Living in my hometown where many of my immediate family are also based, our Christmas gatherings can be rather large affairs. However, this year for various reasons – mostly the younger cousins flying the coop – it was a smallish gathering of 10 (including 4 children). For the past 3 Christmas’ I have been pretty much out of action – either pregnant or with a small baby in tow – so this year we decided to host the Christmas lunch at our place.
I wanted to keep the food simple and as I love to support our local producers and growers, the menu was created while I wandered around Nelson’s Saturday Market.
Nibbles and Bubbles
Moroccan Roast Chicken + Millet Prune Stuffing (recipe below)
Freshly Smoked Fillet of Salmon (thanks Aunty Jill)
Steamed Green Beans & Minted New Potatoes with Wangapeka Downs cultured butter (if you live in Nelson you have to try this butter, it is divine!)
Hazelnut Chocolate Truffles and a cuppa
*The smoked fish pate recipe was inspired by this simple recipe from The Baker Brothers’ TV series. Absolutely gorgeous and super easy to make… Flake approx 150g smoked mackerel; mix with 150g sour cream; handful of chopped parsley; 1 teaspoon grainy mustard; and lemon juice to taste. Season.
I used this recipe from David Lebowitz for the homemade ice cream, reducing the quantity of sugar a little but could have easily halved the quantity. The ice cream was very sweet for us low sugar eaters. However, the texture was smooth and velvety… a real Christmas treat.
Living in the southern hemisphere Turkey is not so traditional for Christmas dinner. In our family we typically have roast chicken and bbq’d/ smoked salmon served with new potatoes and green beans, and a fresh garden salad. A twist on the traditional utilising the seasons freshest produce. It really is a wonderful time of year to have Christmas with the fresh berries and stone fruit around.
Instead of the same old roast chicken with breadcrumb stuffing I wanted to mix things up a bit this year. I have been inspired by Moroccan flavours ever since I got my hands on Made in Morocco by Julie Le Clerc. The mixture of the cinnamon, prunes, lemons and olives match the chicken perfectly. And the beauty of the stuffing is that it absorbs the cooking juices from the chicken and then gently releases its flavours into the flesh. The result… a beautifully tender chicken, the response… ‘mmm mmm’ from the family. I know this recipe is not exactly ‘summer fare’ but you could easily swap the whole chicken for chicken thighs/ pieces and make the millet stuffing into a pilaf* (see instructions and photo below), served with a fresh garden salad.
Moroccan Roast Chicken + Millet Prune Stuffing
- 1 cup millet* or couscous prepared to packet instructions
- 1 small onion chopped
- 8 prunes diced
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- large handful of chopped herbs - parsley mint, coriander
- 1 free-range egg
- 50 g melted butter or 50 ml olive oil
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- approx. 1.4kg free-range chicken - or equivalent chicken pieces
- 6 kalamata olives stones removed and roughly chopped
- 1 clove of garlic
- zest of 1 preserved lemon or use the zest of a fresh lemon
- juice of half a lemon
- Approx 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Put the millet into a saucepan, wash and cover with 2 cups cold water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil. Simmer for 12 miuntes then turn off and leave to steam (do not lift the lid) for 10 minutes. Tip into a bowl, fluff with a fork. Prepare the remaining ingredients and mix through the millet. Or make as a pilaf. (see instruction below).
- Pack the stuffing mixture firmly into the cavity of the chicken and tie the legs together to hold it all in place.
- Put the marinade ingredients into a mortar and pestle or blender and mash into a paste. Tip onto the chook and rub all over. Cover and leave to marinade for several hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 190 C
- Once the oven is hot put in the chicken and roast for approx. 1 hr 20 or until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced. Remove from the oven and cover with tin foil, resting for 10 minutes before carving. (Note if using chicken pieces the cooking time will be shorter, approx 40 minutes.)
Saute the onion in half the quantity of butter/ olive oil. Add the millet, prunes, cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick) and salt, saute briefly. Pour over 2 cups hot stock (chicken or vegetable). Cook the millet as above. Then fluff and fold through the chopped herbs, the remaining butter/ olive oil and lemon juice. Omit the egg. Delicious with a side of this simple marrow dish.