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Food is used to help celebrate special occasions in different cultures like Christmas



Food is used to help celebrate special occasions in different cultures like Christmas, New Year, weddings and birthdays and other festivals. Food is an important part of any celebration in all nations of the world, regardless of culture or religion.

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Food is an important part of any celebration in all nations of the world, regardless of culture or religion. It can unite and strengthen community bonds and helps to maintain a common identity among a group of people. Different countries use food in different ways to help celebrate special occasions like Christmas, New Year, weddings and birthdays.

Christmas
Many Christmas symbols, such as mistletoe and Christmas cards, spread to the world from Great Britain. This is why many countries that were once part of the old British Empire - Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, for example - have similar Christmas customs.

Most of the foods typically associated with Christmas, such as mince pies and fruit cake, also arose from British tradition. In Australia, it is becoming increasingly popular to enjoy seafood on Christmas Day, rather than roast meats and ham, due to our warmer weather.

Traditional Christmas foods differ from one social group to the next, depending on local availability and cultural significance. Some examples include:
France - black and white pudding, which is sausage containing blood
French Canada - desserts like doughnuts and sugar pie
Germany - gingerbread biscuits and liqueur chocolates
Nicaragua - chicken with a stuffing made from a range of fruits and vegetables including tomato, onion and papaya
Russia - a feast of 12 different dishes, representing Christ’s disciples.
New Year
Traditional New Year foods around the world include:
Greece - a special sweet pasty baked with a coin inside it
Japan - up to 20 dishes cooked and prepared one week earlier. Each food represents a New Year’s wish; for example, seaweed asks for happiness in the year ahead
Scotland - haggis (sheep’s stomach stuffed with oatmeal and offal), gingerbread biscuits and scones
Spain - 12 grapes, meant to be put into the mouth one at a time at each chime of the clock at midnight.
Lunar New Year
In many Asian countries, the New Year doesn’t start on January 1, but with the first full moon in the first Chinese lunar month. Traditional New Year food includes:
China - fish, chestnuts and fried foods
Korea - dumpling soup
Vietnam - meat-filled rice cakes and shark fin soup.
Weddings
Around the world, weddings share common ground. No matter what the religion or culture, the typical wedding is a joint celebration for the families that involves a wedding cake and traditional foods. Foods that feature prominently in weddings include:
China - roast suckling pig, fish, pigeon, chicken, lobster and a type of bun stuffed with lotus seeds are commonly served. It is especially important to offer both lobster and chicken: the lobster represents the dragon and the chicken the phoenix, so including both on the menu is thought to harmonise the Yin and Yang of the newly joined families.
Indonesia - foods served depend on the region and religion, but could include spicy rice dishes like nasi goreng, dim sum, sushi or even Western recipes like beef wellington.
Italy - food is a very important part of an Italian wedding. Bow tie-shaped twists of fried dough, sprinkled in sugar, represent good luck. A roast suckling pig or roast lamb is often the main dish, accompanied by pastas and fruits. The traditional Italian wedding cake is made from biscuits.
Korea - noodles are served, because they represent longevity.
Norway - the traditional wedding cake is made from bread topped with cream, cheese and syrup.
Britain - the honeymoon has been said to originate from a time when the father of the bride gave the groom a moon’s (month’s) worth of mead (alcoholic beverage made from honey) before the bride and groom left after the ceremony.
Birthdays
The custom of the birthday party originated in medieval Europe, when it was supposed that people were vulnerable to evil spirits on their birthdays. Friends, family members, festivities and presents were thought to ward off the spirits. Traditional birthday foods from around the world include:
Australia - birthdays are often celebrated by sharing a decorated birthday cake with lit candles, which the person celebrating the birthday blows out while making a wish.
England - a cake may be baked containing symbolic objects that foretell the future. If your piece of cake has a coin, for example, you will one day be wealthy.
Ghana - the child’s birthday breakfast is a fried patty made from mashed sweet potato and eggs. Traditional birthday party fare includes a dish made from fried plantain (a kind of banana).
Korea - for their first birthday, the child is dressed and sat before a range of objects including fruit, rice, calligraphy brushes and money. Whichever item the child picks up predicts their future; for example, picking up the rice indicates material wealth. After this ceremony, the guests eat rice cakes.
Mexico - a papier-mâché container in the shape of an animal (piñata) is filled with lollies and other treats. The blindfolded child hits at the piñata until it breaks. The treats are shared amongst the guests.
Western Russia - the birthday boy or girl is given a fruit pie instead of a cake.



