Thursday, 3 December 2015

Guest Post: Carmel Harrington on Christmas cooking






Food and the Holidays: A Match Made in Heaven



Is it just me, or do all of us go on a mad pre-Christmas diet? I try to have a lean early December, because I know once Christmas week comes in, all restraint on my behalf goes out the window! Between the mince pies, sausage rolls, chocolates and snacks that are always on the go, I know that I am guaranteed to over indulge quite a lot. And I make no apology for that. Good food is wrapped up into the festive holiday for me. Not just because of how good it tastes, but I also love the ceremony that goes with Christmas dinner. The best silverware, crystal and cutlery. Napkins, real ones too! Candles on the table and crackers beside each plate. My children love to make handmade name cards, that are so sweet.

It’s sensory overload as we all watch all of the Christmas adverts that show tantalising dishes, desserts and festive treats isn’t it? Already, my tastebuds are alive, in anticipation of the delights that we will treat ourselves to.

Planning is already under way in our house as to what we’ll cook. My husband always takes care of breakfast on Christmas morning. He does this wonderful baked eggs, with parma ham and hollandaise sauce, that is simply divine. We like to try something different each year for our starter. This year, a strong contender is Pear, Date and Walnut salad with a creamy stilton cheese sauce. It’s extremely easy to prepare and not too heavy. We will also do some bruschetta for the children, as they have not quite come round to the idea of salad yet!

We are very much traditionalists in our house for the main course. We’ll have a turkey, with two stuffings, plus a baked ham. Our side dishes include my now famous mashed potato - just add a couple of parsnips to the potatoes, then mash with cream, butter and a little salt. It is divine. We’ll have peas and roast vegetables caramelised with maple syrup. Brussel sprouts for my husband and sticky spiced red cabbage for me. I make my own cranberry sauce and bread sauce to accompany the dishes, plus a rich port gravy.

For dessert, it’s the ultimate double act of the sherry trifle and Christmas pudding. The pudding is my mother’s recipe and is rich and dark and wonderful. In fact, this Christmas pudding is the very one that Tess makes with Belle in Every Time A Bell Rings. And as a little bonus, we’ve shared this recipe at the end of the book for you.



Once our three courses have been digested, it’s time to loosen our belts and sit down in front of a roaring fire, whilst watching a Christmas movie. Isn’t it funny though, that despite saying five minutes earlier that I’ll never be able to eat again, I’ll find myself reaching inside the Roses tin for a little chocolate treat! Do you do that too?

And of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas Day if later that night a turkey sandwich wasn’t indulged in. Crusty white bread, turkey, stuffing and a dollop of mayonnaise. Maybe a handful of tayto crisps on the side.

We always go to my parents house on St Stephens Day for a leftover feast. Nobody does a smorgasbord of salads, cold meats and crusty breads better than my mammy.

How many days till Christmas? The countdown is on!
Happy Christmas everyone,
Carmel x






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