Nigella Lawson has everything for an alternative festive spread

Nigella Lawson has everything for an alternative festive spread

December 10, 2018

Fancy something different this Christmas? From a roast goose with pear and cranberry stuffing to a prosecco jelly, Nigella Lawson has everything you need for an alternative festive spread

  • TV chef Nigella Lawson published her bestselling cook book How To Eat 20 years ago
  • She shared a selection of festive recipes from her two decades as a food writer
  • Her recipes include roast goose with pear and cranberry stuffing and Prosecco and pomegranate jelly

It has been 20 years since Nigella Lawson published her bestselling first book, How To Eat, and to celebrate, she’s helped us choose the best festive recipes from her two decades as a food writer, kicking off with turkey and all the trimmings in Weekend magazine on Saturday. Today, Nigella shares her inspirational ideas for a Christmas dinner with a difference.

Roast goose with pear and cranberry stuffing

This juicy goose recipe complete with pear and cranberry stuffing is the ultimate alternative to turkey this Christmas

It’s true that goose has the older pedigree as the traditional Christmas roast, but if you are assembling in large numbers, it isn’t actually feasible. This bird has such a large carcass, which means that one only just fits in an oven and won’t feed many more than 6, though with all the trimmings, it will probably stretch to 8 or 10.

Serves 6 to 8

● 500g dried pears (can be found in larger supermarkets)

● 175g cranberries, fresh or, if frozen, thawed

● 100g dried breadcrumbs

● ½ tsp ground cinnamon

● ¼ tsp ground cloves

● 1 tsp ground ginger

● Zest and pulpy juice of 1 clementine or satsuma

● 1 onion, peeled and chopped

● 2 tbsp maple syrup

● 125g pecan nuts

● 1 tbsp Maldon salt or 1½ tsp table salt

● 4.8kg fresh goose

1 Either soak the dried pears overnight in cold water, or pour boiling water over them and leave to cool; this will take 2 to 3 hours. When you have done this, drain the pears and put them into a bowl with the cranberries and breadcrumbs. Add the cinnamon, cloves, ginger and clementine or satsuma zest and pulpy juice. Stir in the chopped onion, maple syrup and pecans, and add the salt. Make sure everything is thoroughly mixed before you stuff the goose.

2 Preheat your oven to 220c/gas 7. Remove any excess fat from the goose cavity — this can go towards your roast potatoes (if you’re serving them) — and remove the neck and giblets, reserving them for gravy (if you’re making it).

3 Stuff the cavity of the goose with the pear and cranberry mixture and, once stuffed, wrap the goose skin over, securing with a skewer. Sit the stuffed goose on a wire rack in a fairly deep roasting tin, as the goose will give off a lot of fat as it cooks and you don’t want spillage. Cook the goose for 3 hours. After about an hour, drain off the excess fat in the tin, and again every half-an-hour or so. When cooked, remove to a board and carve judiciously.

NIGELLA SAYS: The sharp-sweet mix of grainy fleshed dried pears and astringent cranberries is the perfect partner to the gorgeous richness of the dark meat.

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Red cabbage with cranberries

The sweetness of a long-braised red cabbage is perfectly punctuated by the cheek-squeaky sharpness of cranberries. And, if you let this stand a little before serving, they — most desirably — help to thicken the juices the cabbage gives off as it cooks. Indeed, I always make red cabbage ahead of time: think of it as a vegetable stew, which is better, as all stews are, when the flavours are left to mellow and merge with one another.

SERVES 8 to 10

● 1 small head of red cabbage (900g), sliced

● 1 large (approx 200g) red onion, peeled and sliced into thin half-moons

● 2 tbsp soft dark brown sugar

● 2 tsp ground cinnamon

● ¼ tsp ground cloves

● 150g dried cranberries

● 250g fresh or frozen cranberries

● 4 tsp sea salt flakes

● 750ml apple juice from a carton

Put all the ingredients into a large, heavy-based pan that comes with a lid, and give a good stir. Bring to the boil over a high heat, stir again, let it bubble away for 10 minutes, then clamp on the lid, lower the heat and leave to simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until tender.

NIGELLA SAYS: If you’re feeding less than a crowd, just stash what you don’t need in airtight containers in the deep freeze, ready to provide warm succour on winter nights.  

Cracking crostini

A plate of crostini is ideal for sharing as part of a starter at dinner parties throughout the festive period 

There is no dinner party I would give where I couldn’t just make a plate of crostini to eat as a first course. Normally, I make a couple of different sorts. I don’t assemble them in advance, but I often make the mixture with which they’re going to be spread days ahead and keep slices of baguette or ficelle bagged up in the freezer.

