A Bloody Good Eggnog

Getting in a flap about the big Christmas dinner? Our food columnist has some make-ahead tricks, ideas for alternative feasts, and a classic cocktail recipe that will make your celebration go without a hitch…

Yes, it’s that time of the year again… time to decide whether I go for an alternative Christmas feast, or play safe because the mother-in-law is coming round, and I’ll never hear the last of it if I serve goose or a whole fish with oyster stuffing. Well, I know what I won’t be serving on the big day: turkey.

I reckon your guests would be happy eating anything well-sourced and cooked with conviction, served with interesting accompaniments. You must have eaten overcooked turkey many times, got stuck into the sides and left the dry meat.

A better option is to serve small game birds like teal, snipe and woodcocks. You get diverse flavours, plus you can get stuck in like a medieval banquet. These little birds are fantastic served with hedgerow jellies like rosehip, rowan or elderberry, or even a mixture of foraged berries. I often save some elderberries when they are plentiful and pop them in the freezer to drop into game sauces or a salad.

But this year I’m thinking suckling pig…and I can’t wait. If, like me, you’re thinking of an alternative Christmas lunch, try to order your main course well in advance. Things like suckling pig and game birds will certainly need a pre-order prompt, so your butcher can make room in a fridge full of turkeys. McKanna Meats on Theobalds Road will be able to help or, if you’re spending Christmas out of London, Donald Russell offers an excellent range of meat and game. online.

Once you’ve decided on the main course, the next step to a stress-free Christmas is preparation. On-the-day anxiety is mainly down to not getting ‘prep’d up’ in advance, as we say in the business. Start by making gravy in advance. Buy some bones, make a good batch of gravy and freeze it in useable amounts. Blanching vegetables, the stuffing, bread and apple sauce can all be done the day before.

So, to start? I’m a big fan of a prawn cocktail but with quality, good-sized sea-water prawns and not those tasteless intensively-farmed ones. I serve a selection of starters to share, which always goes down well. Smoked salmon (my De Beauvoir ‘Hix Cure’ of course), prawn cocktail and a pâté or terrine will satisfy all tastes, even the kids’.

And to drink? We’ll start with a Hix Fix (morello cherries in Somerset Eau de Vie topped with Nyetimber) followed by wine. But Eggnog is Christmas in a glass for me, and I have included my recipe for it here.
Happy Christmas!


Serves 4-6
Memories of childhood, well sort of! My grandfather used to bring out the bottle of Advocaat at Christmas time, which is essentially branded eggnog. Well this
is the real deal, and a hell of a lot tastier.

3 Burford Brown eggs, yolks and whites
75g caster sugar
450ml whole milk
150ml double cream
75ml Somerset cider brandy
75ml El Dorado 8 Year Old rum
25ml Madeira
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar with an electric whisk for 2-3 minutes until light and frothy then add the milk, cream, alcohol and half of the spices until well combined. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites and rest of the sugar with your electric whisk until fairly stiff, then fold into the egg yolk and alcohol mixture. Serve in tumblers or mugs and scatter the remaining spices on top.