Five foolproof recipes to get you through Christmas (2024)

Claire Ptak’s black forest cake with tahini cream

While there is nothing black forest about sesame seeds, they just taste so delicious with dark chocolate and tart, cured cherries. This is a major update from the classic, but it really works, so why not? This cake gets me through the holidays because it feels like a melding of my favourite flourless chocolate cake from California and a much-loved British cake. I’m always in the UK for Christmas because my bakery is open right up until Christmas Eve and eating this helps me miss California a little less.

Serves 8
For the cake
unsalted butter 150g
dark chocolate 200g, 70% cocoa solids
fine sea salt ¼ tsp
eggs 6 medium, separated
caster sugar 150g

For the tahini cream
double cream 220g
tahini 2 tbsp
icing sugar 1 tbsp

To finish
tahini 1 tbsp, to drizzle
cocoa powder for dusting
sour cherries in syrup 200g (I like Fabbri Amarena, but a good quality supermarket brand is fine)
dark chocolate 50g, 70% cocoa solids, shaved

Heat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5 and butter and line a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin with baking paper.

Melt the butter and chocolate with the salt in a heatproof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally but not vigorously. Once melted, pull off the stove top but keep warm over the water until ready to use.

Separate the eggs, placing the yolks into your electric mixing bowl first. Add 50g of the caster sugar and whisk to pale and fluffy ribbons, until doubled in volume. Remove the melted chocolate from the bain marie and set onto your counter. Fold the whisked yolks into the melted chocolate. They should be marbled and not fully incorporated.

Wash and dry the mixing bowl and now add the egg whites to it along with the remaining sugar and whisk on a high speed until medium-soft peaks form. Do not over-whip. The consistency of the egg whites should resemble that of the yolk and chocolate mixture. Fold the whites into the chocolate until just mixed and pour into your prepared baking tin.

Bake for 35 minutes until puffed and just starting to crack on top. It will still have a bit of a wobble and may be puffing out over the top of your cake tin. Cool on a cooling rack and coax any extra overflowing cake back into the tin. Allow to cool for a good 20 minutes and then remove the sides of the tin and scoot the cake off onto a nice plate to serve. Dust with cocoa powder.

While the cake is cooling, make the tahini cream. Add all the ingredients together in your mixing bowl and whisk on a high speed until soft peaks form.

Once the cake has cooled completely, dollop the tahini cream on to the top of the cake and loosely drizzle the extra tahini over the cream. Add the sour cherries and a little syrup from the jar or tin, and sprinkle the dark chocolate shavings on the top.
Claire Ptak is chef-owner of the Violet Bakery, London E8

Jeremy Lee’s mum’s turkey, barley and vegetable soup

Five foolproof recipes to get you through Christmas (1)

Winter on the east coast of Scotland can be bitingly cold. Hogmanay often saw our garden turned into an ice-bound realm beneath indigo skies. Going out was not much of an option, but there was little need as we devoured film after film, while the smells of Mum cooking turkey broth in the kitchen filled the air throughout the house. While her brood hunkered under woollen blankets, Mum popped the carcass into a large pot with much chopped vegetables and a handful of barley, to be simmered for a fair few hours. The resulting broth was always the dish we craved most over the festivities. Mostly because Mum always made this broth on New Year’s Day, ever my favourite holiday, signalling a whole new year ahead.

Feeds 6-8 with second helpings, or 12 not so trencherman
roast turkey carcass 1, or chicken, or guinea fowl, or pheasant
carrots 4
onions 3
celery 6 sticks
celeriac 1 small head
swede 1 small
streaky bacon 4 rashers
bay leaves 4
thyme and savory 2 sprigs each
curly parsley a small bunch, leaves picked and stalks reserved
best barley 2 heaped soup spoons
leeks 2 large
spring onions 1 bunch

Sit the carcass in a large pot. Peel and chop the carrots, onions, celery, celeriac and swede into smallish pieces. Cut the rashers of streaky bacon into small strips. Tie the bay leaves, thyme, savory and parsley stalks into a small bundle with twine.

Tumble all these into the pot with the turkey. Add the barley. Fill the pot with cold water and bring to a simmer over a gentle heat, spooning off any foam that rises to the surface. Leave the soup to tick over for two hours or so until the barley and vegetables are tender. Turn the heat as low as can be and cook slowly for a further hour.

Trim the green part of the leek and chop into small pieces and chop the white of the leek into smallish squares also. Trim and slice the spring onions thin. Wash these thoroughly and add to the soup 15 minutes before serving.

