For perennial hostess Lisa Vanderpump, Christmas is a day when “you expect everything to run perfectly for a more formal dinner.” Which is why the restaurateur—who was born and raised in London before bringing her brand of dry wit to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills—really looks forward to celebrating the more relaxed Boxing Day, the British national holiday that takes place on Dec. 26. “All the presents are done; the pressure is off. Things are a bit calmer,” says Vanderpump, 51. “In some ways, it’s more enjoyable.” Vanderpump marks the day by whipping up her favorite childhood fare and hosting an annual brunch at the L.A. home she shares with her husband, Ken Todd, 66, and their son Max, 19. (They also have a daughter, Pandora, 25.) “I love English comfort food, and I really miss it over here,” she says. To kick off the festivities, Vanderpump serves Pimm’s Cups—a popular cocktail made with the British bar staple Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. “It’s refreshing,” says Vanderpump. “And it’s so easy to make.” Then guests line up at the buffet, which includes English staples like bangers and mash (“It’s very hearty—and men love it!”) and Vanderpump’s decadent bread and butter pudding. (“It’s yummy, sumptuous and delicious.”) But sadly, there is one detail Vanderpump can never re-create to complete her expat experience. “It never snows!” she says. “Living in L.A., you never get that Christmasy feel like you do in London.”
ENGLISH BREAD & BUTTER PUDDING
6 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the baking dish
14 slices firm white sandwich bread
2/3 cup dried currants, golden raisins or seedless raisins
½ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg, divided
3 large eggs
½ cup sugar
3 cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°. Lightly butter a 9×13-in. baking dish.
2. Butter the bread slices on one side. Stack the slices and cut in half diagonally. Arrange half of the bread slices, buttered side up, in the dish in two layers, letting the slices overlap as needed. Scatter half of the currants on top and sprinkle with half of the nutmeg. Arrange the remaining bread in the dish and add the remaining currants.
3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a medium bowl until thickened and pale. Whisk in the milk, cream, vanilla and remaining ¼ tsp. nutmeg. Pour slowly and evenly over the bread mixture in the dish. Press the bread in the custard to be sure it is moistened, and let stand for 10 minutes.
4. Bake until the top is lightly browned and a knife inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or cooled to room temperature.
PIMM’S NO. 1 CUP COCKTAIL
Cut half of 1 small unpeeled apple, cored into thick wedges, and the remainder into thin slices. Do the same for 1 lemon and 1 unpeeled Persian or Kirby cucumber, scrubbed. Put the apple, lemon, and cucumber in a large pitcher. Add 1¼ cup Pimm’s No. 1 Cup and 2½ cups lemon-lime carbonated soda. Stir gently. For each drink, spoon the fruit into a tall glass. Add ice, then pour in the drink. Garnish with mint and serve.
BANGERS & MASH
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
12 link pork sausages, mild (about 1½ lbs. total), each pierced once with a fork
2 shallots, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 cups apple cider
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°.
2. Heat 1 tbsp. of the oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sausages to a plate.
3. Add the remaining 1 tbsp. oil and the shallots to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, until the shallots soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the flour and stir well. Stir in the cider and bring to a simmer. Return the sausages to the skillet and cover.
4. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the gravy thickens and the sausages are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
5. To serve, spoon the mashed potatoes onto plates. Add the sausages and top with gravy.
Recipes adapted from Simply Divine (Running Press)