Nigel Slater's Christmas recipes (2024)

If Christmas was about just one meal, the cook's life would be so much more straightforward. Vegetarian guests aside, we could simply produce the classic Christmas dinner with all the appropriate bells and whistles. Yet part of the joy of the season is that there are so many meals to cook, each of them just as special as the next. Not just family meals, but lunches and dinners for close friends and distant relatives, too.

I generally save the goose for Christmas Day, so pork, beef and game birds get a chance to show themselves in their festive colours for the other Christmas meals. And not just the expensive cuts either. This year I will be serving a rolled belly of pork instead of a more expensive loin, with a double stuffing of seasoned carrots and pearl barley-flecked sausage meat. There will be a cheese course of chicory, stichelton and walnuts, and a trifle with a distinctly British note of apples and custard. As celebration meals go, it is not that expensive either.

The meat is best ordered from your butcher. Ask him for a 2kg piece of belly, boned and with the skin scored ready for stuffing and rolling. Alternatively, you could roast the meat as it is, then cook the stuffing separately in a roasting tin.

Oh and you get lots of gravy with this recipe, plenty for everyone and some left for tomorrow's bubble and squeak.

Roast pork belly with carrots and barley with cider gravy

Nigel Slater's Christmas recipes (1)

Plenty for eight here. I would serve this with the butternut squash below. The recipe makes a good amount of gravy, but the creamy juices from the butternut squash are good with it, too. Some greens such as cavolo nero or spinach would be perfect here.

pork belly 2kg, boned weight, ask your butcher to score the fat
pearl or pot barley 150g
carrots 600g
onion 1 large
a little oil
sausages for the stuffing 600g
small orange the zest of 1
dry (English) cider for gravy 500ml
stock 500ml

Slit the pork just under the skin, between the fat and meat, opening the meat out flat as you go. Set aside at room temperature while you make the stuffing.

Put the pearl barley into a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Do not season. Simmer for approximately 18-20 minutes, till the grains are just short of soft – they should be al dente. Drain thoroughly in a sieve or fine colander.

Meanwhile scrub the carrots, peeling them if their skins are very thick, then boil or steam for about 20 minutes till tender. Mash with a potato masher or in a food processor, keeping the texture fairly rough. Season with salt and black pepper.

Set the oven at 220C/gas mark 7. Peel and finely slice the onion. Warm the oil in a shallow pan over a moderate heat and add the onions, leaving them to cook, with the occasional stir, till pale gold. Put the sausage meat into a bowl, add the cooked onions then stir in the drained pearl barley. Add the grated zest of a small orange then check the seasoning.

Open the pork belly out flat on a work surface, then place two-thirds of the pearl barley stuffing on to the centre of the meat, pushing it into a rectangle the length of the meat and approximately 10cm wide. Spread the mashed carrots on top of the stuffing, then roll the belly carefully, securing it with butcher's string and skewers as you go. Place in a roasting tin, and roast for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 180C/gas mark 4 and continue cooking for roughly an hour till the juices run clear. Remove from the oven and transfer the meat to a warm plate.

Pour the cider into a pan, place over a high heat and boil hard to reduce it by about one third. Pour any excessive fat off the juices in the roasting tin. Pour the cider into the roasting tin along with the stock. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve any pan crustings. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes or until the quantity is reduced by a third. There should be about 800ml which is more than enough. Season and pour into a warm jug.

Beetroot horseradish toasts

I like to assemble these no more than half an hour before serving, but I tend to get the various parts ready to go earlier in the day. Getting the beetroot diced and the radishes marinated means you can leave the assembly to the very last minute.

For the toasts:
baguette or other stick-type loaf 16 slices
radishes 150g
lemon juice 75ml
orange juice 75ml
cooked beetroot 400g
creamed horseradish 150g
radish sprouts a handful

Slice the radishes finely, then put them in a small bowl with the lemon and orange juices. Set aside for at least 30minutes.

Finely dice the cooked beetroot. Lightly toast or warm the slices of bread. Spread the horseradish cream generously over the toasts, divide the beetroot between them, then add the sliced radishes. Place a few radish sprouts on each slice and serve.