Chop the curly parsley leaves finely and add to the pot a minute before serving the soup. Bread and butter vital.
Jeremy Lee is the chef-proprietor of Quo Vadis, London W1

Giorgio Locatelli’s risotto alla Milanese con ossobuco

Five foolproof recipes to get you through Christmas (2)

This dish is very dear to me because my maternal grandmother, Vincezina, used to cook it. We always had to sit at the table but when there was a race or a boxing match on the TV that my dad wanted to see, my grandmother would cook this dish and we were allowed to eat it while watching TV.

It’s a very working-class Milanese dish. It can be described as the burger of the Milanese, served in every trattoria in Milan. Italians in the south traditionally have long lunches with many different dishes being shared, however, in the north we have one plate that does everything. This dish is what northern Italian cuisine is all about.

Before Christmas, there is so much to do, so if you prepare the ossobuco in advance, no problem – the ossobuco is actually much better the day after. You can cook the risotto when your friends arrive – it takes 20 minutes. It’s extremely important to spend time getting the gremolata right, this is a crucial part of the dish.

Serves 6
For the ossobuco
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
rose veal shin 6 cross-cut pieces with bones, around 4-5cm thick
plain flour 4 tbsp
olive oil 4 tbsp
onions 2, finely chopped
carrots 2, finely chopped
celery 2 sticks, finely chopped
white wine 1 glass
tomato puree 1 tbsp
beef stock 3 litres
bouquet garni 1 – made with 1 sprig fresh rosemary, 5 fresh sage leaves, 2 bay leaves and 1 clove garlic tied inside a piece of muslin

For the risotto
beef stock 2 litres
butter 120g, chilled and diced
onion 1, finely chopped
superfine carnaroli rice 350g
white wine 1 glass
saffron 1g
parmesan 150g, finely grated

For the gremolata
lemons grated zest of 2
fresh parsley 1 small bunch, finely chopped
garlic 2 cloves, finely chopped

Start with the ossobuco. Season the shins and dust them in flour. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the shins and sauté until golden on both sides. Lift them out onto a plate, then put all the vegetables into the pan and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the wine and bubble up to evaporate, then stir in the tomato puree and return the shins to the pan.

Add the stock and bouquet garni and bring to the boil. Then turn down the heat, cover and cook very, very slowly for 2½ hours.

Lift out the shins and bubble up the liquid in the pan to reduce it to a sauce consistency.

For the gremolata, mix the ingredients together and set aside.

In the meantime, for the risotto bring the stock to the boil in a pan. In another heavy-based pan, melt 50g of butter, add the onion and cook gently until soft. Add the rice. When the rice is warm, add the wine and stir till evaporated. Stir in the saffron, add a pinch of salt and, with a ladle, start to add the stock – just enough to cover the rice. Keep stirring until each ladle of stock is absorbed before adding the next. After about 15 minutes of stirring, do not add any more stock and let it absorb till you have a creamy consistency. Taste some of the grains – they should be tender and cooked, but maintain a little bite.

Take the pan from the heat and allow it to rest and cool for a minute so that it will absorb the butter and cheese without splitting. Quickly beat in the remaining diced cold butter, then the parmesan and taste for seasoning.

Ladle risotto on each plate, place the shins on top with a couple of tablespoons of the sauce, and finish with a sprinkle of the gremolata.
Giorgio Locatelli is chef-patron of Locanda Locatelli, London W1

Marianna Leivaditaki’s deep-fried fish bites with cooked lemon mayonnaise

Five foolproof recipes to get you through Christmas (3)

Christmas for many of us goes hand in hand with a continuous feeling of fullness and gastronomic exaggeration. I love the endless feasts that begin in the early hours with elaborate breakfasts and continue throughout the day becoming richer, more extravagant and definitely naughtier. Even though festive days tend to revolve around meat, I always try and sneak in a few lighter vegetable and fish dishes. These fried fish bites are one of those things that I love including on the table.

Freshly fried, crisp on the outside and succulent on the inside dipped into a delicious lemony aioli make them my perfect snack. Whether you use fillets or fish on the bone for this recipe is completely up to you. Fish on the bone is my preference as I think it tastes better and stays juicier.

Serves 6 people as a sharing plate
vegetable oil 500ml, for frying
fresh fish 500g (such as hake, sole or turbot) cut into bite-size pieces
lemon zest of 1
orange zest of 1
dried oregano 1 tsp
ground cumin 1 tsp
salt to taste
flour for dusting (approximately 200g)

For the cooked lemon
unwaxed lemon 1
sugar 100g
salt 2 tsp

For the mayonnaise
egg yolks 3
water 20ml
dijon mustard 1½ tbsp
vegetable oil 150ml
olive oil 50ml
ground pepper 1 tsp
sweet aged vinegar 1 tsp
lemon juice of 1
salt to taste

Start cooking the lemon for the mayonnaise. Place it in a small pot with the sugar and salt and cover with water. Cook over medium heat for about 40 minutes or until really soft. Place the lemon with a touch of the liquid in a food processor and blitz until very smooth. It should look similar to lemon curd.

