CHEF JP’S CHRISTMAS COUP
Our favourite chef has decided that different times require different menus, so here's his somewhat rebellious take on Christmas 2021
With less than a month to go, ‘tis the season of turkeys, glazed ham and roast potatoes – or is it?
Looking back over the past 12 months, I have to admit that it has been anything but a conventional year and, if you’re already out of your comfort zone, now might be the best opportunity to go for broke. Ditch the thoroughly conventional Christmas and dish up festive fare that has more to do with enjoying time in the kitchen and exploring new flavour sensations with friends and family than dusting off those same old recipes that only see the light of day at the end of every year.
With all that in mind, I’m launching my own Christmas rebellion with five totally unconventional seasonal treats that will have you remembering Christmas 2021 for a whole list of new reasons.
Right now, I might be rising a glass of bubbly and wishing you a stirringly good Christmas in the kitchen – but I’m also adding in some great boozy pairings with each recipe.
Again, some of these might be slightly different from the stuff that you’re usually knocking back on Christmas day … but cheers to a wonderful festive season!
KRABI CRAB AND MUSSEL POT
Seafood isn’t usually seen as conventional Christmas grub so this is my ultimate push back against tradition. For me, this is tantalizing Thailand and the perfect excuse to take off my tired Christmas hat and to soak in those sun-blistered fragrances and spices from South East Asia.
This will serve four healthy hungry peeps – if you have more, then simply double it or more….
You will need:
2 kg of cleaned crab (I’m not going to teach you today to clean it yourself as you might run out of data, but make sure its cleaned by a PG aka professional guru)
100g celery sticks
2 red onions
2 white onions
1 can of coconut cream
2 tins of good quality, peeled tomatoes
1 whole garlic bulb
2 Tbsp red chilli paste
2 Tbsp fresh ground ginger
2 Tbsp turmeric
50 ml olive oil
50 grams unsalted butter
20 ml soy sauce
20 ml fish sauce
Include a bouquet garni of star anise and some fresh /dried bay leaves
This is a mild tropical version of the traditional hot crab curry but still has all the flavour ingredients – it’s easy on the tongue, like speaking Mandarin!
The good thing about this dish, is that it is so simple and you don’t need to add in ingredients in layers and then wait three hours for it to cook. You pretty much splash all the ingredients into the pot on medium heat, close the lid, wait for 20 minutes, let the moisture escape, add some fresh coriander – and then put on your bib and get out cracking!
If you would like to add some mussels to your feast, you will need about 250g.
If you going to use the plated pic with the mussels.
Defrost your mussels (I love New Zealand blue shell, but locals are just as good, due to availability) and make sure that they are clean. Boil them is saltwater for 10 minutes. When you see a foam on the top, they are ready. Then, stain the cooked mussels with some lukewarm water. Just before you serve, you can generously add them to your potjie.
By the way, I do recommend a good old-fashioned unwooded chardonnay or, if you want to keep to the strictly island style, an ice-cold Shinga beer. Oh, and a good shower afterwards!
CHRISTMAS GOES VEGEATRIAN – PASTA STYLE
Yup, even if you are not a meat lover, you can still chill and enjoy a good Christmas feast with my gluten free, pasta with golden oldies … turnip, rhubarb, avo and spinach pasta.
You will need:
gluten free linguini
2 x ripe avos
a fennel bulb
Slice both your turnip and rhubarb into bite size medallions, soak them in salt and a dash of light soy sauce just to get rid of that bitterness and tartness. Rinse and place both vegetables on a baking tray with some olive oil and oregano for the turnip, salt and pepper and, for the rhubarb, some caster sugar. Pre heat your oven to 180 and grill for 20 minutes.
Flash fry some baby spinach, coated in some self-rising flour, in some olive oil. Strain and keep aside until you are ready to construct your pasta dish. Starting with cooked pasta al dente, add some coconut milk, the rhubarb, turnips, fresh avo, fennel and sunflower seeds and voila!
Pair this dish with a limestone sauvignon blanc that is crisp and earthy.
