Roast parsnips and pears with thyme

I have made this first time for 2009 Christmas dinner and it worked wonderfully. The pears are lighter than other vegetables and add an extra dimension to the side dishes flavours.

Serves 6-8

1kg (2lb 4 oz) parsnips
5 medium onions
6 conference pears unpeeled
juice of 1 lemon and rind of 1/2
4 tbsp olive oil
25g (1oz) butter melted

Wash the parsnips and peel if they are particularly dirty. Cutting lenghtways, halve or quarter them, depending on size. Halve the onions and cut each half into six wedges. Quarter the pears lengthways and remove the core from each piece. Toss the pears the lemon juice and rind. Parboil the parsnips for three minutes then toss them and the onions and pears in a large roasting tin (you want everything to be able to lie in a single layer) with the oil, butter, thyme and some seasoning. Turn everything over to make sure it is all coated in fat. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top and roast for 25-30 minutes in an oven preheated to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 (the roast should be out by now). You need to turn them over once or twice (once is fine if you are too busy with other dishes). Everything should be tender and slightly caramelised.

Brussels sprouts with parmesan & almonds

These are sprouts for people who don’t like sprouts. They are crunchy, the garlic and parmesan works wonders and it’s hard to get this wrong. The recipe is from my friend Marc – one of the people who can really cook I mention in the about section.


1kg relatively small sprouts
2-3 cloves of garlic depending on how garlicky you can face them
3 tbs olive oil (I use light & mild again)
garlic salt (normal salt will do)

Clean sprouts and cut them in half. In a bowl, mix olive oil, garlic and some garlic salt. Mix in the cut up brussels. Let them sit for a 1/2 an hour (I tried to let them marinate overnight). Place them on a baking tray, stick them in the oven at 350 degrees until they brown slightly. Flip them over and let them brown on the other side. This shouldn’t take more than 1/2 an hour. Take them out and place them in a bowl. Grate some fresh parmesan over them. For special occasions add almond flakes. Mix and serve.

Red cabbage

This has very Chrismassy flavours and so I usually make this cabbage for Christmas dinner. Following this year, I decided to add it as a regular side dish to roast duck whenever I make it.

1 large cabbage, halved and cut into 2cm strips
3 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 tbs molasses sugar
the juice from 3 oranges
cider winegar (or 2/3 white vinegar + 1/3 apples juice)
10 juniper berries crushed
the peel of two oranges stripped with a potato peeler
1/2 tsp mixed spice (my addition to the original recipe)

Add the olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pan (I used 28cm Le Creuset casserole pot), then layer the ingredients, starting with a third of the cabbage, then a spoonful of sugar, the juice of an organge, a splosh of vinegar and a few juniper berries, sprinkle bit of mixed spice. Season. Repeat the layers twice more, bring up to a simmer very gently, then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Stir after about an hour, then again after another hour. Add more orange juice if the liquid level looks too low. Blanch the strips of peel, then cut into 1cm pieces. Stir through the cooked cabage and serve.

Roast potatoes

This is one of the dishes that any self-respecting English national insists they know how to make. So this is for my reference rather than providing a definitive recipe for roast potatoes. I made these for Christmas dinner 2009, in the fat of the goose they accompanied. I parboiled them a day ahead, put them in the fridge, the next day let them warm up to room temperature, then dropped them into boiling hot goose fat. I believe they were extra fluffy as a result of cooling down and then warming up again. But that’s just my guess.


