River Cottage recipes and competition

PUBLISHED: 11:11 18 December 2013 | UPDATED: 11:11 18 December 2013

River Cottage

River Cottage


Gill Mellor is familiar to millions of TV viewers as the head chef at River Cottage. Here, he shares his favourite recipes and tips for a fun and, above all, stress-free Christmas day

Gill’s Christmas day starts early. “Not work,” he laughs, “children.” His daughters, Isla, 15, and Coco, 8, are still “really excited on Christmas

morning. My wife, Alice, and I get woken up by them wanting to open their stockings in our bed. It’s a lovely tradition and one of my favourite parts of Christmas day.”

It’s Gill’s turn to host Christmas this year for his extended family at their home just outside Lyme Regis. Gill is as passionate about food away from River Cottage as he is when he’s creating new dishes with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

“We start Christmas day with scrambled eggs and some of the lovely fish we smoke ourselves at River Cottage, like trout, on rye toast. Alice and I have a glass of the River Cottage sparkling elderflower and the girls have a small bucks fizz version with orange juice.”

Then it’s off for a bracing family walk to The Cobb before returning to greet guests and serve canapes.

“I do as much of Christmas lunch as possible beforehand - in the case of the smoked ham six weeks beforehand. That’s the secret to a successful, happy Christmas day; being prepared. If you’re rushing around cooking and getting hot, you will get stressed and not enjoy the day.”

Gill pre-prepares all his vegetables the day before and par-boils the potatoes, keeping them overnight in the fridge so that they are chilled when they hit the hot goose fat to be roasted. He serves goose or guinea fowl with sprouts and bacon, slices of glazed smoked ham, roast potatoes, parsnips and carrots, stuffing, chipolatas, bread sauce and gravy, made with stock from the roast meat. To drink it’s a “very good red wine”.

Next comes Gill’s gran’s home-made Christmas pudding, served with double cream and brandy butter.

“We are very traditional. We adults have a bottle of champagne around noon while the children open their presents. I serve some hearty canapes (see recipes). I can’t stand picky canapes - I like something substantial - and the iPod is playing Christmas music on shuffle. Alice lays the table and the girls try on the new clothes they got for Christmas. After lunch we’ll watch a family film or play games.”

Gill was born in Dorchester and grew up in the rectory at Coombe Keynes. He moved to Powerstock and attended its village school.

“After I left school, I was studying art and photography and then my eldest daughter came along. I started working in a coffee shop in Dorchester

because we needed the money, then I did the festival trail, cooking in trailers.”

Gill had just started his own organic catering business when a trip back to Powerstock led to a fortuitous meeting with Hugh, who was starting out with River Cottage.

“I began working for him and my passion for food grew and grew and I knew I didn’t want to do anything else. I didn’t do the formal training or work in a high pressure London kitchen but I wouldn’t have wanted to do that so I don’t feel like I’ve missed out.”

Gill is part of the original River Cottage team and now, after eight years running the kitchen, he has moved into more of an executive role,

overseeing all areas of the burgeoning River Cottage empire (there is the Axminster canteen and a new one opening in Winchester in 2014). Gill also leads some of the hugely popular River Cottage cookery courses at the headquarters at Uplyme.

As Christmas day evening approaches, Gill heads to the kitchen again. “I never get tired of cooking. It’s not a chore for me, it’s a joy.”

For those who want it, Gill makes sandwiches of crusty white baguette with smoked ham, stuffing, chutney and Blue Vinney, served with mulled cider.

“Christmas day is about the family and everyone enjoying themselves. I think it’s important to be prepared, get as much done as possible in the morning, like setting the table, having enough cutlery, crockery and glasses to hand, getting the crackers out.

Find matches for lighting candles. Get all those little jobs done so that you can concentrate later on the lunch. Give children and family little

jobs to do to help out. “But above all, enjoy your big day. It only happens once a year so make sure this is the best Christmas ever.”


Exclusive: Dine at River Cottage HQ - The perfect gift: buy one dining event, get a second free.

