Hands up, I don’t like Christmas Cake. I don’t apologise. It seems forced, overly fruity, almond pasted, icing sugared overload. It’s not for me. I am partial to a slice of Dundee cake. The problem with that, of course, is that it doesn’t always come up to what you Christmas cake fiends demand. So there is something to find in the middle. I think this is it – it has the fruit, and some alcoholic richness; but it pushes back the icing for a glaze and blanched almonds (so much better than the paste). It being Christmas time, the cake is fed – with the tipple of your choice – so that it keeps moist and tastes wonderful with a great glassful of sherry. Nuts, fruit, eggs, alcohol, and in this cake a little mixed spice and cinnamon (hence not so traditional). Don’t complain, it’s not Dundee cake, I know, it’s a Dundee Christmas Cake.
So sometimes something cold, even at this time of year, can be very rewarding. A dish that has about it something of the Mediterranean with the couscous, dill, olive oil and lemon mix – but that smell and flavour of chunks of smoked salmon just scream out more a summer time plate. I love this, it easily feeds two very well or four with a few side dishes. You can mix it up – add cucumber, other peppers, pitta bread even – but really you don’t need much on the side, this dish pretty much does it all.
The thing about Christmas lunch is that you want it to look special, but it helps if the appetizer isn’t overly filling or a pain to make. This one hits on both counts. First you make it in advance, and just take it from the fridge and put it onto the plate before serving. Second, the light crab flavour, with the coriander hit smoothed by that silky avocado mix is a magical start to Christmas lunch. This can feed six, personally I prefer this for four and get a bit more out of it. Some wholemeal toast on the side, with butter in the dish add to the delight of it all.
The thing about parties, at least in my house, is that they are just not the same without a plate of sausage rolls. Warm or cold, these little morsels of meat and pastry delights are the first thing I aim for on the buffet table, and the last thing I want to leave. One problem is that the shop-bought ones can be mean and nasty – an insult to the beauty that is this party treat. The alternative, mixing this and butter flaking pastry that, can be daunting and I am more than happy to cook something that has the homemade flavour without the chef effort. So here it is, the homemade cheat’s sausage roll.
This is a blog about what we eat at home. Starters, mains, sauces, side dishes, cocktails and links to local shops. It’s all here. Food is fun, it should be fun to make and fun to eat. For some people making a meal is a chore. If it is then don’t do it; but please, it’s better to eat something, anything, that you make at home from scratch, because prepared, packaged supermarket dinners and food have about as much flavour as the plastic or cardboard package they come in. Food cultivation and husbandry is not just a moral argument. Eggs that don’t come from battery hens do taste better, cattle properly reared have more flavour – and just think about it: at its most simple, if they’re not being pumped full of chemicals then you’re not being pumped full of chemicals. How good is that? If you can buy local, use your neighbourhood shops, you will miss them when they are gone. Most of all, have fun making a meal of it! Oh, and why at zero degrees? Because that’s where we live – in Greenwich, London.