Thursday, December 13, 2007

A very merry Hix-mas

I’ve been looking forward to the latest Divertimenti event – an evening with Mark Hix, a chance to get some tasty festive inspiration. I was particularly looking forward to tonight as it was difficult to get a place, it’s not the sat on barstools sort of Divertimenti event that I normally go for but more of an edible seminar so I surprised with all the extra seats how close I was to not getting a place. Though frankly glancing around there seems to be a lot of empty seats so either we have spare seats to plonk our bags on or some people haven’t actually graced us with their company.

Mark has devised a series of tasty nibbles to delight our Christmas party guests with. Firstly we tuck into some Turkey and Ham Croquettes, savoury bites that definitely transport you back to the last Tapas bar you frequented. There are great way to eke out some left over ham (I know D that’s always a problem for you!) but being a deep frying pan dodger I did ask if we could shallow fry them. And Mark assured me that I probably could if I didn’t mind forfeiting some of the crispiness in favour of avoiding all that hot fat.

Next it’s the turn of some deliciously crumbly Stitchelton and Celery Salt Biscuits. Stitchelton is a new unpasteurised blue cheese but he did also say you could substitute the Stitchelton or Stilton with Cheddar, coarse black pepper, walnuts and sea salt. I’m a not a lover of blue cheese but the biscuit has a nice piquant bite to it. Though I have noticed before that often when you cook with blue cheese, it loses some of its power. Though in my experience the exception to that would be however the Four Chesses pizza at the Dicken’s Inn where the Gorgonzola hold the other cheeses hostages and then demands ransom money before it will let you have a slice.

For a alternative to Christmas Pudding, or as well as if you must there’s a Cranberry Steamed Pudding.

Our pudding that has been steaming gently in a big pan is unveiled by the lovely Mary and we all get a fat slice with some custard - definitely a “warming the cockles of your heart” type of dish. Rather appropriate on this chilling December night.

As a wonderful little extra Mark whips up some Mulled Wine Jellies, which are such a lovely idea. I adore mulled wine and this is definitely a party winner. I made some notes as to his recipe but clearly got distracted by tasting the finished products and it peters our mysteriously in the middle of a sentence. So instead I’ll reproduce Mark’s Sloe Gin version that was in his Independent column last year.

Sloe Gin Jellies
Makes about 16-20 shot glasses

400ml water
200ml sloe gin (or more gin and less water)
120g caster sugar
3 sheets leaf gelatine

Bring the water to the boil, add the sugar and stir until dissolved, then remove from heat. Soak the gelatine leaves in a shallow bowl of cold water for a minute or so until soft. Squeeze out the water, add to the syrup and stir until dissolved. Add the sloe gin then pour into shot glasses. Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours or so until the jelly is set.

The jellies are fabulous as if I can assemble a suitable collection of little glasses I will certainly toasting Christmas or New Year with these. We’ve had a really lovely evening; I do prefer the slightly more intimate round La Cornue range version especially as it’s easier to enjoy the offerings off a table rather than your lap. And with that in mind I must check the schedule for Mark’s evening at Divertimenti for next year!

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