Lyon, France, is described as the ‘world capital of gastronomy’. In October, I was fortunate enough to be invited by Creative Travel of Belmont NC, to join them on the latest new-build to Uniworld’s boutique riverboat fleet, the 443ft S.S. Catherine; christened by Catherine Deneuve. Their homeport is Lyon and it is there that I visited the famous Paul Bocuse Restaurant and the lively and well-known Le Halles Food Market. We cruised the Rhone River, including Burgundy, Provence, Macon, and Viviers. We visited a truffle farm, hiked through the Hermitage Vineyards and sampled many fine wines, and walked through some of the villages that inspired Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Gauguin.
While docked in Tarascon, we drove through The Camargue to a very charming town – St Mary’s By the Sea. Our cruise ended in Avignon. Onboard we enjoyed excellent cuisine and services along with luxurious ambiences! This month, I have included a photo idea from the S.S. Catherine menu that I thought would be wonderful yet easy to make starters for your Christmas meal along with two very ‘Christmassy’ recipes.
When thinking about the crowning glory of your Christmas meal, make sure that it’s organic, free range, or locally sourced.
ROASTED PEAR AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
Prep time: 25 minutes. Cooking time: 45 minutes. Serves: 6
2 ripe Bosc pears, peeled, quartered and cored
2lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 medium tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 large leek, pale green and white parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced and washed thoroughly
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt, divided
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 cups vegetable broth
GARNISH: 2/3 cup crumbled Stilton or other blue veined cheese
1 tbsp thinly sliced fresh chives or scallion greens
Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a large bowl, combine pears, squash, tomatoes, leek, garlic, oil, ¼ tsp salt and pepper; toss to coat. Spread evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Place half the vegetables and 2 cups broth in a blender; puree until smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan. Puree the remaining vegetables and 2 cups broth. Add to the pan and stir in the remaining salt.
Cook the soup over medium-low heat, stirring until hot, about 10 minutes. Divide among 6 bowls and garnish with the delicious stilton and fresh chives.
TIP: Make ahead, place in containers – cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. You can add more broth when reheating.
HINT: You can serve this soup as a first course or with a salad and crusty bread for lunch or a light supper.
SWEET POTATO CRANBERRY APPLE HASH
Prep time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes. Serves: 2 – 4
1 cup apple cider
1 lb sweet potatoes, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
2 apples, cut, cored, and chopped
¾ cup shredded red cabbage
1 tbsp maple syrup
GARNISH: 2 tbsp sliced almonds
Warm the cider in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cover. Cook for 4 – 5 minutes. Add the cranberries, apple, and cabbage, cook for 2 minutes. Add the syrup, stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Top with the sliced almonds.
Hint: Great for a quick lunch or side dish with your turkey!