Christmas Cookbook Reviews

I’ve already admitted to a bad cookbook habit so it won’t come as a great surprise I have several Christmas cookbooks. I thought I’d review my three general Christmas cookbooks.

  1. Delia Smith’s Christmas
    Delia Smith Christmas
    Delia Smith’s Christmas is my oldest and most well thumbed Christmas cook book. It was the book I used every year to get turkey cooking times and after an unsuccessful attempt with classic mincemeat that went off I subsequently always used Delia’s method of melting the suet. The red cabbage recipe is a classic and whilst I’ve never used Delia’s countdown religiously it has always been useful guidance.
    In the past I’ve made the roasted red peppers stuffed with fennel which was good and I make the mushroom risotto from this book regularly. I made her venison casserole this year and will be making that again. There are still many recipes in this book that I’ve never tried. I have often thought I must try her Irish coffee pudding so this time I really will make a note to make it soon.
    It contains all the information you might need for successful food at Christmas. Recipes as well as lists, timings and advice. She includes several interesting vegetarian options for Christmas dinner. Justifiably a classic, some recipes may look almost retro but all look good.

    The book is spit up into the following chapters:
    Lists and More Lists
    All kinds of Christmas Cakes
    Talking Turkey…and Geese and Hams
    Christmas Puddings and Mincemeat
    Preserves, Pickles and Chutneys
    Christmas on Ice
    Canapes and Nibbles
    A Party Selection
    A Vegetarian Christmas
    Ducks, Geese and Game
    Roasted Meats and Cold Cuts
    Winter Vegetable Dishes and Salads
    Christmas Desserts and Sweet Dishes
    Homemade Sweets and Chocolates
    The Last 36 Hours
    Supper Dishes and Left-overs
    Mail Order and Home Delivery Suppliers (curiously old fashioned these days)
    More About Turkeys

  2. Nigella Christmas
    Nigella Christmas

    I like the Nigella Christmas cookbook, it conveys her love of entertaining combined with a ‘don’t stress it’ approach. Although even with my tendency to feed anyone who comes through the door I found the idea of a ‘Welcome table’ groaning with food just to greet anyone who turned up odd. One of my criticisms with this book is its footprint. It is too big to hold easily (in my opinion large format cook books only work if they are slim enough not to be too heavy). A number of the recipes in this book have appeared in previous Nigella cookbooks and it  contains at least one spectacular failure – I tried her gingerbread stuffing the Christmas after I got this book and threw it away after one taste. Aidan  made her yule log which was nice but nothing spectacular.
    That said I make her spruced up vanilla cake from this book several times each year, it’s a very easy cake to make before visiting family and friends and is always well received as it looks special and tastes nice. Browsing through the book for this review I noticed she includes some nice ideas for winter dinner party meals that are not christmassy so I’ll try a couple more recipes before I put this book away for the year.

    The book is organised as follows:
    The More the Merrier Cocktails, Canapes and Manageable Mass Catering
    Seasonal Support Soups, Salads, Sauces and Serve-later sides
    Come On Over…Stress free suppers
    The Main Event
    Joy to the World Christmas Baking and Sweet Treats
    All Wrapped Up Edible Presents and Party Preserves
    A Christmas Brunch for 6-8
    A Bevy of Hot Drinks
    Dr Lawson Prescribes…

  3. Sarah Raven’s Complete Christmas
  1. Sarah Raven Complete Christmas

Sarah Raven’s Complete Christmas is the most inspirational book, with stunning photographs. Sarah’s planning for Christmas includes flowers and starts in September! It is the sort of book which makes you wish you had a large well stocked garden and lots of free autumn weekends to potter around since at least half of the book is floral and foliage decorations for christmas and there are a number of edible gift recipes. Although the recipes look lovely I’ve only made the christmas pudding ice cream so far which was delicious. I suspect if I didn’t already have Delia’s book this would be my guide to making Christmas dinner as it is thorough without being over complicated. This book is split into the following sections:

Planning Ahead which includes forcing bulbs for Christmas as well as homemade chutneys.
Decorations which includes ideas for decorating your Christmas tree and making wreaths
A Christmas Party which has more flowers and lots of canape recipes
Christmas Eve Recipes from breakfast through light lunch to 3 course dinner
Christmas Day How to do all the essentials including roast goose with interesting ideas and variants for basics such as stuffings
Boxing Day Lots of interesting ideas for using up leftovers
New Year’s Eve with winter dinner party recipes

Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding

Panettone Bread and Butter PuddingAidan made this, I don’t know where he found the recipe, he’d seen it made on tv. It was really really nice and wasn’t as dark as it looks in the picture above. It was best cold the next day sliced almost like a piece of patisserie. The recipe is incredibly rich.


