At the moment I’m focussing on the lighter side of Christmas. At Christmas, restaurants tend to go into auto pilot. So being creative and doing something different can be difficult.
As a development chef, I’m trying to be a bit inventive to get the flavours together – using the same classic ingredients but in different ways.
Autumn and winter are my favourite times of year because there are wonderful products out there. You have to do so little to bring out the flavour of the ingredients.
Pomegranates are great at this time of year. Right now I’m planning a roasted butternut squash salad with feta, spinach and a few chick peas. I am adding a pomegranate and beetroot dressing to liven it up. It’s a balance against the saltiness of the feta, the caramelised sweetness of the squash. I cook the beets in raspberry vinegar with a touch of honey. Then reduce down the juice to use it in the dressing, mixing with mustard and rape seed oil.
Chestnuts are absolutely beautiful. Chestnut and pomegranate is a great combination. Try a carrot and clementine cake with chestnuts. You can also puree them down and use them to add subtle sweetness, for example to the bottom of the pastry on a tart.
With kale, I’m obsessed with the mini kales – little baby kales. They have a little stalk – but they are not quite as bitter or strong as normal kales. They are really nice, dainty looking little things. When they are younger they a lot more tender – so they don’t need such robust cooking methods. They are good in salads or in an alternative risotto. For instance, for Christmas you could do a turkey and cranberry risotto and throw in the kales. They are good in stir fries. You could also make some nice bubble and kale cakes, with the roasted vegetables, turkey and a cranberry drip.
I love sprouts – I really do. They are a completely underrated vegetable. Over the years people have bad experiences from people cooking them badly so they are mushy. I like to lightly blanch them and saute with bacon and chestnuts.
Or pancetta and charred sprout salad with a dressing of clementine juice, zest, mustard and a bit of rapeseed oil. This would balance the saltiness of bacon and bitterness of the sprouts – a lovely use of seasonal flavours.