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Ed Smith on serving up a winter feast designed to draw maximum reward from minimum effort

The trees are up, the decorations are in place, and the lights are on.

Which means that, on the one hand, we can officially shout “IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!”—a really special time to wander round the Market, to shop for seasonal and celebratory ingredients, and to get yourself set for festive feasting. On the other, does that also mean you’ve already seen too many twists on the classic roast, time plans for the big day, and ideas as to what to do with your leftovers? Hmmm. Me too.

Fear not: at 1-2:30pm on 13th December, I’ll be in the Demonstration Kitchen offering 90 minutes of relief from the yuletide scenes. I won’t, I must stress, be performing as The Grinch (though I do enjoy that role). Consider me more a helpful kitchen elf who’s happy to suggest some non-festive yet still seasonal ways to feed a crowd.

Specifically, I will be demonstrating a handful of dishes that you can cook for others (whether family or friends) without too much effort or hands-on time; dishes that take no time at all, or that you’ve done most of the work for in advance, should you have people coming over for an informal catch up. They’re the kind of dishes that you’ll be able to casually throw on the table without appearing overworked. They’re crowd-pleasers that don’t take the time or energy you’re expending on other things at this time. And, significantly, whether you cook these in December or into January, everyone (including you) will be happy that there’s no turkey nor sprouts to be seen.

Textural contrast
We begin with a jerusalem artichoke soup. Silky smooth, earthy and intense but also sweet and comforting, it’s a brilliant winter warmer that also feels ‘posh’ enough to serve others. To my mind, a really good soup needs to be as interesting after the tenth spoonful as it was at the first, so there are a few hints and tips for adding textural contrast and complementary flavours.

As a ‘main’, I’ll be doing one of the dishes I cook most at home: a smoked haddock and hake bake. It takes only a few moments to assemble and not many more minutes in the oven. It’s also both a little bit more interesting and lighter than your classic mash topped fish pie, so it works both as a mid-week family meal or easy supper with friends.

Panna cottas are one of the best desserts to have in your repertoire: 10 minutes of prep on the evening before people come over, then you just need to take them out the fridge and serve—ideally with a seasonal fruit compote you’ve, you know, just knocked up. We’ll make (and you’ll be able to try) a liquorice root one, which goes so well with fruits from this time of year, be they pears, new season citrus or the pink rhubarb that’s already starting to pop up.

A Christmas gift
Finally, I’ll be making some chocolate truffles, which are flavoured with Porteña’s dulce de leche spread. I’ll suggest making these as a big batch that you can share with others at any time over the next few weeks, whether the Christmas bells are ringing or not.

These four recipes are all taken from The Borough Market Cookbook. There’ll be copies of the recipes to take away on the day but as a side note, what a Christmas gift the book makes—The Borough Market Store at the entrance to Three Crown Square has copies that are signed and gift wrapped, if you wish, which you can grab at any time, or I’d be happy to personalise any you might purchase down at the Demonstration Kitchen. Of course, it’s online and in good bookshops too. How very merry (you see—I told you I wasn’t The Grinch).

Join Ed for free tips, tastings and recipes on Friday 13th December in the Market Hall, 1-2:30pm