Nigel Slater’s Christmas fruit and nut recipes (2024)

All manner of fruit and nuts lie at the heart of Christmas cooking. Whether it’s a trickle of juice from a brilliantly coloured clementine, the scent of almond marzipan or the waft of sweetness that fills the kitchen as you bake mince pies, nothing spells out the season better.

There are the vine fruits, sultanas, raisins, currants and cherries at the soul of our traditional Christmas puddings and cakes, but also the juice of lemons and oranges in everything from jellies to glasses of mulled wine. There’s the grated zest of small citrus fruits in pastries and pot roasts and then there are nuts galore, from almond paste to spiced walnuts to pass around with drinks.

This month’s recipes celebrate the cheer that fruit and nuts bring to the Christmas kitchen, with a sweet pie choc-a-bloc with dried apricots, peaches and pistachios; partridges marinated with clementines and little buns filled with marzipan for serious Boxing Day bakers. We use apple juice for stock in a pot roast, and make drinks with frozen citrus and berries, all filling the house with the unmistakable scents of the season.

Grilled, marinated partridge with kale

Nigel Slater’s Christmas fruit and nut recipes (1)

Serves 2
partridges 2 plump
lemons 2
clementines 4
rosé or white wine 250ml
red wine vinegar 2tbsp
thyme 6 sprigs
butter 30g
kale 100g
butter a thin slice
olive oil 2 tbsp
golden sultanas a handful

Using a heavy kitchen knife, slice the partridges down their backbones and open them out flat.

Grate the zest from the lemons and two of the clementines into a large mixing bowl. Squeeze in the juice of both the lemons and all four of the clementines.

Pour in the wine and the vinegar, then add the thyme sprigs and a generous seasoning of sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Push the partridge down into the marinade and set aside in a cool place for a good hour or two, longer if you have it.

Place the birds, skin-side up, in a roasting tin. Trickle a tablespoon or so of the marinade over each bird then cook under the oven grill, a good 10cm away from the element, for 10 minutes till the skin is nicely crisped and the flesh is still pink and juicy within.

Pour the marinade into a small pan and reduce to half the volume over a moderate to high heat. Whisk in the 30g of butter and check the seasoning.

Shred the kale finely, cook in the melted butter and oil in a shallow pan for 3 minutes, tossing it gently, then add a little salt and the golden sultanas. Serve underneath the spatchco*cked partridge, with some of the reduced cooking juices.

Raspberry, clementine and ginger

Nigel Slater’s Christmas fruit and nut recipes (2)

A jewel-coloured drink that’s perfect for Christmas morning.

Serves 4
clementines 4
raspberries 300g, frozen
gin 200mls
ginger syrup 100ml, from a jar of stem ginger

For the decoration
ginger syrup
golden sugar
freeze-dried raspberries crushed

Peel the clementines and break them up into segments. Place them on a small tray and freeze them for a good couple of hours.

Put the clementines, raspberries, gin and syrup into a blender and process to a smooth consistency.

Moisten the rims of four glasses with a little ginger syrup then press the rims into a saucer of the coloured sugar. Carefully divide the drinks between them, scatter the freeze- dried raspberries over the top and then serve immediately.

Pot roast pheasant with bacon and artichokes

Nigel Slater’s Christmas fruit and nut recipes (3)

Serves 2
groundnut oil a little
pheasant 1 plump, oven-ready
baby shallots 300g
Jerusalem artichokes 300g
smoked streaky bacon 8 rashers
garlic 4 cloves, peeled
rosemary 4 large sprigs
thyme 6 sprigs
apple juice 250ml

Warm a couple of tablespoons of the groundnut oil in a deep casserole over a moderately high heat, then brown the pheasant on all sides. Remove the bird and set aside. Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4.

Peel the shallots, keeping them whole if they are very small, halved if large, then peel and halve the Jerusalem artichokes lengthways. Cut the bacon rashers into pieces roughly the size of a postage stamp, then add them to the casserole and let them colour lightly.

Add the shallots and artichokes to the casserole, leaving them to turn gold in the bacon fat. Add the whole garlic cloves to the casserole together with the sprigs of rosemary and thyme and the apple juice. Bring the liquid to w wthe boil, return the pheasant to the pan, then cover with a lid and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the bird from the pan and leave to rest for 10 minutes, covered in foil. Taste and season the juices, reducing them a little over a moderate heat if necessary. Serve the bird cut in half together with the vegetables from the pan, spooning over any pan juices as you go.

