Prue Leith's fabulous festive recipes (2024)

On Saturday, Prue Leith sharedsome of her favourite recipes for aChristmas Day feast in a sumptuoussupplement in Weekend magazine.Today, she's bringing you morebrilliant ideas. So if you fancy achange from turkey this year, hereare some delicious alternatives,ranging from roast pork withcrackling to salmon en-croute . . .

John's slow cooked beef brisket

When I first met my husband, John, he asked if I'd written a recipe for brisket. Of course, I said, handing him Leith's Cookery Bible. He thumbed through the index. No brisket. So here you are, John, six years late. And you must admit that as my chief taster, you did declare it worth the calories.

Serves 6

  • 1.3kg beef brisket, boned and rolled, or ask your butcher
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • Small can Guinness or other stout
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 heaped tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 mild or medium-hot chilli, de-seeded and chopped
  • 4 large onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper

Set the oven to 140c/fan 120c/gas 1. Grease the bottom of a large frying pan with a little oil and brown the brisket all over. Transfer to a lidded casserole. Pour off any fat from the frying pan and pour a dollop of the tinned tomatoes into the pan and loosen any brown stuck bits with a wooden spoon — you don't want to waste the flavour. Then add the rest of the tomatoes, stout, sugar, tomato puree and chilli. Tip over the meat in the casserole.


Don’t bother to washup the pan after you’ve browned the brisket —use it to fry the onions for extra flavour

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Use the same pan to fry the onions in 2 tbsp oil. Stir frequently to get the onions an even pale brown. Add garlic and fry two minutes more. Then tip on top of meat. Make sure the lid fits well (if it doesn't, cover the casserole in foil) and slow cook in the middle of the oven for 4 hours, turning meat over and mixing up onions and sauce after 2 hours.

When the time is up, test with a fork — the meat should be soft and falling into shreds. When done, lift the meat onto a deep serving platter, pour off any visible fat from the sauce and onions, and check the seasoning. Spoon over the meat and serve.

Quick and easy teriyaki lamb

This is one of the best ways to roast lamb. No need to make gravy — the juices and the teriyaki sauce do that. The lamb can be a whole leg opened up if you prefer — same cooking times (it is the thickness, not the weight, that determines the length of time in the oven). English lambs are bigger than New Zealand ones. If using a small leg or shoulder, reduce the cooking times by five minutes. Get the butcher to 'open bone' the lamb for you.

Serves 6-8

  • 1 whole English shoulder or leg of lamb, open boned
  • Oil, for greasing
  • 200ml teriyaki sauce
  • 2 tbsp runny honey

Open the lamb out flat on a board. Score the skin side lightly with a sharp knife and place the lamb into an oiled roasting tin.

Pour over the teriyaki sauce and honey. Turn the lamb in the marinade. Leave for an hour or ideally overnight. If you forget don't worry. It's good with only ½ hour marinating, too.


Heat the oven half an hourbefore your guests are due. Put the lamb in as they arrive, take it out as you eat the first course.

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Heat the oven to 220c/fan210c/gas 7.

Turn the lamb in the marinade again and leave skin side up. Roast for 25 minutes for rare, 30 minutes for medium rare, 35 minutes for medium. Then remove from the oven and put it on a carving board with a piece of foil and a folded tea towel on top to keep warm. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.

When ready to serve, slice the lamb, adding any juices to those in the roasting pan. Reheat the juices and transfer to a jug.


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Glazed rainbow vegetables

Look out for 'rainbow' carrots – that is, yellow, red or purple varieties, as well as the usual orange. Most large supermarkets sell them – either mixed or individually — and they will add festive colour to your table. Remember they will shrink in the oven so allow a larger portion than you would for boiled or steamed veg.

Serves 6

  • 450g rainbow carrots
  • 450g turnips
  • 2 tbsp bacon or pork dripping
  • 50g butter
  • 2-3 tsp sugar
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Handful parsley, chopped


You could use 1 tbsphoney instead of the sugar. Parsnips aregood in the mix, too.

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Preheat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6. Cut the carrots into thin batons and the turnips into quarters. Place in a roasting tin with the dripping and butter. Roast for about 45 minutes, basting and turning occasionally until tender.

Remove the roasting tin and place on the hob on a medium heat. Add the sugar and shake the pan until the veg is browned. Season and serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Spicy salmon en croute with curried eggs

This is an impressive centrepiece and makes a great alternative to roasted meat. Including a semolina and cooked pastry layer helps absorb some of the cooking juices and prevents a soggy bottom to your pie.

