A showstopping turkey, gorgeous trimmings, vegan options, plus a big, boozy trifle: Nigella’s menu has it all.
Spiced parsnip and spinach soup
Spiced parsnip soups were a staple of my childhood and teens but this, while inspired by that memory, is very different. It’s rich (though without the butter that was the hallmark of the time), sweet and a glorious snooker-baize green. The spinach improves the texture and taste, adding a robust earthiness, and which, once added, seems the obvious partner to the more mutedly earthy parsnips.
There’s not much that can get me squeezing a fancy-nozzled piping bag, but this recipe compelled me to. Although devilled eggs are a bit fiddly to make, they’re not difficult, and they are always a major hit. As many as I make, I never have a single one left over. It’s best to use eggs that are approaching their use-by date, as the fresher they are, the harder they are to peel. In order to help keep the yolk centred as the eggs cook, leave them lying on their sides in a dish (rather than sitting upright in their boxes) overnight before cooking them. It’s not a fail-safe guarantee, but it does seem to make a difference.
Christmas in a glass
This is just what it says: the smell of the gingerbread syrup as the prosecco’s fizz spritzes it through the air is almost parodically festive. I use the French syrup (Monin’s Pain d’Epices) that bartenders have decorating their shelves and I get it online (£7.74, thedrinkshop.com, a useful source of drinks and syrups), but now there’s a coffee shop at pretty well every corner, it’s easy to buy the gingerbread syrup they use at this time of year to douse their lattes.
Scallops on the shell
I can’t quite believe how simple yet luscious these are. I prefer to get my scallops from the fishmonger for this, which is just as well as I don’t think I could ever get a supermarket to supply me with shells. You don’t need to take the corals off, but I like to turn this into two meals, and fry up the corals the next day with some butter and garlic oil, and eat them squished on to chunky bread or toast, spritzed with lemon juice and carpeted with parsley.
Red cabbage with cranberries
The sweetness of a long-braised red cabbage is perfectly punctuated by the almost scouring sharpness of cranberries. And, if you let this stand a little before serving, they – most desirably – help to thicken the juices the cabbage gives off as it cooks. Indeed, I always make red cabbage ahead of time: think of it as a vegetable stew, which is better, as all stews are, when the flavours are left to mellow and merge with one another. If you are following suit, then you can cook the cabbage for slightly less than its full time, as it will continue to cook on reheating.
Even a small red cabbage seems to make enough to feed an army, but I can’t see the point of leaving half a red cabbage lingering in the fridge. If you’re feeding less than a crowd, just stash what you don’t need in airtight containers in the deep freeze, ready to provide warm succour on cold winter nights.
Spiced and super juicy roast turkey with allspice gravy
My Christmas turkey is the brined one. For not only does it tenderise and add subtle spiciness, but it makes carving the turkey so much easier. How hard is it to fill a pan or large plastic bin or bucket with water and spices and lower a turkey into it? At this time of year, it’s fine just to leave it in a cold place. I sit mine by an open window in the kitchen. It means everyone freezes, but who am I going to put first – my turkey or my family? Out in the garden if you’re lucky enough to have one would also be fine, though the pan must be securely covered: I cover it twice with foil then put my son’s skateboard on top to prevent foxy foraging. Though you might find it hard to believe, a raw turkey covered in brine – with its oranges, cinnamon sticks and scattering of spices – looks so beautiful that I can never help lifting the lid for quick, blissfully reassuring peeks.
Perfect roast potatoes
There are three crucial things that I think make the difference here: the first is the heat of the fat – if it’s not searingly hot, you don’t stand a chance, and since goose fat has a very high smoking point and tastes good, it is my annual choice. The second is the size of your potatoes – you want them relatively small, so that the ratio of crunchy outside to fluffy interior is optimised. Finally, dredging the potatoes – and this is a family practice, inherited through the maternal line – in semolina rather than flour after parboiling, then rattling the pan around to make the potatoes a bit mashed on the surface so they catch more in the hot fat, is a major aid. The roast potatoes become vegan if you roast them in solid vegetable fat or oil.
Celeriac and anchovy gratin
I adore celeriac, and here it lends itself perfectly to the deep umami of anchovies, their fierce rasp mellowed by the blanketing cream. I often make this up ahead of time, and leave it in a cool part of the kitchen for a few hours before it goes into the oven. It can also be left, covered, in the fridge for up to two days, making sure you let it get to room temperature before roasting it. Keep some of the celeriac-cooking water, too, in case it needs topping up.
Butternut with beetroot, chilli and ginger sauce
I don’t think there is a table this bright-hued, rambunctiously clashing, vegan-friendly dish could be on without becoming the star of the show. And, with the deep sweetness of the soft-fleshed squash and the fieriness of the beetroot, chilli and ginger sauce, coolly offset by the tanginess of the oat-milk crème fraîche, it has the taste to match.
