As promised, I am continuing with the report on my New Year's Eve experiments.
Coming from agnostic post-soviet society, New Year has always been a great deal back at home. I think the rule of thumb for the New Years table was that the entire space of the huge guest table should be filled with hot and cold starters, and then some should be still served out of the secondary, smaller, serving tray. Many had at least two or three choices for mains. Huge plastic washing up bowls filled with made in advance mayo salads were a norm. The leftovers were consumed over several days afterwards or went into a bin eventually. And all of these were often prepared in the conditions when so many food ingredients were almost never available on the supermarket shelves, hence, the creativity of soviet hostesses was endless - I guess, almost every housewife knew how to prepare potatoes in, at least, thirty different ways...
Maybe, my habit of experimenting with almost every recipe I try stems from those times. But, lucky for me, times changed and, I think, my taste buds changed too. I have much wider choice now both in terms of food ingredients and other options, like for example, ready made dishes offered by supermarkets or catering companies. Also, this year, from one side, I didn't expect any guests, so the expectations and demands were not that high. But, from the other side, with two babies on-board I had less time and energy to invest in food too. So, I decided to "cheat" a bit and order some main dishes from M&S and Iceland, while investing my time into the preparation of several trimmings, sides and salads. It worked out perfectly, I had more time to actually enjoy the holiday with my husband and twins, while the table still looked up to par :)
Well, quite frankly I was a bit disappointed with M&S - their premium made-to-order Christmas food appeared to be not the best value for money. I really liked their port pies garnished with cherries, but salmon mousse and sausage garland were mediocre at best for a very steep price tag. While Iceland really surprised me, their stores have not really appealed to me since I moved to the UK. They look tacky and, I guess, I thought "cheap" = "poor quality", but I must admit that most of the things I tried with them by now are really lovely, and I mean only frozen food, because the rest still seem to be the cheap junk unfortunately. Ultimately, the duck glazed with cherry sauce from Iceland was delicious and a treat for the eyes too. And their frozen desserts are also superb!
Sorry for the long introduction, but, I guess, that's the compromise - "blogging" is not exactly a recipe book and you will have to deal with my rants sometimes :) So, finally I reached the review of my cooking experiments. This year I prepared couple of salads as a nod to my heritage and traditions, but their recipes are tried so many times and available on so many resources, I'd rather skip those. I think I will cover two recipes with which one can experiment in endless number of ways and adjust to every taste possible. Probably, this will be somewhat more useful.
The first one is a Mashed Potato "Pig" Roulade recipe. In my family we like mashed potatoes as a side. But it seemed to be too simple for a celebratory table, hence I decided to "upgrade" it. Both mashed potatoes and stuffing parts can be adjusted for the audience taste and as per the availability of the ingredients in the fridge.
Over the years I tried various stuffings: vegetable, cheese, sausage etc But, I think I am still in search of that "perfect" filling. This year I tried mushrooms and turkey, which was OK but not "great" yet, as per my high standards :)
When it comes to the mashed potatoes bit, the key is in adding an egg to your usual ingredients and achieving the right consistency.
- 1 kg of potato mash + 1 egg+ condiments as per your taste
- Stuffing as per your liking, I used mushrooms, onions, bacon, egg and minced turkey
- 1 prune, cream fraiche/sour cream and smoked paprika for decoration
- cream fraiche/sour cream, chopped parsley and garlic for the serving sauce
Start with the stuffing preparation. This time I fried one big onion with about 100g of bacon, then added about 400g of chopped mushrooms. When the mixture started turning gold, I've added milled dry porcini, salt and black pepper to taste. Finally, I added 400g of minced turkey and one egg to the mixture. Looking back the turkey mince might be too dry for the dish, I'd rather replace it with the chicken and prunes, or mixed beef and pork next time.
When your stuffing is ready, prepare the mash as per your liking or use frozen ready-made mash (remember I like cutting the corners). Just ensure that it's not runny, but pliable mixture keeping its form. Add an egg. Please, remember that the egg will make the mixture somewhat more runnier. Split the mixture into 700g part for the roulade and 300g for the decor.
Distribute 700g of mash evenly over the piece of the cling film as per the picture. Add your staffing as a compact pressed together "mountain" closer to the end of the mashed potato layer. Using cling film as an aid, roll the roulade together.
Well, now you will need to recollect your childhood and have some fun with making a piglet out of the remaining mash :) Essentially, make a spiral-like little tail at the bottom of the pig, trace the outlines of the bottom legs, add a bit at the top to form a head, elongate and make the snout, add two ears and two upper legs. Use parts of the prunes instead of the eyes.
Finally, "glaze" the piglet in sour cream or cream fraiche. Then sprinkle over some smoked paprika and brush it over the pig mixing with sour cream and adding a bit of color to a pig.
Bake in the oven until golden brown (about 30min) at 190C on the parchment paper. Transfer to the serving dish leaving the paper under. Garnish with parsley and serve hot with the sauce made out of cream fraiche/sour cream mixed together with finely chopped parsley and minced garlic. Isn't it fun!
Well, the last recipe can be hardly called a recipe, because "Deviled or Stuffed Eggs" are so easy to make. I love deviled eggs, they are delicious in any form or with any stuffing. And in most of the cases they are low on carbs too, which is good when one is on diet. Though I usually use holidays as an excuse to ditch the carb control ;)
There is no limit to the deviled eggs stuffing components from fried carrots with onions to salmon, bacon, horseradish or shrimps. One just boils the eggs, cuts them in halves, removes the yolk which is mixed with whatever your heart desires plus some mayo and seasoning. Then, all of these are put back on top of the egg whites. The decoration is up to you too - from fancy rosettes out of the icing syringe to the accurate paste balls decorated with herbs and veggies.
I had some salmon and lumpfish caviar leftovers from Christmas and their saltiness goes perfectly with the boiled egg goodness. Because both have very strong taste, I didn't add much to the yolk mixture except for mayo to achieve the desired consistency and smoke paprika to add some color to the mixture. The shiny balls of caviar are decorations on its own, so no additional effort needed. So, altogether this is a perfect easy starter for a busy mom!