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Fennel Scented Kale Soup


The holidays are about balance. (We all know that’s not true. The holidays are about pie.) Between all of the heavy, high-calorie holiday feasts, parties and work luncheons (with pie! yay!), it’s a good idea to stick to lighter fare at home this time of year. The following vegetarian kale soup is reminiscent of Italian wedding soup and makes for a hearty but light break between slices of… pie ([facepalm]).
Dried fennel seed gives the soup a gentle aromatic flavor. Barley adds texture and helps to thicken the soup’s liquid as it cooks.
Useful tip: If reheating for leftovers, the barley may soak up some of the liquid. Add 1/4 cup of water or so per serving to reconstitute.
Note of interest: The kale and the dried fennel seed used in this post came from a very generous neighbor’s garden. Thank you!
In YC News: December is Roast Post Month! Each week we’ll be posting a roast recipe in preparation for the holidays. Check back if you feel so inclined.
Fennel Scented Kale Soup – serves 4 – 6
1 T olive oil
4 – 6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled, plus 1 clove, halved
1 lb kale, stems removed, chopped into 1/2 – 1 inch pieces
3 large low-starch boiling potatoes, such as Yukon gold
4 C vegetable stock
2 C tomato juice
1/2 C pearl barley
1 t dried fennel seed
shaved Parmesan or Asiago cheese (optional)
In a large stockpot, soften the 4 – 6 garlic in oil over medium heat about 1 minute. Add the kale and saute until wilted, about 2 – 4 minutes, keeping an eye to not burn the garlic.
Stir in the potatoes, stock and tomato juice, cover and bring a simmer. Reduce heat and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the barley and fennel seed, cover and continue to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. To serve, rub individual soup bowls with the cut side of the halved garlic clove before ladling in the soup. Top with shaved Parmesan or Asiago cheese.



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Standing Rib Roast au Jus


Standing Rib Roast au Jus

December is Roast Post Month at Yankee Cook. Hooray! [noisemaker sound] Each Thursday until New Years we’ll be posting a new holiday roast for your holiday inspiration. This year’s Roast Post theme is Party of Four -  each roast recipe is written to accommodate four people as opposed to the usual eight or ten, because not every holiday party has dozens of people in attendance. We’re kicking off Roast Post Month with Standing Rib Roast au Jus.

Standing rib roast is the same cut of meat as prime rib before it’s been cut into steaks. A full standing rib roast rack has seven ribs, and can weigh up to 16 lbs and yield as many servings.  A two rib roast normally weighs between 3.5 to 4.5 lbs. What’s nice about making a smaller standing rib roast is that while it’s large enough to carve at the table, it’s also small enough to sear in a pan after it roasts. Roasting at the relatively low temperature of 325 degrees gives you control over the doneness of the center and prevents the outer edges of the meat from overcooking. A quick pan-sear finishes the roast off for a crispy exterior. Another benefit to roasting small – it takes a lot less time to cook.

One thing that’s nice about standing rib roast is that it doesn’t require a roasting pan with a rack. The ribs act as a rack, so if you’re just starting out and you don’t have a roasting pan, make this and you can just use a baking dish. You could even use a brownie pan.

Carving tip: To make the roast easier to carve, remove the ribs first and tie them back on using butcher’s twine. This way the person carving will only need to make vertical slices for the steaks to come off. After dinner, save the bones to make beef stock.

