Delicious December fare from Herefordshire

PUBLISHED: 11:57 11 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:08 20 February 2013

There are plenty of fizzy options available to help celebrate Christmas but Herefordshire wine, cider and perry are among the best

There are plenty of fizzy options available to help celebrate Christmas but Herefordshire wine, cider and perry are among the best

Martin Griffiths suggests recipes which celebrate the delights of December

Comfort & Joy

Martin Griffiths suggests recipes which celebrate the delights of December

December provides a host of occasions when we can turn to the kitchen and our wonderful local produce to celebrate reunions with friends and family, unexpected guests and the heavenly voices of carol singers.

December dinner parties allow us the chance to dish up steaming bowls of stew and casseroles topped with tummy-filling herby dumplings. Served with fully flavoured root vegetables, deep green cabbages and iron rich purple sprouting these meals make those grey nights and damp mornings much more bearable. Adding a fiery red chilli to your casserole or a few chilli flakes to your vegetables will also perk them up a little.

Game is accessible at this time of year and a piping hot venison casserole can accommodate lots of chilli and spices such as ginger, ground mace and juniper berries. While these are cooking it is simplicity itself to pop some potatoes into the oven to bake. Baked potatoes are one of the delights of winter; simply rub the skins with salt and oil to crisp them and youll have time to lay the table and pop some of Herefordshires top sparkling wine into the fridge to chill before your guests arrive. If you prefer Herefordshires excellent cider or perry there are some fine examples around. And why not pour yourself a glass as well while youre cooking... just to test it, of course.

The other advantage of a good casserole dinner is that you can always leave it cooking for a little longer while you meet your friends at one of our excellent pubs and sample their cider selection. (The Crown at Woolhope has up to 19 available.)

Christmas dinner seems to be dominated by the turkey these days but its always good to keep an open mind as to what to serve on Christmas day. Goose offers wonderful flavours. It can be ordered in advance from our best butchers and makes splendid seasonal eating when cooked with cider and served with a fruity stuffing. Equally, if you find Christmas pudding a bit heavy and rich, why not serve up a baked pudding laden with apples and pears cooked with aromatic cinnamon, ginger, cloves and mace?

Add some cider brandy from Herefords Cider Museum for a locally-inspired seasonal touch and set the Christmas spirit alight.

Hopefully the carol singers will come around and they are sure to appreciate some Christmas cookies to help soak up any alcohol they consume. Add a good pinch of cinnamon and ginger to a basic cookie recipe to create a spicy Christmas option. You could also serve them an extra treat with some homemade miniature flat breads topped with savoury pat or some old fashioned potted meats.

Flatbreads are simple to make and can be made in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can flavour them with your own choice of herbs and spices and as long as you supervise things carefully, they can be cooked in batches with the help of your children.

Potted meat is an easy way to use up left-over turkey, chicken, ham and pheasant and you can make small pots for individual servings or a larger version in a rectangular loaf dish.

Simple Salmon Pat

Making your own salmon pat is an quick and easy Christmas treat. Poaching your salmon in a mixture of herbs and spices adds more complex flavours and you can also poach fish straight from the freezer if you take it slowly to make sure it is cooked all the way through

Serves 6

240g salmon fillets
200g soft low fat cheese
50g melted butter
Zest and juice of one lemon
Big pinches of turmeric, paprika and bay to add to the water when poaching the salmon
Small bunch of chives/dill finely chopped

1. Put your salmon fillets into a pan of water with the spices and slowly boil for around 10 minutes, twice as long if cooking from frozen

2. When cooked allow the salmon to cool before removing the skin and any bones before finely flaking

3. Fully mix the salmon and melted butter with the soft cheese. I prefer to do this by hand and leave the salmon chunky

4. Add the lemon zest and juice, herbs and seasoning and adjust
to taste

5. Serve in individual ramekins or spoon the pat onto a large double sheet of cling film and roll it up into a large sausage shape. Twist the ends of the cling film to secure the shape and keep well chilled in the fridge. Serve with your own star and moon-shaped mini flat breads and hey presto, supper is served

