Food: Executive Relief, post-Christmas

Easy posh dinners for people who value their time. This menu for the post-Christmas holidays.

Virginia Hume

Topics Politics

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The real problem with Christmas holiday cooking is not Christmas dinner – it’s a simple enough roast, after all – and if you want a guide to traditional ‘turkey with all the trimmings’ stick with Delia, she’ll show you a good time.

No, the real problem is remembering that people expect to eat reasonably on other days, too. So when you have had the pea and ham soup and the turkey curry pie, what do you do next? The easiest way to please everybody, young and old, who have had a gut full of ‘traditional fare’, is to revert to pasta. So here are four classic pasta dishes that will also please the cook because they involve very little effort, and they are just like mamma used to make.

All the recipes serve four adults. To make sure everybody has enough, count on about 100g pasta per adult. Add the pasta to the sauce rather than the other way around, so that you can put less pasta in if you like it saucy (ooh-er missus). Happy end-of-holidays!

Simple Tomato Sauce (traditionally eaten with gnocchi, also good with spaghetti and penne)

400g tin Italian chopped tomatoes; 110g butter; medium onion; quarter tspn granulated sugar; salt to taste

Peel the onion, cut it in two and put it in a pan with the tomatoes, butter, sugar and salt. Bring it all to a slow, steady simmer and cook, uncovered, for about a hour. Discard the onion, check the salt and serve.

Wine suggestion: Pinot grigio

Ragu (with tagliatelle)

25g butter; 2 tbspn olive oil; medium onion; 250g minced beef; 250g minced pork; 6 tbspn white wine; 1 kg polpa di pomodoro (Italian crushed tomatoes); half tspn tomato puree; salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste; parmesan cheese (optional)

Put the oil and butter in a pan to heat. Chop the onion up quite small and fry it in the pan until it is translucent. Add both meats and fry them until they are golden.

Add the wine, tomato pulp and puree, salt and pepper and stir.

Cover and simmer for about two hours. Stir from time to time. Pour over the tagliatelle. Add grated parmesan if you like.

Wine suggestion: Sangiovese or Californian Zinfandel

Mushroom Sauce (best with penne, but also good on grilled chicken or with rice)

25g dried porcini mushrooms; 400g fresh mushrooms, chopped; 150ml tepid water; 8 tbspn extra virgin olive oil; sprig rosemary; clove garlic, finely chopped; sea salt; freshly ground black pepper

Soak the dried mushrooms in hot, boiled water for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain them and keep the liquor for later.

Heat the oil and fry the rosemary and garlic for half a minute. Add both types of mushrooms and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add the butter and mushroom liquor and cook for another 15 minutes. Mix with the penne and serve.

Wine suggestion: Suave, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay

Spaghettini alle Vongole

small jar of small clams (about 65g drained weight); 3 tbspn olive oil; tbspn chopped anchovy fillets; one and a half tbspn finely chopped fresh or dried parsley; 400g tin Italian chopped tomatoes in their juice; salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put a pan of 4 litres of water on to boil for the pasta.

Drain the clams and retain the liquid for later. Fry the garlic over a medium heat and when it begins to colour add the chopped anchovies and the parsley and stir.

Add the tomatoes and their juice and the strained clam juice.

Simmer gently for about half an hour or until the oil and the tomato have separated. Take it off the heat and stir in the clams.

Put the spaghettini into the boiling water. Cook for a couple of minutes only – it does not take long for spaghettini to cook, and anyway it should be eaten a little more ‘al dente’ than other pastas. Drain and mix it with the clam sauce. Do not add cheese.

Wine suggestion: Frascati or Muscadet

Shopping list

Tomato Sauce

400g tin Italian chopped tomatoes

110g butter

medium onion

granulated sugar

salt to taste


Pinot grigio

Ragu (with tagliatelle)

25g butter

olive oil

medium onion

250g minced beef

250g minced pork

6 tbspn white wine

1 kg polpa di pomodoro (Italian crushed tomatoes)

tomato puree

salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

parmesan cheese (optional)


Sangiovese or Californian Zinfandel

Mushroom Sauce

25g dried porcini mushrooms

400g fresh mushrooms

extra virgin olive oil

sprig rosemary


sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

penne/grilled chicken/rice

Suave, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay

Spaghettini alle Vongole

small jar of small clams (about 65g drained weight)

olive oil

anchovy fillets

fresh or dried parsley

400g tin Italian chopped tomatoes in their juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Executive Relief: The rules

If you love good food and entertaining, but have better things to do than pore over recipe books, make lists, and then spend half a day in the kitchen with cooker, children, and smoke alarm competing for your attention, then you might be in need of Executive Relief.

Executive Relief will feature dinner party menus, with simple recipes designed to take minimal time and effort – while reaching the standard you would expect from a good restaurant.

You are invited to share your dinner menus with spiked readers. The recipes do not have to be original – they just have to be good. The best, as judged by my dinner guests, will get a bottle of champagne. Simply follow the rules below, and send your recipes to:

1) There should be at least three courses, only one of which needs to be cooked on the day of the dinner.

2) It should not be too fiddly or difficult – nothing that requires balloons, spun sugar or blowtorches.

3) You should suggest a wine for each course.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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