Five Christmas recipes from Nigel Slater (2024)

Christmas is not one, but many meals. What is more, it seems to start earlier every year. Let’s begin the celebrations with a collection of recipes suitable for bringing a festive feel to any meal in the run-up to Christmas. Some of them are perfect for the day itself, a huge game and sausage meat pie, for instance, or a butternut and brussels sprout custard for those who don’t want to eat meat. Others are suitable as accompaniments or principal dishes. I have also suggested a big winter salad and an ice cream terrine that tastes of the essence of Christmas.

Potato and feta pancakes

I suggest these shredded vegetable patties as an accompaniment to the pie or custards below, but they will also work as a main course, or as a side order for cold turkey or ham.

Makes 6, serves 2-3
potatoes 250g
carrots 150g
olive oil 6 tbsp
eggs 2
feta 200g
dill 3 tbsp, chopped

Peel the potatoes and carrots and coarsely grate them. If using a food processor, use the coarse grating disc as you would for remoulade. Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan, add the grated vegetables and cook for 6-8 minutes until they have started to soften.

Beat the eggs lightly with a fork, just enough to mix yolks and whites then tip in the softened vegetables. Crumble the feta cheese into the mixture then add the chopped dill and black pepper.

Warm another 3 tablespoons of oil in the frying pan, then divide the mixture into 6 patties about the diameter of a digestive biscuit. Press them flat with a palette knife or the bowl of a spoon, then let them fry till pale gold. Turn each one over carefully and brown the other side. Remove with a palette knife or fish slice, drain briefly on kitchen paper then serve.

Green winter salad

Five Christmas recipes from Nigel Slater (1)

Crisp, green and light, this leaf salad could be served after the pie below. I have kept it raw and simple, but you could also add salted almonds, a little goat’s or sheep’s cheese, or maybe some crisply fried bacon or pancetta.

Serves 4-6
brussels sprouts 200g
watercress 100g
little gem lettuce 1
young kale 2 large handfuls
young chard leaves a small bunch
avocado 1
sprouted seeds such as radish, beetroot or amaranth a handful

For the dressing
natural yogurt 6 tbsp
olive oil 6 tbsp
basil leaves 10g

Trim the base of each brussels sprout, remove the leaves layer by layer as far as you can. Cut the hearts in half and put them and the leaves in a large bowl.

Wash the watercress, remove the toughest stems and add the leaves and thin stalks to the sprouts. Halve the little gem lettuce lengthways, then trim the stalk and separate the leaves. Finely shred the kale leaves. Toss together the brussels sprouts, watercress, lettuce and kale and the young chard leaves.

Make the dressing: mix the natural yogurt and olive oil together with a small whisk or fork, then add the basil leaves, finely shredded, and season with salt and ground black pepper. Halve, stone and peel the avocado then cut the flesh into thick slices.

Transfer the leaves to a salad bowl, tuck the slices of avocado gently among the leaves, add any sprouting seeds you may like, then trickle over the dressing and toss gently before serving.

Pork and partridge pie

Five Christmas recipes from Nigel Slater (2)

A sort of festive sausage roll, served as a generously filled pie with pieces of partridge (or, if you prefer, pigeon) breast tucked among the seasoned stuffing. To get a crisp bottom, make the pie on the removable base of a steel tart tin and bake on a preheated baking sheet. The bones from the little birds can be browned and simmered with bay and onion, then used as a stock with their leg meat and some pearl barley or small pasta such as orzo added to make a light but sustaining broth. The pie is good cold, too.

You will need a loose 24cm round tart tin base on which to cook the pie.

Serves 6
partridges 3
bay leaves 3
onion 1 small
red onions 2
carrots 3 medium
celery 2 ribs
olive oil 6 tbsp
butter 20g
smoked streaky bacon 8 rashers
thyme 8 sprigs
rosemary 2 busy sprigs
garlic 2 cloves
herby butcher’s sausages 8
ground allspice ½ tsp
ground cinnamon ½ tsp
ground mace ½ tsp
puff pastry 500g
eggs 2

For the sauce
clementine or small orange 1
dried cranberries 50g
dry marsala 150ml
redcurrant jelly 4 tbsp

Put the partridges into a deep saucepan then pour over enough cold water to cover the birds. Bring to the boil with the bay leaves and the small onion. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid, and let the partridges cook for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and finely dice the red onions, finely chop the carrots and cut the celery into small slices. Warm the olive oil and butter in a large, deep pan, stir in the onion, carrot and celery and cook for 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Roughly chop the bacon and stir into the vegetables. Pull the leaves from the thyme sprigs and the needles from the rosemary. Chop the rosemary finely. Peel and finely crush the garlic then stir, together with the herbs, into the vegetables.

