Thursday, 24 December 2009

On the 24th day of Advent ...

Burning sugar. Smells lovely, I must say, and takes me back to my half a decade at Fairfield High School for Girls, just outside Manchester, and within a stone's throw of the Robertson's jam factory. You could always tell when they burnt the jam, because you could smell it for miles. And a lovely smell it was.

Well, now I've burnt jam myself for the first time – and it's a godawful mess, but it smells just as glorious as that aroma from my past!

It's almost 5pm, Greenwich Mean Time, now – and I'm incredibly pleased with what I've achieved thus far today. In oh so many ways, I'd have loved to stay in bed this morning, with cups of Lady Grey, Ms Austen to read and the cats – the kittens having now discovered the bedroom and after they're let out of the living room at breakfast (that's their breakfast, at around 8am), the potential for on-bed cuddles with us.

I started the day by bombing up to Broadway Market to collect the Christmas meat from the farmer (who'd come down in his van from the blissfully named Tuddenham St Mary near Bury St Edmunds) and get a few indulgent bits from Stephane at the French deli (including non-French port, which I've never drunk before, but which I fully intent to experience with cheese tomorrow evening).

After that, I crozzled three crumpets, doused them in salty French butter and enjoyed – greatly! And while I was eating, I indulged in a bit of Nigella – damned if I''m not getting to enjoy her shows! Very soothing, if nothing else.

Then it was down to work – and in keeping with Nigella, I put Tony Bennett and Dean Martin on the CD player as I worked.

First up – the stem ginger ice cream. It's a Delia recipe, so easy to follow, although it took time. I'm still churning it by hand every two hours, since I don't have an ice cream maker. Although it's worth pointing out here that, the first time it needed churning, I had rushed to the local corner shop to pick up extra wine for cooking tomorrow, so The Other Half did it. Well done him.

Then I poached a couple of peeled pears in saffron and ginger, and let them cool.

And here's where it went a little bit Pete Tong, as we say in the UK.

I rolled out some puff pastry and used saucers to cut discs, before placing them on a floured baking tray. So far, so good. In fact, it got better, as I thinly sliced the pears and piled the slices onto each round of pasty, then covered then with cling film and popped them in the freezer.

Then it was a question of reducing the syrup. But it seemed determined not to reduce. So I turned the heat up. And then, when I left the kitchen for a mere few moments, it turned into this strange mass off blackened, foamy stuff – like nothing I've ever seen before. But the smell was something I've absolutely smelt before.

Other than that, it's been a brilliant day. I sat down earlier and made out my timetables for tomorrow – or at least a list of cooking timings. Saves me doing it then.

Now, I'm making dinner: duck confit with mashed, roasted garlicky new potatoes and a little broccoli and streaky bacon. Easy, but far from rubbish.

In retrospect, I don't think I've ever been this organised!

But now, it's gone so quiet. It might be a Friday – an ordinary working day – but most people have gone home. And here I am, with The Other Half and Boudi and Otto and Loki ... and it feels a little like a sort of paradise is descending,

A happy – and peaceful – Christmas to you all.

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