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Christmas Cracker Day 2015
Christmas Crackers
Christmas Cracker

Another traditional family Christmas with all the trimmings for just the two of us - my brother and I.
And no, there's really nothing remotely sad about a couple of aging geezers spending Christmas alone together Rachel. Nothing at all.
Kurt's extended non-family came over to visit on Boxing day as usual when they got to eat our many leftovers, which is all for the best - Christmas Day is just wasted on the young.
Especially the starters.

I'd had a practice run at making Smoked Salmon and Avocado Terrines for a cosy yachty get-together at Anna's (of Corryvreckan fame) at which they were well received, and then another go (mostly using the leftovers) for Flora's crack at Christmas when she practiced roasting her seasonal guinea fowl.

I also tried out a new stuffing recipe there, which somewhat unexpectedly, turned out to be the perfect Christmas Goose stuffing. Who'd have thought after all those years of trying various increasingly exotic stuffing recipes, the perfect stuffing would be one of the simplest? Starting with a traditional Irish potato recipe pacé Darina Allen of the Ballymaloe Cookery School I eschewed bread completely, substituted leeks for the more common onion, tried then abandoned including the orange peel for adding a bit too much flavour, larded it with a slice of bacon, liquored her up with a splash of Grand Marnier et voilà, the perfect Sourville Family Christmas Stuffing.
For best results, scoop the perfect stuffing out of the perfectly cooked goose and bake it in a dish to crisp up while the bird rests.

What with all that practicing, I had the stuffing, er stuffed, and those starters whipped up and in the fridge so early Christmas Eve we actually had time on our hands. Unheard of! So we slipped out for Krampus: a traditional Christmas horror movie to put us in the mood.

This year I made extra, extra bacon - curing three kilo hunks and this time it probably was enough. On the other hand I really made an effort to cut down on the cheeses, intending only to buy those in which Kurt might take an interest, and some blue cheese for me. How I ended up with quite so much goat (English for chevre), is hard to say. Nor does it explain why we ate not one single bite of Christmas cheese. Not even the Gorgonzola. We didn't manage any Christmas cake either. Are these facts related and could either be a result of having too much bacon?

My Christmas cheeseboard for 2015, and a surprisingly large amount of 2016: Thank goodness then for tartiflette - that magnificent user-upper of leftover Christmas cheese. In the spirit of the season here's a recipe from the back of a postcard Flora sent me from her latest and much later - apologies timeline purists ;) skiing holiday in Serre Chevalier:
La Tartiflette
Pour 6 personnes: 1 kg de pommes de terre cuites coupées en tranches épaisses, 1 Reblochon, 20 cl de crème fraîche, sel, poivre, thym, laurier, 1 oignon, 1 gousse d'ail, 150g de lardons en dés.
potatoes, Reblochon, crème fraîche, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves, onion, garlic, bacon Gratter la croûte du reblochon et la couper en lamelles. Faire revenir dans une sauteuse l'oignon et l'ail émincés ainsi que les lardons, le sel, poivre, thym, laurier. Disposer le tout dans un plat allant au four en alternant avec les pommes de terre et le reblochon. Cuire au four chaud 25 mn. Ajouter la crème fraîche 10 mn avant la fin de cuisson. Servir avec une salade vert, de la charcuterie de montagne et un bon vin blanc.


So Kurt and I shared our regular 10lb goose, which if I'm honest I slightly undercooked this year. Oh it passed the safe-temperature test, but the flesh was too pink and a tiny bit chewy. I should have done the proper thing and pierced the bird between the body and thigh to examine the clarity of its juices. Bah Humbug to these new-fangled kitchen aids. Still, as ever, no-one got poisoned.

As usual we split the baking - I filled this year's mince pies with a homemeade but not-quite-traditional suet mincemeat, and had a go at Lemon Slices - another of Be·Ro's Christmas baking recipes that turned out not to be one of those Mum used to make :(
I even went to the trouble of making real lemon curd (it ain't that hard) to dress them with.
At least that turned out right.

I made the mistake of leaving Kurt in charge of preparing the potatoes for roasting, who conclusively demonstrated that you really can't overboil them. Despite simmering the absolute shit out of those spuds, until they were on the point of disintegrating, they went on to make the best roast potatoes we've ever had! On the other hand, it turns out that you can't use squeezed together bits of collapsed potatoes to construct your roasties - they just dissolve into a greasy mush.

The things we learned this year: A very merry Krampus to one and all!


Suet Mincemeat
ingredient dessert meat
Just because you put suet in your mincemeat doesn't make it traditional. As any avid followers of this site will know traditional mincemeat has, well, meat in it.

Anyhoo, this is at least more traditional than opening a jar. The exact contents and quantities don't really matter much. Add enough juice to get a sloppy but not soupy consistency before the cooking stage. If you like you can substitute butter for the suet. Particularly if you're feeding vegetarians. Though how would they know?

Ingredients
Method
Thoroughly mix together all the ingredients in an ovenproof bowl, except for the brandy.
Cover with a cloth and leave in a cool place overnight to give the flavours a chance to meld.
If you're not in a hurry!
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark ¼, 225°F (110°C), loosely cover the bowl with foil, and bake for 3 hours. The suet should have melted so the bowl is now swimming in fat.
Alternatively you can gently heat it on the stovetop until the suet melts.
Stir the mincemeat from time to time as it cools so the fat will coagulate around the other ingredients.
When the mincemeat has cooled, add the brandy and stir well again.

Pack into sterile jars, cover with waxed discs and seal. The mincemeat will now keep for years in a cool, dark cupboard.
Years
Good mincemeat.
Apparently it's best to let it stand for a couple of weeks before using, but really, who has the time?

Lemon Curd
jam veg
You'll find a number of minor variations on traditional lemon curd recipes.
This one from Nigel Slater replaces one of the more usual whole eggs with just the yolk. I found his curd a little tart, so you might reduce the number of lemons (or increase the amount of sugar).
Here's another, which claiming to be consequently smoother and richer, substitutes five yolks for the 4 whole eggs.
Delia Smith offers a bizarre recipe thickened with cornflour.
I used to respect the damn woman. What on earth happened?

Makes 2 small jam jars

Ingredients
Method
Put the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter, cut into cubes, into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the basin doesn't touch the water. Stir with a whisk from time to time until the butter has melted.

Mix the eggs and egg yolk lightly with a fork, then stir into the lemon mixture. Let the curd cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes, until it is thick and custard-like. It should feel heavy on the whisk.

Remove from the heat and stir occasionally as it cools. Pour into spotlessly clean jars and seal. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.
Quite excellent stuff.
The quantities are not particularly critical.

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