20 small cubes of blue cheese
prosciutto (thinly sliced, cut in half lengthwise)
Cut the figs in half and place a piece of blue cheese on each fig half. Fasten a piece of prosciutto to each fig through the cheese with a cocktail stick.
Put in a hot oven for long enough for the cheese to soften. Eat it all up.
Comment: In an ideal world, where one has a functioning grill, one is supposed to grill the whole lot to make the prosciutto crispy and the cheese soft and then drizzle with salt, pepper and olive oil. Also in an ideal world where one has well-behaved prosciutto, one is supposed to carefully wrap a long strip around each fig rather than pin disintegrating bits to the top. We do not live in an ideal world; in the real world, this was more than fine.
1kg wild boar
600 ml apple cider
125 ml apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 apples cut into wedges, cored, unpeeled
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
Combine the apple cider, apple cider vinegar, garlic, and spices. Marinade the wild boar mini-roast in this mixture for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Take the wild boar roast out of the marinade, pat dry, reserve the marinade. In a small bowl combine mustard, oil, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the wild boar. Slow roast in the oven on 120 C until it reaches an internal temperature of 75 C, basting occasionally with a few spoonfuls of marinade.
Pour 2-3 cups of the marinade into a sauce pan and reduce until the mixture thickens, serve as a sauce for the wild boar roast.
Melt butter in a skillet. Add apples and rosemary and cook until the apples are light brown.
Slice the wild boar roast, pour the sauce over, and serve with apples.
Comment: Use of the oven thermometer gave me the best boar I've managed to cook for years. The sauce was not too rich but set off the meat nicely, rather than the usual very heavy junpier berry recipe I have used in the past.
600 ml water
125 g yellow cornmeal(medium or coarse ground)
salt, as needed
butter to grease bowl(s)
Bring the water to a happy boil in a medium pot and stream in the cornmeal, whisking as you go. Season with a smattering of salt, to taste.
Cook, stirring often (eventually switching to a wooden spoon), until the mămăligă pulls away from the side of the pot and you can stick a wooden spoon in it and it stays standing straight up. Reduce heat if it begins to spatter and sputter.
Butter up one large or several small bowls; pour in and allow to cool. Can be reheated for eating, or eaten cold. Traditionally eaten without cutlery, and cut with thread rather than a knife.
Comment: This is the national dish of Moldova, and the coincidence of having a Moldovan guest for Christmas dinner and the fact that the boar recipe as I received it specified an accompaniment of polenta (which is only one step away from mămăligă) emboldened me to try it. It's dead easy and our guest expressed polite appreciation. I might do it again.
Satsivi (Georgian: საცივი) is a thick paste made from walnuts and served cold (‘Tsivi’ means ‘cold’ in Georgian). It is used in a variety of meat (usually chicken and turkey), fish and vegetable dishes – in this case cauliflower.
1 medium cauliflower
3 white onions
300 g of walnuts
4 cloves of garlic
1 quarter tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp dried fenugreek
1 tsp dried marigold (if you can get it!)
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp dried hot red pepper
1 tbs vinegar
4 tbs oil
Grind the walnuts and garlic together and add to a mixing bowl. Crush the cloves and add to the bowl, together with fenugreek, marigold, coriander, cinnamon, hot red pepper and salt.
Mix thoroughly. Add 1 tbs of vinegar and then gradually add boiled, cooled water, stirring as the water is added.
Keep adding a little water until the paste has a thick but not wet consistency. Leave for 2 hours.
Wash and separate the cauliflower. Boil in a deep pot for 10 minutes.
Slice the onions and add to a pan of oil. Fry on a medium heat until the onions brown.
Add the boiled cauliflower to the pan of fried onions. Fry for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Pour the walnut paste onto the cauliflower and onions and allow to cool for at least half an hour before serving. We garnished ours with pomegranate seeds.
Comment: This gives you a vast amount of cauliflower covered with walnut paste, and with five of us around the table we got through only half of it. It was also a bit of a tactical error to serve this cold when everything else was warm. It is very yummy, though, and would have been fantastic for a more salad-y meal rather than merely good and tasty.
3 tbsp oil
400g Brussels sprouts, halved
25g cold butter
1 tbsp sesame seeds
100g pomegranate seeds
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Put the sprouts in the pan, cut-side down, and leave them to sizzle away happily for 10 mins without disturbing them.
Halfway through cooking, dot over the butter and leave it to sizzle and brown – the sprouts need to be really crispy and dark brown. If they are just lightly brown, carry on cooking for another 5-10 mins.
Scatter over the sesame seeds and stir-fry everything until the seeds are toasted. Off the heat, toss through the pomegranate seeds, then season the sprouts with salt and tip into a serving dish. Drizzle with honey if you like before serving.
Comment: This was the surprise hit of the meal. Sprouts are sort of traditional with Christmas dinner, but I had never though before of frying them, let alone frying them with interesting extra tastes. I didn't bother with the honey option – this was already a calorific enough meal – but I could see how it might work.
We cheated and bought a pudding from the British shop in Everberg. Discovered I had run out of brandy, but have plenty of Ракија left over from previous Balkan adventures so was able to draw on reserves a bit.
Cut the pomegranate in half.
Submerge one half in water in a large bowl.
Dig into the fruit with your fingers releasing the seeds from the pith inside. The seeds will sink to the bottom and the pith will float to the top.
Repeat for the other half.
I hope you ate well today too.