A Christmas Tale: A French Christmas, 2017

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French Christmas Recipes

French Christmas Recipes

I am sure I've mentioned it before but when we were little we were really bossy kids (haha not much has changed). And my sister and I loved Christmas so much we persuaded our parents to start celebrating on Christmas Eve because why have only one Christmas when you can have two? And that was the theme this year too.

French Christmas Recipes

Pâté Stuffed Quail

This year I was inspired to do a French Christmas after coming back from New Caledonia. Did you know what a French Christmas is quite similar to an Australian one even though the weather is vastly different? A French Christmas tradition on Christmas eve is called Le Revillon from the word réveil which means "waking".

French Christmas Recipes

It features an abundance of luxurious offerings from oysters, prawns, foie gras and smoked salmon. The main event is usually a chestnut stuffed bird (turkey, pheasant or another game bird) and dessert is usually a buche de noel. There is also a Provençal tradition that involves 13 desserts. You can see where this is headed no?

French Christmas Recipes

The seafood was super easy - we served smoked salmon, crab galettes, caviar, oysters and enormous king prawns. I wanted to roast a pheasant but they're not in season now so I made quails stuffed with pâté and chestnuts. I figured quails would be easy as they are perfectly portioned, plus I often get overwhelmed by leftovers.

French Christmas Recipes

Mango and Coconut Buche de Noel

Dessert was the hardest part. I'd like to say that you should make a buche de noel but it is definitely hard work. There is of course a log cake that is like a Swiss roll but the French with their sense of humour have a buche de noel that has 7 parts to it. It's sort of like making 7 sweets in one cake and involves an unholy amount of washing up. I made my buche de noel a mango and coconut flavour and regrettably it was delicious. Outside were gingerbread house cookies in pastel shades.

French Christmas Recipes

The layers inside the buche

The Provençal 13 dessert tradition kept ticking around in my head. I ummed and ahhed and then decided to do the 13 desserts. Now this isn't quite as mad as it sounds. The 13 items can be things like types of dried and fresh fruit, nougat and cookies. I also had my secret weapon: cookies from my Dear Reader Matilda and her daughter Gabriella.

French Christmas Recipes

Crab galettes

Every year since the beginning of the blog Matilda has sent me a box of her amazing Italian cookies. Every year we all look forward to them (and I truly hope I've been good enough to receive them). They formed the idea of the wreath of 13 desserts - well actually 12, the buche was the 13th.

French Christmas Recipes

13 desserts - would be a great name for a movie, no?

My uncle Sam, his partner Lien and my cousins Richard and Roger and Roger's partner Catherine and their children Natalie and Jason came over to join my family at my place. Usually family dinners last about two hours (because Asian families) but this one lasted until the wee hours with lots of wine and talking and laughing about how mad our family is. My father who needs to be in bed by 7:45pm had to be driven home by Mr NQN while my sister Blythe and mother stayed for the festivities. It ended up going for all hours in an unexpected Le Revillon.

French Christmas Recipes

Asparagus with Caesar Crema

This is Mochi's second Christmas with us. She also had her first macaron. Not deliberately mind you. Mr NQN accidentally dropped a macaron from the 13 dessert platter and of course being the food obsessed little thing that she is, she found it and we only realised that she was snacking on a macaron when it was too late. She was fine thankfully but it was more sugar than she has ever had.

French Christmas Recipes

Mochi's face says, "That's not a roast dinner..."

We exchanged presents- Mochi got the most presents with an avalanche of treats from my sister and mother. She is one very spoilt dog although we wouldn't have it any other way. As for me, I got all the presents that I wanted because I went out and bought them - ha! Mr NQN is fairly clueless with buying presents and I pretty much buy my own, otherwise there would be nothing under the tree ;).

French Christmas Recipes

Jason learning how to eat quail

The next day for Christmas Day we headed to the Central Coast to Mr NQN's aunt and uncle's house for Christmas lunch. It was my first time seeing the Elliotts in three years.

