For me, Christmas is as much a time for beautiful food and drink as it is for wonderful company.
It’s a time when quality time spent with family and friends is coupled with indulgent, traditional and richly festive foods.
Many of these are firm family favourites linked as much to winter as to Christmas itself.
My top picks have got to be:
- (Boozy) Christmas cake
- (Cold) Christmas pudding
- A roast ham joint
- A leg of Serrano ham
- A constant tin (or plastic pot these days) of Quality Street
- Sprouts and bacon
- Bubble and squeak
- Game birds
- Black pudding and haggis (although these are also year-round staples!)
- Homemade sausage rolls
- Homemade mince pies with aged mince meat (I always make it a year ahead)
- Baileys and whiskey
- Mulled wine
A lot of the sweet treats have one thing in common – bags of fruit and marzipan.
The gorgeous spiced flavours of Christmas cakes and puddings immediately take me back to my glorious childhood Christmases and wonderful times with family and friends.
But stollen and lebkuchen also hold specific, special memories for me.
Having dear friends in Germany (made through a letter in a bottle I threw to sea 25 years ago) these two German treats have become a staple in our house because of this unique friendship.
Today, I decided to try and make stollen for the first time.
It was a labour of love.
It took about four hours from start to finish, and was taken from a recipe by Nigel Slater in his stunning new book – The Christmas Chronicles.
The wait, and the effort, was well worth it. The cakey bit is spongey and spicy and packed with fruit and flaked almonds. The marzipan centre is rich and gooey. Put together it’s a delight.
It has been the perfect tea-time treat tonight and I can guarantee it will not last long.
Here’s to the start of the festive food binge…