  • 750g Panettone
  • 600ml double cream
  • 8 eggs
  • 200g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 150C
  2. Cut the panettone into 2cm thick slices and place in overlapping layers in a baking dish
  3. Bring the cream almost to the boil over a medium heat. In the meantime which the eggs and sugar together
  4. Pour the hot cream slowly into the eggs, whisking constantly to stop the eggs from scrambling
  5. Add the vanilla, sieve the custard into a jug and pour into the baking dish, covering all of the panettone.
  6. Baste and parts of the panettone that are dry and leave to soak for 10 minutes
  7. Sprinkle the Demerara sugar over the top for a crispy topping
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the custard has set and the pudding is golden.

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples – Delia Christmas

Delia Red cabbage

I’m catching up posting some of the recipes I tried over Christmas. I’ve made this red cabbage before but had forgotten how good it is, even cabbage hating teens liked it. The quantities below serve 10-12 since it keeps in the fridge for at least a week and freezes well it’s worth making this sort of quantity. It’s a great veg for Christmas dinner as you can make it in advance and just warm through on the day. It also goes wonderfully with Roast Pork.


  • 1kg (2lb 4oz) red cabbage
  • 450g (1lb) onions, chopped small
  • 450g (1lb) cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped small
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped very small
  • ¼ whole nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • 15g (½oz) butter
  • Seasoning


  1. First discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, cut it into quarters and remove the hard stalk. Then shred the rest of the cabbage finely, either by hand or in the food processor.
  2. Next arrange a layer of shredded cabbage seasoned with salt and pepper in a large casserole, then a layer of chopped onions and apples with a sprinkling of garlic, spices and sugar. Continue with these alternate layers until everything is in. Now pour in the wine vinegar, lastly add dots of butter on the top.
    Delia red cabbage before cooking
  3. Put a tight lid on the casserole and let it cook very slowly in the oven for 2-2½ hours, stirring everything around once or twice during the cooking.

Mincemeat Muffins

Mincemeat Muffins

First week or so of January is use up Christmas leftovers time and somehow making mince pies after Christmas seems so wrong. Fortunately mincemeat muffins are an easy and less obviously Christmassy way of using up left over jars of mincemeat. The quantities below make 12 and use half a jar. I had a whole jar to use and these were destined for my husbands aunts freezer. She defrosts them with a 30s zap in the microwave which also makes them nicely warmed.


  • 9oz/250g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3oz/85g granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 8fl oz/240ml milk
  • 3fl oz/90ml olive or sunflower oil
  • 1/2 jar mincemeat


  1. Preheat oven to 190 C gas mark 5
  2. Sift together dry ingredients
  3. Mix wet ingredients including the mincemeat together in a separate bowl
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined (about 30 secs)
  5. Put mix into 12 muffin cases and bake for 20-25mins

mincemeat muffins before baking

Turkey & Stuffing Pie

Turkey and Stuffing Pie

Despite ending up with a larger turkey than ordered we did’t have enough turkey left to make a curry. We did have a lot of the sage and onion stuffing that was inside the bird so I decided to make a turkey and stuffing pie. We had leftover gravy on Christmas day so we’d frozen a pack of about 500ml which I go out of the freezer to go in the pie. Since this was very definitely leftover pie I decided to throw in some leftover cranberry sauce as well.

This pie was seriously delicious, it will be the first thing I make with leftovers next Christmas.

Turkey and Stuffing Pie - a slice

Serves 4 – 6 people.


  • 2 small onions or 1 large onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 500g cooked turkey & stuffing
  • 500ml gravy
  • 5 -6 tbsps cranberry sauce

for shortcrust pastry

  • 350g plain flour
  • 200g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 small egg for egg wash


  1. Make Shortcrust pastry
  2. Roll out just over 1/2 pastry and base line 23cm pie dish
  3. Place cooked turkey and stuffing in pie dish
    Turkey and Stuffing Pie before gravy
  4. Heat gravy and add cranberry sauce to taste, simmer for 15mins approx to reduce
    Turkey and Stuffing Pie - the gravy
  5. Pour gravy over filling
  6. Roll out remainder of pastry for pie topping, place on top and make small hole in middle to let steam out whilst cooking
    Turkey and Stuffing Pie before baking
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes

Christmas Pudding ice cream – Sarah Raven’s Complete Christmas

Christmas pudding ice cream

I think I’ve already mentioned I love Christmas leftovers. I didn’t make a Christmas pudding this year which I was a bit sad about as I love the ritual. But I’d bought a Heston hidden orange Christmas pudding last year as we were going to Dubai and we loved it so much I decided to buy one again this year, it is rare that I prefer a commercial version of anything over home-made. We made very good inroads on the pudding Christmas day but there was some left so I decided to try the Christmas pudding ice-cream from Sarah Raven’s Complete Christmas book for New years eve dinner. We have a barely unused ice-cream maker that you need to plan ahead and put into the freezer at least the day before, but I’ve had time to browse through my Christmas cook books this year and plan ahead.

