A Taste Of Christmas by PJ Taste

Well, it's that time of year again, isn't it?  The nights are drawing in, people are fretting over the possibility of snow and some 'celeb' has turned some fancy lights on in town.
Yep, it's Christmas and with all the social do's I have planned this year, the geese aren't the only ones who are getting fat! My festive season kicked off with a Taste of Christmas by PJ Taste.  Promised to be a night of demonstrations with tasters of food & drink, I knew it would be a good start to 2011's festivities. 
PJ Taste are heavily involved in the local food scene and owners Peter and John are keen to support local food producers whilst encouraging us Sheffielders to make room for them on our plate.  Not only do they run a cafe on Glossop Road, where you can pop in for a quick coffee or a lunch of Sheffield food, but PJ Taste also hold some special events including foraging trips.
The Taste of Christmas event kicked off with some local cider punch and nibbles of Squash Shots with a Pumpkin Garnish, Cured Salmon on Sour Dough and Pork Rilletts.  Of course everything was sourced locally using Pumpkin Oil bottled in Sheffield, Salmon from Mann's and Pork from Moss Valley.  Given that most of us had skipped tea and headed straight to the cafe after work, it was good to have the opportunity to chat with other foodie lovers (including fellow blogger Nibbly Pig) and enjoy some nibbles before cracking on with the demonstrations.

Peter also introduced a new ingredient to us; fennel root.  It was a bit like parsnip but with the tang of aniseed from the fennel.  I do love trying new stuff, especially stuff I've never thought of eating before.
Nibbles done, it was time for the first demonstration and host Peter was up with his cured salmon.  The evening was all about showing us how we can have a locally sourced Christmas and the salmon on a bruschetta with crème fraiche and beetroot would make a lovely starter to the main event; Christmas Dinner.  It's incredibly simple to execute.  Take 500g of salmon fillet, cover it in a rub of sugar, salt, zest, star anise and cinnamon, cover in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for 24 hours.  Then you just need to wash the rub off and slice thinly!  I love salmon for Christmas Day breakfast, with scrambled eggs and fizz, so I'll be giving this one a go this year.

Fully aware that he had a bunch of hungry foodies on his hands, Peter ensured that each demonstration was followed by a break of nibbles and we were handed two lots of beef stew to try.  Peter had been experimenting with different suppliers and one had been made using produce from one of the big four supermarkets; another was made with chuck steak from The Farm Shop at Coppice House.  Peter wanted us to guess which was the locally sourced produce and  I think a little panic set into us all at this point.  The fear of getting this one wrong was quite strong; especially for us food bloggers!

Thankfully it was plainly obvious which was which; much to the relief of us all!  The supermarket meat was chewy whereas the Coppice House meat was tender and much tastier.  It was an interesting experiment and Peter explained that there wasn't just a difference in the way the meats tasted, they cooked differently too.
Of course Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a turkey, but it was too early for Peter to source a fully grown turkey from Whirlow Hall Farm so demonstrator Ian had to show us how to debone the legs of a chicken instead!  He assured us that the anatomy of the turkey and the chicken is the same so we weren't missing out.  Ian then showed us how to stuff the legs with a stuffing of eryngii mushrooms and chestnuts; ideal for anyone not wanting a whole turkey for dinner.
We were all pleased to see that Ian had prepared some chicken earlier and shortly after the demonstration plates of piping hot stuffed chicken made their way round the crowd. 

Mat was up next to give us a few tips on how to prepare some tasty accompaniments to the turkey.  Golden beets and brussels sprouts were cooked with shallots, thyme, almond slivers and olive oil and provencal new potatoes were cooked with oven dried tomatoes and whole garlic cloves making for really fresh and interesting side dishes. 
Misse Cindz then took centre stage for the launch of her 'Sheffield Favourites' Hampers.  Produced in conjunction with PJ Taste these hampers are packed with some of Cindy's favourite produce from Sheffield.  She explained how, following a visit to one of the Nether Edge markets, she was amazed by the number of food producers in Sheffield and from that point she has been a very keen supporter.  Take a look at her hampers here. 
After a short interval came the moment I had been waiting for; the pork pies demonstration.  Praised as the King of Pork Pies by Peter, John Lord of Take and Bake showed us how he makes the hand raised pork pies.  Of course, he wasn't keen to give too much away as the pork recipe is a protected secret but he and his wife Jean were a comical duo to watch and the finished results were darn tasty. 

If you want to try some of his pies, you can order them through PJ Taste.  Alternatively you could try the Take and Bake pies.  They come frozen and unbaked with a jelly mix to pour into the pie once you've baked them off.  The idea is to eat them whilst they're still warm, just before the jelly sets, so it drips down your chin as you eat!  If you fancy these as much as I do you can order them through PJ Taste.
The evening was then rounded off with Peter's plum pudding.  Using plums he'd frozen from the summer, the pudding had all the taste of a Christmas pudding but wasn't as heavy.  Another triumph, especially as it was served with Our Cow Molly ice-cream!
So.  There we go!  All the foods of Christmas day, made and consumed in one evening and Peter's been kind enough to put all the recipes from the evening on the PJ Taste website so everyone can try them out on the day.  Check them out here.
It was a truly excellent evening; Peter, John and the team really pulled it off.  They put a lot of work into the event and it showed.  It's at times like this that I really appreciate the foodie community we have here in Sheffield.
Catch Clare on Twitter here. Clare also writes on her own food blog, 'Feast & Glory', here.
Have you planned your Christmas Dinner yet?  Will you be using any of PJ Taste's recipes? Let us know in the comments!

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