Remove the skins from the sausages then put the sausage meat into a large mixing bowl. Add the ground allspice, cinnamon and mace and season with salt and black pepper.

Remove the birds from their cooking liquor, let them cool briefly then remove the breast meat from the bones. It should come away easily. If not, slice it off the bones with a kitchen knife. Retain the remaining meat, bones and cooking liquor for stock.

Stir the softened onion and bacon mixture into the seasoned sausage meat, mixing thoroughly. I tend to use my hands here.

Cut off one third of the puff pastry and roll it to fit the base of a round 24cm tart tin with a little extra overlapping the edge. You can trim this later. Pile half the sausage and herb stuffing on top of the pastry, leaving 2cm or so of bare pastry round the edge. Smooth the surface level then place the 6 partridge breasts on top then add the remaining mixture, smoothing the top into a dome.

Roll out the second piece of puff pastry to fit generously over the meat. Beat the eggs in a small bowl then brush the edge of the bottom layer of pastry generously. Lower the second piece over the top then trim any overhanging pastry with a knife. Press firmly and pinch the edges to seal. Brush with beaten egg.

Use pastry trimmings to make leaves or holly berries with which to decorate your pie then press them into place. Brush with more beaten egg and rest the pie in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6, placing a baking sheet in the oven to get hot. Carefully put the chilled pie, on its tart-tin base, on top of the hot baking sheet and bake for about 50 minutes till golden. Let the pie rest for 10 minutes before serving.

While the pie bakes, prepare the sauce. Cut the clementine in half and squeeze the juice into a saucepan. Remove and discard the flesh then cut the peel into very fine strips, as thin as you can. Add these to juice, then stir in the cranberries, marsala and jelly. Bring to the boil, immediately lower the heat then serve with the rested pie.

Brussels and butternut custards

Five Christmas recipes from Nigel Slater (3)

You could use this squash bejewelled custard as a filling for a warm tart.

Makes 4
butternut squash 500g (peeled weight)
olive oil 3 tbsp
dried chilli flakes 2 tsp
brussels sprouts 200g
eggs 3
double cream 250ml
rosemary finely chopped, 1 tbsp
parsley finely chopped, 2 tbsp
butter a little for the ramekins

You will need four ramekins or small, ovenproof dishes approximately 9cm x 4-5cm deep.

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Cut the butternut into discs about 2cm in thickness, then cut each disc into quarters or sixths. Put the butternut pieces into a mixing bowl, pour in the olive oil then add the chilli flakes and a little salt and toss together gently, evenly coating the squash. Put the squash on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 30 minutes until pale golden brown and tender.

Meanwhile, cut the brussels in half and cook them for a couple of minutes in deep, boiling, lightly salted water until they are approaching tenderness. Drain and refresh in iced water. Break the eggs into a medium mixing bowl, pour in the cream and combine, then stir in the chopped rosemary and parsley and a little seasoning. Lightly butter the inside of the ramekins and place them on a baking sheet.

Divide the squash and drained brussels between the ramekins, then pour in the herb-flecked custard. Bake for 20-25 minutes till the custard is lightly set at the edges, a little wobbly in the centre.

Maple syrup and fig ice-cream terrine

Five Christmas recipes from Nigel Slater (4)

If you have an ice-cream machine, churn the custard, syrup and yogurt mixture first, then stir in the chopped fig and chocolate at the end. To prevent the custard from curdling, keep the heat low and as it starts to thicken remove from the heat, pour into a chilled bowl over ice or in a sink of cold water and beat firmly and continuously until most of the steam has gone and the custard is smooth.

Serves 6
egg yolks 4
caster sugar 2 tbsp
double cream 450ml
vanilla extract a few drops
maple syrup 240ml
figs 3
dark chocolate 100g
thick, strained yogurt 200g
extra figs and physalis to serve

Put the egg yolks and caster sugar in the bowl of a food mixer and whisk till light and fluffy. Warm the double cream in a saucepan, switching the heat off just before it comes to the boil, then stir in the vanilla. Pour the warm cream onto the eggs and sugar and stir to mix. Rinse the saucepan then pour in the egg and cream mixture and return to a low to moderate heat. Warm the custard, stirring regularly, until it starts to thicken slightly on the spoon then pour into a cold bowl over ice or in a sink of cold water and stir or beat with a whisk to remove some of the heat. Leave to cool a little.

Pour in the maple syrup and combine. Chop the figs into small pieces, crushing them slightly as you go, then chop the dark chocolate into small thin shards with a large knife. Stir the yogurt, chopped figs and chocolate pieces into the custard then tip into a plastic freezer box and freeze for a good 4 hours or overnight. Turn the ice-cream out, then cut into large chunks and pile onto a chilled serving plate, perhaps with a few physalis and more slices of fig.

Five Christmas recipes from Nigel Slater (2024)
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