This year, why not create a "gathering of the clan" atmosphere with your festive dinner? There's no better time than Christmas for family meetings and often the only one in the year. So gather your clan around the table, imagine you are the Laird (or the Lady) of the castle and toast Christmas day with a special glass of your favorite Speyside malt. The Speyside single malts starring in this Christmas dinner have one common trait: a high sherried profile. Sherry aging confers the single malt a wide aromatic complexity and a desirable richness and smoothness which fans out into fruity and spicy aromas, underlined by woody tones. Real characters indeed! The chief of the Sherry clan is, without doubt, The Macallan. I essentially use the 12-Year-Old and the 18-Year-Old bottlings.
Sergeant Pepper on duty
Aberlour 10-Years-Old, Glenfarclas 12 or 15-Years-Old, Linkwood 15-Years-Old (Gordon and MacPhail), Balvenie Double Wood, Glendronach 15-Year-Old match wonderfully with the ingredients of these recipes. The adventurers who would rather cross the Speyside border could experiment with Highland Park 12-Year-Old or Glenmorangie Sherry Finish. The guinea-fowl is, in my opinion, the tastiest of the feathered birds but its flesh dries if not regularly basted during cooking. Hence the inclusion of the whisky stuffing which will moisturise the guinea-fowl from the inside to prevent it from drying as well as imparting a delicious taste.
I prefer gingerbread to traditional breadcrumbs as its aromas echo the single malt aromatic palette. Spices used in this recipe are not on the hot side: long peppercorn from Indonesia (piper officinarum) has a fresh mintiness, so has 'cubeba' peppercorn (piper cubeba) with an additional balsamic touch. If you can't find them, use a mixture of black and white peppercorns. The use of quinces in the garnish reveals the honey and fruity notes of the whisky. The most suitable equivalent would be pears or apples (use more honey in the recipe then).
For the sweet, a sherried single malt is the perfect bridegroom for dark chocolate and plays a subtle score with the orange peel. A cloudless lovestory! The cakes must be well cooked outside, close to crusty but soft and almost runny inside. The thermal shock between the chilled orange sauce and the warm chocolate cake brings out the whisky flavours.
For this festive menu I have imagined foie gras profiteroles with a beetroot and whisky coulis for starters, the vegetable and whisky sweetness contrasting with the foie gras bitterness.And not to be forgotten, pour your guests a generous, cheering dram - but beware of not diluting your single malt with too much water. Watering down a heavily sherried malt leaves it on bended knee. Such a taste disaster would spoil your day, not to mention your dinner!
Bitter chocolate cake, orange peel and whisky sauce
- 3⅔ oz dark chocolate
- 3⅔ oz unsalted butter
- 4 eggs
- 3⅔ oz caster sugar
- 2 oz flour
- 2 sections of crystallised orange
- icing sugar
For the orange sauce
- the grated peel of 2 oranges
- the juice of 3 oranges
- 2 tablespoons of thick cut orange marmalade
- 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
- ¼ teaspoon of ginger powder
- 3 tablespoons whisky
1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl placed on top of a saucepan filled with hot water. Add the butter cut into small pieces and stir over a low heat until smooth.
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar until the mixture whitens and gets creamy. Stir in the flour and fold in the melted chocolate. Allow to chill in the fridge for a few hours.
3. Place the orange peel in a saucepan with the orange juice, sugar, marmalade, ginger powder and 50ml water. Bring to the boil and reduce on a fast heat for 10 to 15 minutes until getting a thick sauce. Allow to chill in the fridge.
4. Preheat the oven at 200C about 25 minutes before you are ready to serve the sweet. Butter six small moulds and sprinkle them with caster sugar and fill them 3/4 full with the preparation. Cook for eight to ten minutes. Turn out each mould onto a plate (a tricky stage as the heart of the cake is still soft!) and pour the sauce around the edge of the plate. Add a few strips of crystallised orange and sprinkle icing sugar on the cake.