Ingredient quantities are a little odd, I assume they don’t need to be precise for this recipe, also condensed milk comes in cans measured in ml in the UK so I don’t understand why the measurement is in grams.

I haven’t quite got the hang of the ice cream maker and the ice cream did have to go into the freezer for a while afterwards anyway. The pudding had a tendency to sink in the ice cream so regular stirring as it froze was essential, next time I’ll ensure the ice cream is sufficiently frozen that it can support the weight of the pudding before I mix it in.

End result is delicious, I’ll definitely be making this again next year with left over pudding.


  • 568ml milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • a few drops vanilla extract
  • 220g sweetened condensed milk
  • pinch salt
  • 475ml whipping or double cream
  • 150g Christmas pudding broken up
  • slosh rum to taste


  1. Heat the milk, sugar and vanilla extract and bring to boiling point. Remove from the heat and cool
  2. Add the condensed milk, salt and cream
  3. Put in an ice cream maker and freeze/churn for 20 minutes. Fold in the Christmas pudding and add the rum to taste. Put into a container and freeze
  4. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker pour mixture into a plastic container and freeze for 2 hours. Remove from the freezer and stir well. Return to the freezer and repeat this process twice, stirring at 2 hour intervals, before serving.

Shining star biscuits – Usborne Christmas Cooking

Shining star baked

I love these little cookies, you can make them to hang on the Christmas tree but I didn’t have a second tree this year so not enough room. Usually I do a second tree between my kitchen and dining room that I decorate with edible decorations but this year I needed to put up a second table on Christmas day as there were 12 for Christmas dinner so I just couldn’t fit it in.

I doubled up the quantities and since they were for giving away after Christmas rather than to hang on a tree I baked the stars cut out from the middle as little cookies to mix in. They look lovely in a cellophane bag with ribbon

Shining star in cellophane

I also doubled the ingredients as the recipe in Christmas Cooking (Usborne Cookbooks) had 1/2 egg! If you were just making shining star biscuits the quantities below would make about 30 – 40.


  • 100g/4oz light soft brown sugar
  • 100g/4oz softened butter
  • 1 small egg
  • 230g/9oz plain flour
  • 30g/1oz cornflour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • solid boiled sweets


  1. Mix the sugar and butter together very well until there are no lumps
  2. Break egg into a separate bowl and mix well, then add to the butter mixture a little at a time mixing in well
  3. Sift flour, cornflour and mixed spice into the bowl and mix well
  4. Squeeze the mixture with your hands until a firm dough is formed and make into a large ball
  5. Sprinkle work surface with flour and roll out dough until it is 4mm/0.25in thick
  6. Line baking tray (I just greased mine and it was ok). Use cutter to press out lots of stars.Use fish slice to put them onto tray (this is much easier done now rather than after you have cut out the middle).
  7. If you are planning to hang on a Christmas tree make a hole in each star by pressing a straw through the dough near top of one of the points.
  8. Use a smaller cutter to cut  hole in the middle of each star. The hole should be slightly bigger than the sweet. I used the smallest star cutter, the book suggests a round cutter. I think a round cutter would be better if you were making a hole to hang on a tree.
  9. Either squeeze the pieces of dough into a ball and roll out again. Since I have nice little star shapes I baked those as well. Roll out excess and cut out more cookies.
  10. Drop a sweet into the hole in each star shape.
    Shining star before baking
  11. Bake the shapes for 10-12 minutes then take out. Leave them on the tray until they are cold.

Cookie Christmas Tree

Cookie Christmas treeI made this cookie Christmas tree from a cookie cutter set I bought 2-3 years ago from Cox & Cox (they don’t do the set any more but you can get similar sets from amazon Wilton Cookie Tree Cutter Kit). I baked the cookies a good week before I assembled the tree and kept them in a tin. Tonight we had parents of friends of our boys coming over and I wanted a fairly easy dessert so I assembled the tree. This was lovely with coffee and between 4 adults and 4 teenage boys we ate almost all the tree!

We have friends with children/teenagers coming to dinner next week so I think I’ll make this again. This would also make a nice present wrapped in cellophane and ribbon.


