What to eat (and drink) on Christmas Eve

Sorry, no time to chat, I’m sure you’ll understand. Instead Diana Henry’s recipe for Vietnamese lemongrass and chilli chicken, which I’ve been meaning to post for ages because it’s so good. So good in fact, that each time I have made it, the chaps have snaffled it before I’ve had a chance to take the requisite photo. So, shhh, while they’re not looking, here it is…

Granted, not a great pic, but it’s so dark all the time


Aside from a little marination, the actual cooking is quick and straightforward. It’s what I will be serving up on Christmas Eve, because its zingy sour heat provides a welcome break from seasonal stodge and is the antithesis to anything that will be served up in the days following.

Oh and while I’m at it, I feel duty bound to mention a brilliant recipe for homemade Baileys that has caught my attention on the godmother of all food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. It literally takes minutes to prepare and tastes better than the original – particularly if you are liberal with the booze. So, you take one teaspoon of cocoa powder and one of espresso powder (optional) and stir to a paste with a splash of double cream, then slowly add one cup of double cream, then a can of sweetened condensed milk, a (generous) cup of whiskey (Irish would be authentic but I used bourbon and man, it was good) and a splash of vanilla extract. Whisk it all together, decant into bottles or jam jars and hey presto, you have instant homemade Christmas gifts, or at least a drink guaranteed to smooth the process of wrapping all those presents. It keeps for about two weeks in the fridge, but I’ll wager it won’t last that long. You’re welcome.

A very Merry Christmas to you all. Thank you for reading.

Vietnamese lemongrass and chilli chicken


This is from the perpetually useful A Bird In the Hand by Diana Henry, a must for anyone who, like me, struggles to come up with new and interesting ideas for the ubiquitous bird.

Serves 4

  • 800g boneless chicken (thighs work best but use breasts if you must) cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, tough outer layers discarded and finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp flavourless oil (e.g. sunflower)
  • 1 onion halved and cut into thin half moons
  • 125ml chicken stock
  • juice of 1/2-1 lime
  • sesame seeds, sliced spring onion, sliced chilli, chopped coriander to garnish
  1. Put the chicken into a bowl with half the chopped lemongrass and half the chopped chilli, reserving the rest for later. Add the sugar, fish sauce and garlic and stir to coat the chicken pieces. Cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least four hours.
  2. Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over a medium heat and brown the chicken on all sides (do this in batches if necessary). You want it to take on a good caramel colour at this stage.
  3. Add the reserved chilli and lemongrass with the onion and stir fry until the onion begins to soften. Pour in the stock and let it bubble away until the chicken is cooked through and the stock has slightly reduced. Diana says it should be wetter than a stir fry but drier than a braise.
  4. Add the lime juice then check that the balance for sweet and sour is to your liking and adjust with lime juice or sugar accordingly. Garnish and serve with steamed rice and a side of stir-fried broccoli. Baileys chaser optional.




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