French Christmas Recipes

It was a nice, relaxing day once we battled the traffic and arrived at Murray's Beach. His aunt Sisko and uncle Seppo had put on a Finnish Australian spread of vegan food as well as prawns, smoked salmon and ham. Much of it was gluten free as well because some people have developed allergies.

French Christmas Recipes

Lanttulaatikko (swede box), Porkkanalaatikko (carrot box) and Perunalaatikko (potato box)

There were these Finnish dishes called perunalaatikko (potato box), lanttulaatikko (swede box) and porkkanalaatikko (carrot box) that are tasty baked vegetarian dishes. And for dessert there were cups of Kiisseli, a dried fruit stew traditionally made in winter when fresh fruit isn't available. It was made with prunes, apricots and sultanas with very little sugar and potato flour to thicken it. It was served with vanilla ice cream and rice pudding. Along with this was a vegan bliss ball cake made by Mr NQN's mother and a carrot cake as well as three types of shortbread.

French Christmas Recipes

We learned some new things - that Mr NQN's father Roger is now acting using a very complex method that involves adlibbing and taking extensive notes that I didn't quite understand. Mr NQN's cousin Sam recently eluded being mugged by outrunning the group of thugs (he's a really good runner). And there was a new baby, 2 month year old Finn whom we met for the first time. But remarkably apart from that, everyone remained the same and we enjoyed seeing them. But then my father tapped us on the shoulder as he wanted to be back in Sydney in time for his strict bed time of 7:45pm and we had to leave.

I hope you had a great Christmas at your place Dear Reader? Were there any highlights of your Christmas? And what did you eat? And below are all the recipes of what we ate during our Le Revillon feast!

French Christmas Recipes

Oysters Mignonette

All Original Recipes by Lorraine Elliott

This mignonette dressing is the classic condiment that is served with oysters. Every year there's a bit of a battle of wills to see who eats the most oysters. This year my sister Blythe won.

  • 2 dozen oysters
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 large eschallot, finely diced
  • Salt and pepper

Step 1 - Mix the two vinegars and eschallot together and season. Serve with the oysters on the side.

Crab Galettes

These tarts are perfect for Christmas or NYE entertaining. The tart shells are so easy to make and you can make them the day before along with the filling and then put it together before you serve them. Make sure to use good quality crab meat-I use the fresh cooked crab meat that comes vacuum packed (not tinned).

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Makes 24 individual tarts

  • 10 sheets filo pastry
  • 100g/3.5ozs butter, melted or olive oil spray
  • 250g/8.8ozs. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 red capsicum/pepper, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup green onions
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 1-2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
  • 280g/10ozs. crab meat
  • Smoked paprika to sprinkle on top

Step 1 - Butter or oil 2x 12 hole cupcake trays. Brush a layer of filo pastry with butter or oil and then butter each sheet layering them until you use 5 sheets. Repeat with another 5 sheets of pastry. Cut out pastry to fit cupcake cavities (you can make these quite shallow). Bake at 220C/440F for 10-13 minutes or until golden brown.

French Christmas Recipes

Step 2 - Mix the cream cheese, capsicum, onions, mayonnaise, cheese, lemon zest, Old Bay seasoning and tarragon together in a food processor until smooth and then stir in the crab (I prefer the crab to have a bit of texture so I stir it in last, rather than putting it in the food processor). Then spoon into the cooked tart shells. You can eat them as they are or you can serve them warm by baking them for 15 minutes at 180C/350F. Sprinkle with the paprika.

Pâté Stuffed Quail

I made one quail per person but I think we could have even had two per person. These were stuffed with an improvised stuffing with pâté, chestnut and mushrooms that ended up being such a hit that I'm glad that I served it separately even though the stuffing wasn't appealing looking in a serving dish. The stuffing quantity below makes more than enough to stuff the quails as they are so small but I definitely recommend making this quantity because it is so moreish. The best way to make sure that your quails are brown is to pan fry the breast side, otherwise they can stay quite light in colour.

