And then there were the crumbs. If I am honest, I love this moment as much, if not more, than the Christmas Day feast itself. The bits left behind. The ragged lumps of cold roast bird pulled from the bones; the last caramelised parsnip prized from the roasting tin; a tiny helping of cold roast potatoes to wolf from the fridge at midnight.
You can use up leftover brussels sprouts (there is almost bound to be some) by adding them to a potato fry-up – like bubble and squeak – but this is something worth making from scratch, too: soft mash, chopped cabbage or rainbow chard, made into rough patties or mounds and fried until crisp. I banish any hint of “leftovers” with an accompanying vivid green sauce, made with basil, capers and lemon.
There are still cake crumbs in the biscuit tin, the odd raisin and lump of icing with a bottle brush tree attached, but another cake is needed to get us to New Year. So I make a ginger cake, freckle the mixture with prunes and candied peel and stir in the final spoonfuls of mincemeat from the jar. What emerges from the oven is a heaven-scented cake poised between fruitcake and ginger loaf, which I then give a crisp coating with dark chocolate. With its hint of cinnamon and dark muscovado sugar it has the feel of lebkuchen about it – the sort of cake Hansel and Gretel might have baked.
The big day itself might be over, but there is plenty of life in the feast yet.
You could easily veganise this recipe by using a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in place of the butter and by omitting the anchovies, in which case the sauce will need a little salt. When frying the fritters, make sure not to cook too many at once, as overcrowding the pan will lower the temperature of the oil and the fritters will be heavy. Makes 12, serves 4
potatoes 1 kg, white and floury
chard 250g, or leftover brussels sprouts
spring onions 3
ground nut or vegetable oil for deep frying
For the sauce:
basil leaves 10, large
lemon juice 2 tbsp
anchovy fillets 6
tarragon leaves 6g (a palmful)
parsley leaves 10g
capers 2 tsp
Dijon mustard 2 heaped tsp
garlic 1 clove
olive oil 125ml
water 1 tbsp
Peel the potatoes, cut them into large pieces and steam them in a steamer basket over boiling water covered with a tight lid, or boil them in salted water. Test them with a skewer to check their tenderness, they will take anything from 10-20 minutes depending on the variety.
Separate the chard leaves from their stems. Pile the leaves on top of each other, roll them tightly then cut into fine shreds. Finely slice the stems. Finely slice the spring onions. Warm a couple of tablespoons of oil in a shallow pan and fry the chard stems and spring onions for a minute or two. Add the leaves and continue cooking for a couple of minutes till tender, then drain and set aside.
Make the sauce by putting the basil, lemon juice, anchovies, tarragon, parsley, cornichons, capers and mustard into a blender or food processor. (I find the blender gives a slightly better texture.) Add the garlic clove, peeled, the olive oil and the water then process to a smooth, green sauce and set aside. (It will separate somewhat, so it will need a good stir before serving.)
Drain the potatoes, add the butter and a little salt and mash until smooth with a masher, ricer or electric mixer. If using the latter take care not to overmix. Add the chard and spring onions. Roll the mixture into 12 balls or eggs and place on a lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Resting them this way will firm them up and they be less likely to fall apart.)
Heat the oil in a deep pan, then lower the fritters, a few at a time, cooking them for 7 minutes or so, turning occasionally, until lightly crisp. Lift out with a draining spoon and keep warm while you cook the rest. Serve with the sauce.
Makes 12-16 small cakes
ground cinnamon 2 tsp
ground ginger 2 tsp
self-raising flour 250g
soft-dried prunes 150g
dark chocolate 400g
golden syrup 100ml
dark muscovado sugar 125g
candied orange peel 70g, plus extra to finish
eggs 2 large
You will need a 24cm square cake tin, lined with baking parchment.
Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the cinnamon, ginger and flour. Roughly chop the prunes and 100g of chocolate.
In a small saucepan, melt the golden syrup and butter over a moderate heat, then stir in the sugar. When the sugar has melted add the mincemeat and prunes. Finely chop and add the candied peel.
Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them lightly with a fork, just enough to mix whites and yolks, then stir in the milk. Remove the butter-sugar mixture from the heat and pour into the flour and spices, stirring smoothly, quickly and firmly with a metal spoon. Mix in the milk-egg mixture and chopped chocolate. Bear in mind that the mixture is wet and runny, unlike a creamed cake mixture.
Bake for 40 minutes until lightly spongy to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in its tin.
Break the remaining chocolate into small pieces and melt in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove the cake from its tin and remove the paper, then cut into 12 or 16 pieces, depending on how large you like your cakes to be. Place them on a cooling rack, then spoon the melted chocolate over the top and down the sides of each cake. Place a small piece of candied peel on each one and leave until the chocolate has set before serving.
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