Toni Waterfall: Christmas Cooking Secrets from my Nearest and Dearest

Toni Waterfall: Christmas Cooking Secrets from my Nearest and Dearest

The Other Half: Stuffing

For me, a roast dinner isn’t complete without a quality stuffing – and, coincidentally, my other half seems to agree. The saltiness and texture of it really complements everything else on the plate. We recently treated ourselves to a festive cooking course with Rachel Demuth at Demuths Cookery School in Bath, and she taught us how to make the most delicious nut roast/stuffing that could be used as either.

“A lot of people cast aside the stuffing when it comes to a Christmas dinner – mainly due to the fact there is simply too much going on. But why settle for a dry packet mix when you have put so much effort into everything else? It is actually very easy and you can prepare it long before the big day! These nutty stuffing balls we made, served with a dollop of cranberry relish, also make a great canapé.

My Other Half's Stuffing
  1. List Of Ingredients
  2. 250g cooked beans or lentils, drained
  3. 1 large red onion
  4. 1 tbsp olive oil
  5. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  6. 1 tbsp tomato puree
  7. 150g carrots, grated
  8. 150g celeriac, grated
  9. 1 tbsp zataar
  10. 1 tbsp paprika
  11. 200g toasted nuts and seeds, roughly chopped
  12. Lemon juice
  13. Gram flour
  14. Sesame seeds

Mash up the beans or lentils with a fork then add the cooked onions, garlic and tomato puree and fry for another minute. Incorporate the grated carrots and celeriac and fry on a high hear with the zataar and paprika. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped beans, nuts and lemon juice. Add gram flour to bind and shape the mixture into small balls, before rolling in sesame seeds and roasting at 180 degrees for 15 minutes until golden. You can freeze them when cooled, meaning on Christmas Day you just need to re-cook them for 10-15 minutes!”

The Mother: Triple-Cooked Roast Potatoes

Many of my friends claim their mum makes the best roasties, but I beg to differ. My mum’s roast potatoes are like nothing I’ve ever tried even at the finest gastro pub in town – they’re crisp to the point you can audibly hear the crunch as you bite into one, golden brown on the outside and as fluffy as a cloud on the inside. Again, I expect there has been some trial and error involved in perfecting these, but I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t ask for seconds. So, the winner of the roast potato award is Carol Waterfall – but how does she do it?

  1. List Of Ingredients
  2. 1.4kg potatoes, such as maris piper or desiree
  3. Salt
  4. 3-4 tbsp goose fat

“Really, you’ve got Mary Berry to thank for these – in her recipe she half cooks them before, which means they only need to be re-roasted on Christmas Day for about half an hour. I like to call them “triple-cooked roasties” as they are pretty much done in the same way as triple-cooked chips – and it makes them sound more trendy! Also, I put a few sprigs of rosemary in mine for extra flavour. But the whole idea of freeing up the oven on Christmas Day is their best selling point as far as I’m concerned!

On Christmas Eve, cut the potatoes and place in a big pan with cold water and salt. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes, drain and shake well. Tip them into hot goose fat and roast for only 20-30 minutes. Keep the potatoes somewhere cool overnight, then re-roast on Christmas Day until crisp and golden. Easy!”

The Brother: Brussel Sprouts

My vegetarian brother likes to give his veggies the star treatment at the best of times, but when it comes to his brussel sprouts, he pulls out all the stops. Last time I made them, I used this Ina Gartner recipe, but I still think his win (as much as the older sister begrudgingly hates to admit it). His crispy garlic-roasted sprouts are enough to change the mind of any haters out there – so how does Tom Waterfall get them to taste so gosh-darn good?

  1. List Of Ingredients
  2. 500g Brussels sprouts
  3. 4-5 Cloves garlic, crushed
  4. Good slug quality olive oil
  5. Salt and pepper to taste
My Brother's Brussel Sprouts

“I think I am unusual in that I have always quite liked sprouts, but even sprout-phobics love this recipe, and it has to be my favourite new addition to any roast dinner. The reason being that roasting them rather than boiling them improves both the flavour and the texture, transforming them into a hearty vegetable a million miles from the bitter boiled sprouts many of us remember from childhood.