  • 12 quails (roughly 1 per person as part of a bigger dinner menu)
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 50g/1.7ozs. butter
  • 2 onions, peeled and diced finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced finely
  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 1 cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, then drained
  • 4 tablespoons brandy
  • 300g/10.6ozs. pâté
  • 150g/5ozs. cooked chestnuts, chopped
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 cups Turkish bread, torn into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to season

Buyer's tip: If you're having trouble sourcing cooked chestnuts try an Asian grocery stores where they sell these in vacuum packs all year round.

French Christmas Recipes

Step 1 - Wash and dry the quails with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and place on a tray breast side up and uncovered in the fridge and allow to air dry overnight.

Step 2 - Have a large baking tray or two trays ready. Heat a frypan on high and brown the quails breast side down. Place the browned quails on the trays.

Step 3 - Heat oil and butter in the frypan and saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic and fry for a minute. Add mushrooms, raisins and brandy and cook until soft. Add pâté, chestnuts and thyme and mix with the bread to form a stuffing. Season with sugar, salt and pepper.

French Christmas Recipes

Step 4 - Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Stuff the quails with the stuffing (do not overstuff as the stuffing will expand) and truss the quail. Roast for 30 minutes until cooked through and golden. I served them on butter lettuce leaves with pomegranate seeds.

Caramelised Greens With Caesar Crema Sauce

  • 4 bunches of asparagus
  • Oil, salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1 brown anchovy
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest

Step 1 - Preheat oven to 200C/400F and lay out vegetables across two large baking trays. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until caramelised (around 20 minutes).

Step 2 - Place the mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, green onions, anchovy and lime zest in a food processor. Serve with vegetables with this on the side or drizzled on top.

Mango and Coconut Buche de Noel

French Christmas Recipes

This isn't an easy dessert and after one traumatic, terrible attempt a few years ago I vowed to never make it again. But then I was told that this is the typical dessert served at a French Christmas. I was somewhat mollified when I realised that the rest of the French Christmas dinner menu is a simple to prepare affair with plenty of fresh seafood so I invested my time in the dessert.

French Christmas Recipes

I made this over a period of three days and then froze it and that seemed to be the key to clinging onto my already tenuous grip on sanity. Are you ready for the seven components? Unfortunately it's utterly delicious so I do recommend giving this a try when you are feeling bullish and have a surfeit of time. You will need a long loaf tin (mine was 27.5x7.5cms) or a buche tin (a long half cylinder mold).

Number 1. Crème brûlée layer

  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract

Step 1 - Preheat oven to 100C/F. Line your tin with parchment. Heat the milk and cream. Whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick and fluffy. Pour the heated cream mixture over the eggs and add coconut extract and stir. Pour this mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 1 hour. Cool and then freeze. It will be much easier to handle once frozen.

Number 2. Crisp layer

  • 50g/1.7ozs. white chocolate
  • 15g/0.5oz. butter
  • 30g/1oz. shredded coconut

Step 2 - Trace the outline of the tin on a sheet of parchment making sure that you trim off half an inch or so from each side. Melt the white chocolate and butter together in a double boiler or microwave. Stir in the coconut and spread it out inside the outline very thinly (don't worry if it doesn't reach to all sides, it's important that this is thin to be able to cut it).

Number 3. Dacquoise layer

  • 80g/2.8ozs. almond meal
  • 50g/1.7ozs. icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 egg whites
  • 50g/1.7ozs. caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract

Step 4 - Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Measure your tin and trace the dimensions of it onto parchment. My tin was more narrow at the top (once you overturn it). Mix almond meal, icing sugar, flour and vanilla. Whip egg whites until soft peaks. Add caster sugar and whip until you get stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the almond mixture with the coconut extract. Spread out onto the tracing, around 8mm thick. Bake for 15 minutes.

Number 4. Mango Jelly

  • 200g/7ozs. mango puree
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons powdered gelatine

Step 5 - Sprinkle gelatine over water. Microwave for 20 seconds or until liquid. Mix with the mango puree. Line the tin and spread the mango puree along the bottom. Allow to set completely. Place in the freezer until needed.

