Fried Catfish w/ Homemade Tartar Sauce!

Fried Catfish w/ Homemade Tartar Sauce!

Smashed roast potatoes with three dips recipe

Smashed roast potatoes with three dips recipe

December 5, 2021 Comments Off on Three Christmas recipes to share with friends Christmas Recipes, Recipes

Three Christmas recipes to share with friends

Three Christmas recipes to share with friends

It isn’t just what we cook that changes – nowadays, I can find anything, Vietnamese fish sauce, Sichuan chilli bean paste, colatura di alici (gorgeous essence of anchovies), all of which satisfy my curiosity about food from other cultures – but how we cook. How we cook depends on the fashion of the times – fashions in food shift as readily as those on the catwalk – and where we are in our individual lives. When I first thought about this pre-Christmas meal for friends, I came up with menus that took effort. We’ll have venison, I thought, or partridge. Something a bit posh; something where I can flex my culinary muscles.

Then I felt exhausted at the prospect. It made me reflect on how I’ve cooked for friends at different times of my life. In my 20s, cooking was about teaching myself. I worked my way through classic French dishes, then aped the nouvelle-cuisine style in vogue at the time (yes, I own Anton Mosimann’s Cuisine à la Carte and made more reduced veal stock than should be possible while holding down a regular job). I was in training, equipping myself with all the techniques I thought I needed. I didn’t really consider what friends wanted to eat; I expected them to come along for the ride and enjoy it. This was only possible because I didn’t have children. The childless can serve warm crêpe-wrapped fish terrine in a rich pool of beurre blanc (and take a bow).

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In my 30s, influenced by Alice Waters, I started to cook in the Californian style. This was simpler – there was lots of grilling, salads (figs and goat’s cheese ruled) and low-effort but poetic puddings (Alice thought a bowl of cherries with almond biscuits was perfect). You had to get your hands on excellent ingredients, but it was less labour-intensive than making lobster à l’Américaine.

By my mid-40s, I was divorced and cooking for my own children and those of my new partner. This meant making ‘family’ dishes: food that would most please these different people with their very different tastes. There were endless roast chickens, too much pasta and spins on shepherd’s pie, fish pie, fish cakes – old-fashioned ‘British’ dishes they all knew from school. I always seemed to be putting huge pots on the table, wiping my brow and reaching for wine.

I’m in my 50s now. I don’t care about trends, but I still want to cook the food of other countries. I don’t avoid complicated dishes, but I’m no longer trying to teach myself. I’ve cooked for decades and that gives you freedom. When I invite friends over, I want the food to be good, but it isn’t the main deal.

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The word ‘entertaining’ has gone out of fashion. It makes me think of a sea of wine glasses, etiquette rules about cutlery, the fancy dinner parties I pored over in my mum’s magazines in the 1970s. I want to offer food that makes guests happy, platters that feel generous, good bread and good butter. I don’t want to be an inverted snob about it either. I have had more than one posh boyfriend who thought it was chic not to care about food. (I remember one finishing pasta and mussels with chopped peanuts. That was the end. I care.)

The meal given here feels right to me: a simple salad, soft pasta with a melting beef ragu, ice cream and chocolate sauce. If you don’t want to make ice cream, buy some. Use fresh or dried pasta, whatever you like. Food is not about high jinks and certainly not about showing off. It’s there to oil friendship.

Best Christmas recipes to share with friends

Apple, fennel and kohlrabi salad with creamy caraway dressing and smoked bacon

Lovely and fresh, despite the bit of cream added to the dressing. Halved toasted hazelnuts can be added, if you fancy them.

Apple, fennel and kohlrabi salad with creamy caraway dressing and smoked bacon

Beef shin ragu with pappardelle

An incredibly popular dish in my house, it’s so soft and rich. Beef shin is becoming easier to find in supermarkets, while butchers always have it (including online butchers, which I use a lot these days).

Beef shin ragu with pappardelle

‘Christmas’ ice cream with chocolate and sherry sauce

Sweet sherry, dried fruit and chocolate go really well together. If you’re using shop-bought ice cream, soak the dried fruit then serve the ice cream with the plumped-up fruit and chocolate sauce.

‘Christmas’ ice cream with chocolate and sherry sauce

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