The homemade Christmas cake baton – or wooden spoon – was passed to us back in November from older relatives. Modern recipes had too many exotic ingredients so we made a hybrid recipe with an ingredients list from The Penguin Cookbook by Bee Nilson written in 1952 and a method from Delia Smith. Bee Nilson was, apparently, the ‘go to’ cook for every 1950’s housewife and her recipes never fail.
We have been feeding the Christmas Cake with brandy every two weeks and it looks and smells mighty fine. The royal icing teased into snowy peaks will have a forest scene constructed in cake toppers of our own design. Our last job tonight.
Mince pies have an added twist this year – finely grated homemade marzipan in a little pile on top of the mincemeat before popping in to the oven and we have decided these are definitely the best we have ever tasted. Homemade marzipan is so easy to make and with orange zest added it….well we had to stop ourselves eating a whole block!
Christmas dinner will be turkey with all the trimmings – roast potatoes, honey glazed carrots and parsnips, red cabbage, bread sauce, pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon). This year we havent cheated – everything is homemade – although we have followed the wonderful Mary Berry and her instructions on how to freeze ahead. Pudding will be trifle with sherry soaked sponge and raspberry jam, custard, and whipped cream with glace cherries and toasted almonds.
We have been delighted with ‘Good Things In England’ by Florence White (1932 ) reprinted by Persephone Books. The book ‘containing traditional and regional recipes suited to modern tastes contributed by English men and women between 1399 and 1932‘. What marks out this culinary journey through English food from other similar books is that almost every recipe is – with a bit of baking and cooking knowledge – practical and it is an immensely engaging read too. A book to buy with all those Christmas book tokens!
Christmas tea will be traditional, pork pie and chutney but the bread is my first attempt at using a starter – a poolish – with a mix of rye and wholemeal flours. It’s a French recipe and it comes from a wonderful book by Dan Lepard. If, like us, you love experimenting with your bread making its well worth finding Dan’s books and checking out his website.
Christmas night we will be settled down with the family and sipping the Sloe gin we made back in September. The sloes, you may remember, come from the Sussex hills and also the Welsh forest where we stayed in an isolated cottage. Its been an exceptionally busy Christmas and we started making customer orders and commissions back in August! But with so much lovely feedback from customers, a full tummy of home-made food and a drink which evokes such beautiful memories of special places I’m sure we will be quite content by the time we reach Christmas night.
Illustration: Stork Cookery Service. The Art of Icing. 1951. Illustrator unknown.