I love love love Christmas. Last Thursday night many food bloggers met for some Christmas drinks and the topic of conversation invariably turned to "what will you be eating at Christmas?". I think it's fascinating to hear what traditions other families and cultures have, and how they are often relentlessly adhered to throughout the generations. The food bloggers I've met are a diverse bunch, so I got to find out about Romanian Christmas (hard to beat, I'm reliably informed by Smell My Kitchen that it basically involves eating every part of the pig from sun rise, well past sun set. There is also a traditional dessert, that is very difficult to make, often goes wrong even for seasoned professionals, can never be finished because there is too much of it, and doesn't actually taste that good, but of course you have to make it yourself - you can't have a shop bought one, even though they are often better), Italian/Latin American Christmas (Can be Bribed with Food will be enjoying a delicious glazed ham amongst other delights), Malaysian/Chinese/German/English Christmas (A Rather Unusual Chinaman's parents serve an incredible feast with no less than 6 different types of meat/poultry/fish), and traditional English affairs (as recounted by EssexEating and FoodUrchin).
For me, this will be the first year I have hosted Christmas and had to actually cook. Having woken up for my first 27 Christmases in my parents' home, and spent my first UK Christmas last year with Y's cousins, the responsibility has finally fallen to me. I'm anxious that after years of watching and assisting my mum, aunty and grandmothers put on a "choice spread" (as my brother would say) I should carry on the tradition from afar.
Under Superwoman's (i.e. my mum) careful instruction, I made our Christmas pudding sometime in early November. It has been sitting in a cool place ever since and I check it regularly to make sure mould has not started growing on it - although I think the amount of alcohol in it should kill anything living.
Last weekend I made my own Christmas crackers. But really, the hard work started in earnest today.
Y & I are hosting 5 friends and family for Christmas. We are all heading to carols by candlelight at Royal Albert Hall the night before and will be spending the night at our house. We will be having supper after the carols of vichysoisse soup (leek & potato) with homemade bread, accompanied by warmed spiced apple juice from Chegworth Valley, which we picked up at Broadway Market last week.
Christmas morning Y's cousin C will be putting on a light brunch, before our Christmas lunch later in the day.
We will have sage and pork sausage rolls as nibbles, then roast goose, glazed ham, Brussels sprouts, dauphinoise potatoes, honeyed carrots and parsnips and of course bread sauce. For dessert we will have the Christmas pudding with creme anglaise (left over from the pear tarte tatin I made last weekend) with brandy butter/hard sauce, and trifle. For those still hungry, there will be Y's gingerbread record player to demolish.
Today (Saturday) I rugged up and went to Broadway Market to pick up some cherry tomatoes and chestnuts for Christmas Day, as well as enjoying delicious Climpsons coffee and picking up Violet cupcakes for Y. After some other present shopping and catch up with a friend and Y at Food Lab in Islington, I got to work in the kitchen.
I made dauphinoise potatoes, layering the usual potatoes with sweet potatoes (above). It takes a while to make, but the flavours of garlic infused cream can't be beaten. The baking dish of starchy creamy goodness is currently in the fridge, weighed down with a massive of tupper ware container of soup. The soup was the next thing I made - lots of chopping of onions, leeks and potatoes, which I actually find rather therapeutic.
I have found a recipe for the cutest little pork, apple and sage sausage rolls in December 2009's delicious. magazine. As per the magazine's suggestion, I made the sausage rolls up to the point where they're ready to cook and froze them. On Christmas Day I can just pop them in the oven to cook. Y & I snuck some of the dodgier looking morsels to cook and they are pretty damn good I must say. Here's the recipe:
Sage sausage rolls (delicious. magazine, December 2009)
2 rolls of puff pastry
plain flour, for dusting
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
450g sausage meat (I used pork Cumberland sausages)
50g fresh breadcrumbs
50ml real ale
6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped, plus small sage leaves for decorating (approx 28)
small handful flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
1 eating apple, cored and grated
1. In a big bowl, mix all the filling ingredients (except for the sage leaf garnish) with your hands. Season and chill for 30 minutes.
2. Roll out the pastry (onto lightly floured surface, or in my case, the lovely blue plastic the pastry comes in) and cut into lengths which are about 10cm wide. Shape/roll/etc the sausage filling into long log-like shapes to lie down the middle of each strip of pastry (obviously you don't want to make the sausage so fat the pastry can't cover it).
3. Brush one edge of the pastry with some egg, and then fold the pastry over to seal in the sausage. Chill for 10 minutes.4. Cut each log into sausage roll type pieces (maybe as long as a matchbox?) and place on a baking tray. Brush with egg and top each with a sage leaf.
5. You can either cook them straight away in a preheated oven at 220 degrees C for 10-15 minutes, until puffed and golden and cooked through (I think everyone knows what a cooked sausage roll is meant to look like). Or freeze them first on the baking tray, and then in a freezer bag. The magazine says I can cook from frozen, for 15 minutes.
These are really good and will be the perfect way to start Christmas lunch, and may be brought out again Christmas night, when we're slumping into food comas.
By this time it was 8pm and we were ready for some dinner. Last weekend Y & I had quality time with our new pasta machine and made tortelli, stuffed with aubergine (first roasted over the open flame of my stove top, until the skin was blackened, and then finished in the oven), blitzed sun dried tomatoes, basil and a little truffle oil. We also made fettucine and froze the lot. So when the water had boiled, I simply popped the tortelli from the freezer into the water, 2 minutes later they were cooked and lolling about in a frying pan of anchovy butter and basil infused olive oil (both of which I made in last weekend's frenzy of activity), another minute later the tortelli was in bowls, and not much later in our stomachs! Hmmmm, these were so yummy - especially the smoky aubergine and truffle oil.
A quick after dinner job of making brandy butter/hard sauce for my Christmas pudding, and it was off to sleep.