Festive Food - Not Turkey

December 2018

Festive Food - Not Turkey

A selection of festive recipes from Janet Wynne Evans for those eschewing the Christmas standards aimed at those dining à deux.

Seared Scallops with Pancetta

Not everybody likes corals, but they add a lovely richness to this dish, which is enlivened by a kind of hot vinaigrette. If you can't find very thin pancetta, use Parma ham instead, but not streaky bacon. The aim is a very crisp, salty garnish to complement the creamy scallop meat.

4-6 fresh scallops, shelled, with corals
4 thin slices of pancetta
A handful of pretty salad leaves
A tablespoon of best-quality white wine or light Sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper
A few sheets of kitchen paper

Rinse the scallops well and separate them from their orange corals. Remove and discard the membrane around each scallop and its little gristly "skirt" so that you are left with a pearly, succulent, clean morsel. Pat with kitchen paper and leave, with the corals, to dry thoroughly. Season well with salt and pepper.

Lay the slices of pancetta in a frying pan and let it heat up slowly. Fry gently until the pancetta has given up its fat and is crisp but not frazzled (turn it once), remove from the pan and drain on a sheet of kitchen paper. Prick the corals with a fork to stop them bursting, and add to the fat in the pan. Fry gently for about a minute on each side until lightly coloured, remove and keep warm.

Now add the scallops to the pan and fry for about 1-1 1/2 minutes, just enough for a golden crust to form around the circumference. Carefully turn over and continue cooking for another minute. Remove from the pan and arrange, with the corals, on heated plates. Add the vinegar to the pan and bubble hard until the juices look syrupy. Dress the rocket leaves with them, tumble onto the plates and criss-cross the pancetta slices on top.

Serves 2

Wine Matches: a concentrated, minerally albariño like Pazo Señorans or Fefiñanes. Camel Valley Atlantic Dry has the right Atlantic zestiness too.

Smoked Eel Salad

100g smoked eel fillets
75ml crème fraîche
Half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, or to taste
A tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
A teaspoon of creamed horseradish, or to taste
Black pepper to taste
A few flat-leaf parsley leaves

Cut the eel fillets into slim slices and arrange on two plates. Combine the cream with the mustard, lemon juice and a grind of black pepper and add the horseradish as little at a time, tasting as you go. A teaspoonful works for me. Add a little more mustard too if it needs it, but note that the heat will intensify as the flavours infuse, so if making this in advance, don't overdo it or most wine will curl up.

Scoop a little of the horseradish cream onto each plate and decorate with whole parsley leaves which add a lovely herbal hit of their own. Serve with tasty brown bread and unsalted butter.

Serves 2

Wine Matches: fly the flag with Three Choirs Stone Brook or a spicy Alsace white such as Pinot Gris from Hugel.

Duck Breast with Cranberries, Cabbage and Roasted Potato Thins

I have tiffled with this recipe for many years. A version of it was first published in The SocietyNews in November 2001, another in Wine Without Fuss this Easter and I still think it a fine example of the best kind of fast food. The duck-cooking technique was inspired by a Gordon Ramsay recipe in The Times Magazine. The "frutti di bosco" garnish was pinched from an Italian restaurant countless summers ago: the piquancy and colour of cranberries make them the ideal seasonal substitute. Dark and slightly gamey in taste, a Barbary duck breast is very generous and serves two people. Allow one breast per person if using smaller ducks but the recipe works best with the larger ones.

1 large duck breast, thoroughly thawed if frozen
A pinch of Chinese five-spice powder
Salt and pepper
100g cranberries, rinsed and dried
Half a bunch of Italian black cabbage (cavolo nero)
For the potato thins, see the recipe below.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6

Pat the duck breast dry and score the skin in a criss-cross pattern with the tip of a sharp knife. Rub with salt, pepper and five-spice. Strip the leafy cabbage from the hard stems, shred roughly and blanch for a minute or so. Drain and squeeze as much water out as possible. Slice, wash and dry the potatoes according to the recipe below and put on their baking tray to await the duck fat and flavourings.

Get a non-stick pan fairly hot and put in the duck skin-side down. Let it sizzle for a moment or so, and as the subcutaneous fat begins to render, turn the heat to medium, and cook for about 15 minutes. The skin should be golden brown and crisp.

