Happy Holidays to my readers. I trust you all had a lovely Christmas and are now spending these betwixt-days raiding your fridges for left-overs – extracting cold cuts of roast turkey and glazed ham, cutting yourselves some thick hunks of bread, spreading a light layer of mayo, then cranberry jelly, then gravy onto them, compiling your sandwich and rounding it off with some pickled onions and kettle chips (despite feeling hideous about yourself and the amount you have already eaten).
Food is the theme of my last post of 2012. Christmas Eve started with a panicked call from my mother who was in a bit of a tizz because Marks & Spencer had sent her THE WRONG VEGETABLES for Christmas Day. No roast potatoes, parsnips, carrot batons or sprouts. Instead, dauphinoise potatoes, creamed spinach, glazed carrots and red cabbage. Holy Lord! Personally, I would have been happy with the accidental veg, given that sprouts are the produce of the devil, but Mum was adamant we get them exchanged. She didn’t want to drive though. “The pick-up area behind M&S is going to be hell on earth…will you please take me, darling?” she asked. I agreed.
The next thing I know, I am in my car in my PJs and a hoodie, with my Mum and 3 massive boxes of uncooked, incorrect Christmas sustenance, on our way into town. I turned the corner and came face-to-face with a gargantuan M&S delivery truck, which was too big for the road it was on, and seemed to be stuck there. The large holdall part of the vehicle was taking up both sides of the road leading to the back of M&S, whilst the connecting bit where the driver sits was twisted around the corner, awkwardly. I am about as patient as Margaret Thatcher (!) so within seconds of seeing this had turned the car down a one-way street, which I thought would help me avoid whatever drama the truck-driver was having. I was wrong to do this, as most other people had had the same idea and there was a back-log of cars all trying to get past this truck as well, which was blocking the one-way street also.
Mum decided to do a run for it with the vegetables and off she went, leaving me in the car, dashing up the pavement with her produce. I called out to her that she should demand the whole order of Christmas food be refunded, plus travel expenses and a case of champagne thrown in for good measure. She flapped her hands at me in a “yeah, yeah” sort of way, and off she went, into the dark depths of M&S, which was populated with insane looking housewives and bitter shop assistants, running around with turkeys on their heads. I was about to Google the phone number for the store and demand them to do something about their insignificantly placed lorry, when the traffic started to move.
Into the pick-up zone I pulled, which was chaos. Women in oversized cars that they can’t control nearly backing over old ladies; middle-aged men in Santa hats, running out of M&S with trolleys, steering with one hand and dragging their child along with the other; distraught-looking shop girls chain-smoking out the back of the shop; people stabbing each other to death with blunt fire pokers because they got the last bag of chestnuts. And it was raining like a bitch.
Mum emerged, with an M&S man and what looked like a complimentary bottle of wine (not good enough – a letter will materialize in the new year) and into the car she got with the new vegetables (which apparently she nearly didn’t get, as they tried to give her back the creamed spinach combo by mistake). I then smashed through the delivery dock, through the store, up the high street and headed home.
So Christmas was saved. And I went home to make the cranberry sauce that I offered to bring the dinner the next day…last year I made yams with marshmallows and pineapple and learned that the British can’t handle such American excellence. My cranberry sauce nearly didn’t happen when I went to Waitrose last thing on Christmas Eve Eve and was told they were out of fresh cranberries. I was on the cusp of getting irate when I realized they had frozen ones, which do work well also. I defrosted mine 24 hours before use. This is my own recipe but was inspired by recipes by Jamie, Delia and Nigel, with added Andrew Ingredients (AIs) for uniqueness. This recipe is big, because I was making it for 16 people with the intention that there would be left-overs for Boxing Day too (which involved 24 people) so for smaller portions I suggest halving or quartering the measurements.
Into a pan, pour 200ml of red wine (of course), a cup of cold water and 4 tablespoons of demerara sugar. You can also use castor sugar or white wine but I think my choices add more to the richness of the sauce. Bring this to the boil. Next add your cranberries, 900g in my recipe. Don’t cut them up first, just throw them in, whole. Add a cup and a half of pomegranate juice (this is the fist AI of the recipe – its another sweet/tart juice to compliment the cranberries). Turn the heat down and let this bubble away nicely and eventually simmer, allowing the liquid and cranberries to merge and thicken.
Pour in a splash of King’s Ginger liquor (AI). As it thickens, grate the zest from an orange and cut into small bits. Remove the remaining skin from the orange and chop up the fleshy inner fruit into small pieces. Throw these into the mix, along with some – not too much – of the zest. Two final AIs to add now – a sprinkling of goji berries. I used dry ones but in retrospect, use fresh ones if you can get them. I’d say a handful of these. Finish off with 2 tablespoons of redcurrent & red onion chutney. This is a bit of a cheat, but it helps the sauce thicken and adds extra red flavour. Make sure this is thoroughly mixed together, and have it on its low heat for about 20 minutes. The cranberries will start to burst, but some will stay whole, which is the look you are going for. Make sure you taste it before finishing – cranberry sauce shouldn’t be too sweet but also can’t be too tart either. When it’s thick, remove from the and either serve hot or put in the fridge for later and serve cold. Garnish with a sprinkling of goji berries and left-over orange zest.
– – A