Cape Town food writer and pub­lisher Nicky Stubbs cel­e­brates Christ­mas with tra­di­tions handed down through gen­er­a­tions

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Nicky Stubbs’ SA-style Christ­mas lunch

Cen­tral to Nicky Stubbs’s Christ­mas feast is what her fam­ily call the ‘snow­ball’ – a white furry, round, cloth­cov­ered con­tainer held by bright rib­bons and filled with gifts for each guest. The idea, passed down from her late mother, Diana, is just one of the tra­di­tions that make Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions spe­cial for Nicky.

Nicky’s cook­book, For Fam­ily & Friends, re­cently pub­lished by NB Pub­lish­ers, is a tribute to grand­par­ents, par­ents, aunts, un­cles, cousins and friends who have nur­tured her love and knowl­edge of food.

“I re­ally started the book in recog­ni­tion of my late par­ents whom I was miss­ing dread­fully,” she ex­plains. She re­lates the story of her fa­ther’s ob­ses­sive search in Paris for the per­fect onion soup, mem­o­ries of Un­cle Pete, a dab hand at Sun­day lunches, who stirred his coq au vin with one hand, a gin and tonic in the other. She de­scribes a friend’s rec­ol­lec­tion of lemon curd that led to the dis­cov­ery of a recipe that pro­duced the en­vis­aged re­sult.

The book ref lects Nicky’s Christ­mas feasts which in­volve get­ting to­gether to en­joy sim­ple, clas­sic dishes. “I was born into a farm­ing fam­ily in East Gri­qua­land,” she says. “Food was nour­ish­ment, it wasn’t bragged about, or some­thing to show off with, it was sim­ply the rea­son for meet­ing.” This un­com­pli­cated phi­los­o­phy trans­lates into the food she loves to cook – sim­ple and whole­some.

Nicky’s Christ­mas lunch in the pretty Vic­to­rian home of friends Vicky Mayer and John But­ler in New­lands is a scrump­tious af­fair. The ta­ble, nos­tal­gic in red and dec­o­rated by Vicky’s daugh­ter Jes­sica But­ler, has a vaguely French feel, but with a lo­cal twist.

Guests in­clude Bev Ry­croft, win­ner of the In­grid Jonker prize for po­etry, Nicky’s nephew Ben, and sis­ter Philippa Hether­ing­ton, who is study­ing pho­tog­ra­phy in New York, Nicky’s chil­dren Sophia and Tom and close friend Aphiwe Skoti. The lunch prepa­ra­tion in Vicky’s spa­cious kitchen is a shared af­fair with plenty of space around the cen­tral is­land for ev­ery­one to chop, peel and dice, fol­lowed by chilled bub­bly served un­der bunting in the court­yard.

“I think that we should adapt our food to suit the cli­mate,” says Nicky, “which is why I like to make paella rather than a hot roast, and although I love tra­di­tional Christ­mas pud, an ice cream bombe is a bet­ter crowd pleaser on a hot day.”

Nicky Stubbs

John But­ler, Vicky Mayer, Nicky Stubbs, Sophia van der Schi­jff, Philippa Hether­ing­ton, Jes­sica But­ler, Tom van der Schi­jff, Ben Ry­croft, Bev Ry­croft and Aphiwe Skoti

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