1 To make the crostini, cut 1 large baguette or ficelle (enough for 40 to 50 crostini) into slices about 0.5 cm to 0.75 cm in width. Preheat the oven to 200c/gas 6 and, using a pastry brush or just your fingers, lightly cover with oil each side of each slice of bread. I find 40 slices use up about 8 tbsp oil. Unless specified below, always assume that olive oil (extra virgin) is indicated.

2 Put the oil-brushed slices on a rack in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. The length of time it takes to brown depends in part on how stale it is to start off with (and stale is good here). Turn the bread over as it turns pale gold.

3 Remove when cooked and leave the uncrowned crostini somewhere to cool. You should toast them no more than 2 hours before you eat them. Don’t spread anything on them until they’re wholly cold — and then you can put just about anything on top. All the quantities below make enough for 20 crostini. I would make at least 5 per person, and probably 2 different kinds.

Gorgonzola with mascarpone and marsala 

● 120g gorgonzola piccante, chopped

● 40g mascarpone

● 2 tbsp Marsala

● Good grating fresh nutmeg

● Freshly chopped parsley

Put the gorgonzola in a bowl with the mascarpone and the Marsala and mash together using a fork. Add a good grating or two of nutmeg and stir. Cover the bowl with cling film and put in the fridge until you need it, but remember to take it out a good half-an-hour before you do, to make it easier to spread. I sprinkle these with flat-leaf parsley; a friend of mine tried it with half a slim Muscat grape on top — a bit close to the cheesy pineapple of Abigail’s Party, but good nonetheless.

Roasted peppers with a green olive paste 

If you find the charring and skinning of the peppers too labour-intensive for the effort-sparing strategy of the drinks-accompanying starter, buy them in from a good Italian deli. I buy green olive paste from my local deli (also available online), spread that on the toast first and top with a soft tangle of peppers, their skins already burnt off by someone else. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Creamy pea and garlic puree

This amount will give enough for a few extra crostini.

● 1 head garlic

● 1 tsp olive oil

● 200g frozen petits pois

● 1 tbsp butter

● 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

● Freshly chopped mint

1 Preheat the oven to 200c/gas 6. Lop the top off the head of garlic — you want to see the tops of the cloves just revealed in cross section. Cut a square of foil large enough to make a baggy parcel around the garlic, sit the garlic in the middle of it, drizzle over the oil and then make said parcel, twisting the ends slightly. Put in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour until the garlic is soft.

2 Cook the peas in boiling salted water as you would normally, only for a fraction longer. Drain and tip into the bowl of a food processor. Squeeze out the soft, cooked cloves of garlic and add them, then add the butter and Parmesan cheese. Process to a nubbly, but creamy, puree. Make sure to cool the mixture before spreading. Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped mint. 

Potato, parsnip and porcini gratin

This potato, parsnip and porcini gratin is an exceptional addition to a traditional Christmas dinner table

Cooking potatoes for large numbers of people is not always easy. This gratin makes it so, not least because I don’t peel the potatoes (or the parsnips, for that matter). Obviously, you don’t need to make it ahead of time, but knowing you can is a help. There is a fabulously musky scent to this gratin, which comes in part from the star anise, in part from the porcini, and also from the culinary alchemy of all the ingredients together. And the thing is, for something so sweetly comforting, it is — I cannot explain why — somehow grand and exquisite, too.

Serves 8

● 10g dried porcini, or ceps

● 150ml boiling water, from a kettle

● 50g butter

● 1 tbsp garlic oil

● 500ml full-fat milk

● 500ml double cream

● 3 star anise

● 1 tsp Maldon salt or ½ tsp table salt

● Good grinding of pepper

● 900g potatoes

● 900g parsnips

● Gratin-type round, shallow, ovenproof dish (approx 30cm in diameter and 7cm deep)

1 Soak the porcini in the boiling water for about 20 to 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220c/gas 7.

2 Heat the butter and garlic oil in a large pan. Drain the porcini, reserving the liquid, then finely chop the mushrooms and add them to the butter mixture to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the mushroom liquid, milk, cream, star anise and salt and pepper. Without peeling the potatoes or parsnips, slice them into 1cm-thick round pieces and add to the pan.

3 Bring the pan to a bubbling simmer and then gently cook, partially covered, for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and parsnips are tender, but not mushy. Decant into a gratin-type ovenproof dish.

4 Cook for about 40 minutes (it will need a little longer if you have cooked it ahead of time and left it to cool before putting in the oven) or until the top is coloured in places and the gratin looks bubbly underneath.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Decant the vegetables into the gratin dish and leave to cool. Cover tightly with cling film and keep in the fridge for up to 1 day, or in the freezer for up to 1 week. To cook from chilled, leave at room temperature for about 40 minutes, then cook as directed. Or, thaw overnight in the fridge, and cook as above.

