Our Christmases are small affairs. Just us and the girls, with one or two extra guests for Christmas Lunch, usually people from church who have nowhere to go for the holiday. We spend a leisurely morning with the girls eating breakfast and opening presents, then our guest arrives and we sit down for lunch around 1.30-2 pm. The afternoon and evening are spent relaxing, playing with presents, sipping coffee, having seconds of dessert and watching the Dr Who Christmas Special.
Over the last three years, I have tested a few recipes to perfect a Christmas Day menu that both suits a small party and my French sensibilities and I think I have finally settled it. The key is to make it as tasty and stress-free as possible without losing ground on either.
- Tea, coffee, juice
- Maybe some frozen pastries from Waitrose
I wonder at anyone who can muster the energy and motivation to cook anything for breakfast, even if it’s just scrambled eggs and bacon. If this is you, I am in awe.
I always get everyone to help with these, guest included, because I would otherwise not have time to do it all and it’s a long time to wait for your lunch without something to munch on. Just like Christmas Eve, I think there’s something slightly decadent about eat-as-you-make-them canapés, especially when they are in the form of:
- foie gras and/or mushroom butter on toast
- smoked salmon and cream cheese on toast
- This year, I am also going to make bacon-wrapped dates, which people are raving about despite the fact that they sound weird, so I am just that little bit curious.
- Coquilles St Jacques: scallops served in their shell in a creamy white wine sauce and topped with breadcrumbs and cheese – these are a typical French Christmas starter. I had an intense craving for them last year and found them in Tesco, which is a good thing because I couldn’t bear the thought of making them from scratch.
- Roast duck – I’ve never been a fan of turkey (my parents always cooked a capon), and anyway turkeys are way too big and expensive for us, whereas a duck will feed six and provide the fat for the roast potatoes. I have always done Delia’s super simple Roast Duck with Cherry Sauce (I looked everywhere online and couldn’t find it but it’s both in her How To Cook collection and her Christmas cookbook) and I will carry on until the end of time, it just cannot go wrong.
- Rosemary and garlic roast potatoes, without the chipolatas, although, wow, that sounds good.
- Sticky shallots Brussels sprouts; I add lardons because everything tastes better with lardons.
- Roast carrots and parsnips: I do these from frozen because of my history with burning parsnips; I don’t want to see Badgerman cry at Christmas.
- Pigs in blankets (chipolatas and streaky bacon)
- Stuffing if I can be bothered
- Chocolate, Raspberry and Lychee Yule Log: yule logs are the traditional Christmas dessert. The French recipe is here, but I will be providing a translation very soon, I promise, because no one should be without this recipe. It is so easy to make, very moreish and makes a very acceptable cake for special occasions other than Christmas
- Probably some trifle too, or I will get lynched.
No Christmas pudding or Christmas cake in our house. The British love affair with fruitcake baffles me when there are so many tastier alternatives.
Merry Christmas everyone! I would love to hear what your favourite Christmas food tradition is, especially if it is a bit alternative.