Each year I do a Xmas menu, but this year it’s going to be shot at an interior designer’s house instead of mine (yay!). My brief is different, too – simple but classy, and not too expensive.I’ve been planning and preparing some ideas to fit; obviously there aren’t any hard and fast rules, but I do like the idea that Christmas dinner doesn’t have to break the bank and that it doesn’t have to be an enormous effort on the day.First up, rhubarb champagne; something that oldies and even tots can enjoy, and if something stronger is needed, it’s easy to add a dash of imagination to individual glasses.It’s pink, fizzy, and looks expensive if served in an appropriate glass.Rhubarb is in season at the moment, so it’s a great opportunity to make some ahead of time. I was just a wee bit worried that it’s still a bit cool for the fermentation to happen within my time frame, but I needn’t have worried – I just helped it along a little by putting it the linen cupboard with the hot water cylinder, and sure enough – 3 days fermenting with natural yeasts from the rhubarb and lemon, then strained and bottled, back for another 3 days and voila!
The photo hasn’t come out quite as pink and gorgeous as it is in reality, but the ‘champagne’ does taste quite exotic. This recipe will be in my new book, but I have posted the recipe already – refer to my blog on Rhubarb Champagne and Chocolate Beetroot Cake.
I’ve also been working on a very simple but great tasting entree of stuffed mushrooms en croute, ( they can be made the night before) then the main course will be a marinated sliced salmon dish and a spreadeagled chicken, both with a nod to Asian flavours, and some lovely salads and veg, of course. The dessert will be really, really simple; two different ‘good time meringues’ served with lots of fresh berries (all reds, black, purples and pink from watermelon balls) and softly whipped cream or creme fraiche.
A friend made some meringues with melted chococlate swirled through last summer, and I always meant to ask her for the recipe. However, I figured they can’t be too difficult and they weren’t; I just used my faithful old meringue recipe from 25 years ago, melted some chocolate and swirled it through at the last minute, then baked the meringues a bit longer than usual. They were scrumptious; I’m always a sucker for meringues, especially when they’re crisp outside and marshmallow inside.
My lovely editor came up with the idea of teaming them with pink meringues, flavoured with a little rosewater and dried strawberries. I have to say they were very good indeed, although the photo shows them before cooking. I wasn’t too keen on using pink food colouring so on my first try I used freeze dried plum powder. Unfortunately the colour faded with cooking, though, so food colouring it will have to be. . .