Tips for cooking Christmas dinner
One of my favorite cocktails is a dry vodka martini with olives stuffed with blue cheese. I often joke that my perfect martini is just vodka poured into a bowl of olives and shaken over ice. But blue cheese and olives add a festive touch and can be used as a snack. However, if I did more than one, my productivity levels would plummet, and no one would be able to make dinner! To make it, stuff three green olives with blue cheese (such as Stilton, Roquefort, or Gorgonzola) and string them onto a cocktail stick. Shake 60ml of vodka and a tablespoon of vermouth over ice in a cocktail shaker, adding a splash of olive brine if you like. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with stuffed olives when serving.
Sauternes is a great combination with cheese. I love a bottle of this because the honey and dried apricot notes work so well with the salty flavors. It’s also great with prosciutto if, like me, you add cured meats to your cheese board. I made medlar jelly with some fruit from our tree at home, which is the perfect addition, as well as lots of crunchy biscuits.
New Year’s Eve always calls for champagne. I love English sparkling wines and Rathfinny’s Classic Cuvée is my current favourite. They have a stunning vineyard near the Sussex coast where you can book a tasting and eat in their excellent restaurant. I also love XO Café’s Patron Tequila, which is the perfect party drink. My friends and I are still mourning its discontinuation, but there are a few places you can still get it, like The Whiskey Exchange. Fortunately, we all bought a fair amount of it a couple of years ago and are still working our way through the stock. I usually drink it clean and iced or use it to make an espresso martini.
I prefer the “picky parts” of dinner in New York. I’ll make appetizers like blinis with cream cheese, smoked salmon, brie, and cranberries. Plus, my Spicy Parmesan Cookies are perfect with Champagne. To make them (this recipe makes 20), soften 85 grams of unsalted butter and mix with 90 grams of grated Parmesan cheese. Mix 105 grams of plain flour with 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and form the dough, adding small amounts of one beaten egg to help it come together. Stop adding the egg before it gets too sticky (you’ll probably only need half an egg). Turn the dough out onto a piece of cling film and use to form a long sausage (about 9 inches). Roll and twist it to form an even log. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes while the oven preheats to 175°C/gas mark 3. Brush the dough with the egg yolk and roll out 3 tablespoons of sesame or nigella to form a crust, then cut into thin circles and place. On a greased baking tray. Bake the cookies in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they rise slightly and turn golden brown. Allow them to harden for 10 minutes before serving.
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