Diana Henry’s best recipes for your Christmas Day feast

by admin

Timings

Prep time: 30 minutes, plus proving time
Cook time: 50-55 minutes

Serves

Eight

Ingredients

For the focaccia

  • 600g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 7g fast-acting dried yeast
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 80ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tbsp more
  • 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only
  • sea-salt flakes, for the top

For the halloumi

  • 4 x 225g blocks of halloumi, drained and patted dry
  • 4 thyme sprigs, leaves only, plus 4 whole thyme sprigs
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • zest of 2 lemons, finely grated, plus juice of ½
  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the figs

  • 12 fresh figs
  • 1½ tbsp clear honey
  • 1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Method

1. Start by making the dough. Combine the flour, yeast and fine sea salt in a large bowl. Mix 300ml lukewarm water and the 80ml oil in a jug, make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon or a fork, mixing everything until you have a soft, quite wet dough. Add more water if you need to.

2. Wet doughs are hard to knead but do the best you can – only adding more flour if you really can’t manage – until it’s smooth and satiny. Do this by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook (if using a mixer it will take eight minutes on a medium speed). Lightly oil a bowl and put the dough into it. Cover lightly with cling film and leave somewhere warm to rise. It should double in size. Judge by size rather than time.

3. Tip the dough out on to a very lightly floured surface and knock it back until it can hold its shape. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and put the dough on this, stretching it equally in every direction to form a rectangle, almost to the lip of the baking sheet. Cover with cling film, leave somewhere warm and let it double in size again. 

4. Heat the oven to 220C/210C fan/gas mark 7.

5. Make dimples all over the dough with your fingers (possibly one of the best activities in the kitchen – the dough is so pillowy), pressing down quite hard. Push the rosemary down into some of the dimples. Drizzle the remaining oil over the top and scatter on the sea-salt flakes. Put boiling water into a roasting tin – it should come about halfway up the sides – and put this on a low shelf in the oven. Bake the bread for 20-25 minutes, or until golden, then remove from the oven along with the roasting tin of water.

6. Score the halloumi, cutting across each block at 1cm intervals, but not cutting right through, then scatter with the thyme leaves, fennel seeds, chilli and lemon zest, carefully pushing some of the mix down into the cuts. Mix the honey and olive oil together. Pour this over the halloumi and scatter on the thyme sprigs. Bake for 30 minutes, basting with the oil and honey every so often. 

7. Remove the little stalk from each fig and halve them. Put them into a small roasting tin or gratin dish in a single layer. They should be close together, otherwise the honey will just run off them and burn. Mix the honey, balsamic and oil together. Season and pour over the figs. Cook in the oven for the last 15 minutes of the halloumi cooking time.

8. It’s important to serve the halloumi while it’s warm (so it’s still soft), so transfer it and the figs to a warmed platter, squeeze the lemon juice over the top and serve with the focaccia.


Pumpkin, chestnut and leek tagine

This can be made in advance and reheated before serving, but be careful not to cook the vegetables until they collapse. A tagine should have structure. The relish that goes with the lamb below is fantastic with this too, so make it even if you aren’t serving the lamb.

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