I like food. A lot. And I also like Christmas and all things Sussex – of course. But equally, I’m not a very good cook and rarely have a lot of time. So I was super excited to catch up with Sussex foodie, Julian Warrender of Ouse Valley Foods, recently who shared her 12 days of Christmas foodie favourites. On the whole, they are quick, easy and super delicious!
Day 1. Warming veg soup
Making soup has the same effect on me as gardening does for others – calming, comforting and creative. Here is my go-to, feel happy soup. Chop equal quantities of plum tomatoes, red peppers, red onions, fennel bulbs into rough pieces and put in a large roasting pan. Finely chop four garlic cloves, two or three hot red chillis, a hunk of fresh ginger and add to the rest of veg. Pour over olive oil – be generous – a tablespoon of brown sugar and black pepper. Cover with foil and roast in the oven until really soft and everything has released a delicious gunge. Liquidise in batches with a pint of strong veg stock, add a bunch of basil in the last batch. Serve with a swirl of olive oil and a handful of crisped capers sprinkled over.
Day 2. Sweet chestnut pud
I am not a great pudding cook, but love that luxurious sweet chestnut paste in tins you can find in delis at Christmas time. Churned into whipped double cream and served in little pots dusted with cocoa and a posh chocolate biscuit accompaniment is my idea of sheer indulgence. To give a boozy twist, add a tablespoon or two of Marsala to the mix.
Day 3. Tangy cheese soufflés
To give an individually made creamy cheese soufflés a tangy twist put a spoonful of Ouse Valley sticky Onion Marmalade in the bottom of the ramekins. I like using Gorgonzola and Parmesan cheese with a pinch of nutmeg for the mix.
Day 4. Christmas pork fillets
Pork has a natural affinity to sweet and savoury recipes, here is a mega-rich and delicious idea. For a Christmas twist take a plump, trimmed pork fillet, make a “pocket” along the whole length and stuff with a moderate amount of really good quality mincemeat. Wrap the fillet in Parma ham and cook for approx fifteen mins, leave to rest for eight minutes. Serve with a creamy stilton sauce and a chicory and blood orange salad.
Day 5. Baked gammon with orange marmalade with molasses and rum
Any of the Ouse Valley marmalades would flatter a ham or bangers, giving a gorgeous glaze to a home backed gammon joint or plump pork sausages – my choice would be Orange Marmalade with Molasses & Rum, I love the deep spiced tones and bitter edge.
Day 6. Cheesy scones with chilli jelly
Savoury scones are so underrated, these little springy cushions are perfect for a winter’s tea time. Make a batch of half-size scones using a strong cheddar. Serve warm from the oven with cream cheese speckled with chopped chives and a good dollop of Ouse Valley Red Chilli Jelly on top.
Day 7. Boxing day fish cakes with tomatoes and red pepper relish
My sons say I make the best fish cakes ever! A perfect pre-Christmas supper or a Boxing Day breakfast would be salmon fish cakes made with 2/3 cooked salmon fillet to 1/3 crushed potatoes bound by a dollop of mayonnaise, one of Ouse Valley Tomato & Red Pepper Relish, a generous amount of capers, lemon zest, black pepper and chopped parsley.
Day 8. Savage pork ribs
Something to eat like a savage, no knives or forks necessary – Marinate pork spare ribs for at least 24 hours in a concoction of soya sauce, Ouse Valley Stem Ginger Jam, five-spice mix and chilli flakes. Cook in an open roasting pan for two hours on a low heat making sure they are turned regularly. Half an hour before ready add the remaining marinade. They should be sticky and tender.
Day 9. Tapenade bites
Yummy bits to have with a drink – Spread a pack of pre-rolled puff pastry with Ouse Valley Tapenade ( vegan friendly), roll both sides into the centre of the sheet and cut into 6mm thick “butterflies”. Space out on a tray and bake for 10 mins.
Day 10. Sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts
Sprouts divide the crowd, no need to be windy about this idea … fry slithers of pancetta in a little butter with garlic, in with the halved sprouts and a generous handful of chopped chestnuts, quick stir around and then plenty of cream and grounds of nutmeg, pepper and salt. Put a generous covering of Parmesan mixed with bread crumbs on top and bake till golden.
Day 11. Easy, cheesy, tasty toasties
My all-time fave quick supper, perfect as a no worry meal when turkey is praying on your mind. Oven toast two slices of sourdough bread, spread one with Ouse Valley Tapenade, a layer of thin slices of roast aubergine, topped by sliced mozzarella. Spread the other slice with Ouse Valley Tomato, Red Pepper & Basil Pesto, torn up slices of prosciutto crudo, topped by sliced mozzarella. Pop back in a hot oven until cheese has oozed over the edges.
Day 12. Indisgestion saver
I am passionate about all wildlife and have a particular care for the birds during the harsh winter months. Like Hansel and Gretel, I carry a bag of grain or bread crumbs in my pocket and scatter it in the woods as I walk my little dog Ivy. So my last thought is for these stoic little feathered friends. Fat balls are so easy to make and one of the most nutritious meals a little bird can enjoy. Melt lard and mix in birdseed, chopped left overcooked potatoes, currants, raisins & peanuts.
Thank you, Julian, this should keep us all happy and fed for the rest of the year. You can find out more about Julian’s range of products at: https://ousevalleyfoods.com/