River Cottage has given millions of television viewers a taste for great cooking since 1998, when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall first brought his famous food ethos to Channel 4. Its hard-hitting campaigns have changed the eating habits of a nation and improved the welfare and sustainability of animals and fish.

River Cottage HQ, found on the Devon and Dorset border, is the base for its cookery school, unique dining experiences, memorable events and the new Channel 4 series River Cottage to the Core. The River Cottage Cookery School has more than 25 fantastic different courses where expert chefs inspire attendees with their passion for local, seasonal and organic produce. It offers a broad range of subjects including bread making, fish skills and

preparation, meat butchery and curing, game and wild food cookery, foraging and cheese making.

Dine at River Cottage HQ

Dining at River Cottage is a unique experience where the food and location take centre stage. Guests will be taken down the famous farm track on a tractor and trailer. After a welcome drink and canapés, the chef will introduce the seasonal menu. This is followed by petit fours and coffee (£55-£90 per person).

River Cottage is offering a ‘buy a ticket for a dining event and get a second free’ to the first 25 Dorset readers who call to book before 31 December. Phone the team on 01297 630314 to book, quoting Dorset.

Offer redeemable against any dining event 28 November 2013 - 28 February 2014 (excludes New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Night, (rivercottage.net/dining).


Black pudding and duck egg mayonnaise

Makes 10 - 12

Duck eggs are rich with larger, darker yolks and make a lovely egg mayonnaise. You can quite often find them in farm shops or farmers’ markets, but if you can’t, then regular chicken eggs will work just fine. Look out for the best black pudding you can find, it’s well worth spending a little more as the quality is always that much better.


About 150g good black pudding or Morcilla sausage

3 duck eggs, at room temperature

2 heaped tbsp of homemade or good quality mayonnaise

A few fennel fronds (if available)

Salt and pepper

To finish

12 thin slices baguette or

sourdough bread

Olive oil


1 First make the egg mayonnaise. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the eggs, boil for seven minutes, then put the pan under running cold water to stop the cooking. When the eggs are cool, peel them and chop coarsely. Combine with the mayonnaise, and season well with salt and pepper.

2 Preheat the oven to 200.c Lay the bread on an oven tray and trickle sparingly with olive oil, then bake for four to six minutes, or until crisp and golden. Place a pan over a medium heat. Add a little oil followed by the black pudding, fry the black pudding turning occasionally until starting to

crisp around the edges.

3 To assemble, top each slice of toast with some of the duck egg mayo then crumble over some pieces of warm black pudding. Finish these hearty canapés with some delicate little fennel fronds, if you have them. Serve straight away.


Steak Tartare with celeriac

Serves 10 - 12

Celeriac has to be one of my all-time favorite vegetables and we’ve been growing it at River Cottage with much success. It has a delicate, earthy flavour and is wonderful served alongside roast beef. When I prepare home-grown celeriac I save the base and the leaves. These usually get composted or thrown away but the fine roots from the base can be fried until crispy and the leaves used like parsley as a herb. I’m using these two parts of the celeriac to garnish a wonderfully simple steak tartare, its flavoured with orange zest and good Olive oil.


200g well-aged sirloin or fillet of beef

1 orange

2 - 3 Tbls Extra Virgin Olive oil

1 home-grown celeriac with roots and leaves still attached

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Sunflower oil for frying


1 Put the roots from the celeriac into a large bowl of cold water. Wash them well as they will be holding a lot of earth and grit. When clean bring a small pan of water to the boil and cook the roots for 5 minutes. Drain and allow to steam dry. Take small high-sided pan and place it on the heat, add 2 - 3 cm of sunflower oil. When the oil is hot add the celeriac root and fry for one to one-and-a-half minutes. Remove and allow to drain on absorbent kitchen paper. Now fry the leaves of the celeriac for 10 to 15 seconds; you’ll only need a dozen or so for this canapé. Sprinkle the roots and leaves with a pinch of fine salt.

2 Make sure both your knife and board are super clean before cutting your beef. Place your chosen cut of steak down on the board and trim away any outer sinew, fat or aged membrane to reveal the clean marbled meat within. Now cut the steak into thin slices. Turn the slices and cut across them, and then again. You want to end up with finely chopped steak about 2 - 3 mm in size.

