Butternut and nutmeg soup
Ingredients: 500g squash, de-seeded and chopped into one-inch pieces; 100g onions, peeled and chopped; one clove of crushed garlic; one teaspoon of ground nutmeg; 500ml of chicken stock; 100ml of cream; salt and pepper; 20g of butter.
Method: melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on the Aga, then add the squash, garlic, and onions. Cover and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the nutmeg and sweat for a further five minutes. Stir in the hot chicken stock and bring the soup to the boil. When the squash is tender, stir in the cream and leave to simmer for a minute, then the soup is ready to be blended. Serve hot.
Christmas spiced red cabbage
Ingredients: 800g of shredded red cabbage; one thinly sliced onion; one teaspoon of ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg; six cloves; 75ml of red wine vinegar; 70g brown sugar; 350g cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced; salt and pepper.
Method: place a heavy-bottomed casserole dish on the Aga. Stir in the shredded red cabbage and onion and cook for a few minutes to soften. Season with salt and pepper and Christmas spices. Then pour in the red wine vinegar and sugar and allow to cook for a further five minutes. Add in the apples on top, cover and place in the main oven of the Aga. After ten minutes remove the casserole dish from the oven, stir and place back in the oven again for another ten minutes.
Ingredients: 100g dark chocolate; 100g milk chocolate; 100g white chocolate; half a cup of flaked almonds; half a cup of raisins and half a cup of glacé cherries.
Method: melt the chocolate very slowly in separate bowls, each suspended over a pan of simmering water on the Aga. Take teaspoons of the melted chocolate and spread each teaspoon onto sheets of silicon parchment, to form even-sized discs. Press one piece of each of the ingredients into the melted chocolate and place in a cool place to set.
Christmas chocolate truffles
Ingredients: 200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces; 100ml double cream; cocoa powder for dusting.
Method: in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water on the Aga, slowly melt the chocolate until smooth and glossy. Gently heat the cream in a saucepan until warm. Pour the warm cream onto the melted chocolate and mix well until incorporated. Place aside to cool and firm up. Once firm, take teaspoons of the mixture, dust with cocoa powder and roll into even-shaped balls, then leave to set.
Variations: add in a sprinkle of chilli powder to the cocoa powder, mix and dust the chocolate truffles to add a spicy flavour; instead of using dusting powder try rolling the truffles in nibbed almonds; add in a teaspoon of cognac or rum to the melted chocolate for a liquor truffle; finely chop assorted candied peel and stir in to the chocolate once melted or finely chop walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds and stir into the chocolate once melted.