Standing Rib Roast - serves 4
Special equipment: You will need a meat thermometer and butcher’s string.

3.5 – 4.5 lb standing rib roast
1 – 2 T salt
6 sprigs of sage
6 sprigs of thyme
2 t cumin
1 T olive oil
1 – 1.5 t salt
2 C beef stock
additional sage and thyme sprigs for garnish (optional)

Start off by severing the ribs from the rest of the meat. Place the roast in a cutting board with the rib side down, starting at cut side of the bone, run a knife horizontally along the bone to remove the roast from the bone. Set the ribs aside. Trim away any extra fat from the top of the roast. Generously salt the roast with one to two tablespoons of salt. Fit the roast over the ribs and use two pieces of butcher’s string to tie the two parts back together just as they had been before the ribs were removed .

Place the roast on the counter in a large plate. Allow to sit for 1 hour at room temperature. This will take away the chill from the fridge in order to allow the meat to cook more evenly in the center.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Finely mince 1 tablespoon of each of the sage and the thyme (about 2 or 3 sprigs) Combine the herbs, cumin olive oil, and salt in a small bowl.

Remove the salt from the rib roast using paper towels. Pat dry.

Rub the herb mixture into the roast and place the roast in a large baking dish.

Insert the meat thermometer into the center of the roast so that it’s not touching a bone. Place the roast in the center of the oven and cook until the thermometer reads 135 degrees (about 1 3/4 to 2 hours) for medium rare or 150 for medium (about 2 – 2 1/4 hours).

Remove the roast from the oven and, keeping the thermometer in place, loosely tent the roast with foil. Allow the roast to rest for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour. The temperature will continue to climb another 10 or 11 degrees.

After the roast has rested, take about a tablespoon of the rendered fat from the baking dish and heat to a shimmer over medium high heat in a large frying pan.

Sear all sides of the roast in the frying pan using tongs – at least 30 seconds per side or until a crispy, brown crust forms.  Set the roast on a serving platter or carving board with channels (to avoid spillage). Cut and remove the strings.


For the Jus:

Pour the stock into the frying pan and scrape up any bits of the meat, stirring to dissolve. Add the remaining sprigs of sage and thyme to the pan. Lower heat to medium and allow to reduce to about half the volume (about 5 minutes). Strain the jus through a mesh strainer into a gravy dish.

Carve the roast by slicing vertically to make steaks. Serve with the jus over something starchy and absorbent like mashed potatoes or a good polenta.






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Roasted Duck with Fig Stuffing

