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CHESTNUT AND CRANBERRY CHRISTMAS RING




Ingredients:
50g butter
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
1 large red onion, chopped
1 large leek, trimmed and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
500g cooked, peeled chestnuts
225g fresh or frozen cranberries
140g fresh white breadcrumbs
15g fresh flat leaf parsley, copped
2 tbsp fresh thyme
22 tsp chopped fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
550g Bramley apples (Granny Smith if in Australia) peeled, cored, and coarsely grated. 300g grated weight.
100 g soft goat’s cheese (optional)
565g (1 ½ x 375g packs) ready rolled puff pastry (22 x 36cm) thawed if frozen
1 medium egg yolk, lightly beaten
Seasoning
Bay leaves to garnish


Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 00C /400F. Cut a 23cm circle from non-stick baking parchment. Cut a 13cm circle from the middle, leaving a ring shape. Make 1 cm deep cuts all the way around the inner and outer edges. Brush a 24cm ring mould with oil and line with the paper.
2. Heat half the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan until the butter is foaming. Gently fry the onion, leek and garlic for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened. Place the chestnuts in a food processor and process until most are finely chopped but some larger pieces remain.
3. Transfer the onion mix to a large mixing bowl. Return the pan to the heat and melt the remaining butter and oil. Add the chestnuts and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until lightly browned.
4. Tip the chestnuts into the bowl with the onion mixture and stir in 200g of the cranberries, the breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, rosemary, eggs, grated apples and plenty of seasoning. Mix well. Spoon half the mixture into the prepared tin, pressing it down well with the back of a spoon. Dot with pieces of chees, if using, then cover with the remaining chestnut mixture.
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes until lightly browned and coming away from the sides of the tin. All to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn out onto an oiled baking sheet. Discard the lining paper and leave the chestnut ring for 1 hour until cold.
6. Unroll one pack of pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Using a sharp knife, cut twelve 2 x 20 cm strips, reserving the leftover pastry. Arrange the pastry strips over the chestnut ring at regular intervals, tucking in the edges with a knife as you go.
7. Re-roll the reserved pastry to about 2mm thick. Unroll the second pack of pastry, reserve half and roll out the remainder to about 2 mm thick. Cut 36 leaf shapes from the pastry and mark on the veins with a knife. Brush the pastry strips with egg yolk and attach the pastry leaves to the ring to make six poinsettia-style flower shapes, curling and overlapping the leaves as you go. Shape 18 small balls of pastry and attach three to the centre of each flower with a dab of egg yolk. Cover with plastic film and chill for at least 45 minutes, or until ready to cook. Cover and chill the remaining egg glaze.
8. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Brush the pastry carefully with the egg yolk. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the pastry is risen and golden brown. Cover the top with foil if it begins to overbrown before the sides are cooked. Remove from the oven and slide gently onto a warmed serving plate. Garnish with the remaining cranberries, the extra rosemary sprigs, and the bay leaves. Serve with a rich sherry gravy and roasted potatoes and other trimmings.

Tips:
To make ahead of time, prepare up to the end of step 7 and keep in the fridge for up to 36 hours before baking. This dish also tastes great served cold with salad and will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days after the initial baking.
All soft cheeses work well in this recipe. Try garlic and herb, or cream cheese, or omit altogether. Use any pastry shapes to decorate the ring. Try holly leaves made with a biscuit cutter, or star shapes, or plain lattice.

This recipe originally appeared in BBC Vegetarian Good Food Magazine, December 1999. I’ve been making it ever since!

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