Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Newly arrived in France last year, I was frankly a bit sniffy about the way that Rural France celebrates Christmas. I remember being so excited at going to my first Christmas market, then, once I got there, I looked around in horror. Was this it? Where were the chi chi artisan stalls, where was the smell of mulled wine, the hand knitted mohair sheep, the fuscia ostrich leather gloves?? Instead, I stood, reduced to silence, as I watched a group of Line Dancers shuffle and turn, plastic reindeer antlers sliding off their heads. We dutifully walked along the stalls, but I remember just feeling sad and numb. I should explain that we have lived in Bath for a very long time and what I experienced at that first fair was a total and utter culture shock.
Scroll forwards a year and I am so content here that I love it all and can see Christmas all around me! Instead of a panicky rush to tick things off the to do list, here it’s a gentle run up to Christmas and there is a group awareness of the approach of a great season of joy and feasting. I’m particularly fond of the way that all the supermarkets stack their entrances with boxes and boxes of chocolate! Whats not to like! Chocolate snail shells seem to be a thing, coming in all sorts of flavours and you can buy bags of choccies that come with mottos and bangers! Ok, all the mottos are in French, but I’m sure I’ll be able to work out the gist of what they are saying, this year. I can measure my progress in France in chocolate!
I don’t remember feeling that I couldn’t get everything I needed for Christmas dinner last year…apart from…Parsnips! In France, I’ve been told that parsnips are seen as animal feed. The specimens I found last year were mangy, to put it mildly. This year, I have already scored my parsnips and am planning to glaze them with butter and brown sugar and roast them ahead of time and freeze them for the big day. I’m still eeking out my packets of vegetable suet. I’ve yet to find anywhere that stocks it. I was asked to make mince pies for our local village Christmas fair and forgot for a moment that I was in France and that finding a jar of mincemeat is like finding the holy grail. I thought for a moment that I would simply be able to pop to my local supermarket and pick up some jars. Honestly, I’m so fluffy at times! Instead, I simply put on my apron, got out my cookbooks and made a mincemeat that is so delicious and easy to make that I will never buy it again. I might have accidentally tipped in a bit more Armagnac than the recipe suggested, but, hey, its Christmastime! Here is the recipe I used: www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/quick-mix-mincemeat
I’m thinking next year I might experiment and use plums instead of apples and maybe add chilli flakes and pink pepper corns? I decided that the mincemeat experience is a good metaphor for moving here to France. You need to adapt, become adept at making things you need yourself and enjoy the thrill of creating something delicious yourself!
I am trying out a new recipe for our main course for Christmas Dinner this year and thought you might like to try it too? You could let me know how yours turned out, maybe? Top tip, you can order Vital Wheat Gluten from Amazon. This recipe is from Gaz Oakley: www.saga.co.uk.magazine/food/recipes/christmas/vegan-wellington-gaz-oakley
I like the look of his new cookbook too: www.amazon.com/vegan-Christmas-amazing-recipes-festive/dp/1787132676 and it will certainly appear on my Christmas wish list, along with this cookbook. www.waterstones.com/book/the-green-roasting-tin/rukmini-iyer/9781910931899. Pure genius, it’s a cookbook where you just chuck everything in a baking tray and bung it in the oven.
I know its traditional to have heavy stodgy puds at Christmas, but frankly, noone in my family likes all the fruit and darkness. This year, I am going to make this dessert, which never fails to please. I will be turning to my current favourite cookbook Fresh India by Meera Sodha and the recipe is so easy. http://thetaste.ie/wp/bengal-baked-curd-with-tamarind-berries-recipe-from-fresh-india-cookbook
I think I might substitute the tamarind topping with caramelised clementines and a splash of Aperol, just to give it the wow factor. Don’t forget a puff of edible gold glitter too!
I promised you a cocktail recipe too. I think you might like this; it has all the elements of a Christmas showstopper in edible form! www.wearesovegan.com/lime-jello-shots. These are so satisfying to make and really look most impressive!
I hope these recipes have inspired you! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and don’t forget to look at my other blogs on www.thelocalbuzzmag.com