Well, we all know about that at this time of year! Although many of my US friends will have had their big meal on Thanksgiving, we in the UK will have ours at Christmas.
I grew up with the tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve since my parents where from ‘abroad’ but nowadays, since I settled in UK many years ago, we celebrate on Christmas Day. We start with the obligatory Buck’s Fizz, plenty of nibbles to keep the hunger at bay whilst we unwrap the pressies from under the tree and catch up on all the family gossip.
Before all the pleasantries comes all that preparation, angst, sorting, tidying to make way for more jumble, sorting or thinking up a new twist to the tradition menu, judging how many family will actually appear etc etc all for a few hours on the Day itself. We then sit looking at each other stupefied having eaten so much food that we can’t move and vow to ourselves, never again! So, what happens the next year? We all do it all over again!
This year I am planning, well I have just about planned my menu. We were supposed to be going to my daughter’s house but some of the family want to come here so she will be entertaining her in-laws for the first Christmas dinner! Panic!!!
So, what is on my menu? Well, we will be five adults with one very pregnant lady who will not be allowed to eat any shellfish. Her husband is really strict on that, our #son who has firm ideas on the subject. So, have you ever tried putting together a menu knowing that you should not use a certain food? Why does fish always appear everywhere? I have settled on making some homemade potato and leek soup to be served in a demitasse (small teacup!) whilst on the saucer will be placed a couple of small pieces of toasted baguette which has had olive oil and grained mustard spread on it. This will be rather nice to dip in the soup.
Next, comes la piece de la resistance! The TURKEY! This year I was going to serve just the crown of the bird since most of us like the white meat but for a change I am going to have a whole turkey. I noticed a lovely recipe whereby you lifted the breast skin to smear a mixture of mascarpone cheese mixed with friend pancetta, herbs and onions. Not only will this infuse the bland turkey meat with wonderful flavours but also keep the meat beautifully moist.
I shall make a gratin of Brussels sprouts, since that can be prepared in advance, along with carrots cooked in brandy, butternut squash pureed and roast potatoes in goose fat. The usual extras such as homemade cranberry sauce made with orange and port, bread sauce (might take a rain check on that one since hardly anyone really likes it!) and turkey gravy. Since I will have the whole turkey I will have the giblets to make up the gravy. Oh, did I mention the stuffing? Yes, that will be homemade with special sausage meat, grated apple, chopped up chestnuts and herbs.
Another tradition that I started years ago and know the kids have continued with their families is to have a small gift placed at their places at the table. Usually, something inexpensive but fun to open. This year I decided that I shall do a couple of lottery tickets each…. with the proviso that a commission is paid to us on any winnings … did I just say that?????
The last serving on our groaning dining table will be the desert. Always, everyone asks for Christmas pudding. Now, I used to make my own but since we all only want a spoonful I now buy in that commodity. In addition, I will serve a mango trifle and produce the small cheese board with grapes for those who still have the space to indulge.
After this feast, a quick clean up, chat, and off we all walk around the corner to my daughter’s house to continue the festivities and…. eating!
Did I tell you what she will be serving? Some of Mum’s soup starter, followed by turkey (cooked by mother in law), a ham and all the usual additions including my cranberry sauce! For desert she is going to try her hand at a delicious looking Irish Cream cheesecake followed with cheese and biscuits. And then, the other members of the family from around the corner descend!