I love these languid days between Christmas and the New Year, when we take the leave that we have saved all year. After the riot and bustle of family festivities, the house settles back with a sigh, and we have time to relax together, catching up on reading and long leisurely walks through the countryside.
We celebrated Christmas at home, with our family staying for a long weekend; lovely to fill the house. For a couple of days before they arrived, I spent the first days of my holidays upon handmade gifts, left rather later than intended, and the seasonal whirl of planning, shopping and baking. I sewed a quilted patchwork knitting needle roll and cotton canvas shopping bag for my mum, and a small shoulder bag for my sister from a soft corduroy decorated with lovebirds and lined with purple cotton.
These completed, my attentions turned to the seasonal baking. Shortcrust pastry was mixed and rested, then rolled and cut out, pushed into pie tins and filled with homemade mincemeat. More mincemeat was pressed between layers of oat, spelt flour, butter and sugar and baked before cutting into tasty squares. A Swedish gingerbread recipe was made, rested overnight in the fridge, and cut into reindeer/elk shapes and baked for family and friends.
King of the Hill made the most wonderful Christmas pudding ice cream, which incorporated a basic custard and some of the homemade mincemeat macerated in a sweet sherry, to produce a wonderfully smooth and light ice cream that tasted of Christmas pudding – not to mention rather alcoholic. Our traditional cheese and onion rolls (from a Delia Smith Christmas recipe) which comprise a lovely cheese, onion and breadcrumb filling that oozes from layers of flaky pastry were baked and dispatched.
With all this baking complete, we cooked a traditional Christmas turkey with all the trimmings, including a new stuffing recipe from Jamie Oliver which used pork shoulder, and kept everybody topped up with wine, beer, cheese and an array of pickles and cold meats.
On Boxing Day we walked down into the village, where a few traditional events take place at the ford, culminating in a barbecue provided by the local inn beneath their covered garden, before strolling back up the hill as the light faded.
We hosted a small party for friends a few days after the family had left, mulling more wine, baking more mince pies and cheese rolls, making a sloe gin jelly in a fatless sponge flan case that my mother in law made and showcasing more of the Christmas pudding ice cream.
After so much feasting, it would be easier for us to roll down into the village than walk! I suspect that next week will bring the usual drastic cut in dietary intake to recover from such an excess of richness, but it has all been rather enjoyable. If you want me, I’ll be lying under the Christmas tree poring over Val Bourne’s Colour in The Garden, a gift which is proving to be a very enjoyable read.
Wet and windy weather means that visits to the garden have been fleeting, and mostly in search of kindling or logs, but I did notice today that a few seedlings of Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ that I sowed early last summer have emerged in their pot outside the greenhouse, another lovely burst of promise to come.
I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas, and are enjoying the last days of the year, whether working or relaxing.