John Whaite's perfect (ginny) Christmas Eve feast!

The diet can wait gin fans…it’s officially the time of year where we are surrounded by tempting treats, naughty nibbles and crazy good cocktails!

We asked our all-time favourite Great British Bake Off winner to develop a super-special Christmas feast for our members… and the results were simply spectacular! With a sweet bake, a savoury feast to share and a glamorous Christmas cocktail to top it all off, we’re in for a very merry Ginmas, indeed!


Sticky Lamb Stew with Lager Flatbreads

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Ingredients:

3 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, roughly chopped
2 tbsp anchovy paste
2 tbsp tomato purée
4 tsp ras-el-hanout
4 preserved lemons, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp sherry vinegar (or balsamic would do)
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
200g dried dates, roughly chopped
1kg diced lamb (neck, leg or shoulder)
750ml good quality chicken stock
Small handful of freshly chopped coriander
Sea salt flakes and coarsely ground black pepper

For the lager flatbreads:

200g strong white bread flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
5g salt
120ml lager

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.

Place a heavy-based ovenproof casserole over a high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions with a pinch of salt, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Fry the onions, stirring frequently, for a good 20 minutes. They should soften and colour slightly but not burn.

Once the onions are soft, increase the heat to medium-high and immediately stir in the anchovy paste and tomato purée. Fry, stirring, for a minute, then add the ras-el-hanout and stir for a further minute. Add the remaining ingredients except the coriander, and bring to a boil. There’s no need to brown the lamb. Once boiling, put on a lid and transfer to the oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160°C/140°C fan/gas mark 3. Cook, covered, for 3 hours but do check the pan halfway through to make sure it isn’t too dry – add a splash of water if need be.

Meanwhile, make the flatbreads. Toss the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt together in a mixing bowl. Pour the lager into the dry ingredients and bring together to form a stiff dough. Turn out onto the worktop and knead for a minute or so, just until smooth. Cover the dough with the upturned mixing bowl, and leave to rest for 20 minutes – this will soften the dough, making it easier to roll.

Divide the dough into 4 portions and roll out each one into a disc about 20cm in diameter. Heat a dry frying pan over a high heat and once hot, fry the flatbreads, one at a time, for 1–2 minutes per side, then flip and fry for a further minute. Repeat with the remaining flatbreads. The flatbreads should swell slightly and be charred. Stack the cooked flatbreads between two plates to keep them soft and warm.

Once the lamb falls apart, it’s ready. Sprinkle over the coriander, taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if required, and serve with the flatbreads.


Gin Spice Clementine Cake with Lemon and Juniper Syrup and Cardamom Swiss Buttercream

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Ingredients:

For the cake
2 clementines
350g unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
415g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
6 large eggs
415g self-raising flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp fine salt
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp mixed spice

For the syrup
Juice of 1 lemon
60ml water
125g caster sugar
4 cardamom pods
1 tsp juniper berries
1 dried bay leaf

For the buttercream
140g liquid egg white (or 4 large egg whites)
320g caster sugar
400g unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature
1 tsp ground cardamom

To decorate
A selection of:
Cinnamon sticks
Figs
Almonds
Cardamom pods
Dried orange slices

Method:

First boil the clementines. Stab them once or twice to prevent them exploding. Put them into a medium saucepan and submerge in water. Set over a high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce to a quick simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until soft. Remove the clementines from the water and blitz in a blender (I use my nutribullet) to a pulpy mush. Allow to cool completely.

While the clementines cool, make the syrup. Put the lemon juice into a small saucepan with the water and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar then add the cardamom pods, juniper berries and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and allow to infuse until needed.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4.

For the cake, put the butter and sugar into the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer and beat until pale in colour and soft in texture – this should be lovely and fluffy. Add the clementine pulp and mix well – it may look curdled at this stage, but that’s completely fine. Add two eggs, mix those in, then add a third of the flour and mix that in. Repeat this process of alternating egg and flour, until the egg and flour are used up, and be sure to add the baking powder, salt and spices with the final inclusion of flour. Once you have a smooth cake batter, stop mixing.

Divide the cake batter between the cake tins which have been lined and greased, and level out – I use a small crank-handled spatula, but the back of a spoon would be just as useful. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and drizzle them, fairly liberally, with the syrup. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

When the cakes have cooled, remove them from the tins and pop them into the fridge – this will just help to firm them up and make it that bit easier to ice.

Clean out the medium saucepan and the bowl of the freestanding electric mixer.

The buttercream is fairly technical, but keep calm, have a sip of gin if that’s your thing, and follow these instructions carefully. First put about 4cm water in the medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium and let the water gently simmer. Next put the egg white and sugar together into the clean bowl of the freestanding electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment from the mixer, gently stir together the eggs and sugar, and set the bowl over the pan of barely simmering water. You must not stop stirring at this stage, but don’t stir too vigorously – the aim here isn’t to aerate the mixture, but to warm it up without cooking the eggs – if the eggs do curdle, you will have to start again, so be gentle. Once the mixture is runny and feels hot on the finger, set the bowl onto the freestanding electric mixer and whisk on full speed, using the whisk attachment, for ten minutes.

After ten minutes of whisking, the mixture will be a very thick and very glossy meringue. Keep the mixer running on full speed and add the butter very slowly – I add a cube, let it become fully mixed into the meringue, then add the next. This cannot be rushed, so grab a cocktail and enjoy it. As you add the butter the meringue will seem to deflate into a thick paste, but don’t worry, because as you add the rest of the butter it will eventually thicken again. When you’ve added all of the butter, continue whisking until you have a very thick buttercream. Add the cardamom and whisk that in fully.

To assemble, set one slice of cake onto a cake stand and spread it with a layer of buttercream. Repeat with the other two slices of cake. Spread more buttercream around the sides of the cake, getting it as straight as possible – use a small crank-handled palette knife. I like to leave little bits of cake peering through the buttercream – a naked cake. Load the remaining buttercream into the piping bag. Pipe blobs or rosettes of buttercream on top of the cake, just around the outer edge. Finish by decorating with cinnamon sticks, figs, almonds, orange zest, cardamom pods and dried orange slices.


Lemon Meringue Martini

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Method:

For the cocktail itself simply stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Put into a cocktail shaker, or jam jar with a tight fitting lid, with ice, gin and the liqueur. Shake vigorously until well mixed. Pour into a champagne saucer or martini glass, and top up with sparkling water (though do leave some room for the meringue).

For the meringue, whisk the egg white until stiff, then slowly add the sugar whilst whisking constantly - a handheld electric mixer is best for this. Pile the meringue on top of the cocktail. Using a chef's blowtorch, gently char the top of the meringue. 

Ingredients:

40ml fresh lemon juice
20g caster sugar
25ml gin
40ml limoncello liqueur
Sparkling water and ice

For the meringue
1 large egg white
65g caster sugar


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