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Essential sides

The perfect dishes to accompany your festive feast

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Cranberries with a twist - just one of the perfect pairings with your Christmas dinner 

22 DECEMBER 2008

Christmas lunch is ultimately a sum of all its parts. While turkey often takes centre stage, there is no hero, although it's the side dishes which make Christmas lunch, well, Christmassy. Brussels with bacon and lashings of salty butter, for example, a quintessential bread sauce, dark, meaty gravy, a cranberry compote spiked with citrus and a chestnutty stuffing or two.

If you're looking for some great side-dishes to go with your Christmas feast, try the following suggestions.

Brussels sprouts with pangritata (fried crumbs)

Ingredients

  • 600g sprouts
  • 2 pieces of day-old bread
  • a sprig of thyme, leaves removed, or a few sage leaves
  • half an onion, finely diced
  • zest of a clementine and a lemon
  • 3 slices of parma ham, torn into small pieces, optional
  • 35g butter

Method

Whiz the bread in a food processor until you have fine crumbs.

Place sprouts in a pan of boiling water and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until just tender. Smaller ones may be quicker. While they are cooking, melt butter in frying pan and add torn up parma ham. Let it crisp a little and then add breadcrumbs, finely diced onion and thyme or sage leaves. Add clementine and lemon zest and fry til the breadcrumbs are golden. Drain sprouts and tip into a serving dish. Scatter over pangritata and serve.

Cranberry and clemetine compote

Ingredients

  • 200g cranberries
  • 2 clementines
  • 80g sugar
  • splash of port, optional

Method

Zest the clementines, then halve and juice them. Combine ingredients in a saucepan and place over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the cranberries start to burst. Serve either hot or cold.

A classic bread sauce as served at London's Roast Restaurant

Ingredients

  • 1 pint of whole milk
  • 150gms of fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 clove
  • Knob of butter
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Method

Use the clove to secure bay leaf to the onion. Place it in milk on a gentle heat and add peppercorns. Bring slowly up to just under a boil, remove from heat and allow to infuse. You could easily do this on Christmas eve and leave it overnight, but an hour or two will do at a pinch.

Sieve milk and return to pan along with the breadcrumbs. Place on a low heat and stir, adding salt and pepper, nutmeg and butter to enrich sauce. Taste after a few minutes, season again if necessary and serve.

Proper gravy

Ingredients

  • Red wine, a glass or two
  • 1 tbs plain flour
  • 1 tbs fruity jam or jelly, or a splash of the cranberry compote above
  • Stock or water from boiling vegetables

Method

Making gravy is not an exact science. Before roasting your bird place some onion, carrot and celery under it and if you have the neck of the turkey throw this in too. When the roast is done, remove it from tray and drain off most of the fat, leaving a tablespoon or so with the vegetables.

Put the pan on the hob over a medium heat and add the flour, scraping at the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate all the tasty bits. Once the flour has browned, add the wine, scraping at the pan again. Add the jelly or jam, stirring to dissolve. Do this with a decent version as a cheap one just won't melt.

Pour in some of the vegetable water and bring to a boil. The amount will depend on how much gravy you need, but a pint or so will probably be fine. Let it bubble a little and thicken slightly to the desired consistency, then pour through a sieve and serve.

Serious stuffing

Hot tip: roast your stuffing in a separate dish that you can place straight on the table

Ingredients

  • 500g good sausage meat
  • 100g pistachios
  • 100g dried sour cherries
  • a goose, turkey or chicken liver
  • a large handful of breadcrumbs
  • 1 onion
  • 1 egg
  • the zest of 2 clementines and 1 orange
  • a handful of parsley

Method

Roughly chop pistachios, cherries and parsley. Clean any brown membrane from the liver. Finely dice onion and liver. Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined and then bake in a shallow dish, about one-inch deep, for around 40 minutes.