Serves 8

  • 2 x 375g packs puff pastry
  • 2tbsp semolina
  • 1.3kg piece whole fillet of salmon, in the piece, skinned and boned
  • 200g pack large leaf spinach , stalks removed
  • 1 egg, beaten for glazing

For the curried egg layer

  • 4tbsp chopped parsley
  • 3tsp curry paste
  • 1tbsp dried breadcrumbs
  • 4 hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Set the oven to 220c/fan 210c/gas 7. Cut the salmon fillet into two long equal-sized halves. Press the two packs of pastry together to form a single block, then use one-third and roll out to make a thin strip the length and width of the salmon fillet pieces. Put the pastry on a flat baking sheet, prick all over with a fork and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the pastry over and cook for a further 10 minutes until golden in colour. Cool on a rack.

Mix the curried egg layer ingredients together and season well. Pile the egg mixture onto half the salmon and position the other salmon half on top to make a neat evenly shaped sandwich. Add the spinach to a pan of boiling water until just wilted. Drain and run under cold water until cold. Keep the leaves in cold water. Cover the salmon sandwich in a double layer of leaves. Press them in place and pat with kitchen paper to dry as you go.

Roll out the remaining pastry into a thin sheet about 8cm longer than the salmon parcel and four times its width. Lay the large, uncooked pastry sheet on baking paper on a baking tray. Lift the salmon onto the centre and sprinkle the semolina on to the top, then cover with the cooked pastry sheet. Now wrap up your salmon parcel. Lift the sides of the pastry up and over the salmon to completely cover the cooked pastry. Trim to leave a 2cm overlap the full length of the salmon, brush the edges with egg and press together to seal.


If you don’t have a flat bakingsheet, turn a baking tray overand use the base, so youcan slide the finished pie onto a serving dish.

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Trim excess pastry from the ends , but leave enough to cover the ends of the salmon. Seal the edges of the pastry together with beaten egg so all the salmon is enclosed.

Carefully turn the parcel over using the baking paper to lift and roll it. Position it in the middle of the baking paper. Using the back of a knife, decorate the top with diagonal lines and make holly decorations using any pastry trimmings. Brush the sides and top with egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and a skewer can easily penetrate the fish. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy hot or cold.

Roast pork, perfect crackling and apple sauce

It really pays to spend money on good pork. There is all the difference in the world between meat from an old-fashioned pig like a Middle White or Gloucester Old Spot that has been allowed to root about outdoors, and a pallid joint from a barn-reared beast fed on pellets. You need a good butcher, too. The most maddening thing for a cook is to get a beautiful joint of pork, with a few vandal’s slashes through the skin instead of perfectly scored crackling (see my tip below).

Serves 10

  • 2.5kg boned, rolled and tied loin of pork, skin intact
  • 2tsp cooking oil
  • Salt

For the apple sauce

  • 450g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 4tbsp water
  • 2-3tbsp sugar

For the gravy

  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 425ml good stock
  • Salt and pepper

To serve

  • 1 small bunch of watercress

Heat the oven to 220c/fan 210c/gas 7. Score the pork rind. Make long fine cuts just through the skin into the fat, but not through the fat into the flesh (which would allow the juices to bubble up and spoil your crackling).

Wet the palm of your hand with oil and rub it all over the skin. Put into a roasting tin and, once the oven is hot (not before), sprinkle with a good dusting of salt. Then put the joint into the middle of the hot oven.

Roast for an hour, then turn the oven down to 190c/ fan 170c/gas 5 for a further hour. Test for ‘doneness’ by piercing the flesh with a skewer (not through the crackling). The juices should run clear. If they are pink, return the roast to the oven and cook for a further 15 mins, then test again.


It’s easy to score the porkskin, but you need a Stanleyknife with a new blade. The cuts should be a pencil’s width apart.

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Meanwhile, make the apple sauce. Put the apple slices in a pan with the water and the sugar. Cook slowly, covered for around 15 minutes or until the apples are soft and broken down. Beat briefly and tip into a bowl for serving.

Once the pork is cooked, remove and place on a serving dish and turn off the oven. Allow oven and pork to cool for five minutes, then return the pork to the still warm oven while you make the gravy.

Tip off all but a tablespoon of the fat from the roasting tin. Stir the flour into the remaining fat and juices in the tin, scraping the sediment and stuck bits up as you do so — that’s where the flavour is. Stir over the heat to brown the flour. Add the cold stock and whisk over the heat while bringing to the boil.