Like most artsy kids raised in 1980s New England, sometime around age eight I was cast in the local children’s theater production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. My official role was something like, “Ensemble Girl #7″, but I was also cast as the understudy for a more senior role  – a role that had two whole lines. Despite everyone telling her to break a leg, on the night of the performance the other kid was in perfect health, so that 15 minutes I spent rehearsing the two lines were for naught. I did, however, get to spend what seemed like hours singing about figgy pudding with the rest of the sheep in the ensemble. Apparently it left a mark.
Remember the scene where Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present(s) are creepily watching the Cratchit family serve goose on Christmas Day? And Bob walks in with Tiny Tim on his shoulder and announces that Timmy was “good as gold” in Church, and everyone’s super bummed because we all know it’s bad news for Timmy if Scrooge doesn’t get his act together and pay Bob a fair wage? Well, it makes sense that the Cratchits would serve goose at Christmas because they had like nine kids and a common roasting goose can feed up to 16 people.
What if you want to serve a fun, festive game bird for your holiday roast, but you’re only serving four people (see this month’s theme below)? In that case, goose is clearly not the best option, but duck certainly is. And it’s more readily available in supermarkets than goose, saving you a wild goose chase.
Duck is a rich, dark poultry option with a texture far more tender than turkey and a flavor that’s mildly gamey. The duck breast is surrounded by a thick layer of fat, so it’s important to score the skin in order to let the some of the fat melt away. Salting the bird beforehand seasons both the meat, but also the basting liquid so that each baste adds more seasoning. A good herbed bread stuffing absorbs some fantastic duck flavor and added figs balance out the savory herbs nicely.
Not quite figgy pudding, but close enough to be just as festive.
A note on this month’s theme: December is Roast Post Month here at YC. Each Thursday until New Years we’ll be posting a new holiday roast for your holiday inspiration. This year’s Roast Post theme is Party of Four -  each roast recipe is written to accommodate four people as opposed to the usual eight or ten, because not every holiday party has dozens of people in attendance.
Roasted Duck with Fig Stuffing – serves 4
1 – 5-6 lb duck
2 T salt
1 – 2 ft baguette with a good crust (about 6 cups diced)
1 t olive oil
2 shallots
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh marjoram
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh sage
1/3 C dried mission figs
1/2 C cream or milk
1 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse and pat dry the duck. Set in a plate breast side up. Score the top 4 times on each side. Season generously with the two tablespoons of salt.
Cube the bread into 1 inch pieces. Place in a baking dish and toast in the oven while the other ingredients are prepared or about 10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium-low. Peel and dice the shallots and add them to the oil. Soften about 5 – 7  minutes.
Finely mince the herbs, stems removed. Dice the figs into 1/4 inch pieces.
Remove the bread from the oven and in a large bowl toss with the shallots, herbs, figs, salt, pepper and cream or milk.
Stuff the duck with the bread mixture. Set on a rack in a roasting pan and allow to cook for about 2 hours total, basting every half hour until the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 175. Temperature will continue to climb to the safe temperature of 180. Serve hot with lighter sides like steamed vegetables.

Gammon with treacle bacon crust


Gammon with treacle bacon crust


It may seem excessive to top a ham with bacon, but Christmas is a time for generosity.
Ingredients
3 tbsp treacle
3 tbsp maple syrup
9 rashers smoked streaky bacon
1kg/2lb 4oz gammon joint
750ml/1½fl oz apple juice
1 onion, whole, peeled
3 cloves
2 whole star anise
2 bay leaves
6 peppercorns
½ large pumpkin
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
50g/2oz butter
Preparation method
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
In a bowl, mix together the treacle and maple syrup. Add the bacon and leave to marinade for at least four hours.
To a large pot, add the apple juice, onion studded with the cloves, the bay, star anise and peppercorns. Finally place the gammon joint in the liquid and simmer with a lid on for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Meanwhile cut the pumpkin half in half again.
Place the pumpkin on an oven dish, skin-side down, and trickle olive oil over. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, add a knob of butter in each pumpkin slice and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. When cooked set aside under foil to keep warm.
When the gammon has cooked, remove from the liquid, place on a baking tray, and then layer the treacle bacon over the top.
Bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp.
Carve the gammon and serve with scoops of soft pumpkin flesh.



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Standing Rib Roast au Jus


December is Roast Post Month at Yankee Cook. Hooray! [noisemaker sound] Each Thursday until New Years we’ll be posting a new holiday roast for your holiday inspiration. This year’s Roast Post theme is Party of Four -  each roast recipe is written to accommodate four people as opposed to the usual eight or ten, because not every holiday party has dozens of people in attendance. We’re kicking off Roast Post Month with Standing Rib Roast au Jus.
Standing rib roast is the same cut of meat as prime rib before it’s been cut into steaks. A full standing rib roast rack has seven ribs, and can weigh up to 16 lbs and yield as many servings.  A two rib roast normally weighs between 3.5 to 4.5 lbs. What’s nice about making a smaller standing rib roast is that while it’s large enough to carve at the table, it’s also small enough to sear in a pan after it roasts. Roasting at the relatively low temperature of 325 degrees gives you control over the doneness of the center and prevents the outer edges of the meat from overcooking. A quick pan-sear finishes the roast off for a crispy exterior. Another benefit to roasting small – it takes a lot less time to cook.
One thing that’s nice about standing rib roast is that it doesn’t require a roasting pan with a rack. The ribs act as a rack, so if you’re just starting out and you don’t have a roasting pan, make this and you can just use a baking dish. You could even use a brownie pan.
Carving tip: To make the roast easier to carve, remove the ribs first and tie them back on using butcher’s twine. This way the person carving will only need to make vertical slices for the steaks to come off. After dinner, save the bones to make beef stock.
Standing Rib Roast - serves 4
Special equipment: You will need a meat thermometer and butcher’s string.
3.5 – 4.5 lb standing rib roast
1 – 2 T salt
6 sprigs of sage
6 sprigs of thyme
2 t cumin
1 T olive oil
1 – 1.5 t salt
2 C beef stock
additional sage and thyme sprigs for garnish (optional)
Start off by severing the ribs from the rest of the meat. Place the roast in a cutting board with the rib side down, starting at cut side of the bone, run a knife horizontally along the bone to remove the roast from the bone. Set the ribs aside. Trim away any extra fat from the top of the roast. Generously salt the roast with one to two tablespoons of salt. Fit the roast over the ribs and use two pieces of butcher’s string to tie the two parts back together just as they had been before the ribs were removed .
Place the roast on the counter in a large plate. Allow to sit for 1 hour at room temperature. This will take away the chill from the fridge in order to allow the meat to cook more evenly in the center.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Finely mince 1 tablespoon of each of the sage and the thyme (about 2 or 3 sprigs) Combine the herbs, cumin olive oil, and salt in a small bowl.
Remove the salt from the rib roast using paper towels. Pat dry.
Rub the herb mixture into the roast and place the roast in a large baking dish.
Insert the meat thermometer into the center of the roast so that it’s not touching a bone. Place the roast in the center of the oven and cook until the thermometer reads 135 degrees (about 1 3/4 to 2 hours) for medium rare or 150 for medium (about 2 – 2 1/4 hours).
Remove the roast from the oven and, keeping the thermometer in place, loosely tent the roast with foil. Allow the roast to rest for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour. The temperature will continue to climb another 10 or 11 degrees.
After the roast has rested, take about a tablespoon of the rendered fat from the baking dish and heat to a shimmer over medium high heat in a large frying pan.
Sear all sides of the roast in the frying pan using tongs – at least 30 seconds per side or until a crispy, brown crust forms.  Set the roast on a serving platter or carving board with channels (to avoidspillage). Cut and remove the strings.
For the Jus:
Pour the stock into the frying pan and scrape up any bits of the meat, stirring to dissolve. Add the remaining sprigs of sage and thyme to the pan. Lower heat to medium and allow to reduce to about half the volume (about 5 minutes). Strain the jus through a mesh strainer into a gravy dish.
Carve the roast by slicing vertically to make steaks. Serve with the jus over something starchy and absorbent like mashed potatoes or a good polenta.



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Classic Beef Stew with Dumplings


Classic Beef Stew with Dumplings
This type of meat stew washed up on the New England shores with the colonists. If the Puritans hadn’t already been making it in England, they likely learned it from the Dutch (the Puritans who eventually landed in New England originally fled to the Netherlands before leaving for America).
Classic Beef Stew with Dumplings
On a trip to the Netherlands a few years ago, I was invited to dinner at the home of a local family. The meal was described as “truly Dutch”. It was a beef stew that was almost identical to what I’d been raised on in New England.

Great for warming up a house on a dark winter day, hearty and nutritious, beef stew is the original stick-to-your-ribs meal. I like mine with dumplings. It’s like having fresh baked bread on top of your stew.