It could certainly be bumped up: serve it at a warm whisper above room temperature on a platter strewn with radicchio, lightly dressed and flecked with dill fronds and perhaps a scattering of pomegranate seeds, or hot in a warmed shallow serving dish in which you’ve first tumbled in some borlotti beans (canned is fine) heated up with olive oil and a little finely chopped rosemary. Before you cook the squash (and it’s fine to roast it in advance, then heat it up in a 200C/180C fan/gas 6 oven for 20 minutes or so at the last minute), chop up half a red onion, and leave it steeping in lime juice or red wine vinegar then, just before serving, squeeze it out and gently stir the lucent pink flecks through the borlotti beans before topping with the butternut and its fabulously fuchsia sauce.
A final note on the pink sauce: I’m afraid I must sternly insist you do not use ready-cooked beetroot for it; you simply must roast the beetroot as directed in the recipe, though this can be done up to two days ahead, which certainly makes life easier.
Panettone and Italian sausage stuffing
This is a light, spicy and spoonable stuffing. I go for hot Italian sausages here, since it’s the contrast between the sweet, fruited bread and the fieriness of the sausage that I love; but it would work with the milder variety, too. You can’t, however, substitute normal breakfast sausages: the rusk in them would add too much breadiness; that element is elegantly provided already. If you don’t like the dried fruit in the panettone, then go for a tall, round loaf of pandoro instead. In either case, be sure to brush off all the bits of visible sugar from the top. I just slice off the sugar-covered bits.
Slow-cooked black treacle ham
This slow-baked ham is a revelation. Instead of being boiled then transferred to a hot oven to be glazed, I cook it so, so slowly in the oven then remove to glaze and put the joint briefly back in a very hot oven. The meat is astonishingly tender and carves into thin slices with ease; there is also very little shrinkage, and no wrangling with large joints of meat in boiling liquid. If the 12-24 hours’ cooking doesn’t suit you, you can cook it for 5 hours in a 180C/160C fan/gas 4 oven instead, before glazing.
The juices that collect in the first step of cooking are gorgeously flavoured but very intense. I pour a little of them over the cut slices of meat, but go sparingly. I don’t soak the gammon joint first: this is because I no longer find that the gammon I buy is salty enough to require soaking, but you can, if you or your butcher feel it necessary. Whether you choose a smoked or ‘green’ gammon is a matter of your own taste.
Brussels sprouts with preserved lemons and pomegranate
I have no time for Brussels-bashing bigotry. I like sprouts in their traditional incarnation; as well as roasted till charred in a hot oven; thinly sliced and stir-fried; shredded and in a salad. This exotic casserole is my new favourite way of eating them. You can omit the butter and simply up the olive oil for a vegan offering.
Bitter orange tart
This is more than a simplified revision of my Seville Orange Tart in How To Eat. It uses a crushed gingernut-and-butter base in place of homemade pastry, and is even more acerbically – and excitingly – sharp. I love its cheek-squeaky, sherbetty bitterness, but I serve a small pot of good honey alongside, and urge everyone (to the point of irritation) to drizzle some over as they eat.
Warm chocolate, tahini and banana pudding
A warm, soft and squidgy cake, it is both embracingly cosy and almost regally sumptuous. You could serve it just with crème fraîche, a little bit of tang to offset the pudding-cake’s richness, but I stir 4 tsp of tahini into 250ml of double cream and whisk gently by hand and for not very long, until it’s softly whipped. And I don’t stop there: after I’ve dolloped the tahini cream on to my pud, I drizzle over some (shop-bought, not homemade) date molasses, which is like sticky toffee pudding in syrup form.
A wholly plant-based version of the gorgeous Warm Chocolate, Tahini and Banana Pudding is in easy reach, too: simply omit the eggs and up the bananas to 700g, the tahini to 150g and, in place of the Greek yogurt, I use almond-soy yogurt; dark chocolate chips should be dairy-free anyway, but do check the packet. The pudding won’t rise much without the eggs, but it will taste every bit as magnificent. And the oat-milk crème fraîche you used to make the beetroot sauce makes a fabulous accompaniment to the pud.
The boozy British trifle
I have written so many recipes for trifle, I scarcely dare reiterate my love for it. But this, perhaps the most traditional of my offerings, shows the sensational, time-honoured pud at its glorious, many-layered best: the jam-slashed and sherry-sodden sponge, the sharp fruity layer of flavour-oozing berries, the eggy custard and the whipped cream. On top, my favourite colour combination: the Victorian pink of crystallised rose petals with the tender green of chopped pistachios. Perfection.
Food styling: Emily Kidd. Prop styling: Luis Peral. Photo assistant & retouching: Sophie Bronze. Food styling assistant: Susanna Unsworth. Recipes taken from Nigella Express, At My Table, Feast, Simply Nigella, Nigella Christmas, Cook Eat Repeat. For more, visit nigella.com.