'Chefs Host Christmas Too' cookbook: Three classic courses given a professional update

If preparing a festive feast for the family is not your forte, take a leaf out Darren Purchese’s new book and give your Christmas favourites a professional update

Wednesday 28 November 2018 12:46
Break from tradition and give your turkey a Mediterranean twist this year
Break from tradition and give your turkey a Mediterranean twist this year

For the purists among us, Christmas Day dinner is served at lunchtime, comes in three courses and will leave you so full you can’t help nodding off before the BBC specials start in the evening.

Most feasts begin with something such as a classic Seventies prawn cocktail, which acts as a small warm up to the turkey and all the trimmings, and then finish with some sort of oversized boozy dessert.

Here, Darren Purchese’s second book (following Chefs Eat Toasties Too) takes the stress out of hosting and has turned our well known family favourites into something fresh, with that little chefy touch, but are still recognisable festive dishes.

Here’s how to turn yours into a modern classic.

Sashimi tartare

This awesome starter or snack is filled with flavour and freshness, and is something you can whip up in minutes. Serve this on individual plates as a starter, or in a large bowl with a pile of olive oil croutons for nibbles.


When serving raw fish it’s important that you buy fish that is sashimi grade. Preorder your fish from the market or your fishmonger to avoid disappointment at Christmas. If you don’t fancy salmon, then substitute with sashimi-grade tuna or kingfish.

Serves: 6 as a starter; more if sharing as nibbles

Prep: 15 minutes

600g (1lb 5oz) sashimi-grade salmon, cut into 5mm (¼in) dice
150g (5½oz) assorted cherry tomatoes, cut into 5mm (¼in) dice
1 avocado, cut into 5mm (¼in) dice
1 red bird’s eye chilli, seeded and finely chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp thinly sliced fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
2 tbsp tamari sauce

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and gently stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Break from tradition and give your turkey a Mediterranean twist this year

Turkey saltimbocca

Take a break from tradition and do something different this year. Better than a boring old roast, this is a lot easier to get right as well. Get the prep done ahead of time and your guests will be impressed with the no-stress lunch, cooked and on the table in no time. This is great with cheesy polenta and sweet corn and Brussels sprout slaw.


Free-range heritage-breed turkeys will taste so much better than something from the supermarket, so go and see your poultry expert at the market. Ask your butcher to slice super thin pieces of pancetta for you as well.

Christmas timeline:

Prep the turkey and wrap it in pancetta on Christmas Eve. Leave it in the fridge overnight, then remove 30 minutes before cooking. Make the sauce after you cook the bird, then pour yourself a glass of wine and bask in the glory of turkey lunch. Simples!

Serves: 6

Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes

1 x 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) turkey breast fillet
Freshly ground black pepper
16 fresh sage leaves
12 large, thin, round slices mild pancetta
125ml (4fl oz/½ cup) light olive oil
4 French shallots, thinly sliced pinch of salt flakes
150ml (5fl oz) dry white wine
185ml (6fl oz/¾ cup) chicken stock
¼ lemon
60g (2oz) unsalted butter, chilled and diced

Trim the turkey breast and cut it into 12 equal-sized pieces. Cover each piece with a piece of plastic wrap and flatten it by pounding with a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Season each piece with pepper only (no salt at this point), and then place a sage leaf on top of each one. Reserve the remaining four leaves for the sauce. Wrap a slice of pancetta around each piece of turkey, covering the sage and holding it in place. Preheat the oven to 160C (320F). Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add four pieces of saltimbocca to the pan, placing them sage side down. Cook for 4 minutes before turning them over and cooking for a further 4 minutes. Transfer to the prepared tray.

Cook the remaining turkey pieces, four at a time – you don’t need to clean the pan between each batch. Transfer the tray and turkey pieces into the warm oven, then turn the oven off.

To make the sauce, heat the remaining oil in the pan over low heat. Add the shallots, a few grinds of pepper and a pinch of salt and gently sauté the shallots for 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping the base of the pan to incorporate any bits stuck on the bottom. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, then add the stock and again reduce this by half.

Squeeze in a few drops of lemon juice and add the remaining sage leaves. Bring to the boil, then whisk in the butter, a cube at a time, until you have a smooth and shiny sauce.

Arrange the turkey pieces on a platter or divide among individual plates and serve with the sauce.

Christmas trifle

It simply is not Christmas without a trifle; it makes such a great table centrepiece. The best thing is you can invent your own trifle layers using your favourite sponge or meringue – mix and match fruits, creams, jellies and inclusions – there really are no rules. This trifle is entirely made up of recipes from this book.


Just go for it! I’m using cherries here because they are AMAZING but use whatever you fancy as a fruity substitute.

Christmas timeline:

The best part about this, apart from the taste, is that it can all be made in advance. Knock this out on Christmas Eve and you’ll be winning.

Serves: 12-16

Assembly time: 25 minutes (plus overnight setting and 1 hour chilling on the day)

500g (1lb 2oz) cherries in vanilla syrup (see below)
500ml (17fl oz/2 cups) moscato jelly (no raspberries) (see below)
720g (1lb 9oz) white chocolate and vanilla cream, whipped
2 x chocolate brownie discs, 18cm (7in) diameter
75g (2¾oz) dark chocolate, melted
360g (12½oz) custard
200g (7oz) champagne sabayon (below)

To decorate

Fresh cherries
Cherries in vanilla syrup, extra, drained
Meringue dots
Dark chocolate shards
Edible gold leaf

For the trifle, you will need a 2.5 litre (85fl oz/10 cup) glass bowl with a diameter of 18-20cm (7-8in) to fit all the layers. Drain the cherries and reserve the syrup. Arrange the cherries in the bottom of the glass bowl. Slowly pour the melted jelly into the bowl to cover the cherries. Place the bowl in the fridge and leave to set overnight.

