Saturday, December 20, 2008

Family Festive Favourites

I can’t believe it – next week and Christmas will be a pile of torn paper, ribbon and wondering what to do with that leftover turkey, a handful of sprouts and a roastie or two. I’m pretty much on top of the Christmas presents; though I’ve managed to lose one though which is both odd and massively annoying as now I really need to replace it. And of course it would be one that I had delivered from a specialist site! But the cards, I haven’t even started yet, hmm perhaps a tad late again.

This month’s blog party seemed a little like last month with the festive theme but this time with the traditional twist. What are our little family foodie peccadilloes that pepper these holiday feasts? Well as usual a host of varied ideas flooded my brain, some I managed to pull off in time and the others may sadly have to be confined to the food bin. And generally this just means I was too ambitious which exactly coincided with me being just too busy.

So what did I manage to pull off in the nick of time? Breakfast is a crucial meal on Christmas day. Our family tradition is to start passing round the parcels and opening them one by one at the stroke of midnight and this has been known to take a while so breakfast becomes a moveable feast. And what would this possible late breakfast/ brunch consist of? If we’re feeling deeply ‘family favourite’ it would probably be bacon sarnies all round though ideally in a well buttered oven-bottom (now you’re talking!) but smoke salmon lends itself so well to Christmas lunch but as we don’t normally have a prequel to the main event the smoked salmon started appearing earlier in the day. So that’s exactly what my first canapés were about – tasty bacon sandwiches and spoons of smoked salmon laced scramble eggs. And a small pause of appreciation for my wonderful diddy silver cake stand. Though ‘cake stand’ is perhaps too large a concept so instead I’ll call it a ‘tiny tiered podium for petit fours’. And it’s that time of year so the seasonal sequins are out again.

And for the homage to many a past Christmas extravaganza the next nibble is beef wrapped in a Parma ham jacket. This displaced the traditional turkey in our household many Christmases ago. The original D never was a turkey fan and when asked for an alternative it was always beef. This became the time-honoured treatment as it was as good hot or cold the day after. I think the inspiration was from a Jamie Oliver recipe and then it just became the way we ate beef. I’ve never made a miniature version before but it tasted just as fabulous.

And for the drink, amongst the inevitable sweet Muscat wine that we always have, they will be some mulled wine or winter PIMM’s. This delicious concoction is warmed PIMM’s no.3 (which is the brandy version) with three times as much apple juice and finished with a few slices of red apple. It fair warms the cockle of your heart.

The bites that missed the deadline are definitely memories from Christmases gone by. Firstly it would have to be sprouts! The seasonal emergence of sprouts seems to fill many diners with dread but I love them. It is true that many a crime has been committed in the name of sprouts; they are either cooked within an inch of their lives or left a little bitter from lack of cooking. I liked them lightly steamed or boiled and then sautéed in a little butter and then served with bacon lardons and if feeling so very classic Christmas table some chestnuts. Though I’ll never forget the first time I took on the epic Christmas meal preparation for a group of friends. It was probably the first time I’d tackled it but promised a table groaning with everyone’s favourite typical festive fare before we all headed off back to our families for Christmas. WJ and I set off to buy the necessary ingredients, we had no idea how much to buy of everything so grabbed a Family Circle magazine which I remembered flicking through stacks of as a child. It seemed we were in safe hands; we followed the shopping list to the letter including buying chestnuts for roasting. I can’t quite recall how many of us were eventually settled around the table, I think maybe five or possibly six but the big surprise was how much food we actually purchased. Everything was stacked away in their capacious kitchen and then WJ and headed off for some fabulous media party (WJ’s eminent connections I hasten to add, not mine). Due to a mix-up with door keys and some other WJ drama (there was also something) I didn’t finally return to this big house in Shepherd’s Bush until the early morning and be unable to get into the bedrooms thought I’d while away the time until everyone else surfaced prepping the vegetables. And what a mountain there was! I fashioned some tea towel apron over my little black velvet party dress and started the peeling and criss-cross cutting of all the sprouts – well I was following the doctrines of the terribly conventional Family Circle. When I was relieved of my KP duties after a couple of hours I have prepped an allotment worth of vegetable and also popped the scored chestnuts under the grill for roasting. I was sent to bathe and change into something less backless and whilst I surrounded myself in restorative bubbles I ran through the final plan and countdown in the Family Circle magazine. This is when I realised the classic mistake, in all our planning and slavishly following the campaign plan in the magazine, we hadn’t even checked the quantity of guests that this menu was for – so imagine my horror when I realised it was twelve! That immediately explained why they were just so much vegetables to be prepped. Before I even had time to ponder this error I could hear screaming from the kitchen downstairs and ran dripping in to the kitchen to see what drama was unfolding. And I was greeted with WJ and her housemates cowering underneath the kitchen table whilst shards of red-hot chestnut pieces whizzed around the kitchen. I’m not entirely sure if I hadn’t scored them enough or just they’d been left ‘roasting’ too long but they certainly took on a dangerous turn. I think the resultant meal went down rather well but we had about three times more food than required and the explosive chestnuts that were supposed to accompany the sprouts became legendary.

The sprouts I had grown up with were far less perilous; the original D had always insisted that his renowned gravy demanded the water from the boiled sprouts, some beef dripping or lard, corn flour and gravy browning but rather curiously never juices from the roasting meat. And as no Sunday lunch was complete with this much-loved gravy (well at least by the original D as no-one else was that enamoured) so sprouts always featured.

The other canapé I’d planned was involving some ubiquitous Paxo stuffing, I’ve made much more elaborate stuffing with all manner of sausage meats, herbs and fruits but the one M amongst others always hanker for is good old Paxo sage and onion. So curtailing both my desire (according to D) to find the most complicated method to make anything and my abhorrence of strange packets of dehydrated sawdust I have abandoned thoughts of anything more sophisticated. However unfortunately due to a houseful of people and my inability to slip some sort of sprout or Paxo canapé into the French feast I’d planned they will have to remain on the drawing board.

So I hope you are all a little more organised than me, the tree is groaning with shiny intriguing parcels and those cards were written and send a couple of weeks ago.

Festive felicitations to you all! And all those who got their acts together earlier – what did they bring to the party?

1 comment:

breadchick said...

Hope your Christmas was wonderful.

Happy New Year.