Roast rib of beef with port and stilton gravy

Roast rib of beef with port and stilton gravy is a hearty alternative to a turkey on Christmas day

There is something about a big rib of beef sitting proudly on its carving board at the table that makes that table, and those around it, so immediately celebratory. The extravagance of it, the ridiculous vastness of it: this is a proper, stand-up-and-clap feast. The port and Stilton gravy, grapily aromatic and tangy, is the perfect festive foil to the juicy meat. Although its inspiration — the gloriousness of blue cheese melting on top of a steak from an American grill — is not in itself seasonal, port and Stilton are the essence of an English Christmas.

Serves 8 with leftovers, serves 14 without

● 3.8kg Scotch or Welsh Black beef fore rib (a 4-rib joint)

● 2 onions, peeled and cut into 1cm rounds

● 2 tbsp garlic oil

● 1½ tsp Maldon salt or ¾ tsp table salt

● 1 tsp dried thyme

● ½ tsp cayenne pepper

1 Take your beef out of the fridge to bring to room temperature, which could take an hour, or possibly more, and preheat the oven to 220c/gas 7. Put the onion slices into a roasting tin and sit the rib of beef on top of them. Use the onion slices as props to help the rib sit up on its bones in an ‘L’ shape. Smear the oil over the white fat of the rib, and sprinkle with the salt, thyme and cayenne pepper.

2 Cook according to the beef’s weight and your taste. I like my beef nice and underdone, so I give it 33 minutes per kg, or 15 minutes per lb, which means, for a joint this size, a cooking time of about 2 hours (unless the beef’s straight out of the fridge, in which case, add another 20 minutes or so). If you want medium beef, give the joint — from room temperature — 44 minutes per kg, or 20 minutes per lb. And if you like well-done meat, 66 minutes per kg, or 30 minutes per lb. As for feeding capacity, this size of joint will certainly look after a big tableful — from 8, with lots of leftovers, to 14, without the definite promise of leftovers.

3 When the beef comes out of the oven, remove to a carving board and allow to rest in a warm part of the kitchen under a tent of foil for 30 minutes before carving; or just leave it tented in its tin for the same time. Do not start clearing up the tin, even if you have taken out the beef, however, as you will need some of the pan juices and onions for the gravy, below.

Port and stilton gravy 

● 2 tbsp fatty juices, from the roast beef tin

● 1 tbsp plain flour

● 125ml ruby port, plus 1 tbsp

● Onions from the roast beef tin (optional)

● 500ml organic beef stock, ‘fresh’ from a shop-bought tub

● 125g Stilton

● 1 tsp redcurrant jelly

● Salt and pepper to taste

● Extra juices from the roast beef tin and carving board

1 Make a roux by adding 2 tbsp of fatty juices from the beef tin to a saucepan and whisking in the flour and then the port. Keep heating and whisking over a fairly gentle heat until thick and bubbling. If you want to blend the onions and stock, do so now, by putting any but the blackened onions in the blender goblet with the beef stock and liquidising. Or leave the stock just as it is, straight out of the tub. Take the saucepan off the heat and gradually whisk in the beef stock. When all the stock’s added, put the pan back on a medium heat and cook for 2 minutes, whisking to make sure any lumps are banished.

2 Crumble in the Stilton, then drop in the redcurrant jelly and turn up the heat to let the gravy bubble for 5 minutes. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed, and then add the remaining 1 tbsp of port, along with any bloody juices — what we called red gravy when I was a child — from the carved beef. Pour into a warmed gravy boat.

Chocolate pudding with hot choc sauce 

This impressive chocolate pudding with hot choc sauce is a delicious alternative to classic Christmas pudding 

Christmas pudding isn’t for everyone and, even though I have faith in my pudding’s ability to convert (see Saturday’s pullout), there’s no point nagging or, indeed, fighting against real, die-hard antipathies. Besides, I have never met a child who likes Christmas pudding, and it seems unfair not to give a treat to everyone.

Serves 10 to 16 as part of the Christmas feast, or 8 to 10 if not


● 175g soft butter

● 1.7 l, or 3-pint, heatproof plastic pudding basin with lid

● 175g plain flour

● 40g cocoa powder

● 1 tsp vanilla extract

● 175g caster sugar

● 60ml plain yoghurt

● 3 eggs

● 2 tsp baking powder

● ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda


● 125g milk chocolate, chopped

● 125g dark chocolate, chopped

● 250ml double cream

● 75g golden syrup

● 4 tsp vanilla extract

1 Butter your heatproof plastic pudding basin, remembering to grease the lid, too. Make sure you have adequate boiling water in a pan (or a conventional steamer) on the hob to steam the chocolate pudding. Put the flour and cocoa powder into a processor and blitz to get rid of any lumps. Add all the remaining pudding ingredients to the processor and blitz, for longer this time, to mix. Take the lid off, scrape it down, then put the lid back on for 3 more long pulses.

