Nigel Slater’s recipes for cranberry and apple tart, and a sprout and cheese salad (2024)

It isn’t just that the harvest is in November, the cranberry actually looks like it belongs on the Christmas tree – each glowing red berry threaded on a string amid the tufts of dark green spruce. Culinary tinsel. The piercing tang is a welcome visitor to the kitchen, too, bringing a snap of contrast to the richness of the feast.

This ruby-red berry deserves better than to end its days stewed with sugar and port as sauce for the great bird. I push the raw berries into the almond filling of a Christmas tart where they blister and split, their juice staining the pale ground-almond filling like lipstick on a pantomime dame’s lips. They do much to jolly up a mince pie, too.

This is also the moment I celebrate the brussels sprout – well, someone has to. You can often win refuseniks over if you keep your sprouts away from water. I slice them in half and fry them in the bacon fat that lives in a cup in the fridge like my gran used for beef dripping. Toss in a few pecans or walnuts, or mash them with cream and a few chopped anchovies if you dare. The neat, tight-leaved miniature cabbages make a festive salad, too, with pears, stilton and mustard.

I’m sure you know what you will be eating on the day itself, so I won’t intrude, but do think about that cranberry tart, which might be an idea for Christmas Day breakfast. Better still, pack a few slices in an old toffee tin for your Boxing Day walk.

Cranberry and apple frangipane tart

Serves 8 or more

For the pastry:
butter 100g
caster sugar 100g
egg yolk 1, lightly beaten
plain flour 250g
baking powder 1 tsp
water 2 tbsp

For the filling:
apples 400g
butter 130g
caster sugar 125g, plus a little extra to finish
eggs 2, lightly beaten
self-raising flour 60g
ground almonds 125g
cranberries 150g
flaked almonds 3 tbsp

You will need a rectangular tart case approximately 30cm x 20cm x 4cm and a supply of baking beans.

For the pastry, cream the butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy – I use a food mixer fitted with a paddle beater. Introduce the egg yolk. Combine and add the flour and baking powder, then add the water, a little at a time, to give a firm dough. You may need slightly less or more depending on your flour.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board, knead gently for less than a minute (any longer and you risk toughening it), roll into a ball, wrap in greaseproof paper and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Once it has rested, roll the pastry out on a lightly floured board and use to line the base and sides of the tart tin. Trim any overhanging pastry, making sure there are no holes or tears. Chill for a further 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Place an empty baking sheet or pizza stone in the oven. Fill the pastry case with foil and baking beans, then bake for 20 minutes on the stone or sheet. Remove the beans and foil, then return the pastry to the oven for about 5 minutes until dry to the touch and pale biscuit-coloured. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 160C/gas mark 3.

Make the filling: peel, core and slice the apples. Melt 30g of the butter, then add the apples and cook for 7-10 minutes until starting to soften.

Beat the rest of the butter and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, a little at a time, to the butter and sugar. If the mixture curdles, add a little of the flour, regularly scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Mix in the flour and ground almonds a little at a time, beating slowly until the flour is mixed in. Spread the mixture into the pastry case, lightly smoothing the surface. Place the cranberries and cooked apples on top of the almond filling, then scatter with the flaked almonds and extra sugar. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until spongy to the touch. Leave to settle for 20 minutes before slicing.

A salad of brussels, pears and blue cheese

Nigel Slater’s recipes for cranberry and apple tart, and a sprout and cheese salad (1)

The brussels sprouts are blanched briefly, which softens their leaves and calms their pungency. Serves 2-3

brussels sprouts 350g
pears 2, large and crisp
stilton 140g

For the dressing:
coriander leaves 7g
parsley leaves 8g
mint leaves 6g
olive oil 6 tbsp
water 2 tbsp
spring onions 3

Make the dressing: put the coriander, parsley and mint leaves in a blender, then pour in the olive oil and water. Chop the spring onions and add them before processing for a few seconds to a thick, green sauce. Season with a little salt and set aside.

Trim the sprouts and remove and reserve the outermost green leaves. Bring a deep pan of water to the boil. Finely shred the remaining sprouts.

Have a bowl of ice and water ready by the cooker. Put the outermost leaves of the sprouts into the boiling water, leave for 1 minute, then remove with a spider or draining spoon and plunge them into the iced water.

Add the shredded sprouts to the boiling water, leave for a minute until the colour has brightened, then drain and add to the iced water. Halve the pears from stalk to base, then remove the core and slice the flesh thinly. Drain the shredded sprouts and leaves (you can use a salad spinner if you have one). Toss the pears and sprouts in the dressing and transfer to a serving dish. Crumble over the stilton and serve.

Follow Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater

Nigel Slater’s recipes for cranberry and apple tart, and a sprout and cheese salad (2024)
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