MasterChef finalist, Alex Rushmer, shows us how to create a show-stopping vegetarian starter for the festive season
- 100g walnut halves
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 1 tsp sunflower oil
- 25g unsalted butter, plus a knob extra
- 1½ banana shallots, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 100g pearl barley
- 125ml Champagne
- 85g Stilton or vegetarian alternative, cubed, plus extra to serve
- ½ banana shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
- 5cm cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 2 star anise
- 5 cloves
- 1 black or green cardamom pod
- pinch grated nutmeg
- 200ml vegetable stock
- 300ml tawny port
- 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
- 25g unsalted butter
- 25g butter
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1cm dice
- 25g walnut halves
- pinch ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp light muscovado sugar
- small watercress leaves, to serve
MethodStrain through a sieve, put in a pan and cover with 300ml water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 mins. Strain again, return to the pan with the stock and bring to the boil. Pour into a blender, blend on medium for 5 mins, then strain back into the pan. Set aside until step 4.
- 3 whole garlic bulbs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 375g block all-butter puff pastry
- 1½ tbsp honey Dijon mustard (we used Maille) or use 2 tsp Dijon mustard and a squeeze of honey
- 325g cherry tomato, halved
- 1 egg, beaten
- 150g pack soft goat's cheese (we used Chavroux - other soft goat's cheese would work but mix with a little milk to loosen)
- handful basil leaves
- Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Slice the tops off the garlic bulbs and sit on a sheet of foil. Drizzle over 1 tbsp of the oil, season and wrap into a parcel. Roast for 50 mins or until soft, then leave to cool – this can be done the day before.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the pastry into quarters. Roll out each piece and cut into a 14cm-diameter circle. Use a saucer as a guide if you don’t have a cutter. Pop the circles on a baking tray and score a 1cm border around the edge of each, being careful not to cut all the way through. Avoiding the border, prick the pastry all over with a fork, then chill.
- Increase oven to 200C/180 fan/gas 6. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the flesh from the bulbs into a bowl. Add the mustard, remaining oil and some seasoning, and use a fork to mash to a paste. Spread this over the pastry, leaving the border clear, then top with the tomato halves, skin-side down, and season well.
- Brush the edges of the pastry with egg, crumble over the goat’s cheese and bake for 25-30 mins until the pastry is golden and crisp, and the tomatoes are starting to shrivel. Remove from the tray and allow to cool to room temperature. Scatter over the basil before serving.
- 4 oven-ready partridge
- olive oil
- 250ml dry cider
- 2 tbsp clear honey
- 200ml chicken stock
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2½ cm chunks
- few thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
- Cut the backbone out of one of the partridges using a strong pair of kitchen scissors or poultry shears. Turn the bird over, then use your bodyweight and press down on the middle of the breast with the heel of your hand, until the partridge flattens out. Repeat.
- Heat a little oil in a large non-stick pan. Season the birds with salt and pepper, then brown them quickly – 2 at a time – in the pan. Lift out, and set aside.
- Mix the cider with the honey, reserve one-third of the mix, then tip the rest into the pan to deglaze. Stir in the stock, then reduce the liquid down for 5 mins or until you have a syrupy sauce. Season to taste.
- Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Pop the squash into a mixing bowl, toss with most of the thyme, seasoning, a little of the reserved cider mix and 1 tbsp olive oil. Tip onto a non-stick baking tray, then roast for 30 mins.
- Now toss the partridges in what’s left of the cider mix. Grind lots of black pepper over and scatter with a good sprinkling of salt. Nestle the partridges amongst the squash, breast-side up. Sprinkle with a little more thyme. Roast for 15 mins, then remove the birds and let them rest. Turn off the oven and keep the squash warm. Cut the birds into quarters and serve on top of a pile of squash. Drizzle around a little of the sauce and scatter with a little thyme, to serve.
- 25g walnut pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- zest of 1 large lemon
- 25g fresh parsley
- 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 small red onions, quartered and separated into pieces
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 250ml pack wheat-free pasta (we used Orgran rice and corn pasta)
- 250G jar mixed pepper antipasto, drained and sliced
- 50g vegetarian parmesan-style cheese, finely grated, plus extra shavings to serve
- Make the pesto. Put the walnuts, garlic and lemon zest in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped. Add the parsley, then drizzle the oil down the feed tube and whizz to combine everything together. Season to taste.
- Preheat the grill to high. Tip the onions into a grill pan, sprinkle with 1 tbsp oil, then toss to coat. Arrange them in a single layer and grill for 6-8 minutes until lightly charred.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the pack instructions until just tender – it won’t swell as much as wheat pasta, so taste a piece to check that it’s just tender.
- Drain the pasta in a colander. Tip the pesto, onions and peppers into the pasta pan and put back on the heat. Stir for a few moments, then add the pasta and then the cheese. Season and serve straight away, scattered with the cheese shavings.