Feature: Speyside Hotel chef provides some hot Christmas tips

Station Hotel – first Christmas under new management.

CHRISTMAS IN A NEW HOME is a time of excitement and celebration for us all – but for anyone in the hospitality business there is the added pressures of bringing your clients the best possible festive experience.

That is the task this year facing Speyside’s Station Hotel, which after extensive renovations opened its doors again last spring – and is now gearing up for its first Christmas festivities as a four-star boutique.

Behind the scenes, head chef Neil Wardlaw and his staff will be working closely as a team to serve up a fabulous first Christmas dining experience.

Neil says: “It’s a really busy time of year for those who work in the hotel profession and the buzz from a busy bar, restaurant and hotel carries through to us in the kitchen too. There’s no denying that we will be under pressure to meet – and exceed – expectations of our diners, but it’s what we do, and it drives us to seek excellence in all we do.

“We have a well organised kitchen, each member of staff has clearly defined role, and team work comes into its own as we seek to provide the best dishes and first class service.

“Knowing that our customers have enjoyed great dining experiences means everything to us whatever the time of year. We expect Christmas to be busy, but to get positive feedback from guests and know that people leave satisfied, having had a great experience at The Station Hotel is worth the effort – job done.”

For those who are perhaps already stressing out over their own catering for family and friends – often in large numbers – Neil has offered the following guidance:

1. Use the best quality ingredients you can and source locally produced food where possible – this will provide the best flavours, is sustainable and it’s more enjoyable to cook with quality ingredients

2. Preparation is key and doing as much as you can in advance helps. When Neil is preparing for Christmas at home he’ll do things like make stuffing, wrap chipolatas in bacon and boil bones for stock and freeze them ready for the big day.

3. Share the workload – as in a busy hotel kitchen, getting others to assist in any way is a benefit and people will enjoy having a role to play.

Neil has also shared three of the recipes that feature in this year’s Christmas menu as inspiration for people planning their own menus for December 25.

Game terrine served with cranberry and orange chutney and loin of venison for main and honey crowdie cheesecake for pudding are among the dishes on the menu. (see below)

If you’re too busy in the run up to Christmas to try making them yourself, then book a table at The Station Hotel and sit back and enjoy someone else making them for you – to book call 01340 832200 or email info@stationhotel.com.

The boutique hotel is nestled in the midst of malt whisky country and has 15 bedrooms, ranging from deluxe rooms to an executive suite. In addition to offering a fine dining experience in Pagoda’s restaurant, it has a selection of over 300 malt whiskies in The Spirit Safe bar, and a relaxed and laid back atmosphere in Toot’s Café Bar. For further information visit www.stationhotelspeyside.com.

Game Terrine

• 2 Duck Legs
• 2 Pheasant legs
• Guinea fowl legs
• 2 sprigs thyme
• 40g sea salt
• 1t rape seed oil
• 1 lime zest
• 1 lemon zest
• 1 orange zest
• 4 slices of Parma ham

1. Mix together thyme, lemon, orange and lime zest. Salt and rub into the legs. Cover and place in refrigerator over tonight
2. Wash legs and pat dry
3. Place in deep oven proof dish and cover with oil. Cover with tin foil or lid and cook in the oven at 120 degrees for 2 and a half to 3 hours until meat comes away from the bone
4. Lift legs from oil. Drain and cool until warm and pick meat from bones. Place in bowl, lightly mix and season
5. Lay the Parma ham on a sheet of cling film and add the picked meat. Roll into a tight cylinder and chill for 3 hours until firm.

Cranberry and Orange Chutney

• Half shallot finely diced
• 1 punnet of cranberries (500g)
• 100g of sugar
• 1 orange zested and segmented
• 20ml of wine vinegar
• Seasoning

1. Place all ingredients into a thick based pan. Bring to the boil and simmer stirring occasionally until mixture has thickened and liquid reduced
2. When done place in airtight container. Put lid on when cooled and refrigerate

Loin of Venison

• 6oz Venison Loin
• ¼ pint of beef or game stock
• 1/16 pint of port wine
• 2oz 80% butter chocolate
• Smoked sea salt
• Oil for frying

1. Place venison on plate and rub with salt and oil
2. Hot pan and place venison in. Browning the meat and turning frequently for 6-7 minutes for medium
3. Take off heat and place on dish paper
4. Glaze pan with port. Reduce and stock simmer 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add the chocolate and stir

Honey Crowdie Cheesecake

• 8oz crowdie
• ¼ pint of double cream
• 3 tbsp of honey
• 6oz crushed short bread biscuit
• 1 punnet of red currants
• 1 punnet of blackberries
• 1 punnet of blueberries
• ¼ pint of port
• 2oz of sugar

1. Mix crowdie, cream & honey until it stiffens.
2. In a pan bring to boil the sugar and port. Simmer and add the berries. Remove from the heat
3. On a plate sprinkle crushed short bread
4. Pipe some crowdie mix onto a plate
5. Scatter some berries on plate and garnish with mint sprigs