Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas dinner for one

If you're on your own at Christmas, whether by accident or design, it can be hard to decide what to cook for your dinner. Most of the nation will be settling down to a feast of roast turkey with all the trimmings - a meal that is pretty much unattainable for one, not least because it's an awful lot of work. So, if you're cooking for yourself, what are your options?

First and foremost - treat yourself. It's Christmas, so go ahead and splash out but choose something that's not only manageable, so you won't be slaving in the kitchen for hours, but also something special, something you wouldn't normally have. 

Forget the turkey
It's not practical, unless you decide to buy a small crown roast or a portion such as a leg - even then, I guarantee you'll be eating turkey for the next four days. But if you want a roast bird there are some good options.

Pheasant, partridge, duck or guinea fowl are all delicious small birds. It's still not too late to pick up one of these from a butcher or supermarket. Look in the freezers at the discount supermarkets (Aldi and Lidl) if you can't find fresh - I have a brace of frozen partridges from Lidl myself. Make a one-dish tray roast with a couple of potatoes, some parsnips and whatever else you fancy. Add a portion of frozen peas or fresh sprouts, make a quick jus with some redcurrant jelly or cranberry sauce and red wine and you have a worthy feast.

Photo: Mike_fleming on Flickr
 Other meat ideas
One year, I treated myself to the most enormous sirloin steak - organic and hung for weeks - that cost the sort of money I'd pay in a restaurant. I made oven chips and a salad to accompany and savoured every mouthful.

A slab of belly pork, skin well scored to make crackling, and roasted in the oven makes a lovely dinner served with a couple of roasties, some festive stuffing and vegetables. There will be enough left over for a cold Boxing Day spread plus a little more to make a stir fry with the day after.

Something fishy
Smoked salmon is pretty much essential for a Christmas Day breakfast in my book, served with scrambled eggs on toast and washed down with Buck's Fizz. But what of lunch or dinner?

A piece of fresh salmon with asparagus and hollandaise sauce is timeless. Hollandaise is a bit of work for one but worth it. Or whisk up a homemade mayonnaise - it takes five minutes and is far superior to anything out of a jar.

My choice would be to raid the freezers at the discount supermarkets - Lidl is currently selling a whole cooked lobster for under £6. You can buy a whole frozen prepared crab for around £4 too. With a fresh salad and mayonnaise, either of these make a very affordable but luxurious feast. 

Photo by Snowpea&bokchoi on Flickr
Pudding
I'm not keen on Christmas pudding myself - if I want something fruity I prefer Christmas cake (preferably without the icing) but for many people it's essential for finishing the meal. Pretty much all the shops sell mini puds just big enough for one portion. Get in some clotted cream or brandy butter to accompany. The easy option is premium ice cream - I always have some in the freezer. It's also worth buying a small Christmas cake and a stollen, not just to treat yourself but also so you can offer guests something cakey if they drop by after the big day.

I always make a cheeseboard - it will last a week or so. I like to have something very stinky and runny (that's my French sojourn coming out) such as Epoisses or Vacherin. Neither are cheap but are a treat for Christmas. Vacherin especially is at its best right now. It's probably too late to order one now but it should still be possible to find Epoisses in the biggest supermarkets. Otherwise get a brie or camembert right now and keep it at room temperature - it'll be ripe by Sunday. Stilton is traditional for the blue cheese, but I adore Roquefort and I also buy a wedge of Blacksticks Blue. Shropshire Blue is another delicious choice. For the hard cheese I tend to go for an artisan cheddar or Spanish manchego. If you like goat's cheese these make a good contrast to the other cheeses. Some rough oatcakes, plus grapes and celery, and some homemade chutney or quince jelly will complete your cheeseboard.

Photo by Ewan_M on Flickr
Whatever you decide to eat, dine well, crack open a bottle of something and enjoy! Happy Christmas!