3 Place the steak into a clean bowl and season with salt and pepper. Finely grate the zest from half the orange over the

meat, trickle over your best Olive oil and finish by squeezing over the juice from the orange. Taste and adjust the seasoning if required, it may need more salt.

4 I’ve served my steak tartare on spoons with the celeriac root and leaf but it would be just as good served on little toasts. I would suggest a good dark rye or pumpernickel.


Smoked pollock, potato and chard croquettes


300g smoked Pollock or haddock

About 400ml of milk

2 bay leaves

400g cooked mash potato (no milk or butter added)

50g grated mature cheddar cheese

100g chard stripped from the stalk

100g plain flour

2 eggs whisked

150g coarse brown or white bread crumbs

300 - 400 ml of sunflower oil for frying


1 Put the fish in a smallish pan with the bay leaves, cutting the fish into a couple of pieces if you need to, it wants to fit neatly in one layer. Pour over the milk. Cover the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer, then remove from the heat. The fish should be just cooked. If it isn’t, turn the fish over and leave it in the hot milk for a minute or two more. Strain off the milk and set the fish aside.

2 Meanwhile bring a medium-sized pan of fresh water to the boil, add the chard and cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until tender. Drain the chard and allow to cool before squeezing out any excess water and roughly chopping.

3 When the fish is cool enough to

handle, flake it off the skin in fairly large pieces, removing any bones you find on the way. Add the flaked fish to the cooked potato along with the cheese, chopped chard and a good twist of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4 Place the mixture in the fridge, and when cold form it into small balls or quenelles.

5 Now you need to flour, egg and bread them, a simple process for achieving that lovely, crispy crumb. Carefully cover each one in the plain flour,shaking off the excess, dip each one individually into the whisked egg, making sure it’s well coated. Finally, dip each croquette into the breadcrumb and coat throughly.

6 Deep fry at 170˚C for 5 mins or until golden and crispy.

7 Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving with wedges of lemon and some flaky salt.


Cinnamon sugar doughnuts with a sharp bramley apple compote

Makes about 25 small doughnuts.

A great sweet treat for Christmas morning. My daughters love these fresh doughnuts tossed in cinnamon sugar. Here I’m serving them with a sharp bramley apple compote but they can be just as good on their own.


250g strong white bread flour

250g plain white flour

200ml warm milk

100g unsalted butter, softened

100g caster sugar, plus extra for dredging

2 medium free-range eggs

5g powdered dried yeast

10g salt

At least 1 litre sunflower or vegetable oil, for deep-frying

100g of caster sugar

3 tsp of ground cinnamon

For the apple compote

2 large bramley apples

1 - 2 tbls of caster sugar

2 tbls of water


1 You can make this dough by hand but it will be easier made in a food processor with a dough hook attached. Put the flours, milk, butter, sugar, eggs, yeast and salt into the bowl of the mixer and knead with the dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes. Dust the dough with a little flour, turn it out on to a floured surface and shape into a round.

2 Clean and dry the mixing bowl, put the dough back in it and cover with cling film or a plastic bag. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

3 Meanwhile peel the apples, core them and slice them thickly into a large saucepan. Add the sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water . Bring to a simmer and cook very gently, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, or until the apples are tender and starting to break up but still retain some texture. Remove from the heat.

4 While the dough is rising you can combine the sugar and cinnamon and place on a plate for later.

5 Turn the risen dough out on to the work surface and divide into 25 equal pieces. Roll them into neat balls and place on a floured cloth or board. Cover with cling film or a plastic bag and leave to prove until doubled in size.

6 Heat a 5–8cm depth of oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan to 175°C; the oil must not fill the pan by more than a third. If you do not have a frying

thermometer, check the oil temperature by dropping in a cube of bread; it should turn golden brown in a minute. Deep-fry the doughnuts in batches for about 4 - 5 minutes, turning them over every so often so they brown evenly.

7 Carefully remove the doughnuts from the oil with a slotted spoon, shake off the excess oil then drop them into the cinnamon sugar, coating generously.

8 Serve the warm doughnuts with the bramley apple compote.

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