Help I’m hosting Christmas! Part One……..

Yes, at the grand old age of 35 I am finally hosting my first Christmas and by Christmas I mean a double whammy of christmas eve dinner and christmas day lunch, gulp! To add to my nerves I’m hosting my Italian family so the pressure is on to give them a truly British menu with plenty of festive spirit to give them a Christmas to remember.

With the dust still settling from the builders recent departure the race is on to get both my menu and house in order before our guests start arriving and at this stage I have to say I’m a little nervous. Not only have I never cooked a full Christmas meal but I have been thoroughly spoilt by my mum and nanna who for years have cooked the best Christmas meals ever.

I have to confess that my mum has jumped to my rescue and made me a mini Christmas cake which I carefully transported back to Italy a couple of weeks ago so with one job ticked on my list it’s on to planning my menus.

So first up Christmas Eve and the all important dinner with my father-in-law and his family including nonna the master chef. My dilemma here, as half of the guests will also be staying for christmas day with my mother-in-laws family, is how to create a delicious dinner without stepping on my turkey’s toes and so in the end I opt for Scottish smoked salmon and beef wellington.

Menu decided I start scouring the internet for recipes and top tips to help me with my preparation. The wellington was easy as Gordon Ramsay instantly popped up on my screen with his “oh so easy and delicious” take on the perfect beef wellington. The question is, should I go the whole hog and also make the puff pastry which once done also lends itself nicely to home-made mince pies as my nanna used to make? To help me decide I dust of an old Michel Roux pastry book, a relic from christmas past, and flick to the classic puff pastry page. By instruction number three I am mentally visualising shop bought ready-roll pastry when I spot a little gem called rough puff pastry, now that’s more like it. So the game is on. I am braving making my very own puff pastry.

With both my beef and turkey (complete with head!) ordered, delivered and now patiently waiting their fate I can now turn my attention to the first of my two meals. With three days to go I plan on making my puff pastry and leaving it to rest in the fridge till Christmas Eve morning. I will then roll out the pastry needed for my wellington and my mince pies. That means that tomorrow I can turn my attentions to my Christmas biscuits and friday I can prepare my ratatouille.

What I haven’t factored into my timings are all the other things I need to prep for Christmas day; chestnut and pancetta stuffing, bread sauce etc but I am sure hysteria will kick in at some stage and I’ll find time to squeeze it all in.

To make my pastry I first rescue an old piece of marble that was lurking in my attic and transform it into a gleamingly clean and cold surface;  perfect for pastry making. The first stage is blending the chopped butter chunks into the flour followed by adding in the cold water and mixing into a rough dough which can then be left to rest in the fridge for 20 mins.  I manage this first stage unscathed and am feeling confident about the folding stage which follows.

First I have to roll out my pastry dough to circa 40cm by 20cm and then starts the folding process. The dough needs to be folded into three and then turned 90 degrees, re-rolled and re-folded another three times before popping it back into the fridge for half and hour. The slow part is that you then have to repeat this process another time meaning four lots of folding in total but after that it’s done!!! You can literally sit back and relax until you need to use your dough. Mine is currently nestling in the back of the fridge awaiting its destiny in two days time where it will hopefully transform my wellington from simply delicious to bloody marvelous!

So with my first bit of prep over it’s high time I put my pinny away and sat back with a glass of wine whilst I decide on which Christmas biscuits I’ll be making tomorrow. Cranberry? Orange and Cinnamon? Spicy? Hmmm decisions.

Recipe Rough Puff Pastry

500 g Plain Flour

500g butter, very cold and cut into small cubes

1 tsp salt

250 ml of ice cold water


Pour the flour onto a cold work surface (marble or similar) and create a well in which to put the salt and butter cubes.

With your fingertips start to combine the ingredient, in much the same way as making a crumble mix, until the butter starts to resemble smaller flakes.

Gradually add in the water and combine into a rough dough. Do not over work it at this stage. Roll into a ball and then clingfilm and leave in the fridge to rest for 20-30 mins.

Once rested, roll the dough out to c. 40cm x 20cm and then fold it into three.

Rotate 90 degrees, re-roll and re-fold and then clingfilm once again and pop back into the fridge for 30 mins.

Repeat this process once more giving you a total of four sets of folding.

Your pastry is then ready to use. Chill for a minimum of 30 mins before using or store in fridge for up to 3 days before using.


One Response to “Help I’m hosting Christmas! Part One……..”
  1. Federico says:

    yummy can’t wait to taste it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: