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COLIN'S COOKERY COLUMN

Rushmore's

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Recipe Number Six  December 2002

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Over the last few weeks I have left a trail of hints of Christmas presents that Mrs. R. could buy me, little things like a new fishing rod or any item that would increase my sparse so called collection of ageing fishing gear. Like many others we come to expect, but as we are given our present on Christmas day, don't you just know it, no way will a thirteen foot fishing rod fit into a six inch by three inch box, slowly pulling the paper off to reveal if maybe just maybe that some clever dick had invented a fishing rod that would fit in to a tiny box. Over the last year I have applied to the AA for them to inspect the restaurant. In return we had a letter back confirming the menu is of AA rosette standard and to expect a visit when an inspector is in the area. That was six months ago.

It was on a Thursday night a few weeks ago that Kim came in to the kitchen. I could see by the expression on her face that she had something to tell me. In the restaurant was a lady that was on her own. Instantly my thoughts were, was she the inspector from the AA?  Kim went off to take her order, and when the order arrived in the kitchen it was as follows: Terrine of duck pate garnished with Cumberland sauce, and mixed leaves, followed by slow cooked fillets of English lamb in rosemary and red wine sauce. Also a half bottle of fine red wine was ordered. As the starter plate arrived back from the restaurant, a close inspection of what was left on it took place. Nods of approval came from the commis chef, not much left, just a few bits of mixed leaves left on the plate. As the main course left the kitchen we waited, after what seemed a life time the plate arrived back, just a little of the rosemary and red wine sauce was left. Smiles all round we thought that we had cracked it. Then, like me expecting a fishing rod to be in a small box, it turned out that the lady was staying in Heacham at a friendís holiday house for a few days rest.

Thinking one thing and it turning out to be the unexpected reminds me of a story that involved a rich landowner. A few years ago he had his head gardener plant asparagus and each year as soon as the first heads of asparagus had broken through the earths crust an under gardener would be sent at great haste up to the big house to inform his lordship.

It was on a bright sunny day that the head gardener, on his morning inspection, spotted a spear of asparagus of marvellous size emerging. Like the wind, he ran up to the house to tell his master. The master and the entire household promptly turned out to see this one marvellous spear of asparagus. The news was found to be neither false or exaggerated.  The plant had broken the ground, the head of it was round and shiny and mottled and gave promise of a column too thick to be encircled by the hand. There were cries of admiration at the sight of the horticultural phenomenon, and as the days went by each day the asparagus would be inspected by the master and the entire household and each day it grew bigger, bigger than any asparagus had ever grown before. A special cutting knife was made by the local blacksmith and sharpened to slice the phenomenon with one swipe. The great day arrived. His lordship had invited many of his friends and he made sure that the entire household would be there. As his lordship advanced armed with the official instrument in hand and bent down with dignity to set about separating the proud plant from its stem. For a while everybody waited impatiently to examine the asparagus, but to their surprise, disappointment and dismay, his lordship rose up slowly empty handed. The Ďasparagusí was made of wood. The joke, which perhaps went a little too far, was the work of a young wood carver. He had fashioned the fake plant to perfection, buried it secretly and raised it little by little each day to imitate the process of natural growth. It turned out that the young man had tried to sell his lordship one of his wood carvings a few years ago but was refused. His lordship scarcely knew how to take this hoax but on seeing signs of hilarity on all present and this followed by great laughter, he held the wooden asparagus aloft, and laughed till tears rolled down his checks. The evidence was accordingly taken away and for one evening at least the asparagus statue was granted the honour of the drawing room table. So with all these tales of slight disappointment I offer a few tips to make Christmas day lunch go without a hitch.

CHRISTMAS WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS

The Christmas meal is arguably the most important meal of the year, and a turkey is the traditional choice for a successful meal that is as enjoyable to cook, as it is to eat. So plan well ahead, keep everything as simple as possible and do as much as you can in advance.

It's a matter of size so they say and these weights will give you good size servings with some left over for sandwiches or to serve cold with salad 2.8kg  5 servings 3.8kg  6 servings 4.4kg  8 servings

RED WINE GRAVY

It really is worth putting in the effort to make your own gravy. It draws the whole meal together. Start by reheating the pan juices in the roasting tin on the hob. Whisk in I tbsp of plain flour until you have a thick sauce without lumps. Slowly add approx 300ml of turkey or chicken stock and one cup of red wine and whisk in. Simmer for ten minutes to concentrate the flavours and cook out the flour, taste and season if necessary.

CRANBERRY SAUCE

This is easy and quick to make, prepare it in advance and store it in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week.
Place 250g of fresh cranberries in a small saucepan with l50ml of water and bring gently to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Next add a few strips of orange peel and l00g of brown sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and simmer for a further 7 to 10 minutes until the sauce is thickened and pulpy. Now remove the orange slices and transfer the sauce to a small bowl. The cranberry sauce is now ready.

CLASSIC BREAD SAUCE

This accompaniment is essential, serve with any game, chicken or turkey. Heat 600m1 of milk in a small saucepan with 50g of butter, add into the pan a small skinned onion that has been studded with 5 or 6 whole cloves, pop in a bay leaf if you have one and also a few sprigs of thyme would not go amiss.  Bring this up to the boil and then reduce the heat and just simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the flavoured milk into another pan, stir in 100g of fresh white bread crumbs and simmer again for 4 minutes over a low heat until thickened, lastly add 3 to 4 tbsp of single cream. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and grated nutmeg. Don't be tempted to make this sauce too early in the day as it will become too thick and loose its light texture.

Well there you have it, just a few tips to help with the Christmas lunch. I will be up and about at the crack of dawn on the 25th as we have fifty people coming to lunch. Maybe I will just find time to open any present that looks as if it contains a 13-foot fishing rod, if not I will be wearing my new socks and a new tie on Boxing day.
Merry Christmas and good cooking to you all.

  Colin Rushmore

Please note the next recipe will be February.

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