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