‘We’ve been spoilt for choice’, says Mary-Ann Babington Lopes

Over the decades, the wintry days have made a remarkable comeback — one of the many wonders of British winter. After a long season of ice and snow, lingering cold and the unrelenting tyranny…

'We've been spoilt for choice', says Mary-Ann Babington Lopes

Over the decades, the wintry days have made a remarkable comeback — one of the many wonders of British winter. After a long season of ice and snow, lingering cold and the unrelenting tyranny of constipation, spring has arrived and Britain is perfecting its quality vernal-weather sports once again. It’s Christmas again and, to pull it off, it helps to have a Michelin star and an extensive kitchen in place.

Which isn’t to say that our customary trad-venturing stews are necessarily best in summer. With the change of seasons, we’ve been spoilt for choice, and there’s a whole new array of ways to eat. One obvious one is in summer, with great balsamic glazes and summer squash, but if, like us, you’re on a budget, this clam and chorizo soup could make a handy Christmas gift — particularly as a healthier alternative to the French versions, which can include 10 or more ingredients (though we take great care not to overdo the ingredients ourselves).

Or, from Brussels, a less overwhelming contribution to your Christmas table: In summer, we tend to make delicious butterbean and red onion stew — creamy, savoury and warming — but not all of us are so lucky and allow the cold months to turn our enjoyment of this dish into a huge letdown. With a winter supper, it is possible to be both generous and restrained, and that means this red pepper puree is a shoo-in for a winter supper, or any other time for that matter. As easy as it is to knock up, you can be certain that the extra bulk will send everyone into raptures of delight.

This recipe follows the way of the duck breast, but with much more subtle flavor and a beautifully rich texture. As with other cooks on this blog (namely Sarah Ferguson and Christopher Kitze), I’ve included the meat texture of the mashed potatoes. The mash will keep in the fridge for several days, and you can add a little thyme to get the winter mood going. Go for the medium or thin-crust pastry crust for quick and easy. Put in the tray in the oven, and don’t forget to bake at 180 C/gas mark 4 for about 40 minutes.

Recently I was captivated by a reader’s link to this classic for having served fish and chips at a party and, after missing it the following day, I made it myself. It’s perfect. The meringue swirls are as fine as the finest icing. The crab meat is perfect, but anyone can make it from shellfish.

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