Re­lax, don’t overdo it, if you want to have fun...


Devon Life - - Leftovers Recipes -

Writ­ing about food at Christ­mas is a lit­tle like shop­ping for wall­pa­per - end­less vari­a­tions on the same theme, some take your fancy more than oth­ers, the same old thing wrapped up in this year’s must have fash­ion, a “new twist on tra­di­tional style”.

In the end it won’t mat­ter all that much un­til next time you have to choose when the whole thing rolls on again with a mind numb­ing in­evitabil­ity year af­ter year.

Okay, so it’s not ex­actly like choos­ing wall­pa­per, which pre­sum­ably even the most in­te­rior con­scious of us are un­likely to change more then once or twice a decade, but you get my point I am sure. It’s the way we all get so ob­sessed with the one meal – es­sen­tially just a nice roast din­ner – that re­ally irks me, and the way we are all sup­posed to be jolly de­spite the in­evitable tri­als of the sea­son grat­ing on us like un­wanted sand­pa­per in the un­der­pants.

By now you could be get­ting me wrong, I do re­ally rather like Christ­mas. I never used to, mostly be­cause us cooks were mostly at workmthough these days I am lucky in that it is un­likely I will be called to work above and be­yond pre­par­ing a nice roast to share with good friends.

My is­sue is that we seem to get so stressed about it all. So, my three ‘must have’ in­gre­di­ents for De­cem­ber are a lit­tle off the wall – I hope you like them, and I hope you have a lovely De­cem­ber and a very Merry Christ­mas.

Just the right amount of ev­ery­thing… My first in­gre­di­ent for De­cem­ber is thrift. More food is wasted in the UK ev­ery Christ­mas than any other time of the year. This is mostly be­cause we buy too much in the first place. De­spite the rit­ual feast on the big day it­self we are all tempted to treat our­selves to all sorts of lovely lux­u­ries – many of which will end up be­ing un­wanted, un­needed and of­ten wasted.

Think care­fully about what you ac­tu­ally need – re­mem­ber­ing that the largest of shops are un­likely to be closed for more than a dozen hours straight. The best way to look at this is to con­cen­trate your shop­ping for food into get­ting the very best you can even if you buy less – shop lo­cal, buy the best slow grown and skil­fully reared meats and veg­eta­bles. Avoid those much touted trays of soggy pre-made canapés that peo­ple seem to think are the bee’s knees but I have yet to meet any­one who ac­tu­ally has ever had the thought of buy­ing them at any other time of year.

Get cre­ative and fresh with your drinks party nib­bles and ditch the pro­cessed, prepack­aged drea­ri­ness in re­turn for smiles on peo­ple’s faces and a few hours spent en­joy­ing your time in the kitchen pre­par­ing the food.

I, for one, would much rather have a nice plate of good qual­ity lo­cal cheeses and a few nice crack­ers then an end­less pro­ces­sion of limp, non­de­script pink things from a foil packet. En­joy the work, and share the labour, reap the re­wards...

My se­cond foodie es­sen­tial for De­cem­ber is to say yes – when peo­ple ar­rive in the kitchen or in your home and of­fer to help I am de­lighted to im­me­di­ately put them to work.

Some of my fond­est fes­tive sea­son mem­o­ries are of friends and fam­ily get­ting to­gether to serve, eat and en­joy the labours of the kitchen and I think it breeds a sense of com­mu­nity that shines through in the food on of­fer and the clear­ing up seems to take care of it­self with just a tiny bit of di­rec­tion.

De-stress with the best… Lastly, and per­haps most im­por­tantly of all, is my the­ory that if you get stressed so will the food you cook and share. Re­mem­ber…mostly you will be wor­ry­ing about things that do not re­ally mat­ter that much. Do your best to keep things as sim­ple as pos­si­ble – too many dif­fer­ent flavours on any one plate will most likely re­sult in an un­mem­o­rable mish mash of one­ness on the plate.

On the big day it­self limit your­self to just five dishes in the ta­ble – that way you will have less to do and the food will be all the more mem­o­rable for it.

If pos­si­ble get your­self in­vited to some­one else’s house for Christ­mas, ar­rive with half the dishes ready to go and make sure you plan with them in ad­vance so you don’t dou­ble up on any­thing – that way you all take it a lit­tle bit eas­ier and get on with sort­ing out who is go­ing to be the boot in Mo­nop­oly af­ter lunch – which is far more im­por­tant.

Fi­nally – if all that is just so much twaddle and makes lit­tle or no im­pres­sion on you then kale dressed in gar­lic but­ter, slow braised leeks with co­rian­der seeds, olive oil and lemon and a fine slab of crisp and crack­ling free range pork belly would be my ad­vice, with a nice dry cider to take the edge off it all. tim­mad­


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