Classic Beef Stew with Dumplings

Yield:
serves 4-6 Prep time:
20 min Cook time:
3 hours Total time:
3 hour 20 min
1 1/2 lb beef (any stew cut) cubed
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
15 pearl onions
15 small to medium mushrooms
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped scallion
2 tablespoons chopped sage
1 quart vegetable or beef stock
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup light cream or half and half

Start by peeling the onions. To do so blanch them in boiling water for about 3-4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Cut off the root and make a slight knotch in the skin (a paring knife works well for this). Pinch the opposite end. The onion should easily slip from the skin. Remove any remaining long strands or dark spots.

Toss the beef with salt and the 1/4 C flour. Heat canola oil in cast iron dutch oven (or oven-proof stockpot) over medium-high heat. Add the beef and sear on all sides. Reduce heat to low and pour one cup of stock over the beef and stir to break up any bits stuck to the pan. Add the vegetables, scallion, sage and the rest of the stock. Cover and simmer on low heat for 1/2 hour.

Move to a 325 degree oven and braise uncovered for 2. 5 hours, stirring occasionally. (I use the oven for this rather than the range because the stew cooks more evenly and there’s less risk of burning the bottom.)

Make the dumpling batter by combining the 1 C flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Stir in the cream and oil.

Using a greased tablespoon, scoop dumpling batter into the stew. Cover and return to the oven for 10 minutes to allow the dumplings to brown. Remove cover, move the rack closer to the top of the oven, increase heat to 450 degrees and cook for another 15 minute. This will lightly brown the dumplings.

Serve hot with a good glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.




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Beef stew with dumplings in season


Beef stew with dumplings in season
Beef stew with dumplings
For the coldest wintry evenings, tuck into a rich beef stew with fluffy dumplings to warm you right down to your toes.
Ingredients
For the beef stew
2 tbsp olive oil
25g/1oz butter
750g/1lb 10oz beef stewing steak, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp plain flour
2 garlic cloves, crushed
175g/6oz baby onions, peeled
150g/5oz celery, cut into large chunks
150g/5oz carrots, cut into large chunks
2 leeks, roughly chopped
200g/7oz swede, cut into large chunks
150ml/5fl oz red wine
500ml/18fl oz beef stock
2 fresh bay leaves
3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 tbsp chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, or to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dumplings
125g/4½oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
60g/2½oz suet
water, to make a dough
To serve
mashed potato
1 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley
Preparation method
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
For the beef stew, heat the oil and butter in an ovenproof casserole and fry the beef until browned on all sides.
Sprinkle over the flour and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add the garlic and all the vegetables and fry for 1-2 minutes.
Stir in the wine, stock and herbs, then add the Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar, to taste. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cover with a lid, transfer to the oven and cook for about two hours, or until the meat is tender.
For the dumplings, sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
Add the suet and enough water to form a thick dough.
With floured hands, roll spoonfuls of the dough into small balls.
After two hours, remove the lid from the stew and place the balls on top of the stew. Cover, return to the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes, or until the dumplings have swollen and are tender. (If you prefer your dumplings with a golden top, leave the lid off when returning to the oven.)
To serve, place a spoonful of mashed potato onto each of four serving plates and top with the stew and dumplings. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.



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Tartiflette in season


Tartiflette in season
Tartiflette
Try serving this French-style cheesy potato bake with pickled onions, gherkins and charcuterie.
Ingredients
1kg/2lb 4oz Charlotte potatoes, peeled
250g/8oz bacon lardons
2 shallots
1 garlic clove
100ml/3½fl oz white wine
200ml/7fl oz double cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 whole Reblochon cheese (about 450g/1lb), sliced
Preparation method
For the tartiflette, preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas 7.
Cook the potatoes in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 5-10 minutes, or until tender.
Drain and set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, heat a frying pan until hot and fry the bacon, shallots and garlic for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Technique: De-glazing pan gravy

Watch technique
1:18 mins
Slice the potatoes thinly and layer into an ovenproof gratin dish with the bacon mixture. Pour over the double cream. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Layer the Reblochon slices on top.
Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is golden-brown and bubbling.



