I have just finished watching Nigella’s Xmas Special, in which Nigella Lawson shows us a selection of Italian-inspired Christmas recipes. Between the cooking shown in the kitchen are clips of Nigella in Venice, to show us the source of her inspiration.
Nigella starts of by talking us through some of the essential items for an Italian Christmas. These include sweet breads (panettone and pandoro, which is similar to panettone but without the fruit), marrons glacés (candied chestnuts), mostarda di cremona (candied fruits in a spicy mustard syrup that goes well with cold meats), and Christmas Limoncello (a variant of the lemon liqueur with added cream).
Italian Christmas pudding cake
The first recipe described is her Italian Christmas pudding cake, which is based on alternating layers of panettone (saturated with Tuaca, a citrus and vanilla liqueur) and a creamy mixture similar to crema di mascarpone, filled with marrons glacés, pistachio nuts, chocolate chips. In Italy panettone and crema di mascarpone are separate desserts, so this this cake is actually two desserts combined into one. The finished result looks beautiful as it is decorated with chocolate chips, pistachio nuts, and pomegranate seeds.
She then goes on to describe a recipe for panettone squares. This recipe involves making a stuffing mixture, which, amongst other things, contains pancetta, apple, chestnuts, and panettone. The saltiness of the pancetta and the sharpness of the apple contrasts well with the sweetness of the panettone. Once baked in the oven in a shallow tray, it is cut into small squares that are great canapés. Nigella describes these (and the parmesan shortbreads below) as a type of Cicchetti, which are small snacks served in Venetian bars.
Nigella then describes a very simple recipe for another party snack: parmesan shortbreads. They only contain only four ingredients: flour, parmesan, butter, and egg yolk.
Nigella then shows us how to make a cappuccino pavlova. Particularly interesting is a tip from cookery writer Stephanie Alexander that she passes on to us: add corn flour and white wine vinegar to ensure a crisp outside and soft inside.
Roast turkey joint
Rather than a whole roast turkey, she shows us a recipe for a turkey breast joint with stuffing. She bought the turkey ready butterflied and boned. The stuffing contains various ingredients including cranberries, marsala, Italian sausage meat and parmesan cheese. The advantage of such a joint, over a whole turkey, is that it is much easier to carve, making it ideal for parties.
Bake containing pasta, Brussels sprouts, cheese and potato
Nigella shows us a simple-to-prepare bake, which is a great way to have your sprouts at Christmas, especially if you don’t like them plain. The cheeses Nigella uses are: Gruyère, ricotta, and parmesan.
Finally Nigella describes how to make her special Venetian cocktail, containing pink vermouth, pomegranate juice, ginger ale.
For specific details about these and Nigella’s other recipes, visit Nigella Lawson’s website.