Article taken from PALS Magazine No. 23 written by Patricia Bruzon
Christmas with a twist
Christmas has always been the busiest time of the year for me. It has been normal to have a full house which meant preparing extra beds, filling the fridge, buying and wrapping presents and writing a vast number of cards to write and, horror of horrors tidying up. Just to add to the fun when I was baking at full speed at the Country Market, the amount of food I prepared was really crazy, but it just happened and we got swept along with it.
Times change; last year I gave up market baking. We had stopped sending Christmas cards some years ago, thinking that the funds spent on postage and cards would be better directed to a good cause, and greetings are sent by email instead, so although friends are not forgotten, we believe it is a win-win situation. In our village we have a communal card and we each contribute £5 towards the chosen charity. For this fee we each write a message in one card which is then printed and distributed via the village magazine, so again no one gets forgotten, but the charity wins.
This year our boys said they did not want any more” stuff” so we agreed no presents all round with the exception of the three grandchildren. What a relief, no traipsing round shops. A quick order on Amazon for the items suggested by the parents and we were sorted.
Our son was in charge of hospitality so we only had to take the turkey (and a pudding left over from last year), and they would do the rest. They had thought of everything including eco friendly crackers and recycled wrapping paper where possible. No bed making, no rushing around trying to tidy up in time for visitors. It was so relaxed.
Thanks to the internet we were able to find out Mass times in the nearest church and directions seemed straightforward. The plan was that we would go to the Mass at nine pm in Corsham not far from where we were staying. We had been offered a lift by the “other granny” who lives near the family. There was just one problem. We set our satnav and followed directions, but every time we reached the destination we found no church. We went up the road and down the road; we stopped dog walkers and asked where there might be a church. We followed vague finger pointing directions but no church to be found. Fortunately we had allowed a lot of time for our supposedly short journey. Eventually we backtracked for a third time and found the church tucked away in darkness behind a large modern building which had eclipsed it completely from the road. Much relief all round. There are compensations for changing our ways and not just listening to our offspring, but letting them get on with it. Christmas Day was a revelation. Everything was done with more simplicity but was just wonderful none the less. I was not allowed to lift a finger, just had to be waited on hand and foot, with time to enjoy the grandchildren. So no cooking, no cards, no presents, just relaxing family, it was truly wonderful. (Though we did cheat and treat ourselves to a weekend away in January, after all we had to relax after the exertions of such a busy Christmas).
The Riverford cookbook is really interesting I would like to share a couple of vegetable recipes which are simple but different.
Prepare any quantity of carrots, by peeling and cutting into chunks at an angle. Place these on a sheet of baking paper large enough to wrap around the ingredients. Add a dash of olive oil (or butter) , some star anise, a cinnamon stick and sliced orange. Wrap up the ingredients, make sure the packet is well sealed along the edges, and place the parcel in a roasting tin into the oven where they will steam in the bag. (About twenty five minutes). They are a delicious accompaniment to any meal. Ring the changes by using garlic and rosemary instead of the above flavours.
How about carrot salad? Cook carrots and whilst still warm pour a dressing made by mixing 3 tablespoons each olive oil and lemon juice, juice ½ orange one tsp each paprika and cumin and crushed garlic ( ¼ to ½ tsp ie one small clove.) Allow to macerate for an hour, top with freshly chopped parsley just before serving. Here is a tip, a recipe which resulted from my experiments in the kitchen. If you make meringues try something completely different add raspberry essence or dried raspberry powder and rose water to the mixture just before you spoon it on to the baking parchment. It will be like eating a giant marshmallow. I dare you to stop at one.