The fall and winter holidays inspire so many comforting dishes to brighten our darker days, they’re well deserving of their own book. The latest cookbook from British chef and food personality Gizzi Erskine offers just this. “Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings: Feasts & Celebrations from Halloween to Happy New Year” spans from late October to the New Year.
It’s a welcome task sitting down with just one cookbook, searching for menu inspiration for the holidays. As soon as the kids settle into school, the countdown to Halloween starts. And soon after that, I’m busy planning my Thanksgiving dishes and noting which I might hold for Christmas events. Sadly, by the time I’ve remembered New Year’s Day, I’m a bit planned out.
Erskine’s book inspires quaint holiday decor with unique and doable recipes. Halloween brings dishes like fried pumpkin and ricotta gnocchi in a sage and gorgonzola cream sauce with a spider web devil’s food cake to follow. Thanksgiving, or Britain’s Harvest Festival, offers a twist on a classic with Erskine’s brown butter salted maple pumpkin pie followed with fun recipes for “bringing back the buffet.”
The second half of the book centers on December’s holidays, the new year and what to do with all those leftovers. “Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings” makes a pretty gift for any cold month-loving gal, especially one with an advent type countdown to Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year and possibly even Guy Fawkes’ Night.
The genius of mulling syrup is how quick it makes whipping up a batch of mulled wine. This also doubles as a great hostess gift.
2 cups caster sugar
1¾ cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
8 black peppercorns
2 star anise
4 allspice berries
Pared zest (in strips) and juice of 5 satsuma/mandarins/clementines, or 4 oranges
Pared zest (in strips) and juice of 2 lemons
Per bottle of wine:
1 bottle of red wine
2 ounces brandy
2 clementines (skin on), sliced
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
Put the sugar, water, cinnamon, bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, star anise, allspice, zests and juice into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes, then turn the heat off. Strain into a jug, then pour into sterilized glass bottles and put the lids on while still hot, being very careful not to spill any, as boiling sugar is scalding.
Now make the mulled wine (if making as a gift, it’s important to write the following instructions on a little tag along with the ingredients, stating how much per bottle of red wine). Mix a quarter of the syrup together with the red wine and brandy in a medium pan. Add the clementines, bay leaves and cinnamon and bring to a simmer. (Make sure you don’t bring it to a boil, as the alcohol will disappear.) Leave on a low simmer for a few minutes until the wine has infused all the flavor from the syrup, then strain. Serve immediately. Makes 1 liter.
From Erskine’s “Bringing Back the Buffet” section, a new twist on the deviled egg. I’ve had curried deviled eggs before, but her addition of crispy chicken skin is brilliant.
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
1 tablespoon English mustard, plus extra to garnish
1 tablespoon curry powder
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
For the crispy chicken skin:
11 ounces chicken skin (you can get this from a butcher or save it when cooking chicken and freeze it over time)
A decent sprinkling of sea salt flakes
A few mint leaves
A few dill or fennel fronds, torn
1 tablespoon very finely chopped chives (optional)
To make the crispy chicken skin (if using), heat the oven to 400 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Spread out the chicken skin in a flat single layer on the baking sheets and season lightly with salt. Top the chicken skin with another sheet of parchment and place another baking sheet or tray on top to weight it down. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the skins are golden and crisp, rotating the baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Remove and dry on paper towels. Store in an airtight container on more parchment until ready to use
To make the eggs, lower the eggs gently into a pan of boiling water and boil for 8-9 minutes. Remove, run under a cold tap and peel. The sooner you peel them, the easier they are to do.
Dry the eggs with paper towel and carefully cut them in half. Scoop out the yolks (try to avoid splitting the whites) and pop them into a mixing bowl. Lay the whites on a serving platter ready to be filled again with the curry mayonnaise you’re about to make. Mash the yolks until they become the texture of fine crumbs. Mix in the mayonnaise, creme fraiche, mustard and curry powder and whisk until it’s all combined — it will be bright yellow. You can give it a quick whizz in a small blender if you want it really smooth.
Now it’s time to fill the whites. You can do this in two ways: with 2 teaspoons, or by doing it the old-school way with a piping bag. I pipe! It just looks cooler and more retro and you have more control. Fill each of the egg white halves evenly until all the filling is used up. You can be surprisingly generous with the filling. Finally, sprinkle over the herbs and, if you’re using it, some finely chopped crispy chicken skin, scatter with seasoning and serve. Makes 12 servings as part of a buffet or 6 as a starter.
Turkey mole enchiladas
This recipe does require a little more work in the kitchen, and the ingredient list may seem long. But these are a welcome change in flavor from the turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, and they’re worth the effort.
1 pound plus 2 ounces tomatoes
1-2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A few thyme sprigs
¼ cup ground almonds
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1-2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2¼ cups fresh chicken stock
14 ounces cooked turkey or chicken, shredded
4 medium or 8 small corn tortillas
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated plus ¼ cup extra for topping
Juice of 3 limes
Sea salt flakes
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 red chili, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely grated
½ cup sour cream
1 cup lettuce, finely shredded
3 tablespoons pickled jalapeno chillies, drained
Half a small bunch cilantro
Before you start you need to char your tomatoes. You can do this one of two ways: the “safe” way, by roasting them at the highest temperature your oven goes until the skins just blacken, or the more risky way of charring them on a griddle pan or over an actual flame. The charring adds flavor, so once blackened, toss the tomatoes, skins and all, into a blender and blitz until pureed.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and fry the onion very slowly over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the onion has fully softened and started to turn golden brown. Add the garlic and thyme for the last couple of minutes of cooking. Now turn up the heat, add the ground almonds, and toast them for a couple of minutes. Add the spices and the cocoa powder and cook for a minute, then add the pureed tomatoes. They will be quite liquidy, so you will need to cook them until they have dried out a little, to concentrate the tomato flavor. Add the stock to the pan and cook for 20 minutes, or until the sauce as begun to thicken, reduce and become rich and full-flavored.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the sauce into a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour three-quarters of the sauce back into the pan, along with your shredded turkey or chicken meat, and cook slowly over low heat for a further 15 minutes. (The rest of the sauce will be used to top the enchiladas.) As it cooks the meat will get really “shreddy” now, and the sauce will get very intense in flavor.
In a dry frying pan, quickly warm your tortillas over a high heat. Divide the filling and the grated cheese between the tortillas and roll them up like cannelloni, placing them neatly in a row into a 9-by-9 baking dish. Pour over the reserved sauce and top with the remaining cheese. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the dish is bubbling and golden.
Meanwhile chop the avocados and mix with the juice of the limes and salt to taste. In a separate bowl, mix the chopped tomatoes with the chili, garlic, remaining lime juice and salt to taste. Serve the enchiladas with the chopped avocado, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, jalapenos and cilantro. Makes 4 servings.
Recipes reprinted from “Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings” by Gizzi Erskine with permission from publisher, Mitchell Beazley.