Of Winter Feasts

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.

Slumbering cats on sofa behind Christmas tree baubles

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.

Handmade knitting needle roll for Mum

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.

Homemade mince piesMincemeat and oat squaresGingerbread elk/moose/reindeer

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.

Christmas tree

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.


14 thoughts on “Of Winter Feasts

  1. I made the mistake of standing on the scales this morning which had a drastic affect on my food shopping trip later!!! I havent heard of that Val Bourne book will be interested to see what you think.

    Hope you have a good 2012

    • Eek. I am avoiding the scales for another week or two, until I have been living on soup for a while :).

      I’ll review the book when I have a chance.

      Happy New Year to you too, hope that 2012 is a good one.

  2. Christmas is always an excuse for lots of baking. I couldn’t find our Christmas Tree cutter anywhere. The reindeer/elk cutter is great fun. And doesn’t homemade mincemeat taste nd smaell better than the shop one. Sounds like the best kind ofChristmas at yours!

    • I love the smell of homemade mincemeat when it comes out of the oven, orange and spice and all things nice! Love baking too, Christmas is the perfect excuse. Happy New Year to you.

    • Yes, lots of value-for-leave this year! It was a lovely Christmas, hope yours was good too, I’m desperately behind on everyone’s blogs, hope to remedy that tomorrow! Happy New Year to you, Mark.

  3. You have fantastic qualities. Wow! Those bags look so lovely – you can easily start a business selling them :-). It would be nice if you please sometime put up your recipe for mincemeat and cookies and bread :-). Thank You. A Very Happy New Year to You.

    • Thank you! I use a Delia Smith recipe for the mincemeat and cheese and onion rolls, which should be available on her website. Happy New Year to you too.

  4. Oooooooh – I do like the look of those gingerbread reindeer. I treated myself to Val Bourne’s book a while ago as a Christmas treat but it is still on the to be read pile. Exciting to see new seedlings emerging in these dark days. May the new year treat you and those that you love kindly and may all that graces your garden flourish xxx

    • I bought the cutter from Hus and Hem and the recipe came with it – I highly recommend both and they have been very popular around here (I halved the recipe and still made many dozens of biscuits).
      I have read VB’s book cover to cover now, and really enjoyed it. do get a thrill from new shoots appearing as seedlings emerge. Thank you for your kind wishes, I hope that you had a lovely holiday and wish you a happy year to come.

  5. Sounds delicious and I love the homemade gifts. I’ve put on 6 pounds in only a few days!!! No doubt it’ll go now I’m back to ‘normal’ eating and was worth every tasty bite.

    Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year.


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