Number 5. Mango Mousse

Note: do not make this until the above four components are made

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour
  • 200ml/7fl ozs. cream
  • 200g/7ozs. mango puree
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 3 teaspoons gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water

Step 6 - Beat the yolks and cornflour together. Heat the cream and pour a small amount over the yolk mixture. Pour the yolk mixture into the saucepan and allow to thicken for 3 minutes. Sprinkle gelatin over water then heat briefly in the microwave in 20 seconds bursts until liquid and then add to the egg yolk mixture. Start to cool and add mango puree (but do not allow to set completely).

Step 7 - Beat egg whites until you get soft peaks. Add the caster sugar and whip until you get stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the mango mixture.

Number 6. Gingerbread Houses

  • 125g/4ozs. butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup (you can also use 1/2 cup brown sugar instead)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1.5 tablespoons gingerbread spices (1 tablespoon ground ginger, 2 teaspoons mixed spice)

Royal icing

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cups icing or powdered sugar, sifted
  • Lemon juice
  • Pastel pink, blue and green colourings
  • Range of metallic sprinkles

Step 8 - Beat butter and sugar until pale. Add the golden syrup and egg yolks and beat until combined. Stir in the flour and spices and form into a ball. Roll out between two sheets of parchment. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Step 9 - Measure the height of your tin and cut out house shapes-I used a ruler and knife as I didn't have a cutter. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Bake for 15-18 minutes and then cool for 5 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Step 10 - Place the icing sugar in a food processor and whizz to remove any lumps. Add in the egg white. The royal icing should be a pipeable consistency but if it isn't, add a drop or two of lemon juice if it is too stiff or add more icing sugar if it is too runny.

French Christmas Recipes

Step 11 - Reserve 3 tablespoons of the white icing for piping and place in a tightly covered bowl. Divide the remainder into three bowls and tint these pale pink, blue and green. Place in little parchment piping bags and pipe an outline around the cookie. Then add a little lemon juice and flood the centre with the runnier icing. Allow to set overnight.

French Christmas Recipes

Step 12 - Fill a small parchment piping bag with the white royal icing. Pipe patterns on each house. I left the roof until the end as I wanted the rest of the icing to dry before using the sprinkles in case they got stuck to the icing. Use tweezers to adhere the sprinkles. Allow to dry completely.

Number 7: Mirror Glaze

Do not make this until your buche is assembled below and frozen

  • 3 sheets gelatine
  • 175g/6.1ozs. white chocolate
  • 75ml/2.7ozs. water
  • 150g/5ozs. caster sugar
  • 100g/3.5flozs. cream
  • A few drops of Wilton white on white colouring

Step 13 - Soak the gelatine in cold water for 3-5 minutes. Melt the chocolate and heat with water, sugar and cream in a saucepan and dissolve the sugar. Whisk to remove any lumps and add the white colouring. Squeeze the water from the gelatine sheets and add to the chocolate mixture removing from the heat. Pour into a jug and cool slightly. Make sure constantly check it - timing is important with this glaze. If it pours smoothly but can coat the back of a spoon well then it is ready.

French Christmas Recipes

Step 14 - Line a baking tray with cling film and then place a wire rack on top. Place the frozen cake on a wire rack and then gently pour the glaze over the cake. Attach the cookies to the side in alternate colours.

Assembly

  1. Now you need to start assembling the buche. First line the tin with parchment. Then pipe a quarter of the mousse into the tin. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Place the frozen crème brûlée layer on top of the mousse.
  1. Pipe the second quarter of the mousse on top and around the crème brûlée insert. Freeze for 10 minutes.
  1. Then place the coconut crisp layer and pipe the next quarter of the mousse on top. Freeze for 10 minutes. Place the mango jelly layer on top and the last of the mousse.
  1. Close off with the trimmed dacquoise layer. Freeze for three hours or overnight.

When the buche is frozen, glaze as above. Decorate with the gingerbread houses. It is easiest to slice this when the buche is semi frozen.