As the Christmas Season approaches and we scurry around doing shopping and daunted by cooking for the biggest family gathering of the year planning and preparation is of great importance.

I hold in high respect those who insist on the traditional Brussel Sprout and those that insist that they have to buy fresh and throw 50% of trimmings into the bin or compost heap. Then put them on the stove 2 hours before serving to make sure they are cooked ensuring that they are grey and dark in colour and look something of a bygone era of no pleasant description. I opened with the phrase ‘planning and preparation’ I have always advocated locking yourself in the kitchen for about two hours on Christmas Eve and doing all the preparation for ‘The Day’ It has served me well over the years whether catering for 60 or 15, both of which I served on the same day, one a luncheon sitting and the other a supper sitting. So what can you do? Roast Potatoes peeled, boiled till just cooked, drained and cooking Oil or dripping poured over whilst still hot and then tipped into your roasting tin. (Line tins with disposable foil trays to save washing up) Keep cool overnight. On the day just slide into hot oven to golden brown (allow a little longer than usual as they are starting from cold – I allow two hours instead of the usual one) A collation of vegetables can be blanched till just cooked and then plunged into cold running water till cold. Drain well and store in containers in the fridge. Re-heat for serving in the microwave or plunge into boiling water, drain and serve. If doing multi vegetable selection blanche separately then mix for re heating. (Cauliflower florets – Broccoli florets – Peas – Carrots – Green Beans – Cabbage – Leeks)

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Leek, Sprout and Pea Gratin
 
3 oz Butter
3 oz Flour
10 fl oz Milk
2 tsp Grain Mustard
4 ozs Grated Cheddar
1lb Brussels Sprouts – Blanched, cooled and drained.
1lb Leeks, trimmed and sliced
½ lb Garden Peas – blanched, cooled and drained.
Chopped Bacon Pieces
Grated Parmesan
S & P

Melt the Butter and tip in the Leeks and soften without colour. Add the flour and then the Milk little by little over the heat and stir in making a White Sauce. Add the Mustard and Grated Cheddar and Season (you may use a little Ground Nutmeg if you wish)

Once you have this nice gooey mixture tip in the Sprouts and Peas and carefully turn over mixing together. (a block of Cream Cheese or a dash of Double Cream will enrich this but is optional)
Tip all into an oven proof dish. Set aside or keep cool till finishing for serving.
 
For serving sprinkle the top with Chopped Bacon Pieces and Grated Parmesan and bake in a hot Oven till Golden on top and heated through (about 45 mins) then serve.