Remove the duck while you carefully pour most of the fat into a small bowl. Proceed with the potato recipe and put the potatoes into the oven.

Return the duck to the pan, flesh-side down and cook for 3 minutes for a small breast, 5-7 for a big one for a blushing pink result. Rest the duck breasts on warm plates or a hot tray until needed. Meanwhile, throw the cranberries into the pan, cover it, lower the heat again and let them collapse in the meat juices for 15 minutes or so to form a sauce.

When the potatoes are done, toss the greens in sizzling butter and keep warm. Arrange some potato slices on each plate and top with a cushion of cabbage. Carve the duck breast widthways into thick slices and arrange on top, with the sauce spooned over.

Serves 2

Wine matches: the combination of red and black fruit, spice and rich meat points squarely at a top-notch zinfandel. For every day, Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel is a good bet.

Roasted Potato Thins

You can use any potatoes for this, but waxy ones seem to work best. If using the floury variety, give them a good soak to drain off as much starch as possible and guarantee a good, crisp result. This is a good use of the fat rendered by frying the Barbary duck breast, or some fat from a tin of confit duck.

2 medium to large potatoes, about 200g altogether
2 tablespoons duck fat
A clove of garlic, peeled, sliced and finely chopped
A generous sprig of thyme
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/ 375F/ Gas 5

Peel the potatoes and slice quite thinly. They should not be translucent. Use the thickest setting on a mandolin or food processor. Rinse in cold water, and soak for half an hour, if particularly starchy (see above). Drain well and dry in a clean tea-towel. Strip the thyme of its leaves and chop finely if necessary. Combine the potatoes with the fat, garlic, and thyme on a large baking tray, a job best done with the hands unless the fat has come straight out of a hot pan, in which case use a spoon. Season with salt and pepper and arrange on the tray in one layer of slightly overlapping slices.

Bake for about 40 minutes, checking now and then to ensure they don't burn. You may have a few casualties (crisps!) around the edges and some will curl up delightfully as they brown, others will stick lovingly together which adds to the charm. They can be kept warm in their tray until needed but don't cover them or the residual steam will make them soggy. When ready to serve, prise the potatoes off the tray with a fish-slice and arrange in a little circle on heated plates as a base for grilled meat or fish.

Serves 2

Roast Mallard with a Red Wine Jus

Mallard, or wild duck, is easier than ever to find in good supermarkets and farmers' markets. One bird feeds two generously, with plenty of scraps and a flavour-rich carcass for stock-making. The red wine jus is easily made in advance, and all that is needed by way of accompaniment is some wild rice and a beautifully-dressed salad. I use a mixture of wild and basmati rice, which cooks to perfection in a microwave in a matter of twenty minutes from prep to ping to prêt.

1 oven-ready mallard or wild duck
200g banana shallots, halved
2 tbs oil
150ml dry white wine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the red wine jus:
1 bottle red wine
500ml stock (ideally game, or strong home-made chicken)
1 bay leaf
a star anise
1 tsp juniper berries
a sprig of thyme

Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5

In a large pan, boil down the bottle of wine to half its volume. Add the stock, along with the other jus ingredients and reduce to around 300ml of aromatic liquor. Keep warm, or make in advance and heat when ready.

Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a roasting pan on the hob and throw in the shallots to brown on all sides. Once they have coloured, push them together into the middle of the tin to form a natural trivet.

Wipe the duck inside and out, season with sea salt and black pepper. Put a small bunch of thyme in the cavity and drizzle with the rest of the oil and place the bird on its bed of shallots.

Pour the white wine into the tin and roast for 35-40 minutes until the juices run clear. Remove the bird and the vegetables from the tin and rest in a warm place for at least ten minutes.

Pour off most of the fat from the tin and deglaze with the boiling jus, strained through a sieve to remove the flavourings. Bubble until reduced and syrupy. Check seasoning and strain into a gravy boat.

Serve each person with slices of breast and a whole leg. Accompany with a mixture of wild and brown rice and a green salad.

*This excellent sauce for any dark game can be made in advance but ensure it is hot when needed.

