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At this time of year there is a lot of cooking to think about and festive meals to plan. As well as the traditional food for Christmas day itself, there are usually other gatherings of family and friends for which you may want to make a special seasonal meal. These wintery recipes are perfect for such an occasion. Happy Christmas. E.L.

Coq au Vin (Serves 8)

This classic French dish is perfect for a special meal when family and friends are getting together. It makes humble chicken pieces into something rich, luxurious and satisfying. Despite being a bit of a labour of love to put together you won’t be disappointed and the big bonus is that it can all be prepared ahead of time, leaving you free to enjoy the festivities. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and steamed green vegetables. Or, keep it simple and serve with a crisp green salad and crusty French bread.

2 kg chicken joints e.g. thighs and drumsticks
1 bottle red wine
500ml good chicken stock
3 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
3 sticks celery, thickly sliced
20 baby onions or 10 shallots, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
a few peppercorns
a bouquet garni, made with bay leaf, thyme, parsley and celery leaves
2 tblsps plain flour, plus extra
olive oil
2 tblsps brandy
black pepper
1 tblsp butter, if needed
160g smoked bacon pieces
200g button mushrooms
chopped parsley, to finish


Trim the chicken joints of excess skin and fat. Place them in a large bowl, with the carrots, onions, garlic , peppercorns and bouquet garni. Add the wine, cover and leave in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least a couple of hours.

Put two tablespoons of the flour into a small frying pan and dry fry over a moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the flour is lightly browned and gives off a toasty scent. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 160˚ C / Gas 3.

Strain the marinade into a large jug and reserve. Lift out the chicken pieces and pat them dry with kitchen towel. Place the vegetables and bouquet garni into a large flameproof casserole.. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and brown the chicken pieces on all sides then place them on top of the vegetables.

Add the brandy to the hot frying pan and quickly scrape up all the browned juices. Stir in the toasted flour and cook for a few moments over a moderate heat then, little by little, add the reserved wine marinade and chicken stock, stirring to make a smooth sauce. Season with black pepper. Pour this over the vegetables and chicken, cover and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour or until the chicken and vegetables are tender. Discard the bouquet garni.

Check the sauce: it should be smooth and coat the back of a spoon. If the sauce needs to be thickened, pour off the sauce into a medium size saucepan. Cream together a tablespoon each of butter and flour. Over a gentle heat, whisk in the creamed mixture, a teaspoonful at a time, and heat until the sauce is thickened and glossy. Check the seasoning adding salt and pepper, if needed. Return the sauce to the casserole.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon until the fat runs. Add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for a few minutes. Mix into the casserole and return to a low oven until ready to serve. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.



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Parmesan Shortbreads (Makes about 30)


150g plain flour
75g parmesan or strong cheddar, finely grated
100g soft butter
1 egg yolk


Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until the dough just begins to form a soft ball. Alternatively, rub the butter into the flour until it forms crumbs before adding the egg yolk. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and very gently knead to a smooth pastry. Divide the dough into two cylinders, approximately 3cm in diameter. Wrap each in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30-40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180˚ C / Gas 4. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Unwrap the dough and slice into coin-shaped rounds, approximately 1cm thick. Arrange on the tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Chorizo Puffs (Makes about 20)


60g strong plain flour
50g butter
150ml cold water
2 eggs, beaten
75g chorizo sausage, very finely chopped
25g parmesan cheese or strong cheddar, finely grated


Preheat the oven to 220˚C / Gas 7. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Measure out the flour and have ready. Put the butter and water into a medium sized saucepan and melt the butter over a moderate heat. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and immediately tip in the flour. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a smooth ball of paste and the sides of the pan are clean – this will only take a minute. Set aside to cool for a minute before beating in the eggs, a little at a time, to form a smooth glossy paste. Stir in the chorizo and cheese.

Drop teaspoonful’s of the paste onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving an inch between each blob. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until well risen and golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tip: Open freeze the uncooked puffs on a sheet of baking parchment. When frozen, store the balls in a plastic container. Cook, as above, from frozen.

Winter Tiramisu (Serves 6 - 8)


4 eggs, separated
4 tblsps caster sugar
500g mascarpone cheese
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 tsp each, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg
16 Savoiardi biscuits (sponge fingers)
4 tblsps Marsala wine or sherry
50g orange flavoured dark chocolate, roughly chopped
For the spiced coffee:
2 tblsps ground coffee
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
½ tsp whole allspice, lightly crushed
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
3 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
2-3 strips pared orange peel


First make the spiced coffee. Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan and pour over 180ml boiling hot water. Cover and leave over a very low heat for a few minutes but do not boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Arrange the biscuits in the bases of a large shallow dish, or separate desert glasses.

Separate the eggs and beat the yolks with the sugar. Add the mascarpone, orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well to make a creamy consistency. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold them gently into the mascarpone mixture, taking care not to lose too much volume.

Strain the cold spiced coffee into a jug and add the Masala wine or sherry. Drizzle this over the biscuits, then top with the mascarpone mixture. Chill until for an hour or until ready to serve, dusted with roughly chopped chocolate chips.