Three Perfect Christmas Starters
With Christmas fast approaching, it is coming closer to time when the planning for the main event of the festive season must begin. Although the turkey and ham overtake the majority of the day, the starters are just as important as a supporting role in the big day!
Here we have chosen three perfect festive starters for the season, with traditional festive dishes from home and abroad.
Simple Smoked Salmon
Smoked salmon is a classic, traditional starter for Christmas day and why wouldn’t it be? It is super quick and easy to make especially with the busyness of the day and can even be made the night before to save time as there is no cooking required. This dish is made to share and could be served on a wooden board/platter for people to dig into!
• 1 small red onion, very finely chopped
• Small bunch dill, most roughly chopped
• 2 tsp fresh or creamed horseradish
• Good squeeze lemon juice
• 100ml soured cream
• 200g smoked salmon
1. Tip the onion and chopped dill into a bowl with the horseradish and lemon juice. Stir through the soured cream, season with a pinch of salt and generous grinding of pepper, and mix well. Can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge.
2. Arrange the salmon on a board and scatter with the remaining dill fronds and serve with a grinding of black pepper and the sauce alongside.
Borscht is an integral part of the Polish Christmas celebrations. In Poland, the Christmas feast traditionally happens on Christmas Eve. This dish is one of many dishes served on this day and can be eaten either hot or cold.
• 300g beetroot, peeled
• 50g butter
• 1 small onion, 1 small carrot, 1 stick of celery, 1 small leek, all peeled where necessary and diced
• 1 tsp of allspice
• ½ bay leaf
• 1.5l beef stock
• 2 medium floury potatoes, e.g. Maris Piper, peeled and diced
• ½ small cabbage, shredded
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
• 2 tbsp. cider vinegar
• 1 tsp sugar
• ½ tsp ground black pepper
• Sour cream and fresh dill, to serve
1. Dice ¾ of the peeled beetroot (you may want to wear rubber gloves to do this) and set the rest aside. Melt the butter in a large pan, and then soften the onion over a gentle heat for 5 minutes.
2. Add the carrot, leek, celery, diced beetroot, allspice and bay leaf and stir well to coat with butter. Cook for another 10 minutes, adding a little stock if the vegetable begin to look dry. Meanwhile, grate the remaining beetroot.
3. Pour in the rest of the stock and the potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the cabbage, garlic and grated beetroot. Cook until all the vegetables are tender.
4. Add the vinegar, sugar, pepper and a pinch of salt and taste. Add a little more of any of these if necessary, then serve with a dollop of sour cream, a sprig of dill, and some Polish bread on the side.
Antipasto Cheese Ball Christmas tree
This dish is an American tradition usually indulged on both Thanksgiving and Christmas day. This recipe is a fun way to enjoy a modern twist on the cheese board and is made to share. The fun lies in the construction of the tree, or if you struggle with this shape you can alternately shape it into a cheese snowman!
• 4 cups cream cheese, softened
• 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
• 1/2 cup red bell peppers, diced
• 1/4 cup dill pickles, finely diced
• 1/4 cup chives, chopped
• 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
• 2 teaspoons garlic powder
• Salt, to taste
• 1 1/2 - 2 cups pitted mixed olives -- dried with paper towel
• 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (dried with paper towel)
• Rosemary leaves/sprigs to decorate
• Ritz, water crackers or pretzels for serving
• Salami slices, for serving
• Prosciutto slices, for serving
1. In a bowl combine all the ingredients for the dip and mix until the ingredients are well combined.
2. Place a piece of non-stick plastic wrap on a clean bench top or work surface. Scoop the cream cheese mixture out onto the plastic wrap and completely cover with another piece of wrap (you may need two pieces to cover it).
3. Use your hands to mould the cream cheese into a tree shape. Then, carefully pick up the tree with one hand and peel off the plastic wrap on the bottom of the tree with your other hand. Place the tree straight onto a serving plate.
4. Use a cake spatula to smooth the edges. Decorate with olives, sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary leaves/sprigs, lightly pressing each element into the cream cheese to ensure they stay on. Brush with some sun dried tomato oil from the jar (optional but adds even more flavour)!
5. Top with a star cut out of a yellow or orange bell pepper OR a thick slice of cheese.
6. Serve with crackers of your choice, salami and prosciutto slices rolled up!
If you are in need of some Christmas table top, dining or drinkware ideas, head into our shop in Dublin City Centre for some inspiration or alternatively you can buy online at www.hughjordan.com.