It’s over for another year

Well, that’s Christmas done and dusted, and I spent most of it suffering from a stinking cold. I finished work on Friday 21st and that seemed to be my body’s sign to let being ill take over. I am still not 100% but certainly on the mend.

I did try to eat as normally as I could, but my appetite was affected, and so I didn’t make half as many things as I wanted. In some ways this is a good thing as I managed to lose weight over Christmas (3.5lbs)  – I might be the only person in the UK who managed that feat …

We started our Christmas celebrations on Saturday 22nd with family visiting – the chicken curry turned out perfectly, and it had the added bonus of clearing out my nose for a while through its spiciness (I am weak where spice is concerned!). On the 23rd I was back in the kitchen making bits and pieces to see us through the festivities, including Mary Berry’s yule log, which I absolutely recommend for a relatively light but tasty festive treat. One problem – I was too eager to ice it and the ganache kept running off – it really needs to be almost totally solid to achieve a successful icing – I didn’t even pipe it on. Lucky that a liberal sprinkling of icing sugar hides a multitude of sins. For dinner I made a simple lasagne with garlic bread and salad.

On Monday 23rd we went to Frank Godfrey butchers in the morning to collect our Christmas meat, including the 6kg turkey. I was worried about it fitting in the oven (I don’t know what a 6kg turkey looks like in terms of size) and had decided to make Gordon Ramsay’s turkey which separates the crown from the legs and then legs are stuffed (sorry, but the recipe has now been removed from the BBC website so I cannot link to it). I didn’t bother with stuffing the crown as I am not a massive fan of stuffing birds (and I am never entirely sure which bit is the neck end … especially when the legs have been removed!). The butcher kindly sorted out all the deboning etc, so I could go home and make the chicken liver pate, sausage rolls and cheese straws for our first set of visitors, and english muffins for Christmas day breakfast. I also boiled the ham for the big day (water, star anise, leek heads, onions, peppercorns, carrots all boiled up according to the instructions for the ham).

8 people in the house was frankly too many, but we managed by doing help yourself instead of a sit down meal. The cats were eager for scraps so hovered around all afternoon, and everyone got slightly drunk except me because I was really feeling poorly by that point. Everyone ended up having an early night and we were up by 9am for celebrations of the big day …

After presents and showers I made eggs benedict using my homemade muffins and baked ham. I didn’t bother making my own hollandaise as I like the Maille brand, and I really didn’t fancy the stress of trying to ensure that the hollandaise didn’t split. The muffins are very substantial and meant that we had filled ourselves up until dinner, which I planned for around 3.30pm.

The turkey, now deboned, was only due to take a couple of hours, so I got that in the oven first while I prepped all the veg. Timings for a roast dinner don’t daunt me, and everything ended up coming together perfectly, although I was exhausted by the end, as the menu was actually a lot of effort:

Chicken liver pate with welsh soda bread and red onion marmalade

Turkey, pigs in blankets, stuffing, roast potatoes, creamed leeks, braised red cabbage and gravy

Spiced apples cooked in my new sous vide machine, with cream

Yes, the sous vide machine – a very extravagant present from Andrew which was an amazing surprise. So it is basically an electronic water bath with a separate vacuum pack machine (to suck out the air and heat seal the bags) and the food safe bags. I daren’t think how much it cost, but it will be a real pleasure to get used to my new gadget over the coming months. As there was a recipe for spiced apples in the book, and I had intended to make baked apples for pudding, it seemed a perfect opportunity to test the machine. I used bramley apples which retained their shape and texture perfectly even though they had become completely soft. They tasted very strongly of apple and it was a definite success. The recipe is basically peeled and cored quartered apples mixed with butter, brown sugar, sultanas and spice and cooked at 180 degrees for approximately 2 hours. I recommend.

None of us could manage anything else that day, and we had leftovers on boxing day. By then I was feeling completely rough and off my food, so I just had a few bits and bobs and avoided the majority of the leftovers. Our guests all left on the 27th and Andrew was suffering from the most appalling hangover, so we just had some fish from the freezer with salad as I could not face any more leftovers. I chopped up and bagged up the last of the turkey breast meat and ham with the gravy and froze it for a pie filling in 2013.

On the 28th and 29th we cancelled all visitors and gave me a couple of days to recuperate, so just ended up eating very plain fish / potatoes / veg combinations, which started to settle my stomach. On 30 December our friends arrived from Paris to spend new year with us and I did a ‘Christmas dinner’ for them but with chicken instead of turkey, plus apple and blackberry crumble for pudding. It was the first night I ate properly since the start of the holidays, and it wasn’t the best choice for a restorative meal, but our friends appreciated the chance to have a traditional dinner (especially all meat and veg piled onto one plate – something they are not used to) with crackers as well. I was glad I did it, but already looking forward to a break from rich food at the start of 2013.

However, we had one final night of celebrations for new year – starting with dinner at Namaste Kitchen in Camden (I highly recommend it although the service was a bit frantic as I don’t think they anticipated being so busy) – I had spiced lamb kebab to start (slices of lamb, not what I would call a kebab, but very nicely flavoured), pistachio chicken korma for main (I didn’t see any of the edible silver described in the menu but I can live without that – the sauce had a very nice flavour and pesto-texture, but I must say I do love a normal chicken korma – sweet and flavourful, like some kind of Indian baby food), and tandoori pineapple with coconut ice cream for pudding, which was really delicious. I think it would be interesting to go back there when it is not NYE, as I suspect then the portions will be a little more generous, and the waiters a little more attentive. Our friends loved the place though, and Rachel said her prawns were the best she had ever tasted.

Finally onto a night of Indie clubbing at the Underworld in Camden to see in the New Year. I managed a G&T and decided that I was better off staying off the booze whilst still not feeling 100% so that was it for me. We danced until 3am and got the tube home for free, and collapsed in bed for a long sleep into 2013.

Happy New Year everyone – here’s hoping that 2013 is as great as 2012 was.

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