Feature | Roast reset

Christmas this year will be different in many ways, so why not switch things up in the food department as well?

A different bird

Turkey may be traditional now, but as recent as medieval times, boar was sometimes served up at Christmas, followed by goose or turkey in the 16th and 17th centuries – peacock or swan for the rich. If you can’t track down a swan, go for stuffed chicken with mustard-preserved fruit, brined roast pheasant with sage, pancetta and marsala gravy or partridge with creamy cider sauce and cabbage. This will pose a new challenge for wine matching too.

Crazy for cauliflower

If you’re looking for vegetarian alternatives to roast meat then turn your attentions to cauliflower – this incredibly versatile veg is far from bland when treated right. Bake or roast it whole to create the same effect of cooking and carving up an entire bird – season with barley and make a cheese sauce with white wine and cream. Or you can go down the spiced route and flavour it with paprika, thyme and tomatoes.

Tart it up

As something that can be made the day before, cooking a tart is the best way to save both time and energy on Christmas day, and can be served as a side or the main event. In terms of filling, the options are endless. Try chestnuts, wild mushrooms and fresh parsley with a redcurrant gravy, or Camembert, fig and onion. Have a go at making your own pastry too – the recipe websites abound with easy-to-follow instructions for buttery shortcrust pastry.

Fancy fish

For different communities all round the world, seafood is a staple of the Christmas menu – Italians tuck into a traditional Feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, while Australians lay out summery platters of salads and prawns. Blackened marinaded salmon with papaya mojo will bring a tropical flavour to your dinner table whilst barbecued lobster is special treat but surprisingly easy to make. Oysters are another boujie option – try them crumbed, with homemade tartare sauce, or, if you can find some, juicy finger lime.

If you must… Nut roast

Those two simple words have the power to elicit eye-rolls from every vegetarian in the country – often a lazy substitute for roasted meat, a nut roast is a dish that has so much potential yet often falls flat. Have a hunt around foodie websites for more unique inspiration and your vegan and vegetarian guests are guaranteed to love you. Try nut roast with sautéed mushrooms and fresh sage, or a blue cheese topping, or even a teaspoon of Marmite for a Twiglet-y twang.

Caitlin Bowring

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