Mini Star Flat Breads

Flat breads are made all over the world and are also a great way to get children cooking. The ingredients are inexpensive and they can have fun making their own shapes

225 plain flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
175ml milk and water mix
1 pinch of turmeric and optional seasoning

1. Mix the ingredients in a large bowl until you have sticky dough. Knead on a floured surface and leave to rest for 5-10 minutes

2. Roll the dough out until as thick as a penny piece and cut out shapes with your pastry cutters. Stars are especially impressive. Bake for about 20 minutes on maximum setting until golden

Potted Christmas Meats

This is a simple old-fashioned way of using up a variety of cooked meats and makes a great starter or lunchtime option

Serves 4

125g butter
250g cooked turkey and ham finely chopped
1tbsp Olivers perry vinegar
1 pinch of ground mace and seasoning
1 bunch of parsley finely chopped

1. Finely chop the meat and parsley and season well

2. Gently melt the butter in a pan before pouring the clear yellow fat into a jug and discarding the white milking remnants

3. Mix the meat with the perry vinegar and half the melted butter
4. Divide the meat into four portions and press firmly into ramekin pots

5. Pour the remaining butter over the top of each pot and place into the fridge to set

Serve with rustic toast and chutney. This recipe can be simply adapted with a selection of meats and works especially well with pheasant. By putting it in a cling film-lined loaf tin and doubling the quantities you can make into one large piece for slicing. You can serve your potted meats either in the ramekins or turn them out by heating the pots in a little warm water. The meat mixture can be left coarse or made fine with the use of a blender; the addition of a little cream makes the mixture even smoother and richer

Farmers Markets in December

Ross-on-Wye: Friday 3 and 17
Hereford: Saturday 4, Thursday 16 and Tuesday 21
Leominster: Saturday 11 and 18

Christmas Cookies

200g plain flour
1 small teaspoon of baking powder
85g softened butter
Zest of one orange
85g soft brown sugar
85g caster sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 big pinch of cinnamon and ginger

1. Mix together the sugar and butter until fluffy
2. Slowly add the eggs while still beating
3. Add the sifted flour and baking powder and fold together
4. Add the seasoning (you can also add nuts and chocolate at this stage)
5. Split your mixture into slightly flattened walnut-sized balls and place well apart on a baking sheet
6. Cook in a pre-heated oven (180c gas mark 4) for 10-12 minutes

Roast Goose Stuffing

225g breadcrumbs
50g prunes, soaked and finely diced
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
1 large onion finely diced
1 sprig of sage finely diced
Juice and zest of one lemon
25g melted butter

Mix all the ingredients together and bind together with the melted butter. Dont over-stuff the cavity of your goose as it stops the heat penetrating and can affect the cooking times. Goose offers more complex flavours than some birds and goes extremely well with this fruity stuffing and a cider based gravy

HEFF producer of the month

Franks Luxury Biscuits, Hereford

Franks Luxury Biscuits is a family run bakery producing homemade biscuits and cakes from the finest natural ingredients with no added preservatives. The business was established in December 2002 when Frank Cornthwaite took early retirement and began baking biscuits in his home kitchen selling them in local outlets. Frank and his wife Lesley (pictured) now run the business from Holmer Trading Estate in Hereford and supply more than 500 outlets in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands, predominantly farm shops, delicatessens and garden restaurants.

The range includes varieties of flapjack, shortbread, cakes, oaties, specialty and savoury biscuits. There is also a gluten-free range. For an extra special festive treat try the Christmas oaties with cranberry and mixed spice, Christmas shortbread with cherries and angelica and the range of iced and un-iced Christmas cakes.

Want to become a member of HEFF?

Membership is available to food and drink producers, retailers, the hospitality and foodservice industry, business service providers, schools or any organisation which would like to be associated with HEFF. Visit, email or call 01743 452818

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