If you want to make your own mayonnaise, please do, as it always tastes better. The recipe here gives you a bit more than you need but you can refrigerate it easily for up to three days.

I use an electric hand mixer for the mayonnaise and it works perfectly. Find a glass where the beaters of the mixer fit snuggly. Add the egg yolks, water and mustard to the glass and start beating. Start adding the vegetable and olive oil very slowly while beating continuously. When the mayo is ready, transfer to a bowl and add the pepper, vinegar and lemon juice, and season with salt.

Mix half of this quantity of mayonnaise (keep the rest in the fridge for another time) with the pureed lemon to taste. You may not want to add all the puree as it can become quite strong.

Now fry the fish. Heat the oil in a pan until hot but not smoky. Put the fish in a bowl and combine it with the lemon and orange zest, oregano and cumin. Season with salt and toss in the flour. Don’t shake too much flour off the fish as you want it to have a nice crust. Put the fish in the hot oil and fry all over until golden. Lift out and transfer to kitchen towel to get rid of excess oil. Serve immediately with the sauce on the side.
Marianna Leivaditaki is head chef at Morito Hackney Road, London E2

The Guardian aims to publish recipes for fish rated as sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide

Chetna Makan’s kofta curry

Five foolproof recipes to get you through Christmas (4)

This is a great meal to have in your fridge for the festive period, especially if you are entertaining or expecting guests. I love to have people over during the holidays and don’t want to be cooking while they are here; I want to spend quality time with them and not miss out on the fun. This is great for just those sorts of days, and I always have double quantity of this curry ready in the fridge for that Christmas week. Once you have prepared the curry you can make the koftas fresh or use roasted cauliflower or roast chicken instead. These koftas are great as they soak up all the curry, or served with naan or rice. You can even serve the koftas with a spicy dip as canapés or snacks too.

Serves 6
For the curry
sunflower oil 3 tbsp
cardamom pods 4
cloves 4
bay leaf 1
cinnamon stick 1 small
peppercorns 8
cumin seeds 1 tsp
onions 2 medium, roughly chopped
green chilli 1, roughly chopped
cashew nuts 16
garlic 4 cloves, chopped
ginger 2.5cm piece, grated
tomatoes 3, roughly chopped
water 200ml
Kashmiri chilli powder 1 tbsp
turmeric powder 1 tsp
salt 1 tsp
garam masala 1 tsp
kasuri methi 2 tbsp (dried fenugreek leaves)
honey 1 tsp
double cream 1 tbsp
flaked almonds a handful, dry toasted

For the koftas
maris piper potatoes 2 medium-sized, peeled, boiled and grated
paneer 225g, grated
green chilli 1, finely chopped
salt ½ tsp
garam masala 1 tsp
chilli powder 1 tsp
ground almonds 4 tbsp
cornflour 2 tbsp
plain flour 2 tbsp
sunflower oil for deep frying

To make the curry, heat the oil in a pan and add the cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, peppercorn and cumin seeds, and let it sizzle on low heat for a few seconds. To this add the onions and green chilli and cook on low to medium heat for 15 minutes until golden brown. Now add the cashew nuts, garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.

Now throw in the tomatoes, cover and cook on low to medium heat for 15 minutes until the tomatoes have softened well. Remove from the heat, leave to cool slightly then use a hand-blender to blitz it into a puree. Return to the heat, add the water and bring to a boil.

Add the chilli powder, turmeric, salt, garam masala and kasuri methi, cover and cook on low heat for another 15 minutes. Now add the honey and cream and mix well.

To make the koftas, place all the ingredients of the kofta except for the plain flour and oil in a bowl and mix them well. Once it is all combined together, take a small portion, the size of a lime, and roll it into a ball. Repeat the process with all of the mixture, you should get 18 to 20 koftas.

Put the plain flour in a small bowl and roll all the koftas in the flour; this will prevent them from splitting while frying.

To fry the koftas, use a deep fat fryer or a deep, heavy-based pan. If you are using a pan, pour in sunflower oil – but no more than one-third full. Heat the oil to 170C and fry the koftas in hot oil for two to three minutes, turning halfway, until golden and crispy. Carefully lift out and transfer to a plate lined with some kitchen roll to absorb the excess oil.

Place the koftas in a serving dish and pour over the curry. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and serve.

Both the curry and the koftas can be prepared in advance. Store separately in an airtight box in the fridge for five or six days. Heat both thoroughly before plating up and serving.
Chetna Makan is a cook and food writer

Five foolproof recipes to get you through Christmas (2024)
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