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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Three Easy Christmas Starter Recipe Ideas

Three Easy Christmas Starter Recipe Ideas

The traditional Christmas Dinner main course is a huge meal in itself, especially when followed by Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies.  Then there will be the never-ending rolling feast the rest of the day brings, with the succession of cheeses, the sausage rolls, the cold cuts, the pickles, the Christmas cake, even the first-of-the-season turkey and stuffing sandwiches around ten pm, after granny has gone to bed, with just another glass of something.  A starter may seem unnecessary, or even greedy, but this is that once-a-year feast; one of those few occasions where we can really celebrate at home with our family and friends.  The right starter, light and easy to prepare, sets the scene, gives us all a few moments with each other before the Big Bird and the tureens of veg come to the table, and tickles the tastebuds for the rest of the meal.

Here are three light and easy starters: one can be mostly made ahead of time (and there is an acceptable cheat to make it even easier) with a ten-minute reheat-and-cook while the turkey is resting, one can be completely made earlier and simply plated with a little garnish just before serving, and the other is just a simple assembly job that can be done in minutes, as long as you do a little bit of prep at a convenient moment beforehand.

Christmas Starter One: Apple and Celery Soup

Ingredients – serves four, multiply accordingly

Two medium-to-large sweet, crunchy eating apples
Two stalks of celery
A few celery leaves, shredded, and a little fresh parsley, chopped fine, as garnishes

One pint/600ml good vegetable stock (this is the cheat, you can buy this ready-made from a good deli or supermarket – but don’t make it up from cubes or bouillon powder, it just won’t cut it as the stock is too “exposed” in this recipe)

(Or, to make your own simple vegetable stock: this is REALLY EASY!
2 carrots, I medium onion, two sticks celery, 2 bay leaves, 6-8 parsley stalks, 8-10 whole black peppercorns, 1 and a quarter pints/750ml water.
Wash and peel the veg as necessary, then roughly chop, add to the water in a pan with the other ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes.  Strain out all the veg, herbs and peppercorns and discard them, then bring liquid back to the boil and reduce to approximately 1 pint/600ml in volume.  Add salt as required, then set aside until needed, refrigerating if necessary.)

Apple and Celery Soup: Method

Bring the store-bought or home-made stock to the boil.  De-string the celery and chop it to a small dice.  Add to the stock, bring back to boil, and reduce to simmer.  Working quickly so the pieces don’t brown, cut the apples (unpeeled) into small dice, discarding the core and pips, and add to the stock.  The soup should be ready after two to three minutes, but test a piece of celery and apple for done-ness.  Serve into individual bowls, garnish each with the shredded celery leaf and parsley – you can add a few croutons, or serve with a very small piece of french bread.

Christmas Starter Two: Fruit Medley

Serving what is effectively a fruit salad as a starter may seem strange, but it works well without being filling.

Christmas Fruit Medley Starter: Ingredients

A selection of fruit – either bite-sized, or cut into bite sized pieces: depending on where you are in the world, and the season.  Use what you like, and what’s good locally to you.  Suggestions: physalis/cape gooseberry (loose leaves peeled back), grapes (red and green, preferably seedless), cubes or small chunks of melon, strawberries halved or quartered if large.
Lemon juice and/or balsamic or raspberry vinegar
A sprig or two of mint per plate

Christmas Fruit Medley Starter: Method

Whenever you have the time on Christmas Day, do any necessary prep on the fruit; peeling/chopping etc – store in acidulated water or lemon juice until ready to assemble.
Per person: make a small pile of the mixed fruit, just off-centre of a (preferably) plain white plate.  Drizzle with lemon juice/balsamic vinegar/raspberry vinegar.  Garnish with a sprig of mint.  Serve.  Very light, very easy.

Christmas Starter Three: Smoked Salmon Pate

And this is my very own Christmas Cheat – I’m going to direct you to a recipe that I wrote and posted earlier. The quantities I give produce around a pound/half kilo of finished pate, so if served with a simple salad garnish and perhaps a slice of toast, should provide eight or so reasonable portions.

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