  • 600g/22oz Self raising flour
  • 110g/4oz cornflour
  • 350g/12oz butter, diced
  • 350g/12oz caster sugar
  • 4 egg whites

for assembling and icing the tree

  • 120-150g royal icing sugar
  • 75-100g icing sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/350F
  2. Grease 3 large baking trays
  3. Sieve the flour and cornflour into a bowl
  4. Rub in the butter and stir in the sugar.
  5. Stir in enough of the egg white to get a fairly soft dough
  6. Knead lightly until smooth and roll out until 5mm thick.
  7. Stamp out two of each size of every star with each size of cutter (the set contains 10 cookie cutters).
  8. Bake until cookies are a pale golden colour
  9. Cool cookies and keep in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble
  10. Sort cookies into size order on the counter where you are working
  11. Make up the royal icing sugar into a stiff mix and use to stick the biggest cookie to the plate then use to stick each cookie onto the tree in size order. As you assembe  you need to twist/offset the cookies so you get a layered effect.
  12. Make up plain icing sugar into a more liquid mixture and drip onto the tree.
  13. Add silver balls or sprinkles to decorate.

Trionfo di Natale (Triumph of Christmas) – Anna Venturi


Several years ago Jon was given a voucher for a one day cookery course at Anna Venturi’s Italian Secrets cookery school in Beaconsfield (I think she has now moved it to London and focusses on catering). He made a number of lovely dishes from her book Secrets from an Italian Kitchen, and also made this wonderfully simple and delicious Christmas pudding which unfortunately isn’t in her book. As there’s quite a few people coming for Christmas dinner tomorrow it is the perfect excuse to make several puddings.

According to Anna It can be made up to four days in advance, and the size below serves 6-8. I had a 1kg panettone and scaled up the other ingredients accordingly. The servings don’t want to be large it is very rich.



  • 1 panettone (500g)
  • 300g mascarpone
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 6 tbs icing sugar
  • 1 espresso cup Marsala
  • 1 espresso cup coffee


  1. Place the panettone upside down into a bowl that fits it perfectly and with a sharp knife cut the lid off and reserve. With your fingers, gently remove all the inside of the panettone, ensuring the shell stays intact. Shred the panettone that you have removed and reserve.
  2. Separate the eggs; beat the yolks with the sugar and add the mascarpone while still beating. Add the shredded panettone, mixing gently. Although it feels like there will be too much mix you really do need to add all the shredded panettone.
  3. Whip the egg whites until firm and gently mix them in as well.
  4. Now you are ready to assemble: mix the Marsala with the coffee and brush the inside of the panettone generously.
  5. Fill the panettone shell with the panettone/mascarpone mix, pressing gently, and place the lid on top to close.
  6. Refrigerate overnight in its container. When ready to serve, turn it onto a serving plate and decorate with icing sugar
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Spruced-up Vanilla Cake – Nigella Christmas

Spruced up Vanilla cake

The first year I got the Nordic Ware Platinum Bundt Pan – Holiday TreeI made this cake from Nigella Christmas several times and it turned out beautifully every time. This year my first attempt stuck to the tin so for the second attempt I melted butter and applied very liberally to the tin before putting the cake mix in which worked, I think I may have left it in the oven for about 5-10mins too long. I love the taste of the Vanilla version of this cake and when it turns out well it is very impressive looking for very little effort.


  • 225 gram(s) butter (soft (plus more for greasing))
  • 300 gram(s) caster sugar
  • 6 medium egg(s)
  • 350 gram(s) plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon(s) bicarbonate of soda
  • 250 gram(s) plain yoghurt (fat free)
  • 4 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon(s) icing sugar


  1. reheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and put a baking sheet in at the same time. Butter or oil your large, regular or fir-tree shaped bundt tin (2.5 litres capacity) very, very thoroughly. (I use oil-sodden kitchen paper.)
  2. Either put all the ingredients except the icing sugar into the processor and blitz together; or mix by hand or in a freestanding mixer as follows:– Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.– Add the eggs one at a time, whisking each one in with a tablespoon of flour.– Fold in the rest of the flour, and add the bicarbonate of soda, the yogurt and vanilla extract.
  3. Pour and spoon the mixture into your greased tin and spread about evenly.
  4. Place the tin on the preheated baking sheet in the oven and cook for 45–60 minutes until well risen and golden. After 45 minutes, push a skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Let it sit out of the oven for 15 minutes.
  5. Gently pull away the edges of the cake from the tin with your fingers, then turn out the cake, hoping for the best.
  6. Once cool, dust with the icing sugar pushed through a small sieve, to decorate: think fresh snowfall on the alps.