In collaboration with our favourite Clapton chef Nico Salzano of Dine with Nico, we put together a great inspirational menu for the Christmas period. Often nothing but the traditional dishes will do for the Christmas Day. But we also knew that many of our customers are keen cooks themselves, always trying new recipes and looking for the perfect wine to match their dishes.
With this in mind, we worked closely with Nico to create a three course menu that we hope will inspire you to try one of these dishes. They were exciting and will certainly impress your guests but also feasible to put together in your home kitchen, using plenty of locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.
Jerusalem artichokes purée, confit duck egg yolk and truffle
Nico poached the peeled Jerusalem Artichokes and added a dash of cream and butter before using a hand blender to create a smooth puree.
To confit basically means to slow-cook an ingredient in fat. The term is often associated with duck confit, but can be employed for a host of ingredients. Confiting egg yolks is a modern technique, great for adding a little cheffy flair to home-cooked dishes. After separating the duck egg yolk from the whites, the yolk gets submerged in an oven-proof saucepan filled halfway with olive oil. When done (keep en eye on this as you don't want the yolk to overcook) remove the yolk with a slotted spoon so that your diners get the pleasure of breaking the yolk themselves.
We have used our local Today sourdough bread to make sourdough croutons that will add a lovely crunchy texture. And the dish was garnished with some micro watercress and shaved summer truffle.
And finally for the wine paring with this delicious starter - Silas picked - Cabernet Franc from Chinon, France by Olga Raffaul. Les Picasses is a medium bodied wine with a lush, juicy texture and bright crisp acidity, red currants and wild strawberries combine with white pepper and savoury notes in an elegant bouquet. It is silky and flavoursome.
Seared sirloin tip, celeriac purée, braised radishes and charred shallots
The sirloin tip (also known as faux hanger or bavette) is one of the inexpensive cuts of beef that's also one of the most versatile. It takes great to fast-cooking methods that was used in this dish. It has a coarse texture that grabs onto marinades and seasonings well.
Our Sirloin tip got pan fried dry on a very high heat. When Nico got a lovely colour all over the tip, he added a bit of butter, thyme and a whole cloves of garlic and braised the meat with the juices as cooking. As this is a cheap cut of meat, it can get tough if over cooked. So it's recommended to be served rare to medium rare.
The celeriac was boiled in milk, it's a great little tip that removes the distinctive pepperiness that some people might find a bit overwhelming. Once the celeriac is cooked, it gets pureed with a hand blender.
The red wine jus reduction was made using our cheaper red Plot 22 Tempranillo, but any cheapish red wine will do. After pan frying shallots until softened, Nico added a splash of port, red wine and beef stock, and simmered it until reduced.
To braise the radishes, they were cut in half, added to a deep pan and covered with water. Butter, olive oil, sugar and salt gets added and everything boiled until liquid gets reduced to a glaze. And finally to chargrill the onions, cut them in half and leave the skin on as it cooks them better. Cook until charred on a dry pan.
The whole dish was served with parley shoots and paired with Domino, expertly crafted blend form lots of native Portuguese grapes. This flavoursome dish just needed a good full-bodied red. It's got super fresh acidity with spicy peppery fruit and cedar, leather and clove.
Poached pear, pear sorbet and speculoos crumble
Nico poached two types of pears for his dessert- firmer one for poaching and second softer one pureed with the jus from poaching. The jus is simple mix of water, sugar & vanilla pod.
To make the crumble, butter and flour gets rubbed with crushed speculoos biscuits simply using your fingertips to make a light breadcrumb texture. The mixture then gets sprinkled over a baking sheet and baked until lightly coloured.
As our final dish, we thought we would make things easier and not go as far as making our own ice-cream, even though you are more than welcome to do so, we picked small tub of salted caramel ice cream. Nico added a lovely orange tones to the dessert using tiny tagetes flowers that add not just great splash of colour to your dessert but also a subtle floral flavour. We paired the dessert with La Rosita sparkling rose, fresh wine with subtle red fruits and tiny lasting bubbles.
Even tjough some of the ingredients we used might sound very fancy, they can all be bought (as we did) from the New Spitalfields market over in Leyton, though you will have to set your alarm nice and early as the market opens at midnight but there's some real bargains and exceptional seasonal produce to be picked up here. You won't need to get up quite so early to pick up any of the matching wines (luckily).
We hope to inspire you for those fair few days off ahead to try one of these dishes and if you are cooking anything else worth sharing, do tag us in #forestwinesdinners to be in with a chance to be picked as one of our featured cooks and win a bottle of wine at the end of the month.