Saturday, 12 December 2009

Getting the Christmas cooking under way

The serious business of the season has begun – otherwise known as the cooking!

The meat is all ordered and right now, a pot full of roasted vegetables and beef bones is coming to the end of a four-hour simmer on top of the stove.

At some point this weekend, inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's section in today's Guardian magazine, I'm going to very slowly melt down some very good chocolate and turn it into 'bark' – slabs of chocolate with things added. In this case – and on the basis of what is in the cupboard, it'll be some candied orange peel and some stem ginger. I might also add what Mr F-W suggests for a particularly "adult" version – a little sea salt on top.

There's finally Lebkuchen dough sitting in the fridge as per instructions – and already smelling like Christmas in one bowl, with ginger and other spices and honey and golden syrup and brown sugar all blended with flour.

In between all that, a large pan of leek and potato soup did for lunch – and will do for lunch tomorrow: you can't neglect today's culinary needs just because it's Christmas in under a fortnight!

All in all, the house smells fab. The Other Half put a Christmas playlist on hours ago – crooners galore crooning their way through the sort of classics that help define Christmas. And after I'd taken The Vortex of Terror (Boudicca, like most cats, hates the vacuum cleaner) through the house, we spent a pleasant hour unpacking and arranging the decorations.

It's getting to be a bit of a daft collection. We're running out of room after buying two handmade wooden Father Christmas decorations in Berlin in May and another one (a Santa waiter with an armful of wine corks) from Paris in July. It's a case of Santas, Santas everywhere and not a drop to ... well okay, that's not quite true.

It's been a good day. Since it was my birthday yesterday (an event somewhat less important than the birthday of the baby Jesus), I have been rather more shamefaced than usual about the choice of tonight's meal – Turbigo (that's the French dish of lamb's kidneys and sausages and shallots and mushrooms, in a sherry and stock sauce, served with rice, that I've mentioned before).

We didn't really do anything yesterday: the bar was still quiet after Tuesday's bash, where an Elvis impersonator (Vegas era) went down a storm. So we stayed a while – I tried a 'Lynchburg Lemonade' – The King's favourite drink, apparently – between a few G&SlimlineTs (it was quite pleasant) and then, with a lack of people around (I'd made no effort to tell anyone) we made our way home via my local.

I say "[i]My[/i]" local because it's never really been The Other Half's place. We had a couple of drinks and then The Other Half suggested that we could go home (a short walk), open a bottle of plonk and he would make dinner – which he duly did: a very pleasant potatoes Boulangère with a warmed through pot of cassoulet. And very pleasant it was too (and this on a work bday when he'd got up and made me a cup of tea before I emerged from the pit!).

That, then, was my birthday – or the evening, at any rate. The day had been about getting a publication off to press.

But I woke this morning feeling incredibly bright and full of the pleasure of the season. And that mood continues.

I've even started my Christmas photography project – trying to snap the various Santa decorations I have so that there'll be a picture for December for next year's calendar.

I must say, I feel knackered now – but the Christmas preparations are well underway and I won't feel remotely guilty about enjoying a much lazier day tomorrow!

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