While most households in the UK have a firmly established Christmas Day routine which runs like clockwork (at least until the third or fourth Christmas cocktail . . . ) as a nation we are slightly adrift when it comes to the night before. You can bet, whatever your plans, that mulled wine and mince pies will make an appearance, but what about Christmas Eve dinner? Some fear making an occasion of Christmas Eve, wary of diminishing their appetite the following day, while for others the issue may be finding the time (and the space) for another big meal to prepare. Whether you're planning a big feast or looking for simple dinner ideas, this collection of Christmas Eve recipes should offer some festive inspiration.
In many parts of Europe the Christmas Eve meal traditionally consists of fish, in part due to Catholic practice of abstaining from meat. Italy in particular celebrates what is now known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a meal where seasonal fish and seafood is served in a variety of preparations. With this in mind try preparing a seafood supper as part of your Christmas Eve meal, such as Nathan Outlaw's glorious Stuffed monkfish recipe which combines classic festive flavours of cranberry, orange, sage and brussel sprouts with salty bacon and juicy, meat monkfish. As a lighter option, Paul Ainsworth's Mussel broth recipe is perfect simply served with crunchy bread and a big glass of cold white wine.
The Christmas Eve meal is the equivalent of Christmas dinner in Denmark and pork will commonly play a role in the Danish Christmas meal. Try Bryan Webb's Pork four ways to make the most of unusual cuts, or Peter Gordon's stunning Pork belly with smoked tofu recipe served alongside a seasonal brussel sprout kimchi. As seen in Mark Dodson's hearty Apple and pork belly recipe, braised red cabbage is a popular fixture of the Danish Christmas dinner table and will also pair beautifully with duck – often eaten as an alternative to (or indeed alongside) pork during the Danish Christmas meal.
With the majority of workplaces still open on Christmas Eve try opting for an easy recipe which, while simple to prepare, should yield impressive results. For a fishy option Robert Thompson's Pan-fried red mullet recipe, served with scallops and courgettes, can be put together in less than an hour, while Andy Waters' seasonal Braised duck leg with caramelised apple can be left cooking in the oven for a couple of hours while you crack on with other festive preparations. The dish also includes a delicious braised red cabbage recipe which can be scaled up and served alongside other Christmas leftovers.