2 Scrape the chocolate batter into the prepared basin, smooth it down (the batter will come only halfway up the basin) and put on the lid. Wrap the basin tightly in foil, so no water can possibly get in, and steam in the boiling water in the pan or steamer for 1½ hours (by which time the pudding will have risen to about 4cm below the lid). To cook it for longer will do no harm.

3 To make the sauce — which can easily be done before you eat and reheated just before you serve the pudding — put all the sauce ingredients into a saucepan and place over a gentle heat to melt. Stir every now and again and then, at the very end, off the heat, whisk to combine smoothly.

4 When the pudding is ready, remove it carefully from the pan or steamer without burning yourself, then unwrap from its foil casing, unclick and remove the lid. Put a plate, or a stand that has a slight lip, on top, flip both upside down so plate and pudding are the right way up, and wiggle off the basin. Pour some hot sauce over the pudding, so that it just covers the top and falls in glossy, licking drips down the side, and pour the rest of the sauce into a jug or bowl to be served with a spoon.

Prosecco and pomegranate jelly

This boozy Prosecco and pomegranate jelly is a refreshing treat for sharing with dinner guests this Christmas 

I love wine and liqueur jellies, and I think I’ve had a version in pretty well all of my books. They are delicate, luscious and incredibly easy to make, providing, that is, you use leaf gelatine; I have never been able to make the powdered stuff work for me.

Serves 8 to 10

● Flavourless oil for greasing

● 75cl bottle prosecco or other white wine

● 250ml water

● 300g caster sugar

● 25g leaf gelatine

● ½ tsp vanilla

● 3 tsp Cointreau, Grand Marnier or triple sec, plus more to serve

● Seeds from 1 pomegranate, or 75g pomegranate seeds from a packet

● Double cream to serve (optional)

1 Lightly grease a 1-litre jelly mould with flavourless oil and sit it on a small tray so it’s easy to convey it to the fridge later. Pour the prosecco and water into a saucepan, add the sugar and stir to help it dissolve (but do not stir once the pan is on the heat). At the same time, put the gelatine leaves into a dish and cover with cold water, letting them soak for 5 minutes. Put the pan on the heat, bring to the boil and let it boil for a minute. Add the vanilla and keep the pan bubbling gently for another minute, before taking it off the heat. Carefully ladle about 250ml of the wine–sugar mixture into a measuring jug.

2 When the gelatine leaves have had a good 5 minutes’ soaking, lift them out, squeezing and squelching them to remove excess water (this is curiously pleasurable) and whisk them into the jug of hot wine–sugar mixture to dissolve. Pour the jugful of liquid back into the pan (which must be still off the heat), whisk again, and tip it all back into the jug, before pouring it into the prepared jelly mould. (This may sound a kerfuffle, but it ensures the gelatine is thoroughly dispersed.) Put the filled-to-the-brim mould, still on its tray, into the fridge and leave to set overnight. It has a gentle set, which is what makes it so delectable.

3 Just before you are ready to serve, fill a sink or plastic washing up bowl with warm water to come about halfway up the mould, and sit the as-yet-unturned mould in the warm water for 30 seconds.

4 Take the mould out of the sink, wipe the water off the outside and place your serving plate on top. Then, with one hand on the plate and the other on the mould, tip them both over and lift off the mould to reveal the jelly. It will look smaller than it did in the mould.

5 Dribble the Cointreau (or your choice of alcohol) over the jelly (putting the bottle on the table so people can anoint with more as they eat) and scatter with pomegranate seeds, a few on top, but most around the side. It spoils the jewel-like clarity of the jelly, but this is out of this world with a little double cream poured over each portion. Put a small jugful on the table as encouragement.

6 If you want to dispense with the worry of unmoulding, simply divide the warm jelly mixture between six stemmed glasses of less than 200ml capacity each and set in the fridge.

Adapted from How To Eat, £14.99, (published by Vintage Classics) Nigella Christmas and At My Table, both £26, all by Nigella Lawson, published by Chatto & Windus. © Nigella Lawson. To buy any of these books at 20 per cent discount, go to or call 0844 571 0640. P&P is free on orders over £15. Spend £30 on books and get FREE premium delivery. Discount valid until December 15, 2018. With additional photography by Lis Parsons. 

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