Two foodies talks about their festive tables.
In New Zealand, Christmas happens at summertime, and, as a child, we would drive to Northland and spend it camping by the beach.
My stepmother was a Cockney and she was always keen to have the seasonal traditions, so we’d end up having a New Zealand-ified traditional British Christmas: we’d have Christmas pudding, for example, but sliced up and fried in lots of butter on the barbecue – it was a lovely way to caramelise it on the outside.
We’d have a glazed ham, but we’d usually barbecue chickens instead of turkey. And, of course, there would be lots of seafood.
I came up with this dish 25 years ago when I was living in Australia, and I have regularly served it to people at Christmas since. The combination of flavours and texture is gorgeous and before you sit down to huge amounts of fatty roast meat and potatoes, it’s great to have something healthy and refreshing.
Peter Gordon is a chef and food writer, best known for introducing fusion to the UK. He runs two London restaurants, Kopapa and The Providores and Tapa Room. His latest cookbook, Peter Gordon Everyday is published by Jacqui Small.
LOBSTER, MANGO, GINGER AND CARAMELISED PEANUT SALAD WITH AIOLI CROSTINI
For 4 starters or 2 main courses
1 finger of ginger
1 small whole bunch coriander
2tsp sesame oil
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
¼ red chilli, thinly sliced
2 x 150g lobster tails (in the shell, uncooked)
1 sweet, ripe mango
1 juicy lime
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 thin slices baguette
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
Small handful watercress or any other peppery leaf to garnish
FOR THE CARAMELISED PEANUTS
2tbsp icing sugar
FOR THE EGG-FREE AIOLI
4 cloves garlic
125ml full-fat milk
300ml sunflower oil
Boil peanuts rapidly for 10 minutes. Drain and leave for 5 minutes, then toss with the icing sugar, lay on a lined baking tray and bake at 150ºC until golden and crisp. To serve, crush roughly.
aioli: Finely purée the garlic and milk, then slowly drizzle in the milk until emulsified. Stir in crushed flaky sea salt, to taste.
Salad: Peel the ginger, reserving the peel, and then finely grate it – you want 2tsp worth. Pick the coriander leaves and tender stalks, then shred remaining stalks. Heat the oil in a large pot, then add the ginger peelings, the coriander stalks, red onion, garlic and half the chilli. Sauté until the onions caramelise, stirring often. Put the lobster tails in the pot and cook until the shells begin to colour (this takes about 3 minutes), turning them every minute. Pour on enough boiling water to just cover the tails and add ¼tsp salt. Bring to the boil, take off the heat, and set your timer to 5 minutes. When the time is up, remove the tails and leave to cool, then use scissors to cut through the shell on the belly side and then carefully pull the flesh from the shell – it’s easiest to do this while they’re still warm. Put the pot back on the stove and cook over a gentle boil until the poaching liquid has reduced to an eighth of a cup, then strain and set aside. Peel the mango and cut both cheeks off, then thinly slice. Grate ¼tsp of the lime zest, juice it, and add to the mango with the sugar. Strip-peel the cucumber, thinly slice, and mix with the remaining chilli and the halved cherry tomatoes. To make the crostini, drizzle the baguette slices with olive oil and bake at 160ºC until golden and crispy. To serve, slice the lobster tails into six. Toss the mango, cucumber and tomatoes, spring onions, watercress and half the coriander together and divide between your plates. Lay the lobster on top and drizzle with the reduced poaching liquid. Spoon a teaspoon of the aioli on each crostino and tuck it in, then scatter with peanuts and remaining coriander. Drizzle with 2tsp of olive oil and serve.
I love the ritual of the Christmas lunch – the roast turkey or, occasionally, goose, with all the classic accompaniments, the Christmas pudding and brandy butter. But I can’t seem to help a few Chinese influences creeping in, especially on Boxing Day, when the traditional cold meats work so beautifully with a bit of Sichuanese intervention. I usually toss some shredded turkey with a spicy dressing of soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, chilli oil and Sichuan pepper, and I also like to make the dish here, in which beef shin is sliced and then soused in a Sichuanese dressing and scattered with roasted peanuts and coriander. It fits perfectly with a lunch of cold ham and turkey, salads and cheese.
When I spent Christmas in Sichuan as a student, my classmates and I all prepared traditional dishes from our home countries, but we had to adapt to local circumstances. So, for example, Christmas pudding had to be made with Xinjiang sultanas, Chinese dates and dried apricots rather than raisins and currants, and, as I didn’t have any mince-pie tins, I folded pastry circles round a mince-meat stuffing, then pinched them into semicircles like jiaozi dumplings. (I’ve made them that way ever since.)
Fuchsia Dunlop is an English food writer who specialises in Chinese cuisine. This recipe is adapted from her latest cookbook Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking (Bloomsbury)
NUMBING-AND-HOT COLD BEEF (MALA NIUROU)
1kg beef shin
100g fresh ginger, with skin
4 spring onions, white parts only
1½ star anise
4tbsp Shaoxing wine
FOR THE SAUCE
¼tsp ground roasted Sichuan pepper
1tbsp cloves garlic, finely chopped
150ml of the beef cooking liquid
½tsp dark soy sauce
6-8tbsp chilli oil, with sediment
1tsp sesame oil
2tsp sesame seeds, toasted
A handful of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
4tbsp finely sliced spring-onion greens
Two celery sticks, de-stringed and finely chopped
A good handful of roasted peanuts, roughly chopped or crushed
Prick the beef shin all over with a skewer and place in a bowl. Add 3tsp of salt and 2tbs of Shaoxing wine. Take half the ginger and two of the spring-onion whites and crush slightly. Add to the beef. Rub the salt, wine, ginger and spring onion into the beef, then leave in the fridge overnight. Remove the beef from the marinade and rinse. Place in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Skim the liquid, and then add the remaining salt, ginger and spring onions (both crushed). Add star anise and remaining wine. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about two hours until the meat is tender. When the beef is ready, set it aside to cool, but reserve at least 150ml of the cooking liquid. To serve, toast the sesame seeds gently in a wok or frying pan for a few minutes. Slice the beef and place in a serving dish. Combine the sauce ingredients, mix well and pour over the beef. Scatter over the other ingredients and serve. – The Independent on Sunday