When it comes to food with distinctive flavour, chef Kirk Westaway of two Michelin starred restaurant Jaan does it with panache. Here, the British chef shares how he spends the festive season, the simple things you can do to elevate your holiday hosting and his recipe for Candied Chestnut Cake.
This is my 10th Christmas in Singapore. I usually spend it at the home of one of my closest friends, who is from Devon in England as well. We have a Sunday roast with lots of trimmings, a platter of seafood, caviar, and an amazing joint of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. To make it even more memorable, we strategically invite a couple of sommeliers to bring some amazing wines.
It’s not difficult to deliver a fancy meal at home. Focus on the produce and ingredients—find out where you are sourcing from. For a special dinner party, increase your budget for the meal and invest in the final product. Make sure you are getting the best ingredients, organic where possible, or artisanal produce. A touch of caviar will always put smiles on people’s faces. Purchase a beautiful bottle of champagne or wine. Culina Dempsey is one of the better locations in Singapore to buy fresh vegetables, and we use their ingredients at Jaan as well. Bootle’s is also fantastic for premium ingredients.
“Pre-cook everything. If you leave it to the last minute, you’re going to be flustered”
My little trick is to always make fresh bread because it’s an immediate showstopper. You come into someone’s house, you smell the bread and you know they’ve put in the extra effort into making it. I also love to do a prawn soup to go with it—I go to the local market and get fresh prawns, take the heads off and roast the shells. You add a vegetable broth, simmer the peeled prawns in it, and you get a rich prawn soup with complex depth of flavour.
For dessert, I enjoy Eton mess. We have a version at Jaan, but the one I do at home is very simple. You make the meringue the night before, add fresh strawberries and cream, and you have an incredible dessert.
A massive tip for these festive meals is to pre-cook everything—from vegetables, to meat, to the soup and dessert. If you leave it to the last minute, you’re going to be flustered and you won’t get to mingle or chat with your guests. Every restaurant in the world pre-cooks before service. Get it all ready just to be warmed up or flashed in the pan before you serve it. It’s fuss-free and your party will leave impressed.
Chef Kirk Westaway’s Candied Chestnut Cake
Perfect for family gatherings, this recipe is a deliciously lighter alternative to the classic Christmas pudding that rounds off a festive meal on a sweet note.
For the Chestnut Cake:
400g chestnut sweet paste
60g demerara sugar
100g organic egg yolks
200g whole eggs
10g baking powder
40g cake flour
50g candied chestnut pieces
Combine chestnut sweet paste with butter and sugar. Add in egg yolks one at a time, followed by the whole eggs. Beat well after each addition. Next, add baking powder and cake flour to the mixture, mixing well to remove any lumps.
Arrange candied chestnuts at the bottom of a cake mould and cover with cake batter.
Bake in a 175°C oven for 20 minutes.
For the Warm Caramel Sauce:
175g light muscovado sugar
225g double cream
Melt butter and sugar in a small pot before bringing the mixture to a boil. Add treacle and simmer for 2 minutes until a golden brown colour is achieved. Remove from heat and add cream. Whisk to remove lumps and set aside until ready to serve.
For the Sweet Chestnut Cream:
100g chestnut paste
Gently whip all ingredients together over a bowl of ice until soft peaks are formed. Store in the refrigerator to chill.
To serve, warm up the chestnut cake and pour the caramel sauce over. Alongside, serve the sweet chestnut cream and a spoonful of orange marmalade.
Photographer Darren Gabriel Leow
Styling Desmond Lim
Location Madame Fan
Hair Marc Teng using Keune Haircosmetics
Make-up Dollei Seah/Makeup Entourage using Charlotte Tilbury
Photographer’s assistant Halid
Fashion assistant Joey Tan
Make-up assistant Mandy Yeo
Model Yin Guo/Ave Management