This is a truly beautiful book to have lying around for Christmas, it’s cover is bound by what looks and feels like vintage wrapping paper. To get a feel for James Ramsden’s general attitude toward Christmas and fall in love with this book as I have, all one need do is read this line taken from his introduction: “Carols and stockings and Messiahs in mangers all have their place, but when it comes down to it, Christmas is measured in meals”. I couldn’t agree more.
The aim of this book is to provide assistance for “stress-free cooking for the festive season” and I think this has absolutely been achieved. There are notes at the beginning on how to use the book, how to go about freezing the dishes and even contact details for James himself should you get stuck. I really got the feeling that he was trying to help us all have a great Christmas.
I’ve bookmarked three or four recipes to try for Christmas, and if I had the time I’d be sampling many more. I had total success with the Chocolate, Orange and Hazelnut Tart (the recipe for which you can find toward the end of this blog post) and it’s currently sitting patiently in the freezer ready to be devoured on Christmas Day. The book is helpfully sectioned into each day of festive celebrations including a sturdy time plan for the big day, and includes extra recipes (sides, bakes, leftovers etc) too.
The photos in Do-Ahead Christmas are courtesy of Clare Winfield, and they’re delectable. The visual aspect of cookery books has been improving year by year and Do-Ahead Christmas is no exception to this rule. Not only is the food photography utterly gorgeous, it’s also perfectly festive. Nothing too OTT but it really hits the spot.
See for yourself
To buy the book, head on over to Amazon right now and get it for £6.99 (hardcover!!) it’s a friggin’ steal.
Chocolate, Orange and Hazelnut Tart
This is the only recipe I’ve tried so far and it was carried out seamlessly. Easy to follow with delicious results, my kitchen smelled heavenly all day!
Serves 6-8 (10-12 at a push)
For the pastry
100g cold butter, cubed
200g plain flour
a pinch of salt
For the filling
300ml double cream
300g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 egg and 2 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
100g hazelnuts, toasted, then chopped
zest of 1 orange
UP TO 3 DAYS AHEAD (MIN. 3 HOURS):
To make the pastry, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs (I usually pulse in the food processor). Add the salt and then one of the eggs and mix until it forms a dough. Add a little cold water if it isn’t coming together. Briefly knead, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the freezer for 10 minutes, or the fridge for 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to about 3mm thick. Line a 25cm/10in tart tin, prick a few times with a fork, and return to the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas mark 3.
Line the pastry with baking parchment and fill with baking beans, dried chickpeas or old pasta – anything to weigh it down. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden. Remove the baking beans and parchment. Beat the remaining egg and brush the pastry all over. Return to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes. Then remove and leave to cool. Turn the oven down to 150C/300F/Gas mark 2.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Slowly bring the cream to a boil, then take off the heat and add the chocolate pieces. Stir, then leave to melt completely. In a bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat this mixture into the melted chocolate. Fold through the hazelnuts and orange zest. Tip into the tart shell and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Leave to cool completely, cover and chill or freeze.
Dust with icing sugar and serve the tart with single cream