Christmas Dinner 2014

I can’t resist taking on Christmas dinner, even though last year I ended up with my foot in a bucket.

Christmas is fun to cook because it comes with sufficient scale and budget to make it An Event rather than A Meal, yet it’s a uniquely low-pressure one. Everyone else is relieved that they get to spend the morning eating Quality Street instead, and that makes them an easy audience. You just need to serve up within 3 hours of the predicted time – although I’m proud to say I was less than an hour late this time.

Ah, and the other fun thing about Christmas is the chance to play with tradition. This year, I decided to go Swedish-inspired. (Swedish readers are encouraged to look away now and return for the next blog post, because it was not especially authentic. Especially not the gravadlax, as you will see.) I did throw in pigs in blankets and Brussels sprouts too, as nods to British Christmas. Here’s the menu:

Gravadlax with coriander mustard sauce

Swedish spare ribs
Jansson’s Temptation, a gratin with anchovies
Red cabbage
Pigs in blankets
Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, sage and shallots

Butter saffron cake
Granny Bennett’s Christmas pud

Here’s what the main looked like:

main course

(Pics are by Des. Thanks, Des.)

Jansson’s Temptation was a highlight. Apart from its fabulous name, the dish is very easy, and the kick of anchovies adds interest to a creamy gratin. The ribs were tender, but even after I cut the all-spice by 25% it was still a little too strongly flavoured for our taste. Cabbage, by my sister Susanna, was the crunchy style of red cabbage not the slow-cooked sort and pretty delicious.

dinner table

The starter tasted good, so I don’t count it a failure (hard to fail at raw salmon), but it certainly wasn’t gravadlax. I only read through the recipe properly on Christmas Eve, and found that I was, in fact, meant to cure the raw salmon for about 48 hours and clearly that ship had sailed. I also didn’t have a sharp knife to cut it into the ultra-thin slices required.


The cake was a solid sweet bread-with-marzipan-and-fruit number – other than the middle, which didn’t quite cook through. I’ve found this with large sweet breads before: they need longer than the recipe suggests and are difficult to tell if done or not.

cake 2

I had a panicky half an hour or so about 3 hours before serving time, in which I pondered my pathological desire to place myself in stressful situations. However, this feeling passed and I was reminded of how satisfying I find it to orchestrate a complicated meal. Here’s to more cooking in 2015!