and so it was christmas
Can you guess my favourite Christmas song yet? It was the title of last year’s Christmas post, too!
This was my second time away from home and family over the holidays, but I’m amazingly blessed with an ‘extended family’ of sorts who invited me to their house, and a very old friend who came down to visit me in London after Boxing Day. In fact, it’s only now after I’m back in this big (cold) house that I feel lonely at all…! Oh, what a good Christmas it has been…
The story? My dear friend Lallie is one of the (very) few people I’ve kept in touch with post-uni – she’s been my closest friend and housemate for the past four years, and this is the first year we haven’t been living together. Tragedy! So this year, after hearing about my somewhat disastrous situation that prevented me from going back home (will not elaborate), she invited me down to her home in Chichester, West Sussex. I’ve been there many times and the sheer hospitality of her family astounds me (*wipes tear from eye*).
And lucky for me, they really do go all out for Christmas – a big, happy, traditional English Christmas so to say. And boy, was I well fed. Before the festivities we had some marvellous sherries (a gorgeously nutty palo cortado and some crisp fino), and on the 23rd a simple dinner of roasted vegetables with pan-fried sea bass (sadly, no photos).
The real prep began on Christmas eve – we were up bright and early to make pastry for the sausage rolls, followed by some simple Rachel Allen biscuits (with cinnamon and nutmeg) for visiting relatives and a batch of Nigella custard creams. Everyone eagerly anticipated the sausage rolls, which I can say were positively divine. Good pastry (cough!). We also started the prep for a gorgeous chocolate and rum bread and butter pudding – with generous amounts of the stated ingredients…! That was left to chill overnight for the big Christmas day dinner.
Christmas eve dinner was relatively low-key, with roasted pork loin with Granny Smith apples and a cider gravy, served with roasted potatoes. Hats off to the chef!
And then Christmas day was upon us, with much fanfare and ripping open of a serious mountain of presents accompanied by yet more sherry and eating of biscuits. I don’t know how the weather was like elsewhere in the UK, but it was a beautiful day – a big contrast to the somewhat overcast week preceding it!
As the designated kitchen helpers, we busied ourselves prepping yet more things – namely, decorating the mini Christmas puddings (rolling blue food colouring into the royal icing was dreadfully messy…!).
There was also the setting up of the table, complete with a handcrafted ivy-candlestick arrangement courtesy of miss crafty hands herself, Lallie. Amazing what a few handfuls of foliage can do to a few sticks of wax!
The carving of the meat (rolled turkey) was, naturally, left to the man of the household. The dog, Saffy (short for Saffron) looks on with anticipation…
Check out the minimalist plate of obligatory turkey and (perfectly roasted even sans goose fat) potatoes before we all got really gluttonous – or rather I did – and loaded up like a fat boy in an all-you-can-eat buffet joint. The tray next to the jug of bread sauce (had bread sauce for the first time, and now I can see why all of y’all rate it so much!) is the apple, chestnut and pork stuffing. Divine. In place of crackers, we had poppers – the contents of which promptly draped themselves all over the stuffing and settled nicely into the gravy boat post-popping. Ah, festivities…
And so this was Christmas dinner – there’s turkey with bread sauce, cranberry sauce and gravy; roasted potatoes; peas and carrots; creamed parsnip; swede mash; apple, chestnut and pork stuffing; Brussels sprouts (am I in the minority?); broccoli. Now my stomach is quite expansive but after that dinner even I couldn’t face the rich bread and butter pudding waiting for us on the counter… no jokes!
It was the most satisfying Christmas – not only in terms of food and wine, but in company and good spirit. And, now I can say I’ve experienced a truly English Christmas. Hoorah!
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