lid on, stirring every so often. Add the tomato purée, white wine, rice and fish stock, season and bring to the boil.
Simmer very gently for 1 hour, then blend in a liquidiser until smooth and strain through a fine sieve.
Add the chilli and ginger and simmer gently for about 10 minutes and re-season if necessary.
Stir in the coriander and serve.
Smoked haddock with creamed watercress
Smoked haddock is a great late breakfast or brunch ingredient; it just has that delicious savoury flavour and the taste is more subtle than that of kippers. There still seems to be a lot of that yellow dyed smoked haddock around which should be avoided as it's been commercially produced and for some reason made to looked smoked by dying it yellow.
About 500g smoked haddock
Milk for poaching
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
A couple of good handfuls of watercress
A good knob of butter
120ml double cream
Cut your haddock into 4 servings and place in a wide shallow saucepan. Cover with milk, add the bay leaf and season – not using too much salt, though. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the watercress and cook with a lid on for a minute, stirring a couple of times. Add the double cream and a little salt and cook on a high heat for a couple of minutes until the cream has reduced and is just coating the watercress.
To serve, remove the haddock from the milk with a slotted spoon on to a plate and carefully remove the skin. Spoon the watercress onto warmed serving plates and place the haddock on top.
I found this recipe in an old Good Things in England cookbook. The recipe dates back to 1845 and I think it's time to revive it. It's a perfect brunchy dessert or even a breakfast dish for this time of year when there isn't any real fruit around.
4 dessert apples, peeled, cored, halved and thinly sliced
30g caster sugar
Crème fraîche or yoghurt to serve
For the batter
1 egg, beaten
100g plain flour
In a bowl, mix the egg with the flour and a little of the milk then whisk in enough of the rest of the milk to make a batter.
You will need to cook the apples in a couple of batches. Heat a little butter in a frying pan and fry the apples on a medium to high heat, turning them as they are cooking for a few minutes until they soften. Transfer to a plate once they are cooked.
Melt a little butter, just enough to thinly coat the base of a small frying pan, preferably a non-stick one. Pour in a quarter of the batter and turn the pan so the batter coats the base. Scatter half of the apples on the batter and half of the sugar. Cover with another quarter of the batter and continue cooking on a medium heat until the batter on the bottom is crisp, then carefully turn over and crisp up the other side.
Slide it out of the pan and keep warm and repeat with the rest of the batter and apples.
Serve with the crème fraîche or yoghurt.
Black pudding hash with a fried duck egg
I've done a few versions of this classic brunch dish over the years. It's a kind of meaty bubble and squeak and perfect for using up bits of the goose, turkey or any other Christmas joint. I've used black pudding here, but the principle is the same with any other meat and the egg choice on top is up to you.
300g black pudding, chopped into rough 1cm cubes
2-3tbsp vegetable or corn oil
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly diced
350g small potatoes, peeled, cooked and cut into rough 1cm chunks or quartered if they are small
Salt and pepper
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 free-range duck eggs
Heat a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil in a thick-bottomed pan and cook the butter gently with a lid on for about 5-6 minutes until they are soft, stirring occasionally.
Then remove the lid and turn up the heat to give them a little colour. Put them into a mixing bowl.
Heat some more of the vegetable oil in a frying pan (a cast-iron one, preferably) until it is very hot and then cook the potatoes a few at a time in batches on a high heat until they are lightly coloured, then add them to the onions. Add the black pudding, mix well and season; add Worcestershire sauce to taste.
Divide the mixture and mould it into four flat, roughly 8cm cakes with the help of a stainless steel mould or simply shape them by hand with the help of a palette knife, then refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.
Press the breadcrumbs into the cakes then heat some oil in preferably a non-stick frying pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side until they are golden and crisp. Keep them warm in the oven once they are cooked.
When all the hashes are cooked, fry four duck eggs, transfer the hashes to warm plates and slide a fried egg on to each hash.