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  • A Christmas Feast

    If you find yourself with a jam-packed social calendar this December, flitting from drinks to dinner to full-on Christmas party, why not take inspiration from the Italian culture and slow things down a little? Chef Sophie Braimbridge from Stirred has compiled an Italian Christmas feast for us, highlighting the beautiful winter flavours of earthy mushrooms, roasted chestnuts and zesty orange. Start your dinner party with a Porcini risotto, then move onto Chicken stuffed with figs, fennel and orange, and finally, finish with a slice (or two) of Chocolate and chestnut cake.



    Porcini Risotto

    Serves 4




    75g dried porcini, soaked for 15 minutes in enough hot water to cover

    100g unsalted butter

    1 medium sized red onion, finely chopped

    250g fresh wild mushrooms or field mushrooms, sliced

    2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

    1 small bunch of thyme, picked

    250g risotto rice

    200ml dry white vermouth

    800ml chicken stock, gently warmed

    50g freshly grated Parmesan

    Salt and freshly grated pepper



    • Melt the butter in a thick- based saucepan and slowly cook the onion and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the fresh wild mushrooms and thyme and cook for a few minutes so the mushrooms are just cooked. Squeeze the porcini dry, reserving the liquor, then add to the pan and cook for a further minute. Add the rice and stir well so that all the rice is coated in butter, then season with salt and pepper.
    • Turn the heat to medium high and pour in the vermouth. Stir frequently until the vermouth has evaporated and add the porcini liquor, discarding any sediment left at the bottom of the bowl. Keep stirring the risotto rice, then add the stock a ladle at a time so the grains of rice are immersed in the liquid.
    • When most of the stock has been added, test the rice to check it isn’t overcooked (it should be al dente). Add extra water if more cooking is required. Taste for seasoning and remove from the heat once the rice is just cooked and the liquid has just been absorbed so the consistency is that of a thick soup.
    • Stir in half the Parmesan just before serving, then sprinkle the remainder on top, finishing with thinly sliced white truffles or a drizzle of truffle oil.





    Chicken stuffed with figs, fennel and orange zest

    Serves 6



    2.5 kg free range chicken

    4 tablespoons olive oil

    130g smoked pancetta or bacon, diced

    1 medium onion, chopped

    1 medium fennel, chopped

    275g waxy potatoes or 1 large potato, peeled and diced into 2cm cubes

    2 large cloves garlic, chopped

    1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

    150ml white wine

    Zest of 1 large orange

    4 ripe fresh or soft dried figs



    • Using a large deep sided frying pan or saucepan, brown the pancetta and onion in olive oil, then add the fennel and potatoes and cook a few minutes more. Season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic and rosemary and mix briefly.  Add the wine, reduce the heat, then cover with a lid and cook for about 15 minutes until the wine has reduced and softened the potatoes. Remove from the heat and add the orange zest and figs. Set aside to cool if not using straight away.
    • When ready to stuff the bird, preheat the oven to 250°C (500F°/Gas 7) and heat a roasting tray that the bird fits snugly in. Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper and place the stuffing inside. Add any leftover stuffing to the pan 15 minutes before removing from the oven. Place the chicken in the preheated roasting tray and cook for 15 minutes.
    • Remove the chicken from the oven and turn over onto its front. Cook for a further 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and turn back on its bottom. Reduce the heat to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4) and cook the chicken for a further 30 minutes. Check the chicken is cooked by pulling at one of the legs - if the juices run out white and not red then the chicken is cooked.
    • Remove the chicken from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving with roast potatoes and a rocket salad.



    If your chicken is a little bigger than stated then just cook a little longer. If you use the stuffing cold from the fridge, allow another 10 minutes in the cooking time. If not cooking straight away, DO NOT stuff the bird with warm stuffing, stuff once chilled.




    Chocolate and chestnut cake

    Serves 6-8



    400g fresh chestnuts or 200g cooked and peeled chestnuts

    200g hazelnuts or almonds

    200g unsalted butter, softened

    175g caster sugar

    4 eggs (separated)

    2 tablespoons cocoa

    1 small slice of panettone or 1 tablespoon plain flour

    1 level teaspoon baking powder


    To decorate (optional):

    50g dark chocolate

    25g unsalted butter


    To serve:

    Whipped cream or crème fraiche



    • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4) and grease a 23cm cake tin.
    • Roast the nuts in the oven for about 10 minutes until golden brown. Set aside 1 heaped tablespoon of nuts for decoration then coarsely chop the rest with the panettone (if using a food processor). Place the nut mixture in the greased cake tin and shake it until it sticks, creating a crust.
    • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, adding the egg yolks one at a time. Chop the chestnuts and add to the butter mixture, then beat for a few minutes.  Whisk the egg whites into soft peaks and fold into the butter mixture along with the nut mixture, sieved cocoa and baking powder. Spoon into the tin and bake for about 45 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.
    • To decorate, gently melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water, then drizzle over the top of the cake in crisscross lines.  Coarsely chop the remaining nuts and scatter over the warm chocolate, then serve with whipped cream or crème fraiche.



    If using fresh chestnuts, boil in a saucepan of water for about 25 minutes, then drain and peel.  If you chop the nuts by hand, use flour instead of panettone. To save time, dust with cocoa instead of chocolate.


    All recipes by Sophie Braimbridge.


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