Keeping our spirits up

This year’s New Year’s Eve looks set to be small and select. 44 Foods’ Imogen Charnley has some ideas up her sleeve to help keep hold of the festive spirit.

As a parent to young children, I’ve become used to quiet nights in. But this most tumultuous of years deserves a good send-off (or rather good riddance!), so I’ve put on my most creative of hats to suggest some law-abiding fun as we welcome 2021.

If the current restrictions remain in place for New Year’s Eve, most gatherings will be restricted to a maximum of six people – whether that’s indoors for Tier 1, anywhere outdoors for Tier 2 or in an outdoor public place for Tier 3.

The usual crowded streets and parties will be replaced by yet more quality time with your nearest-and-dearest. So how can you stop your night from feeling like another day?

Be game
My best NYE memories are of rounds of ‘Articulate!’. Whether Monopoly, Poker or something on the Nintendo Switch is your challenge of choice, the proximity to Christmas means you’ll be well-rehearsed and your games arsenal is likely to be well stocked too.

For ring-side snacking, plan a simple and fun feast. With a variety of delicious marinades to choose from, Adlington free range spatchcock chickens are a perfect laid-back grazing food. To keep things easy, serve alongside these sweet heritage tomatoes, a green salad and oven chips, or loaded into soft finger rolls. And don’t forget to lay on plenty of crisps and snacks to help keep the party vibes flowing.

Involve the kids
Make a virtue out of necessity and enlist the youngsters to play at creating a more formal party. You could even go as far as dressing them as waiters and having them serve you nibbles, like this sharing charcuterie platter or slices of gravadlax.

Go out(doors)
Whatever your area, you’re still able to meet in groups of up to six people in a public place. And, weather permitting, there’s something magical about meeting outside in the dark. Wrap up warm, pack sparklers, a cheeky bottle of bubbly or flask of mulled wine and head out to a beach or park. Hot dogs with traditional thick pork sausages are classic outdoor fayre, and this hearty soup will fend off the worst of the cold.

Butternut squash and ginger soup

Hearty and smooth, this soup’s earthy and fiery flavours will give you a warming inner glow.

Ingredients

10ml olive oil
One large butternut squash
20g Cotswold gold butter
Two medium onions, diced
A 2.5cm piece of stem ginger, grated
One cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste

Serving options

80g sweet pancetta, pan fried (optional)
Festive bread, like this cranberry and sage sourdough

Method

  1. Deseed the squash and cut into medium-sized chunks, then coat in the olive oil and roast in a hot oven for around 15 minutes until brown at the edges.
  2. Meanwhile, place the onion and butter in a large pan over a medium heat and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft. Then add the grated ginger, cinnamon stick and cumin and keep stirring while cooking for another minute.
  3. When the squash is ready, put it straight into the pan with the chicken stock, then cover with a lid and simmer on a low heat for around 30 minutes. The flavours will have mingled but the squash should remain a vibrant orange colour.
  4. Allow to cool before blitzing, adding some milk, stock or water until it’s at the right consistency.
  5. To serve, sprinkle with cooked pancetta lardons and enjoy with hunks of warmed bread, spread with butter.

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