CULTURE

Some great recipes for your Christmas table

Christmas is a time for overindulgence and merry moments with family and friends, but somebody has to spend some time in the kitchen. Provided by food writers and chefs, the following recipes vary in origin and style – but also share a sense of the festive days that lie ahead., EVI VOUTSINA cooks all over Greece and at home for friends. She suggests Christmas bread in the shape of a cross. Ingredients 1 1/2 kilos of hard flour 3 tsps dry yeast 3 tsps salt 2 tbsps honey 1 heaped tbsp of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, clove and ginger) 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped 3/4 cup raisins 3 tbsps oil 2 tbsps sesame Place the flour, yeast, salt, honey and spices in a bowl. Mix and begin kneading it into dough, slowly adding warm water. When the dough has ceased to have a mud-like texture, knead vigorously, adding more water if needed until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Then add the raisins, walnuts and oil and knead again. Cover the dough with a towel and leave it for 40 minutes. Afterward, divide it in two, spread the sesame over a board and shape the dough into two broad fish-tailed loaves, covering them with sesame seeds in the process. Cover a large baking tray with wax paper, oil it and place the two loaves of dough on it crosswise, pressing down the middle to make them level. You can stamp the center of the cross with a wooden seal or push in a whole walnut instead, and into the four ends of the cross as well. Cover the tray with a double towel and leave it rise to twice its size. Then prick it to make three or four holes and bake it in a preheated oven at 175 Celsius for 40-50 minutes. Spreads for the bread 1) Empty the contents of an olive paste jar into a bowl and add two cloves of grated garlic and three spoonfuls of roughly chopped roast almonds. Add a little dry finely ground rosemary. 2) Leave 200 grams of fresh butter outside the fridge to soften. Add two spoonfuls of finely grated Parmesan cheese, a spoonful of lemon juice and a little pepper and whisk together. Bertrand Valegeas cooks at Vardis, situated at the Pentelikon hotel. Here he adds a French twist, suggesting cream of pumpkin soup with foie gras. Ingredients 15 grams butter 100 grams shallots 500 grams pumpkin 1 liter chicken stock 200 grams fresh cream 1/2 bunch of chives 400 grams foie gras (cut in four slices) salt and pepper Finely chop the shallots. Remove the pumpkin outside and the seeds and dice in large chunks. Lightly brown the onions in butter, add the pumpkin, season to taste, and pour in the chicken stock. Simmer over a low heat for approximately one hour, then gently stir in half the cream. Beat the remaining cream until it thickens slightly, add to the mixture and then pass the soup through the blender until it is free of lumps. In a heated frying pan, cook the foie gras fillets for two minutes on each side. Serve the soup in a bowl with the foie gras slices placed neatly on top and sprinkle with finely-chopped chives. David DandriDge, the executive chef at the Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel, proposes marinated salmon with a winter salad. Ingredients for the salad 2 heads dark endive 3 heads French lettuce 50 grams pine nuts 30 grams sunflower seeds freshly ground pepper Ingredients for the sauce 30 grams virgin olive oil 5 grams red wine vinegar 3-4 drops Kikkoman soy sauce Ingredients for the salmon 500 grams salmon fillet (the meat with the skin) 150 grams rock salt 70 grams sugar 30 grams black peppercorns freshly crushed 1 bunch dill 50 grams coarsely ground mustard 15 grams honey Sprinkle the salmon with the pepper and dill and cover with the salt and sugar which you will have already mixed together. Leave to marinade for about 24 hours. Carefully remove the salt, dill and pepper from the salmon with a knife. Mix the mustard with the honey and spread over the salmon. With a sharp knife cut the salmon into diagonal slices about a centimeter thick. Mix the endive and French lettuce hearts with the sauce. Sauté the pine nuts and sunflower seeds in a non-stick pan without adding any oil. Place the salad onto plates and sprinkle over it the pine nuts and sunflower seeds and freshly crushed black pepper. Chef’s tip: You can substitute other nuts, such as walnuts, sesame seeds, etc., for the the pine nuts. Ilias Mamalakis creates the menu for the Gefsis me Onomasia Proelefsis restaurant. Try his fillet of red mullet with endive salad on a red pepper coulis. INGREDIENTS 12 medium-sized red mullet Juice of 1 lemon 3 fresh red peppers A pinch of ground coriander 1 tsp sugar Olive oil (of high quality) 1 1/2 kilos of freshly washed endive A little balsamic vinegar Fine semolina Oil for frying (preferably olive oil) Roast the peppers in the oven until they split. Take them out, peel them, removing the seeds, and chop them into small pieces. Place these in a mixer along with the coriander, the three spoonfuls of high-quality olive oil and the sugar. Mix to a smooth paste. Place it aside, keeping it at room temperature, and in the meantime, prepare the salad. Place the endive leaves in a bowl, add a pinch of salt, a little olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. Mix so that the ingredients are thoroughly marinated. Fillet the red mullet (or ask the fishmonger to do this) and marinate them for a short while in the lemon and salt and pepper. Cover them in fine semolina and fry them in hot olive oil. At the bottom of each dish, place three tablespoons of the pepper sauce. In the middle of the dish, place a tuft of the endive salad and add four fillets of red mullet