New Year's Eve: Five recipes to create the ultimate feast at home, from drinks through to dessert
With many deciding to ring in 2021 at home, here are top tips and menu ideas to ensure the evening still feels special
New Year's Eve packages in the UAE this year are, in a word, exorbitant. If you don't feel up to breaking the bank but still fancy a special evening, here are some dishes to consider.
A pre-dinner drink to set the tone
When it comes to elegant at-home dining, mismatched plates, knives and forks that have seen better days, and drinks served from mugs that previously doubled as toothbrush holders really aren’t going to cut it. To keep things classy and avoid a last-minute panic before New Year’s Eve, have a rummage through your kitchen cupboards and make sure all your serve-ware, from side plates right through to dessert spoons, is restaurant-standard clean.
Once your glassware is gleaming, you’ll want something impressive to pour into it. The following clementine, rosemary and pomegranate drink is just right; it not only looks fancy (the sort of thing that might be handed around with nibbles in a posh restaurant), but also tastes wonderful: tangy, sweet and aromatic all at once.
Clementine, rosemary and pomegranate crush
Makes 4 glasses
Prep time: 5 minutes plus infusing
Cook time: 5 minutes
100g granulated sugar
8 sprigs rosemary
4tbsp pomegranate seeds (seeds from ¼ pomegranate)
300ml pomegranate juice
75ml soda water, chilled
1. Put the water, sugar, zest and juice from the clementines, and half the rosemary sprigs in a small saucepan set over a medium-low heat. Simmer for three to four minutes until the sugar dissolves.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to infuse for at least two hours. Strain through a sieve and set aside until needed.
3. Divide the pomegranate seeds among four of your prettiest glasses and muddle lightly to extract a little juice. Fill glasses to three quarters with ice.
4. Mix the infused syrup and pomegranate juice, stirring to combine. Divide among the ice-filled glasses.
5. Finish with a generous splash of soda water, garnish with the remaining rosemary sprigs before serving.
Start as you mean to go on
For a truly successful evening of eating, a great-tasting main course is a given, while a showstopper dessert will help to keep the mood convivial, but perhaps most important of all is the first bite of food of the night.
A platter of delicious nibbles before dinner will set the tone for things to come, alluding to the lucky recipients that they’re in for a treat. With that in mind, and to really up the ante in the impressive stakes, delicate, warm-from-the-oven gougeres are hard to beat. These crisp cheesy puffs require a little effort to prepare (the recipe calls for you to make choux pastry), but the technique is simple and the results well worth it. Serve warm and prepare for the compliments to come flooding in.
Parmesan, smoked paprika and garlic gougeres
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
80g butter, diced
150g plain flour
4 large eggs, beaten
¼tsp smoked paprika, plus extra to serve
1tsp garlic powder
175g Parmesan, grated
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C and line two large baking trays with baking paper.
2. Set a saucepan with the water and butter over a medium heat. Add half a teaspoon of fine salt and simmer until the butter dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the flour.
3. Return the pan to the heat and stir until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan to form a smooth ball.
4. Remove the pan from the heat once more and continue to beat the mix until the dough has cooled (you can use an electric mixer or hand whisk to do this).
5. Add the eggs, a little at a time, continuing to beat well between each addition. Stir in the smoked paprika, garlic powder and the majority of the Parmesan.
6. Spoon the mix into a piping bag and pipe walnut-sized pieces of dough on to the prepared trays; if you don’t have a piping bag, use a teaspoon instead.
7. Scatter with the remaining Parmesan and transfer to the preheated oven. As soon as you shut the oven door, reduce the temperature to 200°C. Bake for 20 minutes.
8. Serve warm and dusted with a little extra smoked paprika.
Don’t overthink the main course
Our advice for the main course element of this meal is straightforward: pick a recipe that you love and are entirely comfortable making, then work out how to elevate or embellish it to special-occasion status.
For example, should steak and chips be your desert island meal, treat yourself to a prime piece of Wagyu and drizzle heady, fragrant truffle oil over triple-cooked golden fries. Similarly, if fish is your thing, forget about hard-working weeknight salmon and push the boat out with a handsome fillet of meaty turbot served with a classic brown butter and caper sauce.
If you need further inspiration for a main course that is simple to prepare but sensational to eat, we recommend the recipe below that has delicate tendrils of spaghetti tossed with a creamy, rich sauce made with plenty of best-quality, extra-virgin olive oil, salty, piquant aged Parmesan and a scattering of parsley.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice and zest of 2 lemons, plus extra zest to serve
5tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
125g aged Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve
50g almonds, toasted and chopped
½ bunch parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
1. Set a frying pan with the olive oil over a low heat. Add the garlic and cook, without colouring, for two to three minutes. Remove from the heat and tip into a bowl.
