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We all have traditional Christmas recipes that we love.  Recipes handed down the generations, that for us are the taste of Christmas.  However, it is always lovely to come across a new recipe.  One that offers to put a new twist on an old favourite.  December is a particularly busy month, so recipes you can prepare ahead are invaluable at this time of year.  We want to share some of our favourites with you.  Using the best of seasonal ingredients, you can prepare these well in advance.  Taking some of the pressure off on Christmas Day.

Parmesan Baked Parsnips

We came across this Delia Smith recipe in Delia’s Vegetarian Collection.  It quickly became a firm family favourite, and is now an essential part of our Christmas dinner.  The parsnips are baked in the oven and the parmesan coating gives them a wonderful crispy coat.  You can prepare them up to 24 hours in advance.  However we prefer to prepare, then freeze them.  On Christmas Day they can simply be cooked from frozen.


2oz (50g) freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

2 1/2 lb (1.25kg) parsnips

6oz (175g) plain flour

Groundnut or other flavourless oil for baking

a knob of butter

salt and freshly milled black pepper


Begin by combining the flour, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.

Peel the parsnips using a potato peeler. Then halve and quarter them lengthways and cut each length in half across, so that you end up with smallish chunks. Cut out any tough woody centres. Now pop the parsnips in a saucepan, pour in enough boiling water just to cover them and add salt. Put on a lid, bring them to the boil and boil for 3 minutes. Meanwhile have a large kitchen tray ready.

Then, as soon as they are ready, drain them in a colander and, whilst they are still steaming, drop a few at a time (with the aid of some kitchen tongs) into the flour and parmesan mixture, shaking the bowl and moving them around so that they get a good even coating. As they are coated transfer them to the tray. Make sure you do them all fairly swiftly as the flour mixture will only coat them whilst they are still steamy! When they’re all coated they are ready to cook or store in the fridge or freeze.

Any leftover flour and Parmesan can be kept (sifted) in the fridge or freezer for another time. What is important is to have plenty in order to coat the parsnips quickly.

To bake them, place a large solid roasting tin in the oven to pre-heat and in it put enough oil just to cover the base and a knob of butter for flavour. Then, when the oven is ready, remove the tin and place it over direct heat (turned fairly low) and, again using tongs, place the parsnips quickly side by side in the tin. Tilt it and baste all the parsnips with hot fat, place the tin in the oven and bake them for 20 minutes, then turn them over, drain off any surplus fat (a bulb baster is good for this) and continue to bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until they are crisp and golden.


Red Cabbage with Pears

This is one of our favourite Christmas recipes, from a Christmas Good Housekeeping issue almost 20 years ago.  The rich jewel like colour of the red cabbage looks amazing on the plate. It retains a crunchy texture, and the spices and pears bring a wonderful depth of flavour. I like to cook it early in December, usually preparing it while dinner is cooking, then letting it simmer away while we eat, then finishing it off after our meal.  It freezes very well and you can divide it into portions for the freezer, just defrosting what you need for each meal.


1 tbsp. olive oil
red onion, halved and sliced
garlic cloves, crushed
1 large red cabbage – approx 1kg (2lb 31⁄2oz) – shredded
2 level tbsp light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
juniper berries
1⁄4 level tsp allspice
300 ml (1⁄2 pint) turkey or vegetable stock


Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion for 5min to soften. Add the garlic, cabbage, sugar, red wine vinegar, juniper berries, allspice and stock, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30min. Add the pears to the red cabbage and cook for a further 15min or until nearly all the liquid has evaporated and the cabbage is tender.  If you are freezing, then allow to cool completely before packing in an airtight container or bag and transferring to the freezer.

Smoked Bacon and Pecan Brussels Sprouts

This Donal Skehan recipe is a new find.  If you want to ensure your Brussels Sprouts retain a crunchy bite, then this is the recipe for you.  Like the recipes above, you can prepare this recipe in advance.


1kg Brussel sprouts

4 rindless Drumanilra streaky bacon rashers

25g pecan halves, roughly chopped

A good knob of butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Trim the Brussel Sprouts and blanch in a pan of boiling salted water for 6-8 minutes until just tender. Check by piercing with the tip of a sharp knife. Drain and cool quickly under cold running water, then cut each one in half.

If you are preparing ahead, and don’t plan to eat right away then the blanched sprouts can now be put into a large zip-lock bag and kept in the fridge until needed.

When almost ready to serve, heat the butter in a sauté pan and sauté the bacon until crisp and golden. Add the pecan halves to the same pan and sauté for a couple of minutes until lightly toasted and sizzling

Add the butter to the sauté pan and tip in the blanched Brussel sprouts, then sauté over a medium heat until warmed through. Season to taste and tip in the bacon and pecans and toss again briefly, then tip into a warmed serving bowl. Cover with foil and keep warm in a low oven until needed.