crosswise in a row. Dionysis Hariatis has made up the menu at the Phaidra Restaurant. He also collaborates with Italian Il Parmigiano and Indian Shalimar. He suggests a Qabuli Palau (royal dish of Afghanistan with rice, lamb, carrots and raisins). Ingredients 4 cups basmati rice 1 tbsp cumin seeds 1 1/2 tsps black peppercorns 1 cinnamon stick 1/2 tsp saffron 3/4 cup corn oil 4 onions, thinly sliced 1 kilo lamb, cubed 2 spoons salt 3 medium carrots peeled and sliced like match sticks 2 cups raisins 1 tsp salt First wash the rice in a bowl with hot water taking care not to break the granules. Rinse 3 to 5 times. Leave it to stand with the last change of water for one to two hours in a blender. Rub the saffron with a little salt. Store all the spices together in an airtight container until they are needed. Sauté the onions in hot oil along with the salt. Add the lamb once they have softened. When the lamb has browned add four cups of water and lower the heat as soon it begins to boil. Allow to cook for half an hour until the meat has become quite soft. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Boil two glasses of water in a saucepan and then boil the carrots and raisins for about five minutes. Strain and allow it to cool. Repeat this same process for the rice, using more water to boil it, again for five minutes. Strain. It is important that the rice granules do not break, so stir carefully. Place the rice in a baking dish with a lid and mix in the onions, the juice from the meat and the spices. Test to see if there is enough salt. Bury the pieces of meat on one side of the rice and the carrots and raisins to the other. Cover with the lid and cook for 15 minutes at 180 degrees. Then lower to 140 degrees and cook for another 45 minutes. Serve in a serving dish or mix the Qabuli Palau up, shape into a cone and serve. Lefteris Lazarou, owner and chef of Varoulko. Though a fish specialist, here he suggests turkey with mint sauce. Ingredients For the sauce 1 bunch fresh mint 2 tbsps confectioner’s sugar 2 tbsp hot water 3 tbsps white wine vinegar For the turkey 800 grams turkey filet cleaned and sliced into portions (4 x 4 x 1 in thickness) 3 tbsps butter Cognac (to taste) To prepare the sauce Clean the mint and dry off with paper towel. Finely chop the leaves into a bowl. Add the sugar. Pour in the hot water and leave the mixture to stand for 8 minutes to set a little. Add the vinegar and allow the sauce to set further for 2 minutes before serving. To prepare the turkey Melt the butter in a Teflon frying pan. Fry the turkey pieces at low heat until they have browned on both sides. Add salt and pepper and a little cognac. Pour the sauce onto warmed plates and place the turkey pieces on top. Garnish with lettuce leaves if you wish. Serve immediately. Andonis Stavrou cooks at Kouzina Catering. He has come up with a chocolate marquise with cherries in syrup. Ingredients 250 grams chocolate 175 grams butter 5 eggs 100 grams sugar 1 jar cherries in syrup Place a bowl in a large saucepan with boiling water (bain-marie). Remove the saucepan from the heat and drop the chocolate, chopped into small pieces, and butter into the bowl. Stir until the ingredients have melted and blended together. Add the 100 grams of sugar to the 5 egg yolks and beat until they have whitened and become frothy. Add the melted chocolate to the beaten yolks. Beat the egg whites until they have formed a stiff meringue. Stir this into the chocolate, sugar and egg yolk mixture with slow and careful movements. Pour the marquise into an oblong-shaped dish. Strain the cherries and spread them over the marquise. Leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours. Serve with cream or creme anglaise. YIANNIS TSELEPIS is the chef of both Votanikos and Red, situated at the Athinais Cultural Complex. He suggests a straightforward millefeuilles with ginger mousse and quince. This recipe is all about layers. Ingredients 12 sheets of millefueilles pastry 400 grams ginger mousse (can be ordered from a patisserie) 200 grams sliced caramelized quince confectioner’s sugar for icing Place one sheet of pastry on a plate. Pour ginger mousse from the baking bag onto the pastry. Add quince, then another layer of pastry. Add more ginger mousse and top it with a final sheet of pastry. Sprinkle with caster sugar. RENA TOGIA cooks at and runs Rena tis Ftelias. She suggests a Greek classic, walnut cake with chocolate. Ingredients 10 tbsps ground walnuts 10 tbsps breadcrumbs 10 tbsps confectioner’s sugar 1/2 tsp sweet baking powder cognac 10 eggs lemon, orange, mandarin and citrus zest 1 tsp powdered cinnamon 1 tsp powdered cloves 200 grams diced or melted chocolate For the syrup 2 cups sugar 2.5 cups water lemon, mandarin and citrus zest 1 cinnamon stick Cognac Mix the walnuts and breadcrumbs. Separate the eggs and beat the sugar into the yolks. Mix a little cognac or other spirits into the baking powder and add it to the ground walnuts. Whip the egg whites into a meringue, adding a drop or two of lemon juice. Place all the ingredients (apart from the meringue) in a shallow bowl and add the lemon, orange and mandarin zest. Mix lightly and fold the meringue carefully into the mixture. Grease a baking mold with a little butter, lightly coat with breadcrumbs, add the mixture and bake at 180 C for 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove the walnut cake from the oven, turn it upside down and drizzle the syrup over it from the top to the sides. Put the chocolate on top and sprinkle whole walnut kernels on the top and around the edges of the cake. ,The recipes above appeared in Kathimerini’s special Festive Table issue on Sunday, December 16.