I’m feeling a little flat (not to mention a similar-sounding word that’s shorter by one letter) after the holidays, but it was brilliant fun and I’m consoling myself with the memory of it all, from the planning (love figuring out what we’re going to eat) right through to the feasting.
Best/favourite foods of the holidays? First off: a Pata Negra ham procured by our kids who live in Spain and sent on in advance of their arrival by courier – we all got better at carving it in thin slices as the holidays wore on and the almost-last flakes provided a wonderful tapa at yesterday’s post-walk New Year’s Day lunch in Alsace (on the terrace in bright sunshine and 18 degrees, no kidding).
Soups are always right up there on my faves list, and a concoction of leek, celery and potimarron spiked with ginger and green curry paste and enriched with coconut milk was a big New Year’s hit all round (see Soups for this and other recipes). One evening we tucked into a baked Vacherin Mont d’Or while watching The Italian Job, amid squeals of delight from grandson Marc at the epic car chases – and a few squeaks of delight from us at the pool of molten cheese served with boiled spuds, pickles and (more) ham.
Direct democracy ruled on our Christmas menu and the popular vote went to roast rib of beef, which I did using the low-temperature method – seared in the pan first, then baked to succulent pink perfection in an 80-degree Celsius oven. On my birthday we had a leg of lamb and a side of salmon on the bbq, the salmon cooked à l’unilatérale, skin side downwards till just opaque, plus a Baeckeoffe which had been quietly marinating for a couple of days in Riesling – okay, we were 20 people, it wasn’t just for us…. The lamb leftovers were destined for a New Year’s Shepherd’s Pie, always top of Monty’s request list and good-natured enough to get on by itself while we walked for a couple of hours.
On the dessert front, most-favoured status has to go to my limoncello tiramisu – light, lemony and absurdly quick to make (recipe next time). Amongst the holiday cheeses, standouts included an oozy Reblochon, the aforementioned Mont d’Or and a nutty hunk of 2 year-old Comté, served with loaves of freshly baked seedy bread made with coarsely ground, wheatgerm-speckled flour from the mill in Hirsingue and lots of help from Marc.
Finally I have to admit, slightly shamefacedly, that I don’t need Christmas pudding more than once a year (and even that’s stretching it a bit)…but Yorkshire puddings, now you’re talking! I clean forgot to do them with our roast beef, so made them later to go with our cold leftovers. Here’s the recipe, which is Mum’s – she always did make the best.
YORKSHIRE PUDDINGS (makes 12 billowy puds – I use a non-stick 12-hole muffin tin)
125ml/half a cup mixed milk and cold water
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or melted butter
+ a little more oil or butter for the muffin tin)
- Put the milk, cold water, eggs, flour, salt, pepper and oil or butter in the blender and blend till completely smooth
- Scrape down the sides to gather up any stray blobs of flour and blend again
- Let the batter stand for an hour or so
- Heat the oven to 200 C
- Put a drop or two of oil or melted butter in each hole of the muffin tin and put the tin in the oven for a few minutes to heat it thoroughly
- Remove tin from the oven and divide the batter equally between the 12 holes
- Bake the Yorkshires for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and billowy – resist the temptation to take them out too soon or they will collapse