Simmer for a few minutes until the gravy is slightly thickened and season to taste.

Strain into a warmed gravy jug. Garnish the pork with watercress and serve with the apple sauce.

The best Christmas nut roast ever

My tasty nut roast will keep your vegetarian guests happy, and possibly quite a few meat-eaters, too! Cook this in a non-stick Bundt tin, brioche tin or ring mould. Or use a loose-bottomed cake tin. If it was made ahead and is being reheated, turn the cooked dish upside down on a serving platter and leave the mould in place while warming through in the oven. If using a microwave and the mould is metal, remove it before heating and replace with cling film.


For the nut layer

  • 225g mixed nuts
  • 115g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 2tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 55g button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the spinach layer

  • 1kg spinach, stalks removed
  • 30g butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

For the chestnut layer

  • 1tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 225g unsweetened chestnut puree
  • 1 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 115g vacuum-packed whole chestnuts
  • Parsley, chopped
  • 85g pitted prunes

To serve

● Braised chestnuts in red wine, (See recipe here)

Pulse the nuts in a food processor to form very coarse crumbs (you can do this in batches). Tip into a bowl and stir in the breadcrumbs. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion for about 10 minutes or until soft and transparent. Add the mushrooms and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes or until the moisture has evaporated.

Remove from the heat, cool a little and then tip into the nut mixture and mix with the tomato puree, nutmeg, cloves and egg. Season to taste.

For the spinach layer, wilt the leaves in a deep pan of boiling water, then drain well. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the garlic, then the wilted spinach, and season to taste.


This can be made in advanceand kept in the fridge for aday or two, or frozen. Thawbefore reheating in ovenfor 30 minutes.

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To make the chestnut layer, heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and celery and cook for 10 minutes until soft, but not brown. Add the chestnut puree and mix well. Take off the heat and mix in the breadcrumbs, then the chestnuts, parsley and prunes, keeping them as whole as you can, and season. Heat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4.

To assemble the dish, lightly oil the tin, even if non-stick. Divide the nut mixture into four portions, and the spinach into two portions. Layer the mixtures into the tin, starting with the nut mixture. Then add a layer of spinach, a layer of nut, followed by the chestnut and nut, and finally a layer of spinach and the remaining nut mixture. Press down each layer with the back of a tablespoon, making sure the edges are neat. Cover with lightly oiled greaseproof paper and place on a baking sheet. Bake on the middle shelf for 35-40 minutes. (If making in advance, stop now, let it cool completely, then freeze or refrigerate in the tin. If frozen, thaw before cooking.)

Turn up the oven to 220c/ fan 210c/gas 7. Allow the roast to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the piece of greaseproof paper and invert an oven-proof plate on top of the tin. Turn the tin and plate over together, shaking gently to dislodge the roast. Remove the tin and return the roast to the oven for a further 10 minutes or until browned. Top with braised chestnuts, if using and chopped parsley, and holly, if you have some, to decorate.

Beetroot, cranberry and cauliflower salad

This pretty pink-coloured salad can be prepared a few hours in advance. But don’t add the apple or the dressing until the last minute because it will become watery and the apple discoloured.


For the salad

  • 1 medium raw beetroot
  • 1 fist-sized segment red cabbage
  • 1 small cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 1 red apple cored and sliced

For the dressing

  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and ground black pepper

For the topping

  • Small bunch seedless red grapes
  • Few sprigs fresh dill, chopped

Grate or shred the raw beetroot and finely slice the red cabbage and cauliflower. Or whizz the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like couscous. Mix the salad ingredients together, including the cranberries and apple. Put the mayonnaise in a bowl and mix in the yogurt, Dijon mustard and season. Just before serving, stir into the salad. Tip into a large bowl and scatter over the grapes, halved, and a sprinkling of chopped dill.

Book offer : Get a 20 per cent discount on Prue’s autobiography Relish: My Life On A Plate, £16 (normally £20), and her novel The Prodigal Daughter, £7.19 (normally £8.99), until December 16, 2017, both published by Quercus. Order at or call 0844 571 0640, p&p free on orders of £15 or over.

Photography by Toby Scott/Kate Whitaker. Food styling by Lorna Brash/Lizzie Harris. Prop styling by Morag Farquhar.

Prue Leith's fabulous festive recipes (2024)
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