Guy Warner: Boxing Clever
PUBLISHED: 12:27 22 December 2016
How to put on the ultimate Boxing Day spread (without trying too hard!)
Of all the festivities at this time of the year, it’s Boxing Day that I often enjoy most. You’ve got through the Big Event and silently suffered your family’s foibles for another year – Boxing Day is when you can properly relax and, quite often, hang out with the people you really want to be with!
For that reason, Boxing Day for me is about easy entertaining – a t-shirts and jumpers kind of a day rather than stiff shirts and jackets. And the food needs to match – comforting and wholesome but without any of the pretensions of the Christmas Lunch. Let’s face it, after a marathon session in the kitchen in the build-up to Christmas, no-one wants to cook again on Boxing Day, and besides, if you’re anything like our household, you’ll have a fridge full of fantastic food left from the over enthusiastic shopping for Christmas lunch anyway.
To give us inspiration on how to put on a great Boxing Day spread with the minimum of fuss, I asked local chef Francis Green, aka The Cotswold Traiteur, to share his tips. Here’s what he suggested:
1. Double up on oven space: if you’ve got room in the oven on Christmas Day, consider throwing in a small joint of topside while you’re cooking the turkey. Just season it with salt and pepper and roast until cooked – but keep an eye on it, you don’t want to overcook it. You can then enjoy this cold on Boxing Day, served thinly alongside a selection of chutneys and pickles – obligatory Boxing Day accompaniments. Of course, if you prefer, you could do a fantastic ham joint, simmered in water first then finished off in the oven with a honey and mustard glaze.
2. Prepare ahead: if you know you’re entertaining on Boxing Day, it’s a good idea to try to make something in advance that you can just whip out of the fridge when needed. A terrine is very simple to make but looks really impressive. Just line a loaf tin with streaky bacon then fill with sausage meat. You can add whatever flavours you like – dried apricots and even left over turkey if you’re making it on Christmas Day. Cook it in a bain marie for a couple of hours then turn out and decorate with cranberries or chestnuts for a Christmas feel.
3. Stock up on pastry: fill your freezer with ready-made pastry, both puff and shortcrust. These can come in useful for so many things. I like to make little bubble and squeak pasties using leftover sprouts, mash and stuffing. You can add leftover pigs in blankets too – just fry it all off then roll the mixture up into bits of pastry and bake.
Another simple use for pastry is to make a turkey and ham pie using any leftover bits of meat. To make the white sauce, use equal amounts of butter and flour (about 75g works well). Melt the butter then add the flour, and 500ml milk. Keep stirring then flavour with some tarragon and a splash of wine. Spoon the meat into a pie dish, pour over the sauce and cover with the shortcrust pastry. Bake in the oven until brown.
4. Be creative with leftovers: as well as the dishes above, there are many other ways to be creative with leftovers. Sprout and chestnut soup is super tasty and the ideal food to warm everyone up after the Boxing Day walk! To make it, chop up a fresh onion and some potatoes. Fry them off, then add any leftover sprouts and chestnuts. Add vegetable stock and blitz into a soup.
For dessert, I like to slice up leftover Christmas pudding and pan fry it in a little butter and sugar. This gives it a bit of a twist, resulting in a delicious sticky, caramelised pudding, a bit like a golden pain perdu – or ‘lost bread’, the French way of resurrecting stale or old bread!
5. Get fruity: everyone has loads of clementines rolling around at Christmas time and preserving them is a really good way to use them up, as well as making a really pretty talking point. First of all make a stock syrup by dissolving equal quantities of sugar in water. Add whatever flavours you like – cloves and cinnamon sticks are nice and festive, and a splash of alcohol such as Grand Marnier always goes down well. Add peeled and segmented clementines and simmer for half an hour. Once poached, put the clementine pieces in a jar with the liquid and serve them up over the Christmas period. They are great with the pan fried Christmas pudding recipe above or just enjoy them with some simple clotted cream or vanilla ice cream.
The great thing about Boxing Day is that it’s the company, not the food, you look forward to most – and if you follow Francis’ tips on how to keep things simple in the kitchen, you’ll have more time to enjoy with your guests, rather than your oven – and I’d say that just about ticks all the right boxes! In anticipation, Happy Boxing Day!