VENISON WITH FRESH SEASONAL ASPARAGUS – AND SOME SULTRY TOUCHES
Splash out this summer with sophisticated simplicity. This is by far one of my sexiest, festive dishes!
You will need:
lean game fillet of your choice (you can alternatively use lean ostrich)
fresh asparagus spears
angel hair noodles
Choose your cut (approx. 250grams) and rub with extra virgin Spanish olive oil, some fresh garlic, salt and pepper and some fresh thyme. Let it rest in fridge for about 10 min and then rinse your asparagus and cut the ends of your spears. Place these in warm saltwater and cover with a lid, to slightly seam them. Strain after 10 minutes, remove excess grind and let them rest on some paper towel.
Now, for the fun part … grab that sexy velvety red from the wine rack – yes, you are going to cook with it and drink it! I recommend a nice full bodied merlot or a blended cabernet.
Back to the hob. Add some Kerry Gold butter, it’s just the best in the west, with some vino, beef stock mixture, some chives and salt and pepper. Broil (start with a hot heat, then simmer down) until the mixture is reduced, add your gooseberries, some more butter and some olive oil. Sear your meat on both sides.
In another heated saucepan – yes, you can multitask – add some butter, a dash of brown sugar, lemon juice and pan fry your asparagus until golden brown.
Now, for your starch. There’s a special way to make angel hair pasta crispy. Simply heat a wok with some canola oil and drop the noodles into the hot oil. Flip over and then damp with paper towel.
Your final task before serving is to wrap your asparagus in the prosciutto.
Plate your dish with the fillet resting and nesting on your crispy noodles. Heat up your gooseberry wine reduction and pour over the meat. Add some more berries and season. If you’d like to, you can add a tad of saffron butter.
STICKY PORK LOLLIPOPS
You will need:
2 x 150 grams of lean pork fillet
For overnight marinade:
200ml orange juice
2 tablespoons white sugar
50 grams of pickled ginger
20 ml dark soy sauce
1 cinnamon stick
some fresh cloves
After marinating your pork fillets overnight, assemble your fillet on a skewer and cook on a warm skillet or, my suggestion, a medium open fire. Just as your pork is glistening, pour some honey over the skewers, and serve with some potato mash, Japanese horseradish, known as wasabi, and a side of finely chopped chili, peppadews, and Picante peppers. To garnish, add some fresh radish and spring onion.
Your vino or malt pairing – a crisp white wine if you have to but, for something different, a good Weiss beer.
GRILLED KASHMIR CHICKEN
This is a bit like the Orient Express, but without the chef in the pantry with the cleaver … Seriously, it is actually my fruitful festive rendition of how to make a tasteful, chicken dish in less than 20 minutes which is a huge improvement on creating the inevitable Christmas roast.
This is a true flavour bomb and can be easily done in your back garden over the braai.
All you need is some fresh, free range chicken breast (300g) cut up to fit on a wooden skewer, some flames and some fruit … and a few condiments. But more of that later…
You can marinade your chicken breast overnight with some soy, buttermilk and a dash of lemon juice. The next day, turn on your favourite Best of Cat Stevens (yes, morning has broken), open a bottle of pinot grigio, and start with your basting sauce.
In a mixing bowl, combine the following:
salt and pepper
You can drench your chicken breast in some coconut cream and then rub in the dry mix, coating it with some olive oil. Dip your skewer in some water to prevent it from burning and then thread the chicken.
A tip on getting your fire to the right temperature. If you can hold your hand over the flames for five seconds, then the fire is too hot!
On the side, you can grill some seasonal fruit to enhance the fruit experience. Then, thread your grilled fruit on your skewer, alternating with the chicken. At this time of the year, litchis are in season, so just depip them or grill some pineapple wedges, the natural sugar will glaze them perfectly.
Serve with some peanut butter dipping sauce and garnish with some garlic chives.
Last but not least, I’d like to wish you all a wonderfully tasty Christmas celebration – a time to explore flavours, enjoy good company and savour some good wine … and don’t forget to look out for our last blast – my Dish of the Year!