- Food & Drink
The run-up to Christmas is better than the day itself. Christmas Day is mostly waiting. As a child, it’s waiting for the clock to tick round to the magic hour when you can run into your parents’ room, screaming “PRESENTS!” and jumping on their heads.
In our house, that was 5.30am. Now my sisters and I are grown-ups, it’s mum and dad doing the waiting, while we cling to our beds and an extra few minutes of sleep. Mum has taken to vacuuming outside our bedroom doors at 8am, loudly exclaiming that “Father Christmas has been.”
Then there is the waiting for everyone to get ready, the waiting for relatives to arrive. There’s the waiting for lunch to start and the waiting for lunch to be over. The waiting for the Christmas film to load up, the waiting for everyone to wake up. The waiting for the sandwiches and chocolates in the evening. The waiting for everyone to go home. Christmas Day is pure endurance.
Christmas Eve, on the other hand, is pure anticipation. When we were little, we’d spend most of it out of the house. My dad’s main Christmas responsibility (apart from wrapping all the presents) was taking us out for the day so mum could set everything up.
It was already garlanded with glitter and gold foil – there was nothing restrained about our Christmas decorations. But the dining room table needed wrestling into twice it’s length, and extra chairs and tables brought in from the garden shed. Napkins had to be folded into bishop’s mitres; the nice cutlery cleaned; and bags and bags of sprouts, potatoes and carrots peeled and popped into pans of water, ready for boiling the next day.
When we were finally allowed back into the house, washed and fed, the tin of Quality Street could be opened. It had been hidden in a wardrobe to stop our hungry little fingers peeling back the plastic and rooting through for green triangles and strawberry creams. We were allowed two each, then the tin was put away for one more magic night.
Apart from the Quality Street, I don’t remember what we ate on Christmas Eve. It must have been quick and simple. Most of the pans would have been filled with veg and mum must have been keen to ditch the kitchen for the sofa, fire and TV. But that was when there were 14 of us for Christmas Day lunch. Now, as older ones have gone and the younger ones have failed to reproduce, we are down to six. Sometimes just four.
And the anticipation is fading. We used to write our letters to Father Christmas on Christmas Eve. Scrawl them out on scraps of paper, fold them up and burn them on the fire. The wishes would vanish up the chimney and drift across the night. Now they are emailed with links the month before, and there’s not so much nervous longing. I know it doesn’t matter if I have been naughty or nice, I am still going to get new socks, chocolates and bubble bath.
So I thought I would write a recipe for Christmas Eve. A meal for everyone to sit down to and start the celebrations with. Something with spices and a splash of red and green, so I know that Christmas is here.
This Christmas Waitrose is running a giveaway based around what makes Christmas special for you. To enter, send a tweet, write a Facebook post or Instagram a pic that sums up what makes Christmas special for you, hashtag it with #MakesChristmas, tag @waitrose and cross your fingers you’re one of the winners. For more details and terms and conditions of the giveaway, please click here. To find out about the many uses of Waitrose’s Signature Spice, go here.
This post was sponsored by Waitrose.
Roast Chicken with a Pomegranate & Orange Glaze
For the roast chicken
Approx 1.9kg chicken (the best you can afford)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Waitrose Signature Spice
For the Pomegranate & Orange Glaze
120g pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp caster sugar
For the bulgar wheat salad
200g bulgar wheat
60g dried apricots
A pinch of Waitrose Signature Spice
A pinch of sea salt
1 chicken stock cube
400ml boiling water
1 red onion
50g shelled pistachios
30g each flat leaf parsley and mint
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Roast squash wedges, green salad and yogurt, to serve
1 Take your chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature (around 30-60 minutes). Heat your oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Pop the chicken in a small roasting tin. Slice the orange half into quarters and tuck inside the body cavity. Push the bay leaf in as well. Mix the salt and spice mix together and rub all over the chicken, top and bottom. Slide into the oven and roast for 1 hour.
2 While the chicken roasts, make the glaze, Juice the orange half into a small pan. Add the pomegranate molasses and sugar. Gently heat, stirring, till the sugar has dissolved. Put to one side.
3 Make the bulgar wheat salad. Tip the bulgar wheat into a heatproof bowl. Roughly chop the apricots and add to the bulgar wheat with the sultanas, a good pinch of the signature spice and salt. Crumble in a stock cube and pour in 400ml boiling water. Cover with cling film or a plate and leave for at least 30 minutes to suck up the water.
4 Peel and finely chop the red onion. Tip into a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes. Roughly chop the pistachios. Halve the pomegranate. Hold one half, cut side down, over a bowl and bash with a wooden spoon to shake out the seeds. You may have to pull a few stubborn seeds out. Repeat with the other half. Finely chop the parsley leaves and stalks and the mint leaves.
5 When the chicken has roasted for an hour, take it out and brush half the pomegranate and orange glaze over it. Slide it back into the oven and roast for another hour, then check to see if it is cooked. The skin with be a dark black, so sliced a knife or skewer into the thigh joint. If the juices run clear, it is done. Loosely cover the chicken with foil and rest for at least 30 minutes, up to one hour. When you’re ready to serve, warm the remains of the glaze and brush it over the chicken.
6 Fluff the bulgar wheat up with a fork. Drain the red onion and stir it in with the pistachios, pomegranate seeds, chopped herbs and 1 tbsp olive oil. Taste and add salt and pepper if you think it needs a little extra seasoning. Carve and serve the chicken with the salad. Some roast squash wedges, green salad and yogurt would also be good on the side.