Christmas and food are almost synonymous and it just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t make ridiculous quantities of delicious edibles in the next few weeks which we then spend the next 12 months trying to burn off. So here at SE HQ, we thought it would be fun to bring you a smorgasbord of Sussex Christmas recipes and treats.
Some are tried and tested family favourites of yours truly, some are familiar old friends, some are new and contributed by local producers, and a couple come from an old recipe book and are over 200 hundred years old. They all have their roots in some way in Sussex and I have tried most but not all of them. I’m no great cook but I did invent a couple and they can be spotted by the fact they are very VERY foolproof. With some of the older recipes, you may have to improvise but please, experiment, have fun, discard or just sit down and pig out on them. Bon appetit!
Mackerel paté with Melba toast and apple salad
Ideal for a light lunch in the days after Christmas and very easy to make.
- 400 g smoked mackerel. Try and buy local of course!
- 200 g cream cheese
- 1 lemon
- Fresh flat-leaf parsley
For the salad
- 2 apples
- 1 salad onion
- Baby spinach
- Iceberg lettuce
Skin the mackerel and then fork it until it’s a rough paste. Add to the cream cheese and mix well. Add the juice of the lemon, a little seasoning, and a pinch of paprika to taste. Serve in little dishes and garnish with parsley and eat with toast. For the apple salad, thinly slice the apple and onion. Add to baby spinach leaves with some roughly chopped Iceberg lettuce. Adjust quantity to taste. Add a sweet, light French dressing. Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a teaspoon of French mustard and a dash of honey work well.
A familiar classic with a Sussex twist, this is great for bulking up before a long walk. Feeds 6.
- 350 g Sussex cheddar such as Olde Sussex Cheddar or Sussex Charmer, grated
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp Hepworth’s beer (like their Old Ale)
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp powdered English mustard
- A loaf of sourdough
Mix the grated cheese with the other ingredients (apart from the sourdough). Toast the sourdough and then coat one side of each slice with the cheesy mixture and grill until golden. My husband took one bite of this and renamed it Sexy Sussex Rarebit.
Stewed Beef – Sussex Way
You need to start making this tomorrow in time for New Year’s Day. This is the original recipe as it appeared, with only metric measurements added.
Take a 5kg beef joint and rub well with coarse brown sugar and leave it for two days. Mix together 1 oz (25g) of saltpeter, 6 oz (170g) of salt, 2 oz (50g) of pepper, 1 oz (25g) of allspice, 2 oz (50g) of crushed juniper berries. With this mixture, rub the beef each morning for a fortnight, turning each day and rubbing for ten minutes each time.
At the end of the fortnight wash off the spice, and put the beef into an earthen pan as near its own size as possible, with 1/2 pint of water. Cover the top of the beef with a thick layer of chopped suet and over the pan put a crust made from 1lb (450g) flour and 2 oz (50g) lard rolled out thickly. Cover the dish and bake in a moderate oven for four hours. Let the beef get cold in the pan, then remove the crust and suet and turn out the beef. Serve cold. This joint will keep for a good two or three weeks. Juniper berries are to be found in abundance on the Downs.
I’m not sure how easy it is to find juniper berries on the South Downs but I will be looking!
Thanks to MK Sameulson’s Sussex Recipe Book
Festive Rocky Road
The perfect no-bake holiday treat! You can use whatever festive ingredients you have to make a perfect offering to take to a party or to use up those Christmas sweets and nibbles you have leftover. I have used some of my favourite festive treats – cranberries, pecans, marshmallows and shortbread.
- 200 g chocolate (I use dark as the recipe is very sweet but you could use milk chocolate if you have a very sweet tooth!)
- 135 g butter (again I use salted to cut through some of the sweetness)
- 200 g crushed biscuits (shortbread, spiced cookies, digestives, etc. … when crushing leave some pieces chunky as well as the dust and crumbs)
- 2-3 tablespoons of Golden Syrup
- 200 g of chosen fillings (I used cranberries, marshmallows and pecans – you could use leftover chocolates and sweets, popcorn, Brazil nuts or even Turkish delight!)
- Sprinkles/extra ingredients to decorate
- Line your baking tin with baking paper (use a touch of butter on the bottom and sides of the tin to hold the paper in place)
- Place the chocolate and butter in a large glass bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Then stir and microwave for a further 20-30 seconds if the chocolate has not melted yet. Be careful not to burn the mixture. Sometimes letting it sit for a minute will allow the chocolate to fully melt. Mix well to bring the butter and chocolate together to a smooth shiny consistency.
- Add the golden syrup and mix.
- Add the crushed biscuits and the rest of your chosen fillings. Mix well so that everything is coated in chocolate.
- Tip the mixture into the baking tin and push it into the sides and corners to level it.
- Add a few of the ingredients to the top along with any other items you have to make it look festive! I used Christmas Sprinkles and some gold sparkle dust!
