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December has finally arrived, and as many people turn their attention to those all-important Christmas preparations, it can be easy to stick to the basics rather than try something new. Warm, herb-stuffed camembert, Turkey, and all the trimmings are just some things to look forward to, but they can become boring after so many years of eating them. To spice things up, a food and flavour expert has shared his top new trends to “elevate” your festive dishes.
Phil Bianchi, food and flavour expert at The Gift of Oil said: “The real lesson here is to experiment with your flavours, add something to a dish you love and you never know, it might be even better than before. A simple dash of an infused olive oil or balsamic is such an easy way to experience classic dishes in new ways.”
He recommended making a few simple changes to several Christmas classics, including Yorkshire puddings, camembert, and perhaps the most controversial dish, Brussels sprouts.
Brussels sprouts aren’t the most loved ingredient at the table, largely due to their unique flavour and bright green appearance. While sprucing up this pungent vegetable is something many people have tried, Phil shared a new way of cooking them.
He explained that you don’t need bacon, pancetta or large quantities of garlic to make them more appealing, in fact, all it takes is some marmite.
Phil said: “Now, of course, this one is going to divide us all! Trendy ‘bacon sprouts’ have been really popular recently but the latest go-to recipe for sprouts is to add a bit of marmite. In fact, the saltiness of the marmite will help to bring out the sweetness of the sprouts. So you may find yourself becoming very fond of this one.”
According to Pinch of Nom, this flavoursome dish is easy to make in a few steps and can be low-calorie too. Start by preheating the oven to 200C and trimming the hard ends from 500g of sprouts.
Add them to a saucepan full of water, and bring to a boil before simmering for five minutes. Drain the sprouts, and place them in an ovenproof dish. In a bowl, dissolve two teaspoons of marmite and half a stock cube in 50ml of water.
Pour the mixture over the sprouts with a few sprays of low-calorie cooking oil and place in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
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Camembert and maple syrup
Cheese is a staple ingredient throughout the festive period, especially warm camembert. While it is often served with garlic and other fragrant herbs, Phil explained that “often, sweet items can work very well”.
He said: “Anything from cranberry to orange or even honey is great. A small drizzle of maple syrup will add a lovely delicate glaze to your gooey cheese. Plus, we typically serve cheese after dinner at Christmas time anyway so why not add a little something sweet to it.”
Cranberry sauce and balsamic vinegar
Vinegar with fruit can sound quite strange, however, selecting a good flavoured balsamic to pair with in-season cranberries or a classic cranberry sauce is really delicious.
Phil said: “We’d recommend finding a chocolate or black cherry balsamic to really bring out the sweetness in the cranberries. A different taste for a traditional turkey accompaniment!”
Mac and cheese
While cheese is a must-have item on the Christmas table, pasta is less traditional. Still, Phil revealed that adding a combination of the two is a “new craze” for Britons.
He explained the American mac and cheese dish is a great way to “really elevate the classic roast”, by simply adding it as an extra side dish.
Phil said: “The truth about roasts is that having lots of different flavours in your meal is the key to success! Think mint, apple, meat, honey, butter, salt, and cranberry – we really go wild with our flavour pairings on roasts. So, why not add a mixture of great winter cheeses to your mac and cheese.”
While there’s a long-standing debate about whether a Yorkshire pudding belongs on a traditional Christmas dinner, there is another way to try it.
Phil suggested using the popular dish as a dessert rather than as part of the main meal. He said: “Try adding chocolate sauce, whipped cream and jam. Think of it like making your very own open-top profiteroles.”
Mary Berry’s five-ingredient recipe is guaranteed to make the fluffiest, tastiest Yorkshire puddings. All you need is:
- 100g plain flour
- One-quarter of a teaspoon of salt
- Three large, free-range eggs
- 225ml milk
- Four tablespoons of sunflower oil
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