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A Delicious Christmas (December 17, 2002)


Merry Christmas everyone! It's a time of year to celebrate so very many things, and how better to do just that than over a glorious, elaborate and sinfully rich meal. So pull out the stops, and go over the moon this year with Beef Wellington and the most beautiful Christmas cake you'll ever see.

A little intimidating? Of course, but not to worry, for who better to show you how to pull it all off perfectly than Le Cordon Bleu, the world's most famous culinary institute. Created in 1895, Cordon Bleu has official schools in many parts of the world, which all offer techniques not only in classical French cuisine, but also in the style and influence of international cuisine.

Le Cordon Bleu has a global team of over 80 Master Chefs who come from Michelin-starred restaurants and prestigious hotels. They share their knowledge of classic French techniques – the fundamentals of world cuisine and pâtisserie – with students from over 50 countries, inspiring them to appreciate and develop their skills, potential and creativity. And now it's your turn, for they've just come out with Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cook Home Collection. It's got it all: great recipes, of course, and step-by-step techniques with easy-to-follow photographs that will elevate the cook in you to the inner starred chef you always knew you were!

Start or finish this meal with a warming glass of cheer, for a toddy is always welcome at this time of year. A delightful little book just came our way, Hot Toddies, Mulled Wine, Buttered Rum, Spiced Cider and Other Soul-Warming Winter Drinks, by Christopher B. O'Hara. We realized that we'd gotten away from these crowd-pleasing beverages, and couldn't wait to try a few. Indeed, glögg was voted to be a perfect addition to any holiday gathering. You won't stop with just one recipe, for there's the eggnog and much, much more!

One last but not least item from our Home Economist friends at ATCO Gas in Alberta. The 2002 ATCO's Blue Flame Kitchen Holiday Cookbook is still available, and it's the best one yet! A great little stocking stuffer or small last-minute gift for anyone who loves food and goodies of the season. If you've spent your budget, the book surely won't break it, as it's only $5.00 Canadian! To find out more, email Oh, indeed, Merry Christmas!

On today's menu:

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (83 KB)



What a way to start the festivities – a warming drink that to Scandinavians literally means "water of life." And why not? It's cold outside, and all those friends piling in the door will feel much better about life with a tasty mug of glögg pressed into chilled hands.

Serves 12 to 15

  • Two 750-mL bottles of full-bodied dry red wine
  • 20 cloves
  • 20 cardamom seeds
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon (2 mL)
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg (5 mL)
  • 8 ounces sugar cubes
  • One 750 mL bottle aquavit
  • ½ cup raisins, for garnish (125 mL)
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, for garnish (125 mL)

In a large pot, combine the wine, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg and heat over a medium flame until steam rises from the surface and the spices are infused, about 7 minutes. Strain, then transfer about half the mixture to a large bowl. Place a fine-mesh wire rack over the pot and arrange the sugar cubes on top. Pour the aquavit over the cubes, making sure to soak them well. Standing back, use a long kitchen match to carefully ignite the sugar cubes, then slowly ladle the reserved wine over them until they have dissolved.

Serve in mugs, garnished with raisins and sliced almonds.


Beef Wellington

Well, if you can't do a Beef Wellington at Christmas, then when can you? It's been around for a long time, and is still a fabulous centrepiece to an important meal. You and Cordon Bleu will pull this off, not easily perhaps, but without hassle, anyway. And trust us, it's worth every minute of work!

Preparation time: 1 hour + 15 minutes chilling

Total cooking time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Serves 6

  • 3¼ lb. beef rib-eye roast (1.625 kg)
  • ½ cup oil (125 mL)
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small leek, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp dry Madeira or sherry (50 mL)
  • 3 cups beef stock (750 mL)
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter (50 mL)
  • 2 shallots, finely copped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. button mushrooms, finely chopped (500 g)
  • 1 lb. 10 ounces puff pastry, or 2-3 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed (800 g)
  • 10 slices proscuitto
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Remove and reserve the thin muscle from the side of the beef. Remove and discard the shiny surface membrane and tie the meat with string at ¾-inch intervals.

Coarsely chop the beef trimmings. Heat 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of the oil in a skillet, then add the beef trimming and chopped carrot, onion and leek. Gently fry until the mixture browns. Sir in the Madeira, scraping up the sticky juices from the bottom of the pan, then simmer for a few minutes, or until reduced to a syrup. Stir in the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and leave for 1 hour to simmer to a syrupy sauce while preparing the Beef Wellington.

Place a roasting pan over high heat and add the remaining oil. When it begins to smoke, add the beef roast and brown quickly all over. Season well, then transfer to the oven and roast for about 5 minutes for medium rare, 10 minutes for well done. (The actual roasting time will depend on the thickness of the beef. ) Remove from the pan to allow the beef to cool completely.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently cook the shallots for 1-2 minutes, or until soft but not browned. Ad the garlic and mushrooms and cook gently until the saucepan looks dry when scraped with a spoon. The mixture should be barely moist. Set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, slightly overlap the pastry sheets and roll out onto a rectangle measuring 24 × 14 inches. Transfer to a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Transfer the pastry to the work surface. To reduce excess overlap, cut away each corner, reserving the pastry trimmings and leaving the centre large enough for the beef – the pastry will resemble a cross. Flatten each flap of pastry with a rolling pin.