Mustard baked butternut

Nigel Slater's Christmas recipes (2)

Lots of sweet, mustardy juices here to spoon over the roast pork.

red onions 2
butternut squash or pumpkin 1.5kg, unpeeled weight
double cream 1 litre
milk a little to thin the cream (optional)
wholegrain mustard 4 tbsp

Set the oven at 160C/gas mark 3. Peel the onions, then slice them finely. Peel the butternut squash, then cut the flesh into thin slices, as you would potatoes if you were making a potato dauphinoise, removing any seeds and fibres as you go.

Layer the onions and butternut slices in a large baking dish, slightly overlapping. Put the cream in a jug or bowl, thinning it down with milk if your cream is very thick, season with salt and pepper and the mustard then pour over the squash and onions.

Bake for 90 minutes or more till tender to the point of a knife. The slices should be al dente rather than soft as in a potato gratin. Serve with plenty of the juices from the baking tin.

Stichelton and walnut salad

Nigel Slater's Christmas recipes (3)

A crisp, refreshing cheese course with crisp pears and chicory. Something to put on the table at the end of the meal. Use Stilton if Stichelton is unavailable.

walnut halves 100g
lemon the zest of 1
lemon juice a little
pears 2
Stichelton 100g
chicory 1-2 heads slim chicory (16 leaves)

Toast the walnuts in a dry shallow pan. Grate the lemon zest into a bowl, then add the lemon juice. Using a vegetable peeler, remove thin slices of the pears and drop into the lemon juice.

Crumble the cheese into large pieces. Separate the leaves of the chicory – you will need 16 medium to small leaves. Place the leaves, closely together, on a board or serving plate. Add pieces of the marinated pear, cheese and toasted walnuts to each one.

Baked apple trifle

Nigel Slater's Christmas recipes (4)

For the sponge layer:
large apples 1kg
plain panettone 75g-100g
dry or medium sweet sherry a little
caster sugar a little to taste
lemon the zest of 1

For the fresh custard (or 500ml ready-made custard)
creamy milk 500ml
vanilla pod 1
egg yolks 5
caster sugar 5 tbsp

For the cream layer:
double cream 200ml
natural, creamy yoghurt 100g

To decorate:
lime or orange zest a little
sugar for the shattered caramel (see below) 100g

You will also need:
6 trifle glasses or a single serving bowl

Score the apples round the middle, then bake at 200C/gas mark 6 for 40-60 minutes or so, or until they are soft and fluffy. Scrape out the soft flesh, taking care to discard the cores, and set aside to cool. (If the skin is tender and pleasant to eat then I would include alittle of that too, cut insmall pieces. But not if it is thick andchewy.)

To make the custard, pour the milk into a saucepan, split the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape the seeds into the milk and drop the pod in there too, then bring slowly towards the boil. When the milk is on the point of boiling – it will be shuddering, bubbles will be visible and maybe a little steam – remove it from the heat and leave for about 20 minutes. This allows the vanilla pod to do its stuff. Lift out the vanilla pod.

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they are thick and pale, then pour in the milk and stir. Rinse the milk pan then pour in the custard and placeover a low heat. Stir almost constantly with a wooden spoon till it thickens somewhat, getting right down into the corners of the pan. The consistency should be that of double cream. It is essential not to let the mixture get too hot otherwise it will curdle. (If it does, then pour straightaway into a clean container and plunge it into a sink of cold water, beat furiously until it comes together.) Leave to cool (it will thicken very slightly, but should still bepourable.)

Cut the panettone into small cubes and arrange them in six glasses or asingle serving bowl, spooning over alittle dry sherry as you go. The sponge should be damp rather than soggy. Pour the cooled custard on top of the cake and leave in the fridge to settle.

Stir a little sugar and the lemon zest into the cooked apples. Spoon the apple mixture over the custard – some of it will sink a little.

Whip the cream and yoghurt together in a bowl. You should stop whipping when the cream will lie in soft folds, only just keeping its shape.

Spoon the cream on top of the apple. Finish with a scattering of suitable decorations such as finely grated citrus zest and pieces of the shattered caramel.

To make the caramel, melt 100g of sugar with just enough water to cover it. Leave over a moderate heat until it melts then watch closely until it is deep amber in colour. Pour on to a lightly oiled baking sheet and allow to set. Shatter into sharp pieces with a heavy object and scatter over the trifle.

Nigel Slater's Christmas recipes (2024)
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