Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Christmas Essentials

Aoife, Cambridge

I love Christmas. I still go home to Ireland every year and it gives me great comfort that all is as it should be. Even though we don't do Christmas in our own house, The Husband knows to get his head down in late October when I begin my Christmas preparations. Once my Christmas list of power is complete, I start on my Christmas puddings.

I stole my Mum's copy of A Simply Delicious Christmas when I moved to Cambridge. She hasn't come off too badly though, I bring home one of the five puddings I make every year. I am usually a great believer in perfecting recipes but I think Christmas puddings are much too precious to experiment with. I have always followed Darina's recipe (although I am significantly more generous with the whiskey). I also make an alcohol-free pudding by replacing the whiskey with my favourite apple juice. I have to have my favourite eggs from Hawthorn Farm in Cottenham (catch them in Cambridge market on Sunday morning). All of my baking tastes better with their eggs. The one modification I have embraced was the addition of home-made candied peel. This is suprisingly easy and makes a big difference to the taste.

This year I found the most amazing retro ribbon (the donkeys at the top are my favourite) on Ray Stitch. I think it finishes off my puddings perfectly.

I love internet shopping and two suppliers who make it very easy for me to send goodies to my parents home in Ireland are Woodcock Smokery and The Wine Society. Sally Barnes's wild smoked salmon tastes incredible and is outstanding value. I always receive the loveliest emails from her, guaranteed to make me feel Christmassy. I have ordered a side of smoked salmon from her for the last few years and I can't imagine Christmas without it now. The Wine Society are also great value at this time of year. I'm pretty sure they think I am a mad woman, ordering industrial quantities of cava to unpronouncable addresses in Ireland but they do it and it always gets there on time.

The last couple of years I have made home-made treats as presents for friends and colleagues. Usually this is green tomato chutney but as I haven't got around to actually making it this year (they are still in my freezer) I had to try something new. Luckily I too have a "drawer of shame" full of cookie cutters and a shortbread recipe that never fails. I'm ready (just about) for Christmas.

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