Happy December 1 everyone! Thanks to The Guardian,
we've found a fun version of an advent calendar to start the count
down to Christmas. They've collected both recipes and gift
suggestions from a variety of top chefs,
including Heston Blumenthal, Raymond Blanc, Anissa Helou, Fergus Henderson, Tom Kerridge,
Thomasina Miers, Hugh
Hopkinson, Cerys Matthews, Nathan Outlaw, Fiona Beckett, Simon Rimmer, Claire Thomson, Frances Quinn.
Feel free to check out the entire list in The
ultimate food lover's advent calendar. We thought the chef's
tips from Raymond Blanc were particularly seasonally appropriate -
check out the poached fruit idea for a clever way to save a bottle
"Always rest your meat:
Whenever you cook a large cut of meat, make sure you rest it after
cooking: anything from 40 minutes to an hour and a half, depending
on the size of the joint. This gives the residual heat time to
penetrate and relax the meat, giving it more tenderness. You can
have your meat cooked at least two hours before your guests arrive.
Once rested, wrap the joint in tin foil and place in a preheated
oven at 50C. This will keep the meat hot, but won't cook it any
more, so it stays flavourful, moist and tender.
Roast joints on caramelised
bones: I always do this, for two reasons: bones
add flavour and create a tasty jus; and the heat circulates around
the joint, cooking it evenly.
Steeped winter fruits: Instead
of poaching winter berries in a large pan in a whole bottle of
wine, put your fresh berries in a zip-lock bag with just one glass
of boiled red or white wine, and poach in a saucepan of barely
simmering water until just soft and cooked through. You really
won't notice the difference.
Sprouts: Don't waste time
making a cross incision on the bottom of all your sprouts. A day
ahead, blanch them gently for three minutes, refresh in iced water
and store in the fridge. On the day, cut the sprouts in half and
sauté them with smoked bacon lardons in a little duck fat until
golden brown, and finish with some chopped cooked chestnuts.
Turkey: At my cookery school, I'm
often asked how you cook a large turkey or goose for long enough to
cook the legs without drying out the breast meat. Well, ask your
butcher to remove the legs, and cook these a day ahead, until done.
The next day, reheat the legs very gently, leaving you time to
focus on cooking the crown to perfection.
Planning: Don't leave
everything to the last minute; spread the load over the preceding
weeks or even month. Got a freezer? Then use it.
Pastry for the mince pies: Can
be made in advance, rolled out to the right thickness and frozen.
Make cranberry sauce a week in advance and store it in the fridge
(if you freeze it, you can make it even further ahead). And make
brandy butter up to a month ahead: roll it into a sausage shape,
wrap in cling-film and freeze until needed.
Salt-baked vegetables: Don't
waste time peeling, chopping and mashing all your veg. Instead,
try something different that saves time and has
a real impact. A whole celeriac baked in a crust of
egg white and salt is a revelation, and easy, too. The same
goes for potatoes and swede. Just don't eat the crust.
Chocolate truffles: For the
easiest chocolate truffles, bring 300ml of whipping cream to a boil
with 15g of honey, pour on to 300g of chopped 70% cocoa (ie
good quality) chocolate, and stir until the chocolate has
melted and the mixture is smooth and amalgamated. This is the
base for your chocolate truffles.
When the mixture has cooled to around 35C-40C, add
whatever flavours take your fancy: orange zest and Grand
Marnier; kirsch and morello cherries; rum and raisins - the
options are just about endless. Once flavoured, pour the mixture
into a small shallow tray, refrigerate until set, then cut into
cubes, or roll into balls, and dust with cocoa powder.
Ham: Replace the traditional
ham joint with two ham hocks: they take less time to cook,
they are cheaper and the stock from the cooking liquor can be
turned into the most wonderful soups and sauces. You'll easily get
two to three servings out of each hock, though I suppose
that depends on how big your appetite is."