In a world where wastage is a major problem, eating your Christmas tree is a beautiful way to reduce it by actually turning it into a delicious four-course dinner. No, you neither boil it nor fry it. You actually do not need to cook it at all. Although you might want to start by removing the baubles.
If you are wondering what it tastes like, imagine the strongest citrusy, spicy yet fresh aroma you can think of. The great part of this particular taste is that it blends really well both with sweet or savoury dishes, and it feels like a magic in combination with ginger and juniper.
Besides, the beautiful taste of evergreens, there is also a lot of nutrients that can be found in pine and spruce tips and nuts. Spruce needles are very high in Vitamin C, carotenoids, chlorophyll (which help tissues to heal), and minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Moreover, they help balance the sugar level in the blood system and draws out poisonous metals present in our bodies.
If you are not sure about adding spruce or pine needles in your diet, you might want to consider pine nuts, which are an exceptional source of Omega 6, Vitamin E, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Furthermore, pine nuts are gluten-free, so, can be introduced to the diet of gluten-intolerant persons.
Julia Georgallis is the founder of The Bread Companion (TBC), a nomadic bakery that travels around the world to encourage people to bake their own bread, and she is also the brain behind the event How To Eat Your Christmas Tree.
She started using evergreens in her dishes a while ago and decided to show the world the giant ingredient that has been sitting in their living rooms for a while now.
“The idea came from wanting to make people aware of waste, but through food. The most important thing is that it’s delicious because it’s food and it has to be,” she told us. “You want it to be a nice experience, you don’t want to just think about wastage, it’s got to be tasty!”
Julia allowed me into her kitchen on a sunny Friday just a couple of hours before her guests came for dinner and showed me how to mix pine and spruce with salmon, couscous, lamb and even ice cream.
The dinner starts with a beetroot and spruce cured salmon accompanied by spruce pickled vegetables, crème fraiche and homemade rye bread. The beetroot and spruce marinade covers the fish for 24 hours in the refrigerator, which gives it an unbelievable hot pink shade and also a very particular taste.
‘It was inspired by the Nordic kind of cooking. I used fir, Noble fir and Nordmann fir, because these two evergreens have a very zesty, apple-like flavour.”
After your senses have been awakened by the fresh and savoury salmon, it is time to challenge yourself with a dish you most probably have never tried before: lamb and Retsina tajine with a side of mushroom with a pine-crust, pine-smoked cauliflower, spruce tzatziki, pine couscous with pomegranate, mint and sultanas.
The sharpness of the pine-smoked cauliflower goes amazingly well with the sweetness of the pomegranate and sultanas, which complements the lamb and the mushrooms.
‘Quite a lot of these recipes I sort of took mainly from two places. From the Southern European Middle East, because they do lots of things with pine, and also Nordic countries, so the pistachio is quite Scandinavian.’
The star of the menu is definitely the spruce and ginger ice cream, which originally comes with an orange and pistachio shortbread; however, the nomadic baker offered me a very tasty brownie with pine nuts along with the ice cream, which I could not help myself but finish it all.
The dinner ends with a couple of slices of Cornish yarg accompanied by douglas fir membrillo, creating an explosion of strong yet amazingly good different flavours.
Julia usually adds a few oat cakes to the dish to temperate the powerful taste, but the mix is so beautiful on its own you can even have it without it as a snack.
At the end of the evening, two important targets have been achieved – contributing to reducing the waste of trees after the winter holidays and making amazingly tasty food.
If your Christmas tree seems delicious to you already, try out the two recipes below.
The rest of them will be out later this year in Julia’s cookbook, and while some of the recipes cannot be fully disclosed, but you can find out more by checking out the video.
Pine nut and chocolate fudge brownie & spruce and ginger ice cream
(Serves approximately 16 people)
510g double cream
170g full-fat milk (ideally use Jersey milk)
200g Blue Spruce needles
9 egg yolks
A big pinch of salt
5 pieces of chopped ginger
- Prepare blue spruce needles by cutting off small branches, then washing and drying them – make sure all the soil has been washed off! Cut the needles from the branches using scissors. This can be a bit tricky as they are quite sharp, so be careful!
- Measure out the cream, milk, caster sugar and egg yolks into a heavy bottomed, stainless steel saucepan and whisk until well combined.
- Add the blue spruce needles to the cream mixture and heat over a gentle heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon or spatula so that the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Pay particular attention to the corners of the pan. When little bubbles begin to appear around the edge of the mixture, your custard is ready and you can remove from the heat.
- Sieve the mixture carefully in a fine sieve so that none of the needles end up in your final ice cream mixture.
- If you have an ice cream maker, add the mixture to the churning pot and begin the churning process. Before it freezes solid, add the chopped stem ginger and continue churning until it is completely frozen. Transfer the frozen ice cream to the freezer.
- If you don’t own an ice cream maker, transfer the mix to a tub or dish and leave to cool completely. When it is cool, transfer to the freezer. Stir the mixture every hour and, when it is beginning to freeze (about two hours in) but not completely solid, add the chopped stem ginger and mix well. Continue stirring each hour until the ice cream is completely frozen. This will take about four hours.
- Keep it in the freezer until you want to eat it for up to three months!
Pine nut & Chocolate Fudge Brownie
This recipe is inspired by the traditional Italian dessert ‘torta di pinoli e cioccolato’. The oils in the pine nuts make this brownie very moist and fudgy and the creamy, nutty flavour works well with chocolate.
(Makes enough for 1 x 20 cm baking tin)
150g dark chocolate
150g milk chocolate
200g pine nuts
2 pinches of sea salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Crush 150 g of the pine nuts in a pestle and mortar.
- Melt the chocolate, butter and the crushed pine nuts over a bain-marie.
- While the chocolate is melting, whisk the eggs and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved.
- Pour the eggs and sugar into the chocolate mixture and beat so that you have a glossy mixture.
- Weigh out the flour with a couple of pinches of sea salt and fold into the chocolate mixture, adding it in a little bit at a time.
- Line a baking tray with parchment and butter. Pour in the brownie mixture, sprinkling the remaining 50g of pine nuts over the top. Bake for 18 minutes. You will know that it’s ready when cracks have formed around the edge of the brownie, but the center will still be quite gooey.
- Either serve hot if you want a gooey consistency or set in the fridge overnight. Better the next day.
1 kg salmon fillet, skin on
130 g unrefined sugar
750 g salt
170 fir/spruce needles
3 lemon zest
- Make sure you use the freshest salmon you can find – make absolutely sure that it has NOT been previously frozen.
- Freeze overnight – this is an important step as freezing fish kills any bacteria that might be present.
- Defrost the salmon in the fridge for a day.
- Mix all the ingredients and pack it around the salmon, wrapping it in cling film
- Place it underneath something heavy.
- Turn the fillet every 12 hours, leaving it to cure for minimum 24 hours, preferably 36 hours.
- When you are ready to eat it, unpack the salmon and wash off the cure. Serve in thin slices.
All images by Charlotte Layton