A Christmas pie

Nigel Slater’s Christmas fruit and nut recipes (4)

This pie just oozes Christmas.

Serves 10
For the pastry
butter 140g
plain flour 250g
icing sugar 50g
egg yolk 1 large
egg a little, beaten

For the filling
dried cranberries 100g
soft dried peaches 200g
soft dried apricots 200g
soft prunes 150g
golden sultanas 200g
pistachios 100g, shelled
jam 150g
honey 150g
cinnamon 1 tsp, ground
allspice 1 level tsp, ground
cardamom 1 level tsp, ground
orange zest of 1
lemon zest of 1
marsala 125ml

For the icing
icing sugar 50g
lemon juice of 1
You will also need a deep 20cm cake tin with a removable base

Make the pastry. Rub the butter into the flour, either with your fingertips or using a food processor. Add the icing sugar and the egg yolk, bring the dough together, press it into a round then wrap it in kitchen film and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Put the dried cranberries into a capacious mixing bowl. Chop the dried peaches, apricots and prunes into small pieces and add them to the cranberries together with the sultanas and the pistachios, lightly chopped.

If you use a food processor, then mix only briefly, so the fruits stay in small pieces.

Add the jam and honey to the mixed fruits, along with the ground cinnamon, allspice and cardamom and mix gently, stirring in the finely grated zest of the orange and lemon as you go. Finally, stir in the marsala and set aside.

Remove the pastry from the fridge, cut it in two, with one piece slightly larger than the other, then roll out the larger of the two pieces and use it to line the base of the cake tin, pulling the pastry halfway up the inside of the tin and pressing it firmly to sides so it stays put.

Pile the fruit filling into the pastry case, smooth the surface fairly flat, then roll out and place the second piece of pastry over the top. Pinch the edges of the pastry together to seal, brush the surface with some of the beaten egg and pierce a couple of small holes in the top.

Bake the pie in the preheated oven for an hour and half, then remove from the oven and leave to cool a little. Run a palette knife around the edge of the pie to loosen it from the cake tin, then carefully remove.

In a small bowl, mix the icing sugar with enough of the lemon juice to make a runny icing. Trickle the icing over the pie, and leave for a few minutes to set.

Warm marzipan buns

Nigel Slater’s Christmas fruit and nut recipes (5)

Designed to be eaten warm, these little buns are no quick treat. But if you have time to play, they are wonderful to wake up to on Boxing Day morning.

Makes 15 buns
For the dough
strong bread flour 450g
dried easy bake yeast 7g
golden caster sugar 2 tsp
water about 350ml, warm
egg 1, beaten

For the filling
marzipan 400g
clementines zest of 2
pistachios 100g, chopped
flaked almonds 75g, toasted
dark chocolate 50g

Put the flour into a large bowl, sprinkle in the dried yeast and the sugar then pour in enough of the water to make a soft but rollable dough. It should be a little sticky. Tip the dough onto a floured board and knead for a good 6 minutes, or use a food mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Leave the dough in the bowl, in warm place, covered with a piece of clingfilm or a teatowel, for about an hour, till well risen.

While the dough is proving, make the filling. Break the marzipan into small pieces and drop them into a mixing bowl or food processor with the grated zest of the clementines, the chopped pistachios and the flaked almonds. Chop the chocolate into small pieces the size of coarse gravel, then add to the marzipan and mix thoroughly. Set the oven at 220C/gas mark 7.

Tear the bread dough into 15 pieces then flatten and roll each into a small disc about 8cm in diameter. Brush the edge of one of the pieces of bread dough with beaten egg, then place a ball of the marzipan in the centre. Bring the dough around the ball of marzipan, pressing the edges very tightly to seal. (A little filling will probably escape during baking anyway). Place the ball of dough into a very lightly oiled muffin tin, then continue with the rest of the dough and marzipan mixtures.

Brush each ball of dough with some of the beaten egg, then pierce a tiny hole in the top of each and bake for 10 minutes till golden.

Eat while they are still oozing warm almond paste.

Nigel Slater’s Christmas fruit and nut recipes (2024)
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