Thursday, 15 December 2011

Happy Christmas

This is just to wish all my readers (not that there's many of you!) a very happy and blessed Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
See you in 2012!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Pausing in Advent to bake

I did some Christmas baking yesterday. Because we're away from next Friday, I'm not doing much, but I'd bought a jar of Robertson's mincemeat from an English bookshop/grocerswhen we were in Pezanas in September, so I at least wanted to make mince pies! I mixed the mincemeat with some more raisins and some peach brandy to make it go a bit further. Despite my good intentions ("I shall tidy up as I go along") the kitchen ended up looking like a bomb had hit it

But I enjoyed listening to my Christmas CDs - A Symphony of Carols, and John Rutter's Christmas carols, seen in the following photo of the tidy kitchen with mince pies:

I also made the dough for my Christmas cookies, but that needs to chill overnight, so I think I'll be baking those tomorrow. I remember how mum used to always have a flurry of baking before Christmas: she was a good cook, and made loads of mince pies, and florentines and, of course, the Christmas cake. However, she wasn't very good at icing the cake, but she had a friend who was. Every year, it would be a special evening when Dorothy and Kathleen came to ice the cake. Dorothy is a relation (second cousin?) of mum's, and Kathleen was her friend who had MS. They worked together, and lived near each other, I think,and Dorothy helped with Kathleen's care, when necessary. Every year they'd come for tea, and then ice the cake beautifully. It was always a sign that Christmas was near! Dorothy is still alive, though in poor health now, but Kathleen died many years ago.

I tried to find a photo of a similar cake to those I remember, but I couldn't. So here's a slice of cake instead!

Mum's Florentines were something else!They were a bit too "adult" for my tastes when I was younger, with dark chocolate, cherries and raisins...I can't find a recipe that looks like mum's though...hers weren't quite the cookie-type things that many of the recipes seem to show, but rather a light, almost meringuey texture of biscuit on top...All I can remember is feeling decadent and grown-up when I stole them (!) out of the tin!

And now, I guess my Christmas Cookies are becoming a bit of a tradition here. I posted the recipe (or rather a link to the recipe) a couple of weeks back. I hope yours turn out well, if you make them. And our other tradition is Mr FatDormouse's Panettone Christmas Pudding. Neither of us like Christmas Pudding, but this is a very popular alternative:

Half a small 500 g Panettone
500 ml milk
250 ml double cream
4 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
125g caster sugar

Cut the panettone into slices about 1 cm thick, and lay them, slightly overlapping, in a shallow ovenproof dish
Whisk together the eggs & sugar, & then add the remaining ingredients.
Pour the mixture over the panettone.
Bake in a preheated oven (200°C/400°F/GM6) for 20 minutes or so.
Serve warm but not piping hot.

Other recipes suggest adding chocolate chips, caramel sauce etc. but frankly I think it's fine as it is. Maybe use a panettone with raisins, if that floats your boat.

We're leaving for the UK on Friday, and I won't have access to a PC, so this is my last Pause In Advent post. I wish all my readers a very happy and blessed Christmas and a peaceful New Year. God bless.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Pause In Advent 2

Here's my second Foody Pause In Advent post. For another view on the Advent season please go to the Teapot.

I'm afraid we've broken into the Christmas chocklits! There is a well known brand of chocolate that is sold all over France during les Fetes de Fin d'Année called Revillon - they make the papillotes which are a poor imitation of British Christmas crackers. But I was delighted to find out that their factory (plus factory shop!)  is in Roanne, a mere 30 km from where I live, and where I teach once a week. I popped in and bought some chocolates to give to people at work, but also a few for ourselves. Unfortunately, yesterday evening, watching Strictly Come Dancing I heard the white-chocolate-and-coconut chocolates calling to me. Oh! What a siren song! Unlike Odysseus, I did not tie myself to the sofa and ignore their song: I hopped up quickly and went to fetch them. They are delicious!

We're going to Mum's for Christmas, and while she doesn't stint on cheese, cakes, wine,biscuits and other delicious things, she doesn't see chocolate as necessary. Mr FD and I do. So I have bought a "Mystery Cone"of Revillon chocklits to take with us to the UK. But who knows if they'll last that long!

I know Christmas is much more than food and delicious gluttony. But, in our home, and at mum's too, often the best conversations shared with friends and family are held over the dregs of the cheese and dessert. It is often then that we reminisce about Dad, about holidays, about friends and family who have died. It is often when we are chatting like this that I feel closest to Mum. I hope that this year we'll have opportunities to create more memories, and to bring to mind cherished thoughts of those we have loved and lost.