The first decision was what to eat. Seeing as we wouldn't even be in England, we felt under no obligation to go with the tradition of turkey, and that instantly meant turkey was out seeing as no one seems to actually like turkey. Instead, via popular vote, we went for roast lamb. This was scary for us as we'd never cooked any kind of meat joint before as we're pretty veggie-orientated.
With lamb firmly on the menu (salmon for me), what other dishes would we cook? Our starter was a Sweet Potato and Chilli Soup, which we served with Emmental, natural yogurt and crusty wholemeal bread. We decided on Roast Veggies (potatoes, parsnips, carrots, shallots, fennel), Pan-fried Red Cabbage, Blue Cheese and Walnut Stuffing Balls, Smashed Celeriac, Frankfurter Pigs in Blankets, Yorkshire Puds with Henderson's Mushroom Gravy.
Before we even got on the plane to Austria, we decided we needed to be really organised and sorted out all our lists, including a step-by-step Cooking Plan with timings and everything!
Unfortunately we were unable to stick rigidly to the plan - hardly any of the Christmas Eve prep was done due to the fact we ended up having a debaucherous tequila party. In fact the only thing we managed to do was give the leg of lamb a nice drunken rub with garlic, lemon, thyme, oil and salt.
Our change of plan obviously made the next day quite a bit more difficult, especially with a bit of a hangover, but we managed it somehow. The entire day seems like a massive blur and we did serve dinner two hours late by which time I think most of the family were chewing their arms off.
However the compliments we received were great, my brother even said "That was the best Christmas dinner I ever had, everything on the plate was exemplary." Lovely stuff!
The first thing we did on Christmas morning was prepare the ingredients for the Sweet Potato and Chilli Soup. We fried up onions, garlic, corriander, red chillis and sweet potatoes before covering in stock and leaving to simmer until all the veg was tender. We then blended it all up and placed to one side ready to be reheated.
Next, I made the Blue Cheese and Walnut Stuffing balls. These turned out really ace - very tasty with a great texture and a surprisingly meaty flavour. I have to say we were really proud of them, hence the reason we have shared the recipe below in the hope you will enjoy making and eating them as much as we did!
Bailey was in charge of doing the roast veggies, which he based on Jamie Oliver's Roast Vegetable Mega Mix - plenty of herbs, apple vinegar, the juice of a couple of clementines, salt and pepper and cooking spray on the parboiled veg. This was all placed to roast in the oven soon after the lamb went in.
Next up was the gravy which Bailey did by roasting onions with a tablespoon of flour and a drizzle of oil.
He then simmered veggie stock, English mustard powder and Henderson's Relish with the onions before blending. It was a really great gravy! You could also add the juices from the meat if you wanted.
Next up, Bailey made the pigs in blankets by coating the sausages in Chipotle Sauce and wrapping in Austrian bacon.
We then stopped cooking the Christmas dinner to make a quick brekkie for everyone, to eat and to distribute and open some pressies before getting straight back on it!
For the last bit of prep I made the Yorkshire Pudding mix, good old Delia's recipe, of course.
I chopped and pan-fried a bit of red cabbage just with a little salt and pepper - nice and simple.
I also made the Smashed Celeriac, which was another Jamie Oliver recipe. I had never made anything like this before and wasn't sure if it was going to work as part of the Christmas dinner but it was really lovely! I will be including this on all of my roasts in future!
Now that the prep was all done, we were able to pop the lamb in the oven (at 200 degrees C) straight onto the bars of the oven shelf with a tray of parboiled potatoes underneath it to collect all the juices from the lamb!
The rest of the cooking went pretty much to the plan which was great, putting everything in to cook and reheating stuff so that everything was served at the same time and hot. We served the soup before the main which went down really well.
We then enlisted the help of Roy to carve the lamb while we plated everything else up.
So, phew! And that was our Christmas dinner. We were really pleased with how it turned out - everything worked to varying degrees and everyone seemed happy. We're already looking forward to cooking Christmas dinner again next year and have pledged to host it in our house if at all possible. We think there's still plenty of room for improvement - particularly in that there wasn't really enough food for people to have a good plate of seconds - so next year, more food!
Finally, as promised, here is the recipe for the Blue Cheese and Walnut Stuffing Balls - our favourite part of the dinner!
56g crusty wholemeal bread
4 tbsp fresh parsley
170g soft blue cheese
Salt and pepper
Start by lightly toasting the bread under the grill before removing and blending the toasted bread into fine breadcrumbs. Add them to a medium-sized bowl. Meanwhile, finely chop the walnuts and add to the bowl.
Finely chop the parsley and mushrooms and add to the bowl with the breadcrumbs and walnuts.
Chop the blue cheese up into little chunks. As the cheese is soft, it may be a little sticky but don't worry about this too much.
Put the chunks of cheese in the bowl and begin to "rub" the cheese into the rest of the ingredients using your fingers.
Once the cheese is evenly distributed and rubbed in, the mixture will feel firmer. At this point, beat the two eggs in a separate container and add them to the bowl before mixing well.
Now take tablespoonfuls of the stuffing mix out of the pan and begin to shape into balls with your hands.
Leave the stuffing balls to rest while you're sorting out the rest of the roast dinner. Around 30 minutes before serving the dinner, place the stuffing balls in the oven at about 200 degrees C. Serve when crisp and sizzling - really rather tasty!