And that’s just the resolutions! Happy new year everybody, I hope you had a good Hogmanay and are poised for a bright new year. Here’s a cheery grin from a couple of ne’er-do-wells I encountered on a Victorian time travel night just before Christmas:
My favourite thing about this time of year is looking backwards and forwards at the same time. As if with a double-ended telescope and rear-view mirrors – it’s probably already been invented, like most of my good ideas. Anyway what I’m saying is, I don’t like to lose the best of last year before hurtling into the next. So I’m going to bore you with my Christmas dinner stories. Just the menu – the rest of the shenanigans are for private viewing only!
So here’s my turkey. I have fulminated at length in the past about never in my life intending to cook another f***ing turkey. But as you will recall from my last post, I came over all funny in mid-December when I went into Cheyne’s the Butchers to order a ham. And for the first time in my life, I can say completely unabashed that my turkey was a triumph. I brined it a la Nigella – in a massive pot with water/salt/sugar, squeezed oranges with their husks, and a range of whole spices including cinnamon sticks. star anise, cloves, bay leaves, parsley stems and slices of fresh ginger root. After two days (ie on Christmas Eve) I took it out and roasted it for two and a half hours (12lb turkey), painting it all over first with honey and maple syrup, then latticing with streaky bacon. It bronzed up beautifully and I covered it with tinfoil halfway through. Sadly I forgot to take a photo of it as it emerged Adonis-like from the oven. Bronzed and muscled, you get the picture.
Now I’m sorry I can’t find the words to say this without Nigella’s pout: darlings, it was succulent! Enough said? I eased the stress by buying (instead of making from scratch, another first) butcher’s stuffing and bacon-wrapped chipolatas; cranberry sauce; and even gravy. And by doing it a day ahead, I had it carved ready to heat and serve. Not as spectacular as bearing in the burnished beast on a platter and carving it at the table, but I have learned my limitations through the years. Anthony Bourdain, sadly gone from us during 2018, recommends having two turkeys cooked – so you get someone to take one whole cooked bird to the table and flourish it around a bit while, like a whirling dervish, you are standing in the kitchen reducing the other one to perfect portions. Then you wait five minutes and produce beautifully arranged dishes, and everyone thinks you are Wonder Woman. Of course he’s talking about restaurant cooking. I was more than happy that the Wunderkind and his lovely fiancé were flurrying around helping get it all out on the table, hot and fresh and tasty, but without the drama. Rest in Peace, Anthony, your stories are wicked and wonderful. And Nigella – I apologise for all the times I have mocked your pout. Your recipes are brilliant.
We started the meal with a little cup of chilled pea and parsley soup (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Veg Every Day); then Scottish smoked salmon with oatcakes or, for the Troubadour, my quince cheese, made with Newburgh-grown quinces; then the turkey or for the vegetarians, an almond and cashew nut roast stuffed with prunes and chestnuts (thank you Shirley Spears). The usual veggies and condiments. Then Olivia’s Magnificent Limoncello Trifle, second year running so it’s now a tradition. And we finished with an Aqua Vitae espresso cocktail, made up in a big coffee jug by the Troubadour.
The things I would repeat next year are the brining and the buying-in of the extras; getting Olivia to do the trifle; the chilled soup which makes a light and fresh savoury start to a heavy meal; and Valerie’s smoked salmon, superb as always. The nut roast? Not sure. I liked it but the Troubadour thought it was a bit dry so I haven’t quite cracked the veggie option yet. On the left is a nice reminder of a pie-making session with Stella for the Victorian event. Not vegetarian, and nothing to do with Christmas dinner as such but hey, we were heroes! Forty wee hand-raised pies to Stella’s lovely mutton/ham/caper recipe.
There you are, that was it, please tell me your own Christmas dinner stories. It may only be lunch; but it’s such a delight for anyone who loves cooking to have a special project and with lots of friends around the table to share it with. Looking forward to poached egg on toast tonight!
Wishing you all good food and good friends throughout 2018, and lots of ways to share them with those for whom these fundamental requirements are in short supply.