Oh what a Christmas! It’s Boxing Day morning and I’ve been up for hours initially feeling a little sickly but I quick came round with a reviving turkey and stuffing roll. I’ve long believed Christmas is more than one day, that it is a season of love and joy and time to celebrate in having those you love around you although even I can’t deny the splendid seasonal climax of Christmas Dinner. And what a dinner it was.
Thomas Hippo got his party hat on at about 7am and pinched the head of the table position pronto. He presided over the classically dressed table until I’d finished cooking the feast which follows by about 4pm. I think. The prosecco was flowing, it’s hard to be precise.
I had no plans on exactly what or how I would cook this year as my folks supplied all the goodies, I just had to prep and cook it. So after spending a hugely pleasurable morning listening to our Christmas music on my iPod stood at the counter overlooking the garden watching a beautiful Mr and Mrs Bobby Robin and their blue tit friend dart about and play in the cool winter morning light, I got the turkey in. We have had a crown the last two years and this time I sat him on a bed of onions, garlic, clementines, a cracked cinnamon stick and some cloves before slathering with a modest amount of butter, seasoning and sage then enrobing in some back bacon. I put a splash of Marsala in the dish and cooked on 180 degrees C for 20 minutes per pound plus 20mins extra (must note that down for next time!). The foil came off only for the last twenty minutes of cooking time and he was succulent, moist and delicious.
Nigella’s aromatic ham from Nigella Christmas is always a winner with my friends and family and was requested again this year. This was the one thing I cooked on Christmas Eve – I boiled him in the wine, fennel, star anise and coriander fragrant bath then cooled before glazing quickly on Christmas morn before the turkey went in the oven.
Thank heavens Daddums was ready in the wings as chief carver and did us proud on the slicing front! I’m not to be trusted after only one of these mini panettone I made for Christmas morning breakfast hours and hours before, followed by what I’m sure was a bottle of prosecco as I cooked! One time I ended up in the local A&E with a knife in my finger after tangoing with an avocado, a carving knife and bottle of red wine but I have long learned my lesson and no digits were harmed in the making of this Christmas dinner.
A plethora of side dishes accompanied the ham and turkey. Nigella’s pancetta, chestnut and Marsala sprouts (aka “Posh Sprouts” as my step mum calls them!) are ever present on our Christmas menu. This year they had a rather beautiful receptacle to reside in – an Emma Bridgewater Christmas scene bowl I gave to step mum. A friend recently remarked a present is not worth giving unless you can hardly bare to part with it and I think she’s absolutely right.
Pigs in blankets, crushed carrots, cumin roasted cauliflower, roasted parsnips and of course, a golden hug get mound of roast potatoes were heaped into whatever serving dishes we could find and graced our sagging table. A new addition to the table was a new recipe for stuffing. Now I always, always go with Nigella’s gingerbread stuffing (well since she published the recipe I have) but a lovely friend pointed out her own method and it was so delicious sounding I could not not make it. It’s a sage and onion, sausage meat, chestnut, bacon, cranberry sauce explosion of flavour and my family just loved it! I stuffed some into small red onions which I had poached in water seasoned with bay and peppercorns – I scooped out the middles of the onions and used them in the stuffing mix. Heavenly! Get Anna’s recipe here.
Our groaning waist bands needed some time to recover from the rich indulgence above but perhaps not as long as you might imagine. Now, I had planned on making a stunning pavlova as our come-and-cut-again dessert this year but I have never cooked in the smaller oven of a double oven before and I had not accounted for the fact all that sugar and egg white would suffer irreparably from being too close to the top element. Sheesh. Not my finest baking hour! Epic fail. Actually, it wasn’t the only fail as I had made a gloriously yellow custard from scratch and cooled it in the fridge that morning with the intent of whipping it with double cream to dollop onto the pav but despite 15 mins of electric hand beater action it downright refused to whip. Panic really set in but fortunately I had enough foresight to gently reheat it and serve as a very luxurious creamy custard with the piece de la resistance – Nigella’s Ultimate Christmas Pudding. A triumph of a recipe which had even the Xmas pud haters in my family say “oh just a tiny piece” then no soon as they had finished their last mouthful where helping themselves to a much larger, second portion! Note I use Tia Maria not Pedro Ximenez sherry like La Lawson does and I dare say you could use whatever liqueur you like. Please put this on your Christmas menu next year – it is perfection.
Laughter abounded and we sat at the table for hours after the food was but a hazy memory. Leftovers were then wrapped in foil packages and squeezed into the still jam packed fridge. Empties were taken to the recycling bin, the dishwasher earned its stripes and presents were given and received. I fell asleep on one of the couches at some point before Love Actually came on when Hungry Hubby gently shook me awake and toddled me off upstairs belly full, heart happy and one very, very sleepy JoJo. As I sit here now, reflecting on the day before, my final thoughts of this festive are what I will leave you with. Some images of my culinary ventures this Christmas.
Merry Christmas Everyone, may your hearts be a-glow a little while longer and your New Year bring new love and joy into your lives xxxx
Almond pastry (Dan Lepard, Short and Sweet) with Nigella’s cranberry studded mincemeat. I use a lot more sugar and Glayva liqueur instead of port.
Dan Lepard’s caramel Christmas cakes – laced with Cointreau soaked fruits and lots of stem ginger. Again from the wonderful Short & Sweet.
And last but not least, my bakewell cheese cake. 😀