She wrote Christmas At River Cottage during England’s third lockdown in early 2021, which involved cooking and eating at least three turkeys. “There are probably very few people who could really get through it and still be excited about Christmas,” she says with a laugh. “And I am one them – I probably was the right person to write it because I’m clinging onto the magic.”
Brazier has worked with chef and telly presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage for over a decade, and now she’s finally bringing her festive dreams to life in the cookbook, which is full of Christmas recipes, craft activities and more.
Christmas stuffing recipe
500g fresh or vac-packed chestnuts
2tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 head of celery, tough outer stems removed, finely chopped
12 plump prunes, stoned and roughly chopped
6–8 sage leaves, chopped
A couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
A small bunch of parsley, leaves picked and chopped
100g fresh (or stale) breadcrumbs
50g hazelnuts, roughly bashed, and/or pumpkin seeds (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper
1. If you are preparing whole chestnuts from scratch, make a small slit in the skin of each one, then blanch in boiling water for about two minutes to ease peeling. Drain and, once cool enough to handle, peel off both the tough outer skin and the thin, brown inner skin. Now simmer in unsalted water for 15–20 minutes, until completely tender. Drain and leave to cool. Put the chestnuts (home-cooked or vac-packed) into a bowl and break up roughly with a fork – they should be crumbled rather than puréed.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sweat for 10–15 minutes, until softened and golden. Add the prunes, chestnuts, herbs and some salt and pepper. Mix well and cook for another eight to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat.
3. When the mixture has cooled a little, mix in all but a handful of the breadcrumbs until well combined. You can add a dash of warm water or veg stock if that’s needed to bring it together.
4. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5. Oil an ovenproof dish and pile in the stuffing, packing it down fairly firmly. Rough up the surface a bit with a fork, then scatter over the reserved breadcrumbs and hazelnuts and/or pumpkin seeds if including. Trickle over a little more oil, and bake for about 30 minutes until nicely browned and crisp on top. Serve hot.
Christmas at River Cottage
Red cabbage and beetroot pickle recipe
(Makes a 1.5L jar)
200g beetroot, peeled and grated
500g red cabbage, sliced
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
10g cumin seeds, toasted and bashed
5g caraway seeds toasted and bashed
5 juniper berries, lightly crushed
For the pickling liquor:
700ml cider vinegar
20g coriander seeds, toasted
20g fennel seeds, toasted
10g black peppercorns
1 dried red chilli (optional)
1. First, prepare the pickling liquor. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan, pour on 200ml water and slowly bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for an hour.
2. Meanwhile, put the beetroot, red cabbage, orange zest and spices into a bowl and toss to mix.
3. Bring the infused pickling liquor back to the boil, then pour it through a sieve straight over the veg mix. Stir to combine.
4. This pickle is nice to eat as soon as it cools, but ideally should be packed into a sterilised 1.5L Kilner jar, sealed and left for a couple of weeks. It will keep in a cool, dark cupboard for up to six months; once opened, it needs to be stored in the fridge.
Chestnut and chocolate cake recipe
250g peeled cooked chestnuts (vacuum-packed or tinned are fine)
250g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), broken up
250g unsalted butter, roughly cut up
4 medium eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/Fan 150°C/Gas 3, and grease and line your 25cm springform cake tin.
2. Put the chestnuts and milk into a pan and heat until just boiling. Take off the heat and mash well with a potato masher – you are aiming for a creamy purée, with just a few crumbly bits of chestnut. Set aside.
3. Put the chocolate and butter into a second pan and place over a very low heat. Keeping a close eye, to ensure that the chocolate doesn’t get too hot, melt them gently together, stirring now and then. Allow to cool a little.
4. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until blended and creamy (they don’t need to reach a ‘moussy’ stage). Stir in the warm (not hot) chocolate mixture and then the chestnut purée, to create a well-blended batter.
5. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until they hold stiff peaks. Take one spoonful of egg white and mix it into the batter to loosen it, then fold the rest in lightly, trying not to knock out too much air. Carefully transfer the mixture to the prepared tin. Bake for 25–30 minutes until the cake is just set but with a slight wobble still in the centre.
6. To serve warm, leave to cool a little then release the cake from the tin. Slice carefully – it will be very soft and moussy. Alternatively, leave the cake to go cold, when it will have set a bit firmer.
Christmas At River Cottage by Lucy Brazier and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is published by Bloomsbury Publishing.
Christmas at River Cottage
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