ANDREW PERN, owner and chef at the Star Inn, Harome, heads to the kitchen to get ready for Christmas

WITH Christmas now only 13 ‘sleeps’ away, the kids’ excitement is now reaching near fever-pitch.

My own strongest memories of Christmas are unsurprisingly connected with food, like the ceremonial scooping out of the roast chestnuts for the turkey stuffing, probably because it was such a laborious ritual.

(Now, I buy them vac-packed, puréed and tinned; if only I had known that when I was being exploited as child labour).

Other Christmas chores included peeling and criss-crossing the sprouts, making the bread sauce, even plucking the odd pheasant or two, all in preparation for the big day.

These days everything is on a much larger scale; we are cooking for a six-course lunch for about 80 people on Christmas Day, which equates to a lot of sprouts and lots of preparation.

With party season now in full swing (cue sherry, Mistletoe and Wine and token Santa hat), it’s always wise to have a stock of versatile ingredients to hand; you can never go too far wrong with a good quality smoked salmon to serve with blinis or toast and, the Raisthorpe Manor range of gins, ports and liqueurs are handy as winter warmers, as well as cocktail ingredients, and tasty additions to any number of dishes.

This month, I’ve pulled together a ‘stockingful’ of snacks that can be converted to canapé-size or would work well as part of a party buffet.

Mallard and Mixed Peel Sausage Roll
(makes 10 standard size or 20 canapé size)

Using normal baking mixed peel, dried mixed herbs and orange zest, the finely-chopped mallard breast is bound with a little pork shoulder sausagemeat, then wrapped in full butter puff pastry and baked until golden brown. Best eaten within a few minutes of coming out of the oven.

For the pastry:
500g homemade or a good readymade quality puff or shortcrust pastry
2 egg yolks
A sprinkling of poppy seeds
For the filling:
225g pork sausagemeat
225g mallard breast, skinless, finely diced
50g white breadcrumbs
Zest (fine) and juice of one large orange
A pinch of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

First combine all of the filling ingredients together and set aside.

Roll out the pastry to a long strip approximately 30cm long, 15cm wide and the thickness of a 50p piece and arrange the mallard forcemeat in a sausage-like fashion evenly along the length of the strip and seal the pastry around it. Brush lightly with the eggwash and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Cook in the preheated oven for approximately 10 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling tray, then munch as required.


Hard-boiled Quail Eggs with Lovage Mayonnaise

Quail eggs would work well for canapé portions, while pheasant eggs are absolutely perfect for a more substantial snack. The celery-scented lovage mayonnaise and, maybe, a sprinkle of celery salt are all it needs – less is more.

18 quail eggs or 6 pheasant eggs
5g garden lovage
20g mayonnaise, homemade preferably, otherwise a good quality supermarket version
A sprinkling of celery salt
Celery cress

Drop the eggs into boiling water and boil for three minutes (quail egg) or five minutes (pheasant egg).

Remove and refresh in ice cold water, then peel. Finely chop the garden lovage and mix with the mayonnaise.

Place the eggs on to a plate.

Finely slice off the bottoms, so they will stand up and place a dot of mayonnaise on top. Garnish with celery cress or any other herb of your preference.

A sprinkling of celery salt is a nice finish.


Mini Venison Cottage Pies

These will need a little prior planning on how you are going to present them; you may have something in the cupboard, such as small pots, which could be brought into service or you could use a pastry ‘canape cup’ of some kind. Alternatively, one large pie would make a tasty lunch or supper dish, served with some hearty greens.

1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely grated
A little rapeseed oil
350g minced venison
125ml red wine
4 juniper berries, ground
400ml game stock
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2cm dice
A little cornflour
A splash of gravy browning
200g mashed potato with a little chopped parsley mixed in, warmed
A little butter
A little Cheddar cheese, grated (to sprinkle over the top)

Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.

First sweat the onions and garlic in a little oil, without colouring. Add the minced venison to the onions and garlic, and brown, then add the red wine, ground juniper berries and the stock. Season and cook on a medium heat for approximately 20 minutes. Add the diced carrot and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add a splash of gravy browning and thicken with a little cornflour, as required.

To serve, spoon the cooked venison mince into small pots or pastry cases and pipe warm mashed parsley potato over the top. Brush with butter and sprinkle over a little cheese, if you wish. Place under a hot grill for approximately four to five minutes, until brown.


Beer-battered Scarborough Woof Goujons

We normally serve these with a tartare hollandaise, but a tartare mayonnaise (a basic mayonnaise with the addition of chopped capers, gherkins, flat parsley, shallot, lemon juice and seasoning) may be more practical.

12 x 50g pieces of woof (cod if unavailable)
15g fresh yeast
300ml dark beer
225g flour
1 tsp salt
1 dash vinegar
Pinch chopped chives
Chervil for garnish

Dissolve yeast with a little beer, then gradually add the rest of the beer. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, and make a well in the centre.

Pour in the beer and dissolved yeast, and whisk into a batter. Leave covered for an hour at room temperature before using.

Coat the woof in seasoned flour, then dip into the batter and deep fry until golden brown (approximately three to four minutes). Serve immediately, garnished with chervil.


Merry Christmas to all you festive gastronauts. Eat, drink and be merry – and remember too have fun! Cheers Andrew and all at The Star Inn

• Recipes are taken from Loose Birds and Game and Black Pudding and Foie Gras by Andrew Pern, available from The Star Inn Corner Shop and all good booksellers.