Many years ago, during the famous Band Aid concert to raise funds for Africans dying of starvation, there was a popular song with the refrain "Do they know it's Christmas time at all?" Of course not, most of them are bloody Muslims, was the comment of a cynical English friend.
Since we're flying to NZ late on the afternoon of Christmas Day, I was going to ignore Christmas, a cultural rather than a religious celebration for us here at Ridge House. But then that seemed so mean-spirited (and lazy), so I put out a few token decorations a week ago, and today, with our Christmas CD playing full blast, I started cooking for Christmas Eve dinner and lunch on 26th.
Before this, I'd bought a Chinese roast duck, full of flavour and sold with a sauce made from the liver and another little plastic bag containing mixture of Chinese sauces. Add a liberal splash of Cointreau or Caracao, some orange juice, reheat the duck et voila: Canard a l'Orange Chinois. The cold left-overs will be wrapped in rice paper with hoi sin sauce and cucumber for lunch before we leave for the airport on Christmas Day.
Braised red cabbage has been a family tradition since my children were babies. The special flavour and melting smoothness of my version comes from sautéing the red onion and cabbage in goose or duck fat, or better still, fat from a tin of foie gras. The sautéed cabbage is then simmered ever so slowly with a splash of balsamic vinegar, a tiny bit of water, salt and black pepper. After about 1 1/2 hours and a few more splashes of water , add a spoonful or two of guava (or red currant) jelly. Taste and adjust so it's slightly more sweet than sour. My Norwegian friend, Tova, adds a red apple and Ribena — probably works just as well.
For Christmas morning, we'll be having a Pannetone, that wonderful brioche-like Italian bread. It's rich in eggs and butter, with golden raisins and home-made candied orange peel. Plus, of course, lemon and orange zest and orange essence. My still-warm loaf smells divine. Perhaps we won't wait until Christmas morning after all.
Christmas will truly be with us, however, only when we meet up with Tiffany, Andrew, my gorgeous grandchildren and James for a holiday in NZ's Marlborough Sounds. It will be four days after the official Christmas Day, but sharing Christmas or any festival (even belatedly) with those you love is what it's all about. Non?
This blog will resume mid-January, no doubt with an overload of NZ photos and stories. Merry Christmas one and all!