Serves 2

Wine matches: virtually any red will work with this. Uncork your favourite claret, burgundy or Rhône, but the dark spices in the sauce are especially lovely with The Society's Exhibition Victoria Shiraz

Out-Of-Season Fruit Salad

This is an old favourite of mine and as fine a non-Christmas-pudding as I know. I have a weakness for muscatel raisins and since their pips are antisocially crunchy, I find stoning them the perfect excuse for a couple of hours in front of the television. If this sounds like hell, the pudding works perfectly well with the seedless kind.

500g dried fruit (apples, prunes, figs, raisins, apricots) soaked in water overnight
1 tea-bag containing a flavoured China tea like Jasmine or Lapsang Souchong
120g Demerara or golden caster sugar
A thumb of dried ginger root, finely grated
A spiral of lemon or orange peel
2 cinnamon sticks
A couple of whole cloves
A star anise
100ml rum, brandy or combination of both
50g nuts to garnish (blanched almonds, shelled pistachios, macadamias)

In a measuring jug, add 500ml boiling water to the tea-bag, brew lightly, and strain into a pan. Add the sugar, spices and lemon peel and boil until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has reduced by about a third. Add the fruit and simmer gently until it takes on a pleasing plumpness and the liquid is syrupy. Stir in the hard liquor and leave to cool. Remove the whole spices by all means, but they look very pretty. Lightly toast the nuts and add. Chill well. Serve with cream, vanilla ice-cream or Greek yoghurt. Do not operate machinery.

Serves 4-6

Wine Match: Madeira or dessert Sherry

Members' Comments (0)

There are no comments for this article.

Want more inspiration?

Sign up for a carefully-curated selection of recipes, guides, in-depth expertise and much more.

Our website uses cookies with the aim of providing you with a better service. By using this website you consent to The Wine Society using cookies in accordance with our policy.


4.4. Cookie Policy

By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.

The Wine Society uses cookies to enable easy navigation and shopping on the website. We take the privacy of all who use our website very seriously and ensure that our use of cookies complies with current EU legislation. The following guide outlines what cookies are, the types of cookies used on The Society's website and how they work.

You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.

4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?

  • Most major websites use cookies.
  • A cookie is a very small data file placed on your hard drive by a web page server. It is essentially your access card, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you.
  • Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.
  • The purpose of a basic cookie is to tell the server that you returned to that web page or have items in your basket. Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next.
  • Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.
  • More recently, cookies have also been used to collect information about the user which allows a profile of their preferences and interests to be created so that they can be served with interest-based rather than generic information about available goods and services.

4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?

Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.

4.4.3. How does The Wine Society use cookies?

The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, the provision of personalised recommendations, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.

The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site.

4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?

We use the following three types of cookies: Strictly Necessary Cookies
These cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Authentication Cookie and Anonymous Cookie
    These cookies remember that you are logged in to your account – without them, the website would repeatedly request your login details with each new page you visit during your time on our website. They are removed once your session has ended.
  • Session Cookie
    These cookies are used to remember who you are as you use our site: without them, the website would be unable to tell the difference between you and another Wine Society member and facilities such as your basket and the checkout process would therefore not be able to function. They too are removed once your session has ended. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking Cookies
These cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Unique User Cookie
    This cookie is used to:
    • store your share number in order to identify that you have visited the website before. Without this cookie, we would be unable to tell whether you are a member or not.
    • record your visit to the website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We use this information to make our website, the content displayed on it and direct marketing communications we may send to you or contact you about more relevant to your interests.
    • This cookie expires after 13 months.
  • Peerius Cookies
    These third-party cookies are used to provide you with personalised recommendations based on your purchase and browsing history. They expire within 4 hours of your visit. Performance/analytical cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Google Analytics Cookies
    These are third-party cookies to enable Google Analytics to monitor website traffic. All information is recorded anonymously. Using Google Analytics allows The Society to better understand how members use our site and monitor website traffic. Authentication Cookie
In order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.

4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?

All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.

4.4.6. Learn more about cookies

4.4.7. Changes to our cookie policy

Any changes we may make to our cookie policy in the future will be posted on the website and, where appropriate, notified to you by email. Please check back frequently to see any updates and changes to our cookie policy.