Lay the proscuitto slices on the pastry and spread thinly with half the mushrooms. Untie the beef, season well, place it on the pastry and spread with the remaining mushrooms. Bring the flaps of prosciutto over the beef. Brush the pastry edges with a little beaten egg and fold them over each other to completely encase the beef.

Turn onto a lightly buttered baking sheet seam side down. Cut the excess pastry into strips and crisscross a lattice pattern over the top. Brush with more beaten egg, then pierce a small slit in the top for a crisp finish. Place in the oven for 5 minutes to set, then lower the heat to 400°F (200°C) and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes in a warm place. Skim any impurities from the simmering sauce, then strain into a gravy boat. Slice the Beef Wellington and serve at once with the gravy served on the side.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
as fine a medium or full-boded red as you can get. I would opt for a fine red Burgundy from the Côte de Nuits (Vosne-Romanée, Morey-St-Denis) or a mellow red Bordeaux (Pomerol or St. Emilion). From the New World, an Oregon Pinot Noir or a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.


Iced Christmas Cake

We think this is the most beautiful Christmas Cake ever. It's almost a reason to have the dinner party, really. You do need to plan ahead to let the flavours meld, and follow the directions carefully, but look at the results! And carefully wrapped up again, this cake will keep for weeks... fat chance on it staying around in our house, but maybe yours!

Preparation time: 3 hours + 1 week and resting over 2 nights.

Total cooking time: 3 hours

Serves 10

  • 2/3 cup currants (150 mL)
  • 2 cups golden raisins (500 mL)
  • ¾ cup raisins (175 mL)
  • 1/3 cup chopped mixed candied citrus peel (125 mL)
  • ¼ cup glacé cherries (50 mL)
  • 1¼ cups all purpose flour (300 mL)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter at room temperature (50 mL)
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar (50 mL)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract (1 mL)
  • 1 Tbsp molasses (15 mL)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (5 mL)
  • ¾ cup rum or brandy (175 mL)
  • 1/3 cup apricot jam (75 mL)
  • 1 lb. marzipan (500 g)
  • Clear alcohol such as gin or vodka for brushing
  • 3 lb. fondant (1.5 kg)

Royal Icing

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 ¾ cup confectioners' sugar, sifted 375mL
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Red green and yellow food colouring

Double line an 8-inch round cake pan with greased parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 315°F (155°C).

Place the fruit in a bowl and mix in half the flour. Beat the butter and brown sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the lemon and orange zest and juice, the vanilla and the molasses. Sift the remaining flour and spice onto the butter mixture and beat well. Stir in the fruit.

Place the mixture in the prepared pan and press on the center with the back of a wet spoon. Bake for 3 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cover with aluminum foil if it is browning too quickly. Cool in the pan on a wire rack, then make several holes in the cake with a skewer.

Without removing the paper, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap an store in a cool place for at least 1 week, soaking regularly with a little of the rum or brandy.

Level the surface of the cake with a sharp knife, then turn bottom side up. In a small saucepan, melt the jam and brush over the cake, then place on a thin 8-inch board. Add the marzipan and ice the cake.

To decorate the cake, pull a walnut-sized piece of icing from the remaining soft icing and colour it yellow. Make a small star and present shape. Divide the remaining icing into two thirds and one third. Colour the larger amount green and the smaller red. Cover and set aside the red. Roll out the green icing to a 1/8-inch thickness on a surface dusted with confectioners' sugar. Cut out a ½- by 30-inch ribbon, cover and set aside. Cut out 8 holly leaves. Gather the remaining green icing, colour a darker green and form a Christmas tree by making a cone shape and randomly snipping the sides with scissors. Use the red icing to make a red ribbon, 12 holly berries and small present to go under the tree.

Twist together the two pieces of ribbon and wrap around the cake, fixing with some of the reserved icing at four intervals for a drape effect. At each fixed point, stick on two holly leaves and three berries. Allow to dry overnight.

The next day, arrange the tree and presents on top of the cake. Mix the remaining royal icing with the food colorings and then pipe "Merry Christmas" onto the centre of the cake and add extra decorations on the tree and presents.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
a sweet fortified wine – Late Bottle Vintage Port, Malmsey Madeira, Marsala or Cream Sherry.


We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs for this column:

Raincoast Books, Ltd. and Thunder Bay Press, an imprint of the Advantage Publishers Group, for Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cook Home Collection. First published in 2002 by Murdoch Books, Sydney. Design and photography©2002 Murdoch Books. Text ©2002 Le Cordon Bleu.

Clarkson Potter/Publishers, member of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., for Hot Toddies by Christopher B. O'Hara. ©2002 by Christopher B. O'Hara. Photographs by William A. Nash.


Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (83 KB)




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