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Pork loin with Parma ham and oregano in season


Pork loin with Parma ham and oregano in season

You may have noticed that I said the pork loin should be de-rinded. I didn’t say you wouldn’t want the rind as well. The ciccioli – as Italian pork scratchings (give or take) are known – make for very fine aperativo-accompanying morsel.
Ingredients
1.5kg/3lb 5oz boneless and rindless loin of pork
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
few sprigs fresh oregano, plus more to serve
100g/3½oz Parma ham, sliced
⅓ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 onion or 2 shallots, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp dry white vermouth
4 tbsp boiling water
Preparation method
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Open up the loin of pork, read for stuffing, by laying it out in front of you vertically so that the thick part is on the left (I’m right-handed). Now starting at the top, cut through this thick part of the loin all the way down so that you can open it out to the left like a book. This will give you a larger surface area to lay the filling on.
Spread the pungent garlic all over the meat. Then take the leaves from a few sprigs of oregano and dot them about too. Keep the stalks.
Lay the pieces of ham horizontally over the pork loin, this way it will roll up more easily as the roll will follow the long length of the ham slices.
Sprinkle the chilli flakes over the ham and then roll up the loin, starting from the open-ended side, keeping as tight a roll as you can. Secure the meat with string at 3-4cm/1-1½in intervals, knotting the lengths of string firmly. If you’re using stationer’s string rather than cook’s twine, dampen it first. I wish I could instruct you as to how to tie proper knots, but I do very bad knots myself. Were you to have the offer of a friendly hand - or rather finger - to hold the knot down as you tie it, take it gratefully.
Cut the onion or shallots into thick slices without peeling them, and sit them in the bottom of a roasting tin to make the flavour-platform for the pork. Add the reserved stalks from the oregano, sit the loin on top and drizzle with the oil.
Cook for 1¼ hours, when it’s cooked, the juices must run clear when you put a skewer into the centre and a meat thermometer should read 71C/160F.
Transfer the tin to a heatproof kitchen surface, immediately pour the vermouth and boiling water into the tin and scrape all around the bottom of the tin so any oniony, meaty stuck-on bits dissolve into this instant gravy. You can let the meat rest in this sauce for 15 minutes or so.
When you are ready to slice the pork, remove it to a board and warm the gravy (removing the onion bits) if it’s cooled. Cut the meat into approximately 2cm/1in slices, or in other words, thick enough for the slices to keep their shape and hold the filling. This size joint should give you 10 good slices plus the misshapen end-pieces.
Arrange these sturdy slices on a bed of rocket with the gravy served separately in a little jug, or just sit them on a warm plate and pour over them a little gravy or any extra juices the meat has made. Take some more oregano leaves and slice them into fine strips, strewing them over the pork slices before serving.



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Honey roast ribs with anise

Honey roast ribs with anise

Sticky ribs are a classic example of sugar and spice working brilliantly together. You might never have thought of making them at home, but the results are amazing.
Ingredients
6 tbsp thickish honey
3 heaped tbsp oyster sauce
¼ tsp chilli flakes
4 whole star anise
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic
1.5kg/3lb 5oz meaty pork ribs
Preparation method
To make the marinade, spoon the honey and oyster sauce into a roasting tin or baking dish. Add the chilli flakes, star anise and salt. Grind the peppercorns and add them to the marinade.
Toss the ribs in the marinade and tuck the garlic cloves whole between the ribs, then set aside for at least 2 hours. It wouldn’t hurt if they stay there overnight.
Roast the ribs at 160C/325F/Gas 3 for 90 minutes, turning them in their sauce from time to time.
Then turn the heat up to 200C for 15 minutes, Keep an eye on them, as sometimes they burn easily. They are ready when the meat is tender, though far from falling off the bone, and the ribs are sticky and almost charred.