FOR most of us, Christmas may look very different this year. The Covid-19 crisis has undoubtedly impacted on the traditional Christmas get-togethers with family and friends, and even the thought of going shopping for the celebratory feast seems a lot less appealing right now.
Luckily, if you really can’t be bothered with all the hassle of cooking too much over the festive period, or your usual yuletide plans are cancelled because of the pandemic, you can at least take advantage of the many Christmas dinner delivery and collection services being offered by local restaurants over the coming weeks. I mean, let’s be honest, whether you love to stay at home or enjoy going out for Christmas, nothing tastes better than the feast of the day being cooked up by a great chef from your favourite restaurant.
Most of us probably feel the need for a stress-free Yuletide holiday in 2020, without all the endless food preparation and cooking. I’m happy to say that we are also offering a little help with our Fosh Food delivery service. The aim is to help take the strain out of cooking Christmas dinner this year by offering restaurant quality food delivered straight to your home, which can then be re-heated and on the table in literally minutes. I actually love the aromas of the kitchen during Christmas time. It’s heavy with the scent of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, sweet wine, orange peel and chocolate. Its so good it should be bottled and sold!
Cooking over Christmas also gives me a great excuse to cook with one of my favourite spices, the wonderfully aromatic star anise. It’s actually the fruit of the Illicium verum tree, and it’s certainly one the most beautiful of all spices in the world. The tree has delicate, yellow flowers that give way to eight-pointed stars filled with glossy, egg-shaped seeds.
Star anise is totally different from European aniseed or anise, and although it has been around for more than three centuries, in Europe our use of it has been largely confined to cordials, syrups, confectionery and drinks such as pastis. In its native China and Vietnam, however, as well as in its adopted countries of India, Japan, Cambodia and the Philippines, it is much more widely used and an essential ingredient in Chinese five spice powder.
Star anise combines really well with citrus fruits, apples and pears. It works its magic with pineapple, coconut, figs and coffee. The sweetness of carrots also proves to be a lovely combination with the flavours of anise, but I love to combine star anise with lightly caramelised onions. I can then use this as a base to braise meat or to make a delicious sauce. The combination produces sulphur compounds that bring out the meat notes of a dish. As a rule of thumb, half a star anise to one large onion is about right.
Thinly slice the onion and brown it gently with the spice in butter or olive oil; it’s vital to get some caramelisation on the onions. Then add any other ingredients before putting in the meat. But be careful. If you use too much star anise, it’s all you’ll end up tasting.
You have to treat it with respect, just as you would any other big-flavoured spice or herb. Star anise also has another great use. Apparently in China it’s carried to ward off the evil eye and to bring good luck in love, money and health…I like it even more now!
Christmas spiced duck with red cabbage & pumpkin puree
Cooking time: 2 hours
Prep time: 45 minutes
- 1X 2kg whole duck
- 1 whole orange, quartered
- 1 cinnamon stick
Christmas Spice mix
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 10 cloves
- 6 cardamom seeds
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 6 star anise
- 2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
For the glaze:
- ½ of the Christmas spice mix
- 150ml maple syrup
- 100ml water
1. To make the christmas spice place the spices in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Cook, stirring for 1 minute until lightly toasted and aromatic. Transfer to the Spice grinder and grind until coarsely crushed.
2.To make the glaze bring the maple syrup, spices and water to the boil. Reduce to a light syrup and remove from the heat.
3.Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.
Remove any excess fat from inside the cavity of the duck, then pierce the duck skin all over with a fork and stuff the neck end of the cavity with the quartered orange and cinnamon stick. Rub half of the spice powder all over the skin and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the duck to a medium roasting tray and roast for around 1 hour 40 minutes or until the duck is beautifully crisp and the meat falls easily away from the bone.
Brush the duck all over with the glaze and serve with red cabbage & pumpkin puree.
BRAISED RED CABBAGE
- 1 small red cabbage, quartered,
- 1 green apple, peeled
- 1 red onion
- 50g butter
- 50g clear honey
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp light brown sugar
- 100g peeled hazelnuts, crushed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
Use the shredding tool to shred the red cabbage, apple & onion.
Put the cabbage, apple and onion in a large casserole or deep saucepan.
Add the remaining ingredients, season well, cover with a tight-fitting lid and set the pan over a low heat.
Cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the cabbage is tender.
Remove the star anise, the cinnamon stick and serve.
- 500g diced pumpkin
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1tsp chopped ginger
- 4tbsp olive oil
- 800ml chicken stock
- Juice of one lime
- Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté the onion and ginger until tender. Add the pumpkin, and then stir in the chicken stock. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Place in a liquidiser and blend to a fine puree and serve immediately.