The next day, spoon half of the white chocolate and vanilla cream onto the jelly and spread it out to the edge of the bowl with a spoon. Drizzle half of the reserved cherry syrup over the top of the cream.

Place one of the chocolate brownie discs on top of the cream and push it gently into the cream layer to half submerge it. Spoon the remaining white chocolate and vanilla cream onto the chocolate sponge. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the top using a spoon.

Place the second chocolate brownie disc on top of the cream and again push it gently into the cream layer to half submerge. Spoon on the custard and spread it out to the edge of the bowl before drizzling the remaining cherry syrup over the top.

Spoon the champagne sabayon over the custard, to fill the glass bowl. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour to let everything settle and soak in. Meanwhile, prepare the decorations for the trifle. Make the meringue dots and chocolate shards.

When you are ready to serve, remove the trifle from the fridge. Decorate with fresh cherries, drained cherries in syrup, meringue dots, chocolate shards and gold leaf.

Cherries in vanilla syrup


Pectin is a natural gelling agent used to help thicken jams made with fruits that are low in natural pectin. You can buy pectin from supermarkets, health food stores, specialised food ingredient stores or online. It’s natural, vegan and gluten free.

Christmas timeline:

Cherry season in Oz is around Christmas time, so you can make these a couple of weeks into December. July in Europe, and May to August in the US, are the best times for cherries.

Stored correctly in sterilised jars in the pantry, these cherries will last until Christmas.

Makes: 8 x 200g (7oz) jars

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

30g (1oz) pectin
500g (1lb 2oz) caster (superfine) sugar
500ml (17fl oz/2 cups) water
2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped
About 2.5kg (5½lb) fresh cherries, pitted (you need 2kg/4lb 6oz pitted cherries)
Juice of 1 lemon

Mix the pectin with the sugar and add this to a large saucepan with the water and vanilla seeds. Whisk to combine well. Place the pan over medium heat and bring the syrup to the boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes, or until the syrup starts to thicken.

Add the pitted cherries and stir gently until the syrup comes to the boil again, then turn off the heat. Stir in the lemon juice. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the cherries and syrup into sterilised jars and seal. Store in the pantry for up to 6 months. Refrigerate after opening and use within a week.

Champagne sabayon

Makes 500g (1lb 2oz)

180ml (6fl oz/¾ cup) thickened (whipping) cream
150ml (5fl oz) champagne or sparkling wine
5 egg yolks
70g (2½oz) caster (superfine) sugar

Whisk the cream in a bowl until you have a thick ribbon. Refrigerate until needed. Put the champagne, egg yolks and sugar in a large metal bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, ensuring the base of the bowl isn’t touching the water. Whisk by hand for 3-4 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and pale.

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk by hand for a further minute. Chill the bowl in the fridge for 5 minutes and then gently fold in the cream. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve within an hour

Moscato and raspberry jelly

Christmas timeline:

Make the jelly the day before. Don’t leave it too late – you don’t want a sloppy mess as your table centrepiece.

Serves: 6-8

Prep: 30 minutes (plus setting times for each layer)
Cook: 5 minutes

20 gold-strength gelatine leaves
250ml (8½fl oz/1 cup) cold tap water 
2 x 750ml (25½fl oz) bottles moscato or pink sparkling wine 
500g (1lb 2oz) caster (superfine) sugar 
500g (1lb 2oz) fresh raspberries fresh raspberries or champagne sabayon, to serve

Soak the gelatine leaves in a shallow container with the cold water for 4 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, heat the moscato and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Turn the heat off just before the mixture starts to simmer. Stir to dissolve the sugar but don’t whisk, as you don’t want air bubbles in the mix. Add the gelatine and water mixture to the hot liquid in the pan and stir gently to melt the gelatine.

Strain the jelly through a sieve into a large jug or bowl. Add the gelatine and water mixture to the hot liquid in the pan and stir gently to melt the gelatine. Strain the jelly through a sieve into a large jug or bowl.

Pour a quarter of the jelly into a 3 litre (101fl oz/12 cup) jelly mould. Use any shape you like. Place the jelly in the fridge to start to set. Keep checking the jelly and when it has just set but is still wobbly (after around 1 hour), remove from the fridge and scatter a quarter of the raspberries over the surface of the jelly.

Top up with another quarter of the jelly mix and again place in the fridge to set, then scatter another quarter of the raspberries over the top.

Repeat this step twice more, to use all of the jelly and raspberries. Place in the fridge, preferably overnight, to fully set. Top with additional berries and serve with vanilla sauce or champagne sabayon.

Chef’s note: I always use leaf gelatine and prefer gold strength, but don’t stress if you can’t find that. You need about 45g (1½oz) of gelatine leaves for this recipe, so if you have bronze, titanium or silver gelatine leaves, that’s fine, just use 45g (1½oz).

If you are using powdered gelatine, then read the back of the pack to work out how much you will need to set around 2.25 litres (76fl oz/ 9 cups) of liquid.

Chefs Host Christmas Too’ by Darren Purchese (Hardie Grant, £12.99)

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