Monday 22 December 2014

Christmas Cooking, Celebrity Cook Boots and Nigella Lawson's Triple Cheese And Onion Strata Made Gluten Free

One of the reasons that I think I like Christmas so much is because of the food. I love my food and at Christmas time we seem to eat so much, and so many yummy things that don't appear on the menu at any other time. I'm not just talking about the Christmas dinner itself I'm talking about all those little treats that make Christmas, Christmas. For us it's the inevitable cheese board, an assortment of spicy and creamy dips, homemade sweets, cakes and pies, those overpriced party nibbles that you would normally baulk at and an array of meals, nibbles and bits that are either too complicated or too expensive to make that any other time of the year.

Yes a lot of things that we make and eat are traditional and have been part of my family Christmas for what seems like forever but over the years we've introduced a lot of new things that fall under that same celebratory banner. A lot of things are made up recipes and concoctions but we do get inspiration from elsewhere, mainly Christmas cookery programmers, and Christmas themed cookery books.

Both me and Mummy Lou have been pretty much glued to Good Food and Food Network since November, revelling in droolworthy, festive recipes from esteemed cooks such as Delia, Nigella, The Hairy Bikers and Nigel Slater. Yes they can over complicate things at times, but we've been so inspired by the delights on show, that we actually now have a couple of festive cookbooks in our rather extensive collection.

Delia Smith's Christmas is probably my mums favourite. First broadcast in the 1980's the TV series, was legendary for sparking the country's obsession with lattice pastry cutters, and fresh cranberries. Some of the recipes in this book are designed to impress for example the Chocolate Truffle Torte and of course her Creole Christmas Cake, but this book is a pretty traditional Christmas recipe book with the odd twist.

As much as I love St Delia my favourite festive recipe book has to be Nigella Christmas. I'm a huge Nigella fan at the best of times, but I have a particular fondness for her Christmas offerings. This book pulls nearly all of her Christmas specials pre Nigellisima. The book covers all of her Christmas dinner offerings from her turkey in brine, to her cranberry sauce and gingerbread stuffing but it also covers more general ideas for entertaining over the festive period as well as numerous ideas for edible gifts.

I know it's probably obvious from the rather dishevelled appearance of my copy but we've given this book a lot of love, and we've tried quite a few of the recipes inside. From her Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, to her Chocolate Fruit Cake, and Christmas Puddini Bonbons, her Corn Chow Chow and her fabulous Chilli Jam, there really is a recipe in this book to cater for the spice fiend, or the person with the sweetest tooth on this planets.

Something I tried for the first time last year, was her Triple Cheese And Onion Strata. Cheese is one of my big weaknesses and any recipe that contains it, I'll probably like, but this one is just a little bit special. A cross between a savoury bread pudding and a  cheese souffle, the taste reminds me a little bit of that slightly addictive cheese and spring onion sandwich filling. I'm replicating this recipe almost to the letter here because I don't really think it can be improved. Obviously I'm using gluten free bread but more on that later x  The cheese and cream elements make it a little bit pricey to make but it a great way of using up stale and old bread.

Nigella Lawson's Triple Cheese And Onion Strata

225g Stale Bread - Baguette, Ciabatta, etc.
6 Spring Onions
1 Ball Mozzarella
50g Parmesan, Pecorino or Gran Padano
100g Cheddar Cheese
100ml Sour Cream
6 Eggs

1. Starting about 24 hours before you want to eat this line a large baking dish with slices of stale baguette or bread. Gluten free baguettes are quite hard to find so I'm using a mixture of dry bread buns, ciabatta and a couple of bagels. This dish is great for using up old and dry bread.

2. You can make this recipe by hand but in my opinion it's way easier with a food processor. First of all you want to flake your Parmesan. The original recipe contains Parmesan but any Italian hard cheese will do. If you're vegetarian like mine you can often find Pecorino or Grana Padano which are made with vegetarian rennet.

3.Then roughly chop your mozzarella and your cheddar and add them to the food processor, and give it a quick zap.

4. Next roughly chop your spring onions, and in a small bowl beat your eggs and add them to your food processor bowl.

5. Finally add the sour cream

and zap until you get a smooth, creamy, cheesy, egg sauce flecked with green

6. Then pour the sauce over the bread, pressing it down with a spoon as you go. Unlike what I've done here you might want to leave some edges of the bread exposed so they go crispy when baked.

Then cover the dish with cling film, and either refrigerate it or put it in a cool place and leave it overnight - I normally leave it for about 24 hours. This will allow the bread to soak up the cheesy egg sauce.

7. About an hour before you going to bake take it out of the fridge or cool place (I put mine in our unheated porch) to allow it to come to room temperature. 

8. Then bake for about 30 - 40 minutes in an over preheated to around 180 C until it's gold brown and puffed up.

I'm going to hold my hands up here and say that this one didn't go quite right. I think I used too much bread and being gluten free which absorbs liquid differently it ended up quite solid, but it's horses for courses. If you like it softer and more eggy and pudding like use the amount of bread in the recipe, if you want to make it firmer, drier and slice able use a bit more bread.

No matter it still tasted amazing eggs and cheesy with just a hint of onion. This would easily serve 6 people but it's okay for a day or so in the fridge and is equally nice served hot or cold. We just had it on its own but it would also be nice with a green salad and Nigella herself recommends it alongside some slices of crispy bacon, not for me obviously but I'm sure it would work.

This recipe has became one of mine and Mummy Lou's new festive favourites and it takes so little effort that it's a brilliant recipe for when you just can't be bothered or you don't have much time- just remember to start it the day before you want it. 

Nigella Christmas is filled with mouth watering recipes that are ideal for the festive season and beyond. I've already tried quite a few of the sweet and vegetarian recipes and their are plenty more that I still want to try, which is always the sign of a good recipe book.

Are you a fan of festive cook books and cookery programmes? Leave me a comment and let me know x                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

1 comment:

  1. This dish looks amazing! You can almost smell it ;)
    Personally, I looove festive cooking, be it in books or on TV. I used to almost religiously watch program called 24Kitchen, where they showed cooking shows all day long. It's just so interesting to watch~


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