Christmas Day 2014
O Christmas Tree

Christmas Is Here!
Finally I can stop baking and start roasting.

Evidently sauerkraut and mushroom pierogis are a Polish Christmas Eve staple, so I thought I'd give them a go as this year's starter with a piscine twist.

I decided this year we'd also try a spiced cranberry and apple stuffing as recommended by Mum and Delia Smith. What could go wrong?

Things we (re-)learned this Christmas:
And those things without which no Christmas would be complete:

Filo Parcels with Prawn, Mushroom and Sauerkraut
fish starter
I stole the leek ribbons from Susanna Booth in the hope it would impress Kurt's kids enough that they'd try eating some. But it didn't :(

Mushroom and sauerkraut pierogis are a Polish thing, according to my cute (Polish-ish) landlady. I was so impressed by the way the samples she brought me went with my clam chowder (not sure why I thought I'd try them together, but I did) that I decided to add some fishiness right in there.

The lady in the Polish deli recommended Edmal's sauerkrauts. I think she was right.

Makes about a dozen parcels

Peel and cut the onions in half, then slice them finely. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions, letting them soften. Peel and slice the garlic and add to the onions.
Set aside.

Slice the mushrooms finely I cut them in half horizontally first so everything is the same shape, refresh the pan with butter, and cook the mushrooms for 5 minutes or so until they lose most of their moisture.
Set aside.

Drain and rinse the sauerkraut, briefly, in a colander under cold running water, then shake or pat dry. I like some of the flavour of the sauerkraut left in if it isn't too strong - so don't overdo the rinsing. Make up a sauerkraut, onion and mushroom stuffing mixture according to your taste - I find about the same volume of sauerkraut and onion isn't bad. Perhaps a little less onion.
Incidentally, despite what your Mum might have drummed into you about cleaning your plate don't be afraid to not use some of the ingredients you've prepared, you can always find something else to do with them. Since you won't be able to tell when you start how much of each you're going to need in the end, best to make extra and just use what you need.
Peel the (raw) prawn(s), remove the intestine that runs along its back, cut into small pieces a few millimetres cubed and add to the onion and mushroom mixture. Moisten the mixture with fish stock, stir through a few tablespoons of sour cream, mix well, season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4.
Cut the filo sheets in half, then in half again this should give you parcels of about the right size. Brush a little olive oil across the surface of each (internal) sheet and then arrange them neatly in stacks of three.
Place a small pile of filling into the centre of each square of three sheets. Fold the corners inwards, overlapping slightly, until you are left with a square parcel - brush each corner with oil before you fold in the next one, so that they all stick to each other.

Flip the parcels over and place on a baking tray. Brush the top with a little oil. Don't forget this - or the parcels won't brown nicely. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the pastry has turned crisp and golden.

To make the ribbons, clean and peel the leek, but trim away as little of the green as possible. Cut the leek in half lengthways and remove the pale green centre. Slice into 12 thin strips, boil until soft only a few minutes, then drain on kitchen paper. For each parcel, you'll need a strip lengthways and widthways (tuck the edges under the parcel), plus one extra to look like the knot on top.

Make the sour cream sauce:
Loosen the soured cream in a small bowl with a fork. Finely chop the dill fronds and the most tender part of the stems. Stir the dill into the cream and add a little salt and black pepper and a few drops of vinegar. Or more, to taste. I like a little bite to mine!

Serve the parcels with the sauce.
Really good.
If a bit too last-minute-fiddly for a Christmas starter :(

I did try using Shiitake mushrooms but they weren't as good.

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