There is so much going on at the moment that I thought it would be useful to simply list some of the best foodie events you can go to locally. I also have some tips from some of our local award-winning food and wine experts to help you at this busy time.
* The Inn on the Park are doing a Festive Afternoon Tea every day, which for a bargain £8.95 includes festive finger sandwiches, warm mince pie with whipped cream or brandy butter, mini chocolate yule log, a pot of traditional afternoon tea and a christmas cracker. On the afternoons of 18th, 19th and 20th December you can take your children to visit Father Christmas, and they can have a “choc-o-tot” and a Christmas cupcake while they wait. To book tickets for Father Christmas, call 838246.
* Highfield Park are holding a Christmas Market on Friday 17th December and you will be able to buy mulled wine, mince pies and pick up artisan craft, gifts and foodie things. It’s on between 3 and 6 pm and Santa will be arriving on his Christmas Tractor at 3.15. To book for Santa’s grotto, go to http://www.highfieldparktrust.co.uk.
CHRISTMAS TIPS FROM OUR LOCAL EXPERTS
I asked some of our local award-winning experts on their tips to make your Christmas lunch as stress-free and delicious as possible:
Nick McGeown, Group Head Chef, Lussmann’s
* Try soaking your blue cheese in port for a week before Christmas. Serve with good cheese biscuits and a glass of port.
* Serve a cold starter and cold dessert for Christmas lunch so you don’t spend all day in the kitchen.
* For delicious crunchy brussels sprouts, remove the outer leaves, boil quickly and then place in ice water and then place in a pan of clarified butter and saute until nice and crisp.
* With leftover roast potatoes, parsnips and vegetables, chop everything together and fry off in butter for a nice bubble and squeak for your boxing day breakfast. Top this with two free range fried eggs.
Paul Bloxham, Chef and Restaurateur, The Blue Anchor
* Buy your essentials now: String – to tie up your chosen bird to ensure it keeps its shape; extra wide foil and a couple of roasting tins large enough to cope with your bird and vegetables (but small enough to fit in your oven). An electronic thermometer to check that your bird is cooked to perfection is useful. And last and by no means least, a timer, because if you love a glass of wine and a chat, well you know how it goes…
* Plan a simple starter. Over 70% of us will be buying smoked salmon; I make a smoked salmon and blue cheese tart in advance and its ready to simply warm and serve on the day. Goat’s cheese with figs would be easy to assemble and delicious.
* Lay the dining table first thing after breakfast (delegate if possible). Believe me, it’s a real motivation knowing that the last job has been done first.
* Get your cranberry sauce out of the fridge in the morning as there is nothing worst than cold cranberry sauce.
* Add a teaspoon or two of basil pesto, cranberry sauce, mustard or horseradish sauce to your gravy to give it a great flavour. To remove any grease from gravy, pop a couple of ice cubes in, stir, and lift them out.
Julia Jenkins, Director, Flagship Wines
* There is no reason why you can’t drink any wine with any food but matching them might offer a more enjoyable combination. To accompany a festive meal that includes a myriad of flavours then a robust fruity wine with lovely fruity notes overlain with hints of spice and pepper would be great. A Cotes du Rhone such as Cotes du Rhone Villages, Les Coteaux (£8.99) or Borsao Seleccion Tinto from Spain (£6.99) would be delicious. White wines with an elegant rounded flavour such as Sauvignon Blanc from Northern France such as Simonnet Febvre Sauvignon Blanc (£8.85) or an unoaked New World wine such as the rounded yet refreshing Trio Chardonnay from Chile that is blended with some Riesling and Pinot Grigio to lift the flavours.
* If you would like to choose something British, Flagship list the Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2006 (£27.99). This Sussex-based winery has won many awards and always competes well in blind tastings against Grand Marque Champagnes of high quality.