How to have a very merry Surrey Christmas
PUBLISHED: 17:17 18 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:34 02 January 2018
copyright by arrangement with photographer
We gathered together a few of our friends (as well as a special guest all the way from Lapland) at The Old Rectory in Bletchingley for a rather spectacular festive celebration making the most of produce available right here on our doorstep
Christmas is all about indulging in good food and creating joyful memories with family and friends. While some people travel far and wide to gather the ingredients required to create these treasured moments, our county has an abundance of fantastic producers and creative businesses to help make your festive celebration extra special. Here we show you how to have a very merry Surrey Christmas, with all the trimmings!
Styling: There’s so much to think about when it comes to Christmas that creating the right surroundings and atmosphere for your guests can be overlooked. Jenna Elsby from Chapel Lane Events, in Hersham, offers some tips.
1. Colour/Theme: Christmas is all about joy, celebration, nostalgia and warmth so don’t be afraid to incorporate some of the classic festive icons as people expect and love them! If you’re going for a more refined look, you can’t go wrong taking nature as your inspiration and incorporating seasonal foliage, pine cones, herbs, nuts in their shells and rich coloured fruits for contrast. This setting won’t fail to put a smile on your guests faces as its familiar and comforting rather than fussy and overly formal.
2. Texture: A rich palette of berry reds, burnished gold, dark wood, soft white and forest greens provide the quintessential backdrop to any Christmas table. Complement the rich colours with sumptuous textures, like faux fur, wood, foliage, velvet, cut glass, anything with depth and body. Create a table that is multi-dimensional and interesting by tying napkins with velvet ribbon and sprigs of rosemary and pinecones can be used as playful little place settings with hand written name cards.
3. Space: Before you go overboard with fabulous forests of foliage, remember to save space for the food, serve ware, plates, glassware and all the necessary accessories for the meal itself. Less is so often more and if space is limited, you can always choose to incorporate a sideboard or console table into an additional serving area so you have more space on the table to let your creative juices flow. Also, don’t go for anything too high that it interrupts the sight lines of your guests and they cannot see each other across the table. Keep candle sticks, florals, vases low level to encourage and not hinder conversation, glass chinking and cracker pulling!
4. Symmetry: If you’re unsure about how to arrange everything on your table, think about balance. In your mind, divide the table into two and try and approximately mirror what you have placed on each side. The eye loves balance and symmetry so this will create a table that is subconsciously very natural, easy and flowing.
5. Scent / Florals: It’s well documented that complementary scents can influence taste and the experience of a meal, so your Christmas table should use this to its advantage. Take some of the flavour notes of the menu and incorporate them into the styling – so rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, figs, plums, cinnamon sticks – all lend themselves wonderfully to this time of year and smell wonderful. Little arrangements of herbs and botanicals in simple glass mason jars work a charm.
There’s no doubt that food takes centre stage at Christmas so the pressure is on to get it right. For most, Christmas day isn’t Christmas day without turkey. Patrick Deeley from Flower Farm Shop, in Godstone, offers these tips to get the best from your bird...
• Traditionally-reared birds cook in less time than the standard supermarket birds
• Allow the bird to come to room temperature for two hours before cooking
• To keep the turkey juices in the breast and prevent it from becoming too dry cook the bird breast side down until the last 30 minutes when it can be turned onto its back to brown the breast off
• Loosen the trussing to allow even cooking
• Add 500ml of water to the roasting tin for extra succulent flavour and top up if necessary
• Place the stuffing in the neck cavity only, for extra flavour a cored bramley apple and a peeled and quartered onion can be placed into the body cavity and allow to rest for 30 mins before carving
And for those who like to offer a second meat option for their guests, how about some local ham? Simon Taylor from Surrey Hills Butchers shares his expertise...
• Pick up a nice piece of gammon from your butcher (when it’s raw we call it gammon, when it’s cooked we call it ham). This recipe is for a 2.5kg joint which will feed 10 people.
• Pop your joint in a large pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil.
Once boiling pour water away and start again with cold water, bringing back to the boil (this process will remove some of the salt). A spoon or two of brown sugar will also counteract the salt. You could of course swap this process for starting with coke as the sugar will balance out the salt.
• As a rough guide you will want to cook your gammon for around 45mins per kilo, so for this joint we simmer for one and a half hours then pop into the oven for the final half an hour on 180*c.
• Before the joint goes into the oven, peel off the skin leaving as much fat as possible.With a knife score the fat in parallel lines, then turn the joint 180 degrees and repeat the parallel lines to make diamonds.
• Mix two tbsp dijon mustard with six tbsp of honey, then paint the ham with this mix. Pop cloves on the corners of your diamonds and place into a preheated oven.
