It’s coming. It’s here, the most wonderful time of the year is upon us. It might seem a little early for such a statement but I’ve been holding it in since November 1st so it’s a good compromise. Christmas means lots of different things to different people. To some, although an ever shrinking amount, it is a religious celebration, a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ over two thousand years ago. To me it is a celebration of family and food. It is a day I can spend with those closest to me and eat great food until I explode. I don’t usually need an excuse to do that but I’ll take it when it comes. I love the build up to Christmas too, it takes me away from the bad weather and dark evenings and into a warm and wonderful world.
My build starts with the making of the Christmas Cake (although I am behind on that one this year), planning and buying presents (almost done), watching Christmas movies with Ali, listening to Christmas FM non-stop, decorating the house and most importantly planning and sourcing the menu!
Starter: While the main course is a relatively straight forward choice, the starter is a little trickier. Last year I went with lambs liver pate and although it went down well I found that the meal was too meat heavy. I’ve decided to go with a fist starter this year and I’m down to two options. Option one is salmon gravalax with homemade brown bread while option two is mussels and prawns with hogao sauce. I served the latter last New Years Day and it was universally loved but I like the idea of the gravalax as a hark back to the smoked salmon starter we often had on Christmas Day. To be honest, I probably won’t decide until the 23rd. I’ll enquire if it’s possible to get really fresh mussels and prawns on Christmas Eve and if not I’ll just pick up a side of salmon and cure it. It’ll be a last minute decision but either dish should provide a great start to proceedings.
Soup: The starter will be followed by my Mother’s turkey soup. It’s delicious and is the perfect way to use up the giblets.
Main Course: I love turkey and ham but this year I toyed with the idea of bringing back the old tradition of goose. Unfortunately the servings to price ratio of a free range goose put me off so it’s back to the usual favourites. My turkey will come from Jo-Ann at Cairns Farm in Bellewstown who supplies certified free range bronze turkeys at a great price. Last year I found it difficult to get my hands on a free range ham but no such problems this year, I ordered one nice and early from the wonderful Pigs on the Green in Tullamore. That’s the meat sorted so what about the rest? I’m unsure of whether to cook the roasties in goose fat, duck fat or lard but I’ll decide that after testing all possibilities out over the next few weeks. The mash will be augmented with lots of parmesan to add plenty of flavour while there will be a selection of roasted vegetables (cooked as the turkey rests) to keep things simple. The humble sprout will be shredded and fried with pancetta and garlic to remove its sock like quality. The gravy will be made from the turkey juices and homemade chicken stock.
Side notes on the main course: My aforementioned Mother cooks the greatest ham in history and I see no reason to mess with that. The stuffing is a Lee family recipe that I would have to get permission off my Granddad (Don Lee) to spill. One of my favourite Christmas memories is watching my Granddad make enough stuffing for everyone. He emerged from the shed with an old baby bath and after giving it a good scrub (I hope) proceeded to throw in lashings of ingredients and had everyone present mixing with their hands. Despite all of this glorious food, my favourite part of the entire meal will be the sausage cooked in the arse of the turkey, wonderful.
Dessert: Ali will be on dessert duty again this year although I may knock up a tiramisu (let’s home my Mother doesn’t drop it again!) depending on how merry I am on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure what she’s making yet but I can’t wait to eat it, Ali is the dessert queen!
Coffee: This year, depending on recipe testing, I will serve a Bicerin after the meal. We had one in Turin in August and I can’t think of a better way to finish a Christmas meal than with coffee, hot chocolate and copious amounts of cream all mixed into one.
Wine: The Prosecco will definitely be on the table for the ladies but I’m thinking that I might go French with the red. A nice Saint-Émilion should go down well with a few bottles of Peroni for the uncultured among us.
Of course all of this could change over the next few weeks but this is where I’m at for now. Can’t wait!