The process of roasting them actually draws out the moisture and at the same time caramelises the fructose, forming new aromatic compounds, which give a beautiful golden colour and a sweet, nutty taste. This, along with the subtle roasted garlic and quality olive oil just tastes like heaven – if I do say so myself.

In fact, especially in the winter when they’re in season, I like to make a big tray of these to have in the fridge to pick on as a healthy snack throughout the week – they lose their crispiness a bit once cooled but they are still delicious, and packed with protein, fiber, B vitamins, and vitamins C and K.

“Cut each sprout in half, remove any loose outer leaves, then rinse and dry thoroughly – no need to par-boil them. In a bowl, mix the sprouts with the olive oil, then mix through the crushed garlic and seasoning. Spread evenly on a baking tray and roast at 190 degrees C for about 25-30 mins, giving them a good shake half way through to ensure they brown evenly. I like to roast them a little longer than you might think to get them extra crispy and golden.”

The Father-in-Law: Eggs Royale for Christmas Morning

I’ve had many an Eggs Benedict in my time, so am certainly au fait with a good hollandaise. I have made a hollandaise recipe before courtesy of Jamie Oliver, which is utterly delicious but quite laborious, using a bain-marie approach. The Eggs Royale (like an Eggs Benedict but with smoked salmon instead of bacon) I had at the in-laws last year was the best I’ve ever had, so I asked Mick Chapman to spill the beans… apparently it’s all about trial and error, which he’s done so you don’t have to!

  1. 3 egg yolks
  2. 8oz/225g unsalted butter (or salted butter and no added salt)
  3. 1 tbsp lemon juice
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. Pinch of cayenne pepper
  6. Decent size pack of smoked salmon
  7. 6 eggs
  8. 6 English muffins, halved
  9. Butter
  10. Fresh chives or parsley (optional)

“Melt the butter in a plastic jug in your microwave. Take a suitable mug that is as close as possible to the diameter of your blender and put in the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne. Blend the mixture on medium speed for 20 seconds or so to introduce a little air then turn it down to slow (if you have the option on your blender) and start to drizzle the hot melted butter into the mug. When all the butter has been absorbed, carefully remove the blender and taste for lemon and salt as well as consistency – it should be of a mayonnaise-like thickness. You can thin with water if necessary and add more lemon juice if needed. You can then blend a little longer as required.

Tricky bit done; set aside the sauce in a warm place where it will keep for at least half an hour if necessary. Now all you need to do is to start toasting the muffins and plate up the slices of smoked salmon. If you do this in batches of two, your poached eggs can be swiftly microwaved using a microwave duo egg poacher. This is so easy to do and virtually foolproof. Simply add half an inch of boiling water to each cup, crack in the eggs and microwave on full power (900w) for 40 seconds. Of course, you can poach in whatever way suits you best on the day.

Now butter the muffins, carefully drain the eggs and place on top, generously spoon over the hollandaise sauce and garnish with the chopped chives. Squeeze lemon juice to taste over the salmon.

For a busy Christmas morning, this method has the merit of being quick, cuts down massively on the washing up and is a delicious start to the day’s festivities”.

The Foodie Workmate: Roast Duck

The traditionalists amongst you might recoil in horror at the thought of cooking anything other than turkey on Christmas Day, but surely the cook makes the rules? My good friend and colleague Jess Parkhouse explains why duck is her (aquatic) bird of choice…

My Foodie Workmate's Roast Duck (Instagram: @misspskitchen_)

“My top tip would be don’t feel pressured to cook a turkey for Christmas lunch just because it’s tradition! If you don’t choose to eat it all year round, why would you choose to on such a special day?

Sometimes it’s just myself, my partner and my son on Christmas Day, in which case I’ll roast a duck, which is the perfect size for three or four people. The rich meat feels like a decadent treat and goes perfectly with all the other flavours of Christmas. We make sure ours has an extra crispy skin and serve it with a simple berry sauce, made by cooking blackberries in a little sugar, before crushing them with a fork and simmering with some red wine, chicken stock and thyme.

If I did have a bigger crowd to feed this year, I’d go for something different and exciting like Jamie Oliver’s Beef Wellington – a guaranteed show-stopper!”

