With this Christmas looking a little different this year, we will all be spending more time celebrating at home with our loved ones. So as staying in has officially become the new going out, we've launched our #CelebrateWithFC series with some familiar faces to share how they're celebrating the festive season at home. From festive inspired recipes to homemade Christmas cocktails, we've got a little bit of inspiration for everyone.
With food set to become an even bigger focus for many this year, we caught up with cook and author, Anna Barnett, of Anna Barnett Cooks to talk all things food, her (at home) plans for Christmas and keeping connected this season, plus she shares one of her favourite festive recipes, Chocolate Orange Pavlova, for you to try at home.
How are you celebrating the festive period at home?
With plenty of food! Its all about home cooking, whipping up as many home comforts as possible, hearty stews, freshly made pastas, pies, cakes, cookie, pavlovas... spending time feasting and hopefully cooking for others if we can.
How are you still keeping the magic of Christmas alive this year?
Plenty of candles, decorations and always a real Christmas tree. We will be getting the festive spirit come what may!
How important is food to you this time of year?
It's all about food! It’s such a nourishing part of this time of year. There’s also something nostalgic about the festive period, replicating what you grew up with whilst also creating your own traditions. I think you have to fully embrace the shorter days, get on board with bedding in, getting cosy and slowing it down a notch.
What will you be having for your Christmas meal this year – and will you be cooking it, or is this a chef's day of rest?
I really quite like doing the Christmas lunch! We keep it quite traditional, double up on pigs in blanket portions, always have Yorkshire puddings, ladles of clove heavy bread sauce and plenty of vegetables. Gravy is pretty important too, so I give this quite a bit of attention. I’ll also be doing a vegetable wellington for my husband and an assortment of vegetables in cheese sauce is a must.
Technology is going to play a huge role in keeping people connected this Christmas, how are you planning on staying connected with family & friends?
I got my 92 year old Nan on FaceTime a few years back and we speak all the time on that, so if we’re not together we’ll most definitely be using that! I’m still hopeful we’ll be able to meet friends and family. It's my brand new niece's first Christmas so I'm desperate to spend time with her...even if it’s outside. A good walk through Greenwich park with a hot toddy is heaven!
Quick fire round
A real or fake Christmas tree…Real, It’s all about that smell!
Giving presents or receiving them…Giving.
My all-time favourite Christmas film is…Elf/Miracle on 34th street.
My go-to festive drink is…Something with fizz!
SStaying in & dressing up or getting cosy this Christmas…Staying in and dressing up.
Anna's Chocolate Orange Pavlova Recipe
Preparation time – 30 minutes
Cooking time – 1.5 hrs
Cooling time – 4-5 hours or overnight
½ lemon to clean bowl.
300g egg whites
500g caster sugar
1tsp lemon juice
Vanilla Cream Ingredients:
600ml of double cream
2-3tsp vanilla bean paste
1 heaped tbsp of icing sugar – sieved
Chocolate Sauce Ingredients:
300ml double cream
100-150g good quality dark chocolate (depending on how rich you want the chocolate sauce to be) – broken into small pieces
2-3tbsp orange blossom water – adjust to taste preference
Zest of ½ an orange
small knob of butter – for a little extra gloss
60g toasted hazelnuts –
1. Meringue Instructions:
Whisk the egg whites for two to three minutes in a stand mixer until they hold their shape. Begin to gradually add in your sugar, allowing 30 seconds between each spoonful. Next whisk for six to seven minutes until the meringue is thick and glossy. Add in your teaspoon of lemon juice (this creates a little extra stability in your meringue) and whisk again for two to three minutes. It’s at this stage that you can add in flavourings should you wish to. For this recipe I’ve left the meringue plain as there is plenty of other flavours going on elsewhere in the dish.
Preheat your oven to 120 degrees celsius.
Line two trays with parchment and divide the meringue evenly between the two, to create two rounds which are roughly the same size and around two inches high. They don’t need to be perfect and look better for some rustic charm. They do need to be fairly flat however so they can stack easily.
Place in the oven and bake for around an hour and a half, then turn the oven off and allow to cool for four to five hours or overnight.
2. Vanilla Cream Instructions:
Whisk the cream for a minute or so, just until it begins to hold its shape. It is key to not over whisk here. Add in the vanilla bean paste followed by the sieved icing sugar and whisk again until the cream becomes a little thicker and holds its shape.
3. Chocolate Sauce Instructions:
Place your cream over a medium heat until it comes to a simmer, avoiding bringing it to the boil. Remove from the heat and add in your broken up chocolate. Stir until it comes together into a smooth sauce, add in your orange blossom water adjusting the amount to how bold a flavour you want. Add in your orange zest and a knob of butter for a little extra gloss.
4. Building your Pavlova:
Begin by placing one of your rounds of meringue onto your serving dish. Top with the vanilla cream then add your second round of meringue. Next pour over your chocolate orange sauce, scatter over the toasted chopped hazelnuts and finish with an extra hit of orange zest. Serve!
Whether you’re dressing up for zoom Christmas drinks or mixing up homemade festive cocktails, we want to see how you’re celebrating with FC at home. Share your photos with us for the chance to win £150 worth of French Connection*. To enter, simply post your snap on Instagram with the hashtag #CelebrateWithFC and tag @frenchconnection. Good luck!