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A festive feast to take away courtesy of the Bishop's Stortford Independent's Plant to Plate columnist Alistair Dibbs and The Cow Barn



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Maybe because we have been so deprived of family contact this year, Christmas has taken on a special significance – and for so many people, food is a huge part of this celebration.

It evokes so many nostalgic childhood memories and gives us an opportunity to indulge in otherwise forbidden treats without feeling guilty.

For me as a child, Christmas was a seriously big event. It meant a two-day food extravaganza at my grandparents' house in Leicester, where the sole intention was to eat as much as humanly possible.

My grandmother was a wonderful cook and would take it all very seriously. Her preparation was meticulous. The incredibly large turkey in which she took great pride was brined overnight and then slowly roasted throughout Christmas morning and served with all the trimmings.

The turkey was good, but dessert was even better!

It consisted of a rich Christmas pudding covered in brandy sauce from a recipe passed down through several generations of her Scottish family and soaked for three months with a whole bottle of brandy. Baked into it were 5p pieces wrapped in parchment paper. Absolute heaven for a child.

Dinner was a fantastic buffet of smoked ham, salmon, pâtés, salads and more great desserts – cheesecakes, lemon tart and her renowned Christmas cake.

More of the same continued on Boxing Day and, by dinner time, for the sake of everyone’s health, it really was time to call it a day.

My grandmother’s food inspired me to become a chef. One of the great things about this profession is that I have picked up some fantastic ideas from each of the great establishments where I have worked.

At one of my first posts in the Peak District, we would make wonderful Christmas treats for which customers drove from miles around and them take home to serve in their own homes over the holiday, often passing them off as their own!

This Christmas it seemed more important than ever to recreate this great Christmas custom, so I have teamed up with my good friends Carte Blanche at The Cow Barn at Bury Farm, Nuthampstead, near Buntingford, where they run a successful catering service and also hold amazing food workshops and courses.

Combining our shared experience (which adds up to more years than I care to count!), we have developed a fantastic selection of indulgent festive dishes, which will be available for collection or delivery on December 23.

The range is designed to be served on Christmas Day or Boxing Day and consists of a collection of delicious starters, show-stopping main courses, side dishes and desserts, leaving you time to concentrate on cooking the turkey, serving the mulled wine and hosting your guests.

These can be made for as many guests as you like and all our dishes are supplied with full cooking or heating instructions.

For more information and details of how to order online, head over to the Cow Barn website at www.cbcowbarn.co.uk and click on 'Christmas food'. You will be able to select your chosen dishes and they can be picked up any time between 9am and 5pm on December 23. Last orders will need to be with us by Wednesday 16 December. If you would like to arrange a delivery or if you have any queries, please ring Maz at The Cow Barn on 01763 848212.

Wishing you a very safe and merry Christmas.



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