• After 15 minutes spoon the glaze over the top of the ham and again when it comes out. You’ll be left with a beautiful centrepiece to go on your Christmas table.
The Little Extras
Whether it’s to accompany soup as a starter or some local Norbury Blue cheese at the end of the meal, serve homemade seasonal breads to really impress. We served up a selection made by Jack Sturgess from Bake with Jack including rosemary and sea salt wreath bread, a four strand wholemeal plait, classic stollen and mini panettone.
When you’ve worked so hard to create the perfect festive menu, you want to make sure you choose the best wines to wash it down with. John Mobbs from Great British Wine suggests these Surrey delights.
Greyfrairs Classic Cuvée 2013
This is a quintessentially English answer to Champagne, made from the same grape types and in traditional method at the family-owned Greyfriars Vineyard just outside of Guildford.
High Clandon Aurora Cuvée Rosé 2011
Sibylla and Bruce Tindale produce mature-aged sparkling wines at their vineyard in East Clandon. This award-winning Aurora Cuvée offers an unparalleled depth and richness of ripe strawberry, pastry and biscuit flavours.
Albury Estate Sparkling Rosé 2014
Albury Vineyard is a labour of love for owner Nick Wenman, who produces a range of Organic and Biodynamic still and sparkling English wines. This rosé impresses with its pure red currant and raspberry flavours and is the perfect rosé to drink alongside deserts, such as light pastries of macaroons, or why not try on Christmas morning with smoked salmon?
Denbies Noble Harvest 2016
This delicious English dessert wine from Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking is our home-grown answer to Sauternes. Made from Ortega, this wine has unctuous flavours of rich, honeyed apricots and tangerine peel. As well as anything sweet and fruity, this pairs perfectly with after dinner cheese.
To make the day extra special, wow your guests with a pre or post-dinner cocktail, such as a Surrey Sensation, created by Tom Flanigan from Tattam’s. To make this seasonal local cocktail you will need:
• Hidden Curiosities Gin 25ml
• Cardamom & vanilla syrup 12.5 mil
• Lemon juice 20ml
• Plum purée 15ml
• Top with Blanc de Blancs from Albury Estate
Decorations and wrapping
We all love a bit of sparkle at this time of year but if you’re looking to give your home a festive look with a local spin, there are plenty of small independents in Surrey using their creative flair to help give your Christmas the magic touch.
• Yateley Papers has some stunning block-print papers that can be used to wrap presents and create skinny chains to hang from the ceiling. As well as sets of handmade crackers filled with artisan chocolate, they’ve also teamed up with Silent Pool to produce a box of special edition gin-filled crackers and offer a fully bespoke cracker making service if you want to treat your guests to something extra special.
• The date on which it’s acceptable to put up your Christmas tree will always be a matter of debate but whenever you choose to get those decs down from the loft, decorating the tree is usually a fun family affair. Whether you like to add a new bauble to your collection each year or fancy a complete overhaul, Jayne Redmond produces traditional-styled ceramic baubles from her Surrey studio. As well as baubles featuring usual festive characters, she has designed a special range for RHS Wisley as well as an exclusive range for Harrods.
• Foraging in the Surrey countryside for foliage that can be used in wreaths and table garlands is a great way to get in the festive spirit while enjoying a crisp winter walk (and is a great way to get the kids involved). If you don’t feel confident enough to make a wreath or garland at home then there are plenty of wreath-making courses.
With special thanks to: The Old Rectory Estate (oldrectoryestate.com), Chapel Lane (chapel-lane.com), Silent Pool Distillers (silentpooldistillers.com), Bartons Books (bartonsbookshop.co.uk), Santa Fir (santafir.com),
Great British Wines (greatbritishwine.com), Tattam’s (tattams.com) Yately Papers (yateleypapers.co.uk), Surrey Hills Butchers (butcherscook.com), Flower Farm Shop (flowerfarmshop.co.uk), Bake with Jack (bakewithjack.co.uk), Blid & Hatton (blidandhatton.com), Jayne Redmond (jayneredmond.co.uk),
Models: Laura Hamilton, Jenna Elsby, Dan Britten, Simon Taylor, John Mobbs, Liana Wilson-Fricker, Trudie Procter, Julia Bonsal, Trudi Savin, Sophie Morton, Mary Ingram, Peter Snell, Patrick Deeley, Jack Sturgess, Tom Flanigan, Simon Taylor, Jayne Redmond, Marian Redmond, Rebecca Younger, Matthew Williams, Steph Drury, Matthew Firkins, Alfie Packer, Jessica Packer, Harry Vinall and George Cannon.