- Leave in the fridge for a minimum of 2.5 hours – but longer if you can.
- Remove from the tin and cut into squares.
Contributed by Lisa Brace and Baked By Me
Orange and port jelly with breadcrumb ice cream and caramel brittle
In our family, we’ve developed a tradition of serving port jelly and breadcrumb ice cream alongside our Christmas pudding.
Ingredients for the jelly
- 2 packets of jelly
- A dash of fresh orange juice (optional)
I normally leave it to my mother to make this and I suspect she has a complicated recipe for the jelly. But I have no time for complicated, so I take a packet of orange jelly (or maybe two if I am feeding a lot of people), a bottle of port and some fresh orange juice. I make the jelly with the port. Simples. I like mine quite feisty, but adjust to taste!
The breadcrumb ice cream is a little bit (but not much) more complicated.
- 75 g wholemeal bread
- 10 g salted butter
- 30 g caster sugar
- 30 g light brown sugar
- 500 ml vanilla ice cream
For the caramel brittle
- 150 g sugar
I confess, that my mother also makes homemade ice cream whereas I cheat and buy a tub of good quality vanilla or caramel ice cream. Use a blender to turn the bread into breadcrumbs – you can leave the crusts on! Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the sugar and the breadcrumbs, and gently coat the crumbs until they are golden brown and caramelised. Leave to cool, periodically stirring them to break them up.
Meanwhile, allow the ice cream to soften by transferring it to the fridge (10-15 mins). When the ice cream is soft and the breadcrumbs are cool, fold the breadcrumbs into the ice cream then spoon into a container, cover and freeze overnight.
For the caramel brittle, line a baking tray with baking parchment, then put the sugar and 4 tbsp of water in a large frying pan and heat until golden brown. This requires an even, steady heat (not too hot) and a degree of patience (I have neither). No stirring, just gentle moving of the pan! Not my strength to be fair. Pour the caramelised sugar in a thin layer over the parchment and leave to set. Break into shards and sprinkle over the ice cream before serving.
Sweet Sussex Blanket Pudding
Need a bit of overindulgence after ice skating and sale shopping? This is the original Sussex Christmas recipe, with only metric measurements added.
Add 1/2 lb (250g) of fine white stale breadcrumbs to 3/4 lb (350g) flour, add 11 oz (310g) of suet chopped very fine and some salt. Mix with two eggs, and a little milk into a light elastic dough. Roll out, and after spread with jam, or golden syrup to within 1 inch of the edge filling (see below). Then roll up in a floured cloth, pinch the ends together, secure the ends, put into boiling water and boil for 2 1/2 hours.
Thanks to MK Sameulson’s Sussex Recipe Book
Fruity Meringue Mess
I always think that meringue is a thing of beauty and relatively easy to make but for this one, I just used a meringue base I bought in the supermarket. I just love the colours of this and its fruit, so it feels healthy. It’s also super easy to make!
- Meringue base (just pick the size you need)
- Mixed frozen berries
- Natural coconut yogurt (I use the Coconut Collaborative’s because it’s plant-based). You could use double cream but I’m not a fan!
- Port (optional but it was to hand so why not)
Measurements will depend on the size of your meringue base. You want a nice heap of fruit on the top. Defrost the frozen berries and drain away excess fluid. Then soak them for an hour or two in the port – as much port as suits you although if you use a lot you may need to drain them again. Spread the yogurt over the meringue base and cover it in fruit. You can sprinkle with icing sugar for added sweetness.
I always get fabulously messy when I make these (and perhaps a touch tipsy).
- 100 g dark chocolate
- 2 tbs double cream
- 2 tbs Brighton Gin
- Zest and juice of half a lime
- 50 g unsalted butter
- Cocoa powder
Fill a saucepan with a small amount of water and heat. Place a china bowl in the saucepan. It needs to be slightly bigger than the saucepan so it sits on top. Slowly melt the chocolate in the bowl and then mix in the cream. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate. Add the gin, lime and butter. Whisk lightly until smooth and slightly thick. Cover and place in the fridge overnight. Next day, use a teaspoon or small melon scoop to sculpt the mixture into small balls. You should be able to make 20 but I only ever manage about 12. Chill in the fridge for another hour and then gently roll in cocoa powder.
Christmas Cold Cream cocktail for Christmas Eve.
- 40 ml Mojo Spiced Rum
- 25 ml Campari
- 20 ml Apple juice
- 15 ml Lime juice
All shaken gently over ice, then garnished with whipped cream and cinnamon in a Coupe.
Contributed by Lisa Brace and The Custom Spirit Company
Favourite drinks of the year?
For your Christmas table, it has to be House Coren’s bubbly Boco. I’ve loved all the gins I have tried this year but for the sheer effervescence of personality behind the brand, it will be Brighton Gin for me this year! Cheers!
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