Christmas dinner isn't always for vast numbers of friends and family. Many will prefer to sit as a couple and toast the season without a huge bird and enough pudding for 12. I have put together a meal full of festive flavours from stilton and roast duck to pomegranates and mincemeat that is perfect for two.
A small wild duck will serve two nicely, but choose a fat one as they are not always the meatiest of birds. Big meat eaters may want one each. You will need some stock for this, ideally game or poultry, but I used a vegetable stock last time and it did the job well.
As a side dish I would be tempted to serve a pile of lightly cooked spinach. It is very good with the sweet, slightly citrus gravy.
a mallard, about 500g or so
liquid honey - 2 tbs
butter, melted - a thick slice, about 30g
stock - 150ml
Set the oven at 200°C/gas 6. Squeeze the lemon juice into a mixing bowl, then stir in the honey. Add a pinch of sea salt and a generous grinding of black pepper, then put the duck in a roasting tray and pour over the honey and lemon and stock. Brush the butter onto the duck, roast for about 10 minutes, baste with the pan juices, then lower the heat to 180°C/gas 4 and continue roasting for 30-35 minutes until the bird is golden. Its flesh will still be slightly pink.
Remove the duck from the roasting tin, pour the juices from inside the bird into the tin, then put it somewhere warm to rest. Place the roasting tin over a moderate heat. Bring to the boil and reduce over a high heat for three or four minutes. Season carefully with salt and black pepper then pour over the duck and serve.
A lovely mixture of sweet and savoury, soft and crisp.
sweet potatoes - 2 large
black pudding - 6 thick slices
Bake the sweet potatoes until tender and very soft in the middle. Depending on the size of your potatoes, this will take up to an hour.
Slit them in half, scrape the flesh from the skin and mash with a fork till light and fluffy. You can add a bit of butter if you wish, but I find it often doesn't need it.
Grill or fry the pudding until lightly crisp (it takes just a minute or two in a non-stick frying pan) then crumble over the mashed sweet potato and serve.
A rich, simple ice cream with the very essence of Christmas. There is a slightly granular texture to this ice, which I find rather pleasing. The quality mincemeats with the larger pieces of fruit give a more interesting result.
Serves at least 2
double cream - 300ml (a 284ml carton will do)
mincemeat - 400g
custard - 500ml of good ready made, or home-made
Pour the cream into a chilled mixing bowl and beat gently with a balloon whisk until thick. Take great care not to over-beat - it should lie in soft mounds rather than stiff peaks. Fold the custard into the cream and then gently fold in the mincemeat. Try not to stir too much.
Scoop into a plastic freezer box and place in the freezer for an hour. Stir gently, mixing the frozen sides of the mixture into the middle. Return to the freezer and leave for a further hour, then repeat. The stirring will help the texture of the ice cream.
Freeze until needed.
I cannot imagine Christmas morning without a glass of champagne and often find myself drinking it through the first course of Christmas lunch.
For two, you might like to start with a cocktail of champagne and pomegranate juice, then continue with the rest of the bubbly through the first course. You can use fresh pomegranate juice for this or buy ready squeezed, but you might need to look closely at the label first to check that it is pure juice, with no sugar added.
pomegranates - 2
Squeeze the juice from one of the fruits and pick out the seeds from the other.
Pour a little of the juice into each glass then add a few pomegranate seeds. Top up with champagne to taste.
A salad seems like the right way to start a meal that is, by tradition, on the rich side. I think slightly under-ripe pears with a little crispness to them are better for this than truly ripe ones - the contrast works well with the cheese. Salad leaves such as frisée and maybe some red-leaved chard would be good here. You might like to continue the pomegranate theme or use golden sultanas or raisins instead.
a plump pear, ripe but still slightly crisp
a couple of handfuls of interesting small salad leaves
stilton, stichelton or other firm blue cheese - 4 thick slices
pomegranate - ½
a handful walnut halves
For the dressing:
cider vinegar or white wine vinegar - 1 tbs
groundnut oil - 1 tbs
walnut or hazelnut oil - 2 tbs
double cream - 1 tbs
Slice the pear into quarters, remove the core, then cut the fruit into thin slices. Brush each piece with lemon juice.
Make the dressing. Pour the vinegar into a small mixing bowl and dissolve a pinch of sea salt in it. Stir in the oils and then the cream and whisk well.
Divide the salad, pears and cheese between two plates then pour over the dressing. Toast the walnuts, break up the pomegranate into separate seeds, then scatter the walnuts and pomegranate seeds over the salad.