I’m really disorganised when it comes to Christmas. No matter how early I try to start, the presents still aren’t all bought until Christmas Eve. Cards are inevitably left in my handbag from where I didn’t get the addresses until it was too late. Plans to catch up with all my friends never quite come off. And half the parties and get-togethers I dream of attending end up being scratched from the diary. It’s like watching an amateur try to organise the Oscars.
But there’s one aspect of the festive season that I do get organised about. The food (and drink…). No prizes for guessing that it’s my favourite bit of Christmastime. I can do without the presents, the shopping, the Christmas songs (well, maybe not them), but I will not relinquish the fun of planning, cooking and eating Christmas food with my loved ones.
How much planning can there be, you say? Well, a fair bit in our household. So I thought I’d give you a little sneak peek into a few of my favourite bits.
The planning starts months ahead with what to do for Christmas Dinner. We have cooked epic fun meals in the past, but our Christmas Day plans are wholly dependant on whether it falls on a day or night when Mr M will be fighting fires and stuff, so they change from year to year.
Years ago mum and I started going out for Christmas Dinner and since then we’ve done it quite a few times, including last year when we went to the Old Lion at Harborough Magna.
While we had this lovely treat Christmas dinner last year, Mr M was busy at work and actually hasn’t been out on Christmas Day since he was a kid. So this year, since he’s off, we decided to go for it. Cue some serious research and planning to get something booked and ready.
Going out for Christmas Dinner isn’t quite like going out for any other meal. You might not be doing the big family thing, but you still want a jovial festive atmosphere. For me this means not picking anywhere too formal. Plus, of course, picking a menu that I’ll actually enjoy. No dried-out reheated turkey for me please!
You’ll remember a few months ago we went for an impromptu anniversary meal at the Stag at Offchurch. While we were there, it occurred to us that it would be a lovely place to have Christmas Dinner.
That cosy, country feel is so well suited to an afternoon of festive food and family. And the Christmas Day menu looks fab, with a traditional turkey roast as well as tempting Aubrey Allen sirloin of beef with all the trimmings, plus a rather nice sounding St Clements Posset that I’ve got my eye on.
Mince pies & sausage rolls
I’m no Nigella, I think we know that by now. But the one thing I do manage to do each year is make some mince pies and sausage rolls. Why the sausage rolls? I’m not sure, it’s just what I always used to make with my mum when we did the mince pies. And I love them. So there!
When it comes to mince pies, I’m somewhat put to shame by my mother-in-law. You see, Mr M LOVES mince pies, like really, really loves them. He can literally inhale them. So his mum starts her mince pie-making at the start of December so he can get his quota in.
At the time of writing, we’ve already taken two deliveries of 30, of which I’ve had about four. But I managed to snap a few of what was left to show you guys.
Mummy M is away for Christmas meaning Jamie will undoubtedly run out in the days before Christmas Day, so I’ll try to be an adequate mince pie maker and whip up a batch of my own. I tend to use ready roll pastry, which after extensive research I’ve discovered is not just acceptable, but recommended by quite a few chef types since it’s often just as good, plus mega easy. My mince pies will be simple round ones, with some good quality shop mincemeat inside. Not forgetting a bit of egg wash on top to make them nice and golden brown.
I’m afraid sausage rolls are the same story – ready roll pastry again, but the key is in the sausage meat. We get ours from our local butcher Joseph Morris because it’s always nice and meaty and full of flavour. Mmm, making me hungry just thinking about it.
Branagh family Christmas
This one will get a blog post all to itself, don’t you worry. You’ve seen some of the epic Branagh family meals we’ve whipped up before when I get together with my brother. This year, we decided that instead of wasting money on gifts for each other that we don’t need, we’re clubbing together and treating ourselves to some epic food.
I’ve been doing plenty of menu planning and we’re on for lobster for starter, braised beef short rib and bone marrow bread pudding for main, courtesy of a Tom Kerridge recipe. And for pudding, I’m gonna try a souffle for the first time. (Risky, I know, but if you can’t cock up in front of family who can you do it in front of?). Remember that John Torode book I got at his demonstration at Leekes? That’s making an appearance as I try his chocolate souffle with rich chocolate sauce recipe. Watch this space!
Cheese and wine
One of my favourite bits of Christmas. The fact that you can have an endless cheeseboard, to be eaten at any time of day, for any meal, and accompanied by wine or port whenever you like. A few years ago Jamie and I got up late and ended up starting the day (at nearly noon) with cheese and some wine. How decadent!
That’s what I love about Christmas – throwing the rule book out of the window. I’m a bit of a believer in moderation and balance, and try to stick to that for most of the year but at Christmas it’s fun to let rip, eat too much, eat all my favourite things, indulge a bit, and embrace the festive foodie spirit.
What are your favourite foodie parts of Christmas? Tell me, tell me. And whatever they are, have a fabulous foodie Christmas. 🙂