12 large roasting potatoes
goose fat or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Peel the potatoes and chop each one into four or five pieces, varying the shapes. Place in a large pan of cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Cook for seven minutes, until they are soft on the outside, but still hard in the centre (test with a knife).
Meanwhile, heat a large roasting-tin in the oven with some goose fat or olive oil and a few pinches of salt (the potatoes will take a bit longer to cook in olive oil as it does not get as hot). You want a film of fat over the bottom of the tin about 1-2mm deep. The fat must be very hot when the potatoes go in.
When the potatoes are sufficiently parboiled, drain them in a colander then gently shake them around to fluff them up. Let them sit and drain for a minute to remove as much water as possible. Take thetin out of the oven and carefully pour in the potatoes, stirring to coat them in hot fat.
Return the tin to the oven (this should coincide with the uncovering of the roast goose, turkey or beef) and roast for 20-30 minutes, so a really good, thick layer can form on the bottom of each potato, basting the sides if they look a bit dry. Don’t open the oven door too often. If possible, check on them through the window with a torch. Turn the potatoes over, and move them around int he tin so that they each have a stint in the hottest part near the edge. Roast for a further 15 to 20 minutes more. by now they should be looking pretty scrumptious, but it is down to personal taste as to how crispy you like them, and also how the turkey is coming along.
When the rest of the meal is ready, place the potatoes on kitchen paper to remove excess fat, sprinkle on a bit more salt and serve.

Cranberry port source

This should be made well ahead of time. After tremendous success of my first attempt, after Christams I went and bought as much cranberries as I could get at local Waitrose at half-price and made enough to have a few bottles for the next couple of years. I am told that the sauce tasted even better matured for a year or two.


300g fresh cranberries
100ml port
1 small stick cinnamon, snapped in half
1 orange finally zested and juiced
140g caster sugar (or to taste) – I always put less sugar than recipes call for and all the alcohol in this preserves it sufficiently
1 tbsp Grand Marnier or Cointreau (which is what I used)

Place the cranberries, port, cinnamon, orange juice and zest in a small non-corrosive saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered until the berries begin to pop and soften. Stir in the sugar and Cointreau, then adjust the sweetness to taste. The sugar will toughen the cranberries, so do not add it until this stage.
Remove the cinnamon stick and allow the sauce to cool before serving. It will thicken as it cools.

Christmas goose

I found this recipe a couple of months before Christmas 2009, as I was deciding what to roast for Christmas dinner. It is Gordon Ramsey’s recipe and I followed it to the letter apart from the browning, which turned out to be unnecessary.


4-5.5kg fresh goose
4 lemons
3 limes
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
small handful each of parsley sprigs, thyme and sage
3 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp thyme leaves

Serves 6 Prep: 35 mins. Cook: 1 hr 20 mins – 3 hrs 30 mins

  1. Calculate the cooking time (see tips, below). If the goose is ready-trussed, then loosen the string and pull out the legs and wings a little – this helps the bird cook better. Check the inside of the bird and remove any giblets or pads of fat. Using the tip of a sharp knife, lightly score the breast and leg skin in a criss-cross. This helps the fat to render down more quickly during roasting.
  2. Grate the zest from the lemons and limes. Mix with 2 tsp fine sea salt, the five-spice powder and pepper to taste. Season the cavity of the goose generously with salt, then rub the citrus mix well into the skin and sprinkle some inside the cavity.
  3. Stuff the zested fruit and the herb sprigs inside the bird and set aside for at least 15 mins. Can be done a day ahead and kept refrigerated. I left the goose stuffed and rubbed like this overnight.
  4. Heat oven to 240C/fan 220C/gas 9. If you want to give the bird a nice golden skin, brown in a large frying pan (or a heavy-based roasting tin), using a couple of tbsp of oil. Holding the bird by the legs (you may like to use an oven glove), press it down on the breasts to brown.
  5. Once browned, place the bird in the roasting tin. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Roast for the calculated time, turning the heat down after 10 mins to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Cover the goose with foil if it is starting to brown too much.
  6. Every 30 mins or so, baste the bird with the pan juices, then pour off the fat through a sieve into a large heatproof bowl . You will end up with at least a litre of fat – save this for the potatoes and other veg. At the end of the cooking time, leave to rest for at least 30 mins, covered loosely with foil. The bird will not go cold, but will be moist and much easier to carve.

Whilst the goose was settling down out of the oven, I managed to roast potatoes, parsnips and brussels sprouts. For the full Christmas menu see here.

As for the goose, it came out perfectly, juicy and flavoursome – the citrus fruits worked their wonder and the five-spice some warm magic.