A very seasonally appropriate book review this week!
The Hairy Bikers’ 12 Days of Christmas is a glorious cornucopia of festive recipes suitable for any mid-winter feast or celebration, lavishly illustrated with full-colour photographs of every dish, which are sure to get the digestive juices flowing 😀
The book follows a rough timeline from the run-up to Christmas Eve through to Twelfth Night. It starts off with chapters on ‘Getting ahead’ (things such as gravlax, Christmas pudding and sorbet, which can be started a few days in advance), ‘Edible gifts’ (chutneys, fudge, infused alcohol and so on) and ‘Festive feasts’, which starts on page 42 — a nice little coincidence for Hitchhiker’s Guide fans — and covers delightful things one can do with soups, duck, venison and so on. My two favourite recipes from this section are the glorious honey-glazed gammon and the Christmas pudding fondants (Christmas-pud-type desserts with a melty chocolate centre).
Next is ‘Christmas baking’ — fruity breads, stollen, mince pies and a beautiful Yule log, among other things — then come the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day chapters. The former has recipes such as Coarse Country Terrine (excellent made the day before), spatchcocked duck (one I’ve made a note of — I’m quite fond of roast duck) and special festive booze to help fuel the anticipation for the next day. The Christmas Day chapter starts with a recommended procedure/critical path for preparing Christmas dinner (starting with day-before prep), assuming a 6kg turkey, all the trimmings and a traditional Christmas pud to follow. This timeline is readily adaptable, so it can be used as a good guide whatever you’re making. As well as various traditional roasts, this section also contains recipes such as Jerusalem artichoke soup (with bacon and parsley croutons, though these can be omitted and a vegetarian stock used), potted smoked mackerel pate, goat cheese salad, various trimmings and sides (chipolatas and dates wrapped in bacon — yum!) and a few desserts as well.
Next is Boxing Day, with various ideas for using up leftovers, and light meals for after the previous day’s overindulgence. One thing I especially like the look of from this section is the goose risotto, which could easily be tweaked to use any sort of poultry. Then come sections on ‘Breakfasts and brunches’ and ‘Nibbles and telly snacks’, with lots of smaller, lighter meals to keep you going through the festive period.
Next is New Year’s Eve, with a venison roast plus various curries and special booze, and New Year’s Day. Possibly my favourite recipe from this section is the chicken liver parfait topped with cranberry butter. I love how it looks, and have enjoyed similar things bought from the supermarket, but sadly I never seem to have the time to try making it 😦 Other than that, the NYD chapter has lots of hearty casseroles to keep you warm.
Finally, there’s the Twelfth Night section, which has some creative little roasts, a fish pie and salmon coulibiac to round out the festive season in style and deliciousness.
After that, there’s just a list of recipes by meal type, then the index.
I can definitely recommend this book as a guide for festive kitchen wizardry this Christmas (or any other!) — and it can be dipped into for special occasions at other times of year as well!