The Foodie Friend: Alternative Christmas Pud

Like sprouts, the Christmas pud is something else that splits the nation. There’s always a couple of people around the table who end up with a shop-bought alternative (usually a lemon cheesecake or chocolate tart if my experience is anything to go by). This year, I’m going to be taking a leaf out of my food-loving friend Meg West’s (cook)book and cooking up this caramelised brown bread (yes, brown bread!) ice cream. Something tells me even the Christmas pud lovers are going to want to try it. Hands off.

  1. List Of Ingredients
  2. 150g brown breadcrumbs
  3. 120g muscavado sugar
  4. 375ml double cream
  5. 300ml whole milk
  6. 1 vanilla pod
  7. 100g caster sugar
  8. 60ml amaretto (or more – to your taste)

“In my opinion, this is the perfect alternative for a Christmas Day dessert, but still has something of a festive twist. The amaretto in the ice cream, along with the muscavado and vanilla seeds makes it an indulgent, creamy and very moreish pud.

Caramelise the breadcrumbs by mixing them with the muscavado and spreading out on some foil on a baking tray. Heat under a grill for approximately 8 minutes until caramelised, then cool. When hardened and cooled, break apart into chunks (your choice on how big the chunks are).

There a loads of ways people prefer to make ice cream, I prefer to make a custard first, then flavour and freeze.

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan with the vanilla pod. Bring to a simmer then set aside for 20 minutes or so. Once cooled a little, scrape out the vanilla seeds and add to the warm cream. Whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar until pale and creamy, then slowly stir the cream mixture into the eggs. Put everything into a pan and back onto a low heat and thicken it until you reach the ribbon stage (or it coats the back of the spoon).

After you’ve left the custard to cool for 5 minutes, stir in the amaretto and the breadcrumbs, then pour into a container and freeze. When it’s almost set, take it out and break it up a bit. Beat it with an electric beater until smooth and transfer back into the freezer to set fully. Serve with brandy snaps (shop-bought or homemade) and a drizzle of caramel sauce.”

The Father: Bubble & Squeak

The best thing about Boxing Day is the bubble and squeak, hands down. I love using things up, especially when it tastes this good. My dad is always in charge of the bubble and squeak and, like Delia Smith, makes for these rosti-style patties. A sure-fire way of curing the anti-climax that can hit us after Christmas Day has passed.

  1. List Of Ingredients
  2. leftover vegetables
  3. couple of eggs
  4. splash of worcestershire sauce
  5. plain flour
  6. salt and pepper

“The main difference is the shape and texture of the finished article; instead of jumbled-up re-fried chunks of leftovers, it actually comes out as neat individual patties with a finer texture.

I put any leftover Christmas dinner vegetables* into a deep mixing bowl and crack in a couple of eggs and a good splash of Worcestershire sauce. The next step is to get stuck in with both hands, squeezing and mashing the ingredients to a fairly fine, but not too smooth, consistency. Form 1″-thick individual patties 4″ or 5″ across and coat in a layer of plain flour mixed with a little salt and plenty of cracked black pepper. Shallow fry in a little vegetable oil until golden brown. Enjoy!

*Imperative to include roast potatoes. Parsnips help enormously, then carrots, sprouts and any other veggies. Throw in some frozen peas for good measure.”

So, there you have it: some top-secret (or not-so-secret anymore!) recipes. Do you have any Christmas cooking tricks you’d like to share – whether they’re your own, borrowed or stolen?

Toni Waterfall

Toni Waterfall – Cookery, Food & Drink A mum with a food-loving family and a part-time pescatarian lifestyle, I’m always searching for delicious and practical ideas to try in the kitchen. My all-time favourite chef is Gordon Ramsay, but I’ve never made a bad meal using a Jamie Oliver recipe. Spaghetti bolognaise is the go-to meal in my household, but I also enjoy cooking curries from scratch – especially seafood ones. I always say that balance and seasoning are crucial elements of getting a dish right. I’m constantly thinking ahead to the next meal and am an impulsive, daily supermarket shopper, as opposed to a weekly bulk buyer.