Cooks' Questions on Christmas

Q: We are spending Christmas in Sydney, Australia this year, my parents are coming over for a holiday, so I want to cook something really special for Christmas lunch. Do you have any ideas, that don't involve turkey.

We think you should take advantage of the abundance of lovely fresh fish and seafood and maybe adapt one of Delia's recipes to make use of some local specialities - you could start with a lovely retro-style Prawn Cocktail, And try Delia's Iced Christmas Pudding with Glacé Fruits - see below.

Q: I am on a three-year posting in Barbados and have joined a small cookery group which meets once a month. For our pre-Christmas meeting I have been asked to cook a turkey breast with a difference. I would love some advice.

We would suggest that you try a different festive bird such as goose if you can get hold of it. There are a whole host of ideas on the site. If you do want to stick with turkey there are also plenty of traditional ideas too.

Q: I make 2 Trufle Tortes at Christmas but have found it difficult to purchase liquid glucose, even from the pharmacist at Sainsburys in Swansea. Can I substitute with another type of sugar which is more easily found?

There is no real substitute. All we can recommend is that you try a larger pharmacist or look on the shelves where all the baking products are (baking powder, food colourings etc.) in a large supermarket as sometimes it is positioned there. 

Q: When ordering the Christmas Goose (Prunes & Armagnac) my Butcher told me to make approx 30 skewer insertions in the body of the goose to let the fat run out. Is this necessary as Delia makes no mention of this practice?

This is not necessary, it just allows the fat to be released more quickly and it means the goose is self-basting. We recommend that you follow the instructions as Delia mentions as all her recipes are tried and tested.

Q: I want to try "prunes in Armagnac" with my goose this year, I can’t see Armagnac in the shops. What is it and what is a good alternative?

Armagnac is one of the two finest brandies, the other being Cognac. It is made in Gascony, which is in the South East region of Bordeaux. We would suggest that you substitute this for a Cognac.

Q: My son is allergic to nuts, specifically Brazil nuts. With Christmas coming up this becomes more of a issue than at other times of the year. Can you tell me what I can use as an alternative for such things as marzipan on the cake and ground almonds in pastry and puddings?

Delia only uses her home-made almond paste for Christmas cakes and we know of no alternative. But you could try contacting The Anaphylaxis [object Object]Campaign on 01252 542029, who may be able to direct you to a source that can help you with a nut-free alternative for marzipan and ground almonds in pastry. The simplest thing to do would be to omit the marzipan altogether and ice the cake quite thickly either with royal icing or fondant icing on or around Christmas Eve – any sooner and the dark colour of the cake might start to seep through.]

Q: How long does the Christmas Chutney keep for?

If the jars have been properly sterilised and sealed with a non-metallic lid, it does have a long shelf life of about 1 year.

Q: I refer to Delia’s Christmas Dried Fruit Compote. I would like to make this without alcohol, but what could I use instead of port? I think you can use tea, but not sure. Any ideas?

If you don't use alcohol, obviously you will not get the characteristic richness, flavour and 'warmth' associated with it. You can, however, substitute fruit juice to make up the liquid content when making the compote.. You could also use cold tea for this – Earl Grey would be especially good.

Q: How far in advance is it safe to prepare prawn cocktail as a starter for Christmas day?

We would recommend that you make prawn cocktail only a couple of hours beforehand, and keep it refrigerated until 30 minutes before serving it.

Q: I have successfully made Cheese and Parsnip Roulade from Delia Smith's Christmas but can no longer source Sage Derby cheese locally.

Sage Derby is becoming increasingly difficult to find and Delia acknowledges this by suggesting an alternative, Lancashire, in the recipe. However, because it hasn't been tested using an alternative cheese, there is no quantity given for the sage. Sage does have rather a strong and distinctive flavour so you don't want to overdo it. We would suggest you try about six (fresh) leaves, VERY finely chopped. Taste the mixture as you go so that you can add some more if you don't think it's strong enough.  

Q: All the recipes I have seen for chocolate yule logs have no fat in them. I am desperate to find a recipe with some form of fat ingredient, so that the yule log will last more than just a couple of days...

Most recipes for Swiss rolls, Yule logs, etc. use a fatless sponge mixture as their base because this type of sponge cake tends to be more flexible and easy-to-roll than a sponge with fat in it. Delia's chocolate roulade-type recipes all use a fatless sponge base, as you will no doubt have discovered, but her Lemon Roulade does use a sponge with fat . You could try altering this recipe – omit the lemon and substitute 1 oz of cocoa for 1 oz of the flour. Delia has never tested this adaptation, nor has she checked how long it will keep, but it might be worth a go. The only other thing we can suggest you try is to use a truffle-type mixture and, as it starts to set, shape it into a log and allow to firm up fully before decorating it. This would produce an extremely rich dessert so you would need to serve it sparingly! And it's not something that we've tried so we can't guarantee its success.

Q: I would like to make the Cheese and Parsnip Roulade for Christmas day but will be very short on oven space. Is it possible to either make it on the day before and then reheat it, or to make in advance and freeze? Please tell me the best way. Thanks

Delia says, 'I would make it the day before, then reheat it in the microwave, although I haven't tested timings. The other idea is to cover it with foil and pop it in the oven with the roast potatoes.'

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