Well, we have had a fantastic Chrstmas - including dinner at the in-laws (my mum-in-law's parsnip gratin is a real favourite of mine - the sweetness of the parsnip and sharpness of the parmesan is a perfect partnership) and Christmas Day at my Mum and Dad's with my Mum's amazing cooking. My Mum is my main inspiration when it comes to cooking. The food itself is very important (and always really good) but also important is the idea that food is also about family and friendship and the social side of things. It is not often we are all together and sharing the traditions we have had for many years, including the food my Mum makes, is very special to me. And despite a house in turmoil due to work getting done on the heating, and my poor Mum having tendonitis, there was still the home made Christmas pudding and cake and all the elements that make up a McCall family Christmas dinner.
And that brings me to 'our Christmas'. Over the years Andy and I have created our own Christmas with a merging and molding of our two Christmas family heritages. So the food reflects both sets of parents and we have crackers and a tree. But we also have our own touches. We always have a Christmas walk once the turkey is in and we have the same wine each year.It's Faustina V Reserva and is around £10-15 and you can get in Tesco. I am sure that wine afficionados will have their view as to whether it is 'good' or 'bad' but we like it and enjoy it.
We also like to just let the day run as it develops, so we get up when we feel like it and laze through the day. And we always take a pic each year of us enjoying our meal.
This year we weren't having Christmas day at home, so we designated Monday 22nd December the Judson Christmas Day. And it is amazing that just by deciding that would be Christmas how Christmassy it felt - as we sat down to dinner I had forgotten it wasn't actually Christmas.
My favourite thing about Christmas is having time to cook dishes that have such a history and emotive effect on people and sharing a meal with the people who know and love you best. Certainly each Christmas dinner this year made me feel very lucky that, despite the no-doubt tricky year ahead, I have the best thing of all - an amazing husband and family who really know tha value of a meal shared and enjoyed!
My wee sister Alice and I decided to treat ourselves to Christmas lunch in Dundee before we set off for the Christmas hols. We saw the menu at Chambers Coffee Shop in South Tay Street, a regular haunt, and it sounded really good and also good value for money in these credit crunch times.
We pitched up on Saturday lunchtime and it turned out we were the only ones having the Christmas menue. Having been in during the week when the place was packed with Christmas revellers I can only guess this is because all the work lunches were pretty much finished and didn't occur much on a Saturday! So we had a table for two that stood out with its fancy napkins and Christmas crackers which made us feel quite special!
We went for two courses, so that we could fit in pudding and not over indulge on the starter and also because with an afternoon of shopping planned three courses could have led to us falling asleep in a sated stupor.
Often Christmas lunches resemble school dinners and have little flair. Well, for a small coffee shop we were very impressed by our turkey lunch. It was a rolled turkey breast with stuffing and wrapped in bacon and the meat was very tender. The turkey certainly wasn't dry like you might suspect. The veggies were also good - cooked well and none of the soggy 'sitting in food warmers' effect I have often experienced.
The puddings were worth sacrificing the starters for.My profiteroles were a heady mix of cream, chocolate and light pastry and were much better quality than I have had in eateries professing themselves to be upmarket. Alice had an apple pie with ice cream and looked very happy with her choice.
The staff are also a strong point - being attentive but without you feeling rushed and you get the feeling they really do care that you have a good experience.
So our shopping was well fuelled and I don't think there will be any argument as to where we will be having next years Christmas lunch!
Me and my pal Mac went to Iris in Thistle Street, Edinburgh and it was really good. He has already posted about it so I feel bad I haven't caught up yet. We sat on the table in the window on the left.
Iris is new and trendy and we had the whole place to ourselves to begin with - well, it was monday night at 6.30pm. The owner was very friendly though and attentive - and so it didn't feel like we were standing out like a sore thumb.
I had prawns in coriander and garlic and it was amazing. The only downside was that really a chunk of fresh bread would have been excellent to dip in the dressing as it was taste bud tingling good but prawns don't really soak it up. I then had the most succulent and meaty monkfish cooked in red wine. Monkfish to me is the lighter version of steak.It is meaty and requires use of the gnashers but it doesn't make you feel heavy in the stomach and you can be smug that you are eating healthy fish!
Mac had a goat's cheese bruchette to start followed by duck and, because being Scottish no meal no matter how smart is complete without some, chips! Well, posh garlic french fries that I have to say were the best I have ever tasted and I thought Mac was going to keel over with fried carb joy.
One tasty item not on the menu was the rather dashing owner/head