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Emily Roux at Christmas

Emily Roux at Christmas

We catch up with Emily to find out about Christmas chez Roux, and what she loves about the festive season in south west London…

When you are part of a family of top chefs, who cooks Christmas dinner? It is a conundrum in the Roux household, with Emily Roux, her father, Michel Roux Jr, and grandfather, Albert, spending extended family Christmases in the South of France. But Emily insists it is not a case of too many cooks spoiling the bouillon. “Everyone cooks. It is great fun,” says Emily. Do they compete with each other? “Not at all,” she laughs.

Talking to Emily at her restaurant Caractère in Notting Hill, which she owns with fellow chef and husband, Diego Ferrari, she tells us what their typical Christmas looks like: On the menu, there might be goose, or a whole rack of beef, or pork. “My favourite is goose, which we had last year. And we usually start with Champagne. My dad normally goes all out with a vintage Champagne. Something yeasty, with light bubbles. There’s always mulled wine on the Aga, too, making the house smell lovely. We have a beautiful fireplace, and it is a very picturesque place to spend Christmas.”

As for gifts, unsurprisingly, food always goes down well. “I was jealous last year as my mum bought my dad a cured leg of pork. We all got to share it, though. It was delicious.”

In recent years, the family have incorporated some Italian traditions, to welcome Diego into the family. Diego says: “As well as goose and duck, festive food for me is a cotechino with lentils, a salami-like sausage that is cooked for several hours and then shared.”

Emily and Diego divide their holidays between Diego’s hometown of Milan and the South of France. This year, though, they are planning a change and will close the restaurant for a few days and head to New York, opening again for New Year’s Eve.

It was a busy Christmas last year for Emily and Diego. He says: “Last year, we were working over Christmas as we had just started the restaurant. It was lovely, with a great atmosphere. This year, we’re really looking forward to checking out a new city at Christmastime and trying out some restaurants there.”

On the menu for New Year will be some seasonal treats. Says Emily: “We haven’t yet decided – but we will have some special ingredients we don’t necessarily use through the rest of year, so maybe some black truffle, some langoustines, possibly a terrine. Something extra special.”

For Emily, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the cheesy music. Perhaps in a minority of one, she says: “I love it when the songs start being played in the supermarket. Particularly Wham’s Last Christmas!”

When they’re in London over the festive season, Emily and Diego, who live in Putney, head to Clapham Common for its Winterville festival, although, unfortunately, it’s not on this year. “It has a lovely atmosphere and I love wandering around and eating the street food.” Her mum and dad live close by to the couple in Clapham, where Emily grew up. “My mother and I always go to the Royal Trinity Hospice Christmas Fair, which has loads of beautiful stalls, with many things that have been handmade.”

More from Emily Roux. Read our interview.

Pasta with a Festive Touch

Try Emily Roux and Diego Ferrari’s special ravioli dish. “I love pasta, and this has all the seasonal and festive ingredients. It is rich and warming and perfect for the time of year. Don’t be daunted by making fresh pasta – it is fun.”

Serves 8
Pork cheek braising
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1kg pork cheek
• 2 diced carrots
• 1 diced onion
• 3 celery branches
• 1 garlic clove
• 2 sprigs of thyme
• 200ml white wine
• 2L stock (vegetable or chicken)
• Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy roasting pan over a moderate heat, then season the cheeks with salt and pepper and brown them lightly in the oil. Remove and set aside. Add the carrots, onion, celery and garlic to the pan in which you browned the cheeks, letting them soften and colour very lightly. Return the cheeks to the pan, tucking them among the vegetables, cook for a minute or two extra, then add the thyme and deglaze with wine. Bring to the boil before adding the stock. Cover loosely with foil or baking parchment, leave to simmer for 2 to 3 hours until tender.

Pork farce
• 1 whole lemon, zested
• 100ml extra virgin olive oil
• + reduced cooking liquid

Once the pork cheeks are fully cooked, pour all the ingredients through a colander making sure to keep the cooking liquid.

Place the liquid into a saucepan and leave to simmer. Reduce until one-third remains.
Place the softened vegetables and meat into a large mixing bowl. Add the lemon zest and olive oil before stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Finally, add the reduced cooking liquid and season to taste.

Pasta dough
• 530g T00 flour
• 140g semolina flour
• 500g egg yolk
• 20g olive oil
• A pinch of salt

Sift the flour and semolina onto a clean work surface and use your fist to make a well in the centre. Place the yolks into the well. Add the olive oil and pinch of salt. Gradually mix the egg mixture into the flour using your fingers, bringing the ingredients together into a firm dough. Knead the pasta dough for until it’s smooth (2-5 minutes). Let the dough rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (or overnight in the fridge). The pasta will be much more elastic after resting.

You could opt to roll the pasta dough by hand using a long, wooden rolling pin, although a pasta machine makes for far less work.

If your pasta dough is still in a single sheet, cut it into 2 equal portions. Spoon small mounds of filling on the dough in even rows, spacing them at 3cm intervals. Lightly coat the dough between the farce with water. Using a rolling pin, carefully drape the reserved sheet of dough on top of the mounds, pressing down firmly between the pockets of filling to push out any trapped air.

Use a serrated ravioli cutter, a pastry cutter, or a sharp knife to cut the ravioli into desired shape.

Garnish
• 150g kabocha pumpkin (or butternut squash)  • 1 tbsp olive oil
• 150g Brussels sprouts
• 125g butter
• 100g cooked and peeled chestnuts
• 8 large sage leaves
• 2 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
• Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).

Peel and roughly chop the kabocha. Place on a baking tray with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the squash is tender.

Finely chop the Brussels sprouts, keeping a couple of leaves raw to chop for garnish.
Heat the butter in a large frying pan. Add the chestnuts, sage leaves and Brussels sprouts to the pan. Leave to cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When all of your ingredients are ready, plunge the ravioli in boiling salted water and cook for 3 minutes.

Elegantly dress the ravioli in a bowl, together with the roast kabocha, chestnuts, sprouts, with a sprinkling of seeds on top.