Noel! Noel! Noel!

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Noel! Noel! Noel!

I love Christmas! Everything changes for a few weeks and becomes prettier, glitterier, tinselly….. I know, I know, these words probably don’t exist in the dictionary. But that is the point: it’s Christmas! Everything is possible! Magic? Magic as well! If anybody says to me that they don’t like Christmas, I simply don’t believe them. But if people like this exist and they read this blog, please stop reading: this is not for you! This is for the ones who love magic!

Christmas Magic in the kitchen

Chapter one

Foie gras with Port jelly.

Alongside oysters, smoked salmon, langoustines, prawns etc… foie gras is one of the most traditional hors-d’œuvres or starters on the French tables at Christmas.

Of course it would be nice to prepare foie gras from scratch. But why make it more difficult for yourself at an already stressful time like Christmas, when you can pick up a perfect ready-to-cut bloc of foie gras in the shop? Of course, when  I first saw how many varieties of foie gras are on offer, I was more than a little daunted and entirely lost. Fortunately in our local supermarket we have very helpful staff who will give you advice and so far, in nine years of our being here in a rural south-west central France village, they have never let us down. Oh, yes, supermarket, nothing wrong with them! (But that is a subject for another blog post). The price range of a good foie gras is between 28€ and 40€ per kilogram. Sounds expensive, but not if you serve just 30gr per portion, which is quite enough for a starter. After all, you don’t want to eat too much of it when there other yummies waiting to come to the table. Traditionally the French eat foie gras with toast and confit d’oignon, echalotte or figue (onion, shallot, fig) or any other chutney. And, of course, there is plenty of all sorts in the shops. I also make my own “not quite chutney” that I had in mind for my starter.

Somewhere on the internet I came across a menu where foie gras was served with a port jelly, and I thought: “What a good idea!” I found a few recipes, but none of them tickled my taste buds, so I decided to make up one.

Here it is:

50gr – frozen red berries (raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, red currents etc…)

80gr – sugar

50ml – water

50ml – port

3 tsp – powdered gelatin (or 2,5 sheets)

Optional: to “christmasize” it a bit more, add a couple of cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, star anise or any other festive spices. 

Bring water, spices (if using), sugar and berries to boil and simmer for 10  – 15 minutes. Take the mixture off the heat and drain the liquid into a pan. Let it cool down for 15 – 20 minutes. Do not squeeze the fruit, as it can make the jelly cloudy, but keep it aside.

After about 20 minutes, add gelatin into the pan with the warm juice from the berries and, stirring with a whisk, bring it gently to the boil. Then add the port , simmer for 1 minute and take it off the heat. If using leaf gelatin, soak the gelatin sheets in plenty of cold water for 5 – 8 minutes, then squeeze them to get the excess water out and add to the fruit juice.

Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, slightly oil the shallow tray (or jelly moulds, if using) with a little sunflower oil or any other neutral (no flavor or odors) oil. I use silicon moulds for chocolates or mini-cakes.

Pour the warm jelly into the moulds or into the tray, so the jelly would be about 1 to 1.5 cm deep and put to cool in the fridge. Once cold, and just before serving, turn the tray over onto the board covered with clingfilm and cut the jelly into squares, or any desired shapes, or, if using moulds, simply turn them over straight onto the plates. Serve as needed as an accompaniment and decoration with a slice of foie gras and a couple of slices of fresh toast.

Bon appetite!

Notes:

*If you don’t have any frozen red berries, a good black cherry jam like would do a great job. In that case, add only 50 gr of sugar, taste it and, if it is not sweet enough add some more sugar.

*If jelly did not set well and is too wobbly to take out of the moulds, you can re-heat it and add some more gelatin.

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