As featured in Cornwall Life Magazine, December 2017 Issue
Christmas is a time of indulgence; a time when most of us are willing to splash out on the finest food and drink, and spend a little longer planning and preparing memorable meals to share with our friends and families. Yet, with national retailers competing for our attention via sparkly advertising campaigns, it’s easy to forget that local farmers and food producers are still the best port of call for quality and choice when it comes to festive dining.
I’ve put together a few ideas for an alternative Christmas menu, featuring some of my favourite Cornish ingredients. You’ll see I’ve abandoned the traditional turkey in favour of a seafood feast; Christmas is a great time to enjoy the bounty of our Cornish waters! All the fish below can be sourced from Stevenson’s fish shop in Newlyn at that time of year, or visit your local fishmonger. My friend Charles Wharton at Ellis Wharton Wines has also chosen his go-to local tipples for the ultimate indulgent Christmas. Enjoy!
Squid and chorizo tomato & red wine stew, aioli & parsley
I have two young boys so Christmas Eve is a little hectic in our house. Having a really tasty one-pot-wonder on hand – perhaps something you made the day before – is the best way to guarantee we all get to enjoy family time on the night before Christmas. My youngest son Xander really enjoys cooking, so he would love to help me make a tasty squid stew.
Breakfast – Omelette Arnold Bennett (creamed smoked haddock and lots of freshly chopped parsley, spooned into the middle of a fluffy lightly cooked omelette and folded over.)
I like to have a good breakfast on Christmas Day before opening presents and going for a walk. An Arnold Bennett is a bit different but not too rich; that way my appetite will have returned in time for a big feast later in the day. I would have a glass of bubbles with this (see Charles’ recommendations below.)
The main event – Whole roast fish (brill, turbot, hake – whatever your fishmonger has available) and hollandaise sauce, with duck fat roasted potatoes and sprouts served with walnuts and smoked streaky bacon.
Dessert – Chocolate, pear and orange trifle
A whole roasted fish looks and tastes spectacular and will complement the other classic Christmas flavours in this dish. Don’t forget to buy your duck fat from The Cornish Duck Co. and bacon from Primrose Herd – it’s Christmas so only the best will do!
For the dessert try steeping orange segments in your favourite liqueur with thyme, cloves and cinnamon, and layer these with poached pears, chocolate and orange mousse and whipped cream, with plenty of toasted nuts on top for a bit of crunch.
On Boxing Day, we like to have a selection of things to nibble on whenever the mood takes you. From charcuterie, cheese, olives, pates and crackers through to chocolate log (my favourite) and a few other sweet treats too. A hamper is a good way to go – Etherington’s Farm Shop or The Cornish Food Box both do good build-your-own hampers.
Ben’s Fantasy Christmas Hamper…
Duchy Charcuterie Cured Meats
Cornish Blue Cheese
Popti Thyme Savoury Thins
Sisley’s Christmas Chutney
Olives from The Cornish Olive Stall
Nicky Grant’s Chocolates
Charles Wharton of Ellis Wharton Wines shares his top Cornish Christmas tipples…
Tarquins Blackberry Gin
Wrecking Coast Sloe Gin with Cornish Honey
Atlantic Distillery Blackcurrant, Lime & Mint Gin (fully certified organic)
Three completely different drinks but all worthy candidates for the Christmas drinks cupboard. Great for cocktail experiments!
Trevibban Mill Black Ewe Sparkling Brut 2014
Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rose Brut 2014
Both delicious and you can never have too much fizz in your house at Christmas!
Trevibban Mill Black Ram Red 2015
Decant an hour or two before serving to really get the best out of this delicious red. It’s not easy to make good red wine in Cornwall but Trevibban Mill have succeeded.
Fowey Valley Castle Dor Cider
For the rare occasion when you need something other than wine or gin (perhaps a good palate cleanser on Boxing Day.)
Cocktail idea… a Cornish 75!
35ml of your favourite Cornish gin (though not one that has been infused with fruit)
25ml of fresh lemon juice
15ml sugar syrup
Trevibban Mill Sparkling Brut (or any other crisp dry Cornish sparkling wine)
Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup over ice and then strain into a chilled Champagne flute. Top up with Cornish sparkling wine and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
This is very refreshing and should perk you up on Christmas morning if you over-indulged the night before.