The first of what I think will be many Christmas posts. So much of what makes Christmas Christmas is food-related, and every family has their own traditions. We liked to have fancy croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast on the day, lunch was poached eggs with hollandaise sauce, and dinner was usually duck or goose (turkey is abominable done badly and presents far too many leftovers problems.) The nibblies that surrounded these meals were however just as important and included nuts in the shell, biscuits from a tin and Christmas cake - the sort that keeps until February.
Since my father's fiancé N moved in however we have developed a slightly different 'feel' to our Christmas, with different food reflecting the changes and additions to the family. N brought the idea of Pepparkakor to the household, as she had sampled them when visiting friends from Sweden. They're a little like gingerbread biscuits, but incorporate other spices and flavours as well as being a bit crunchier than English gingerbread. With a hole in the top for a ribbon and cut into decorative shapes they can be hung on the tree.
I tend not to do the same Christmas cake as my mother used to (and I presume still does) any more, because living with Dad who doesn't like the icing makes it a bit of a chore to eat all by myself. Instead I have substituted Nigella Lawson's Certosino recipe, which I seem to remember she admits to stealing from an Italian friend. I will therefore reproduce it here later at an appropriate moment; it contains spices and dried fruit so is perfectly seasonal.
You Will Need: Large bowl, small bowl, wooden spoon, coffee cup (to measure; about the size of an American 'cup'), happy-shaped biscuit cutters, baking tray and greaseproof paper, cling-film, dinner knife, fork, teaspoon, tablespoon, grater, thin ribbon if using
8 ounces unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 tablespoonful maple syrup
3 1/2 cups plain flour