2. Add the lemon juice and zest, then drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil. Add the Parmesan, season with black pepper and beat together to combine.
3. Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water according to pack instructions. Drain well, reserving the cooking water.
4. Return the pan with the pasta to the heat and stir in the lemon-Parmesan sauce, adding a little of the reserved pasta cooking water.
5. Stir in three quarters of the chopped almonds and parsley. Divide among serving bowls and garnish with the remaining parsley, lemon zest, Parmesan and almonds.
It’s the little things
When you stop to consider what makes a restaurant experience memorable, obviously the quality of the food plays a major part, but often it’s the added extras and finishing touches that combine to make a lasting impact. In order to ensure your New Year’s Eve meal at home feels seriously special, go big on the little details.
Offering an elegant palate cleanser once the main course plates have been cleared will not only keep the restaurant vibes coming, but you’ll simultaneously pique interest, awaken taste buds and effortlessly impress.
A citrusy granita will serve you well here. Granita is far easier to make than sorbet (no churning or ice cream machine required) and is just as tasty. The pink grapefruit and peppercorn number below is pleasingly sharp, looks good and has a subtle, rounded warmth, thanks to the peppercorns. It can also be made a day or two in advance to cut down on any last-minute stress.
Grapefruit and pink peppercorn granita
Prep time: 10 minutes plus freezing
Cook time: 5 minutes
150g caster sugar
2tsp pink peppercorns, lightly crushed
Pared zest and juice of 3 large pink grapefruits (about 250ml juice)
1. Set a saucepan with the sugar, peppercorns, grapefruit zest and 180ml water over a medium-high heat, and bring to the boil. Continue to boil, stirring often, for one to two minutes, until the sugar has completely dissolved.
2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Cover with cling film, transfer to the fridge and chill for at least an hour.
3. Pass the mixture through a sieve into a large bowl, discarding the peppercorns and zest. Add the grapefruit juice and mix well. Pour into a large shallow baking dish and transfer to the freezer.
4. Leave for an hour, then use a fork to scrape the frozen edges into the middle. Return to the freezer, then repeat this process two to three times more, until the granita has set.
5. When you’re ready to serve, use a fork to scrape the surface of the granita into fine crystals. Transfer to chilled glasses and serve straight away.
Finish with a flourish
An impressive, crisp on the outside, mallowy in the middle, marbled chocolate meringue filled with a rich chestnut-chocolate cream and finished with yet more chocolate feels celebratory through and through, and is a fitting way to end a New Year’s Eve meal.
While in a restaurant, meringues tend to be served individually or pre-sliced, the nice thing about being at home is that you can ensure maximum visual impact by bringing your creation to the table whole. Not only that, all the hard work (if you can call it work), can be done in advance – make both the meringue and the chocolate-chestnut cream the day before, and simply assemble on the night.
Chocolate and chestnut meringue
Prep time: 30 minutes plus cooling
Cook time: 90 minutes
Ingredients for the meringue
4 egg whites
225g caster sugar
1tsp corn flour
1tsp white vinegar
150g dark chocolate, melted
Ingredients for the chestnut cream
50g chestnut puree or jam
60g icing sugar, plus extra to serve
450ml double cream
20g dark chocolate, finely grated
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Draw a 23cm circle on a sheet of baking paper and use to line a baking tray.
2. In a large, clean bowl beat the egg whites with an electric hand whisk until they form stiff, shiny peaks. Gradually add the sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, whisking well between each addition.
3. Once all the sugar has been added continue to whisk until the meringue is smooth, stiff and glossy. Whisk in the corn flour and white vinegar.
4. Drizzle over the melted dark chocolate. Without stirring the chocolate in, pile the meringue mix on to the prepared baking tray, spreading to fill the circle and building the mix up around the edges to form a border.
5. Transfer to the oven and reduce the temperature to 120°C. Cook for 90 minutes, then turn the oven off and open the oven door slightly. Leave the meringue to cool.
6. Carefully peel off the baking paper and place the meringue on a serving dish or cake stand.
7. Mix the chestnut puree or jam, chopped chestnuts and icing sugar together. Beat the cream to stiff peaks, then fold in the chestnut mixture.
8. To assemble, swirl the chestnut cream over the centre of the meringue, and garnish with icing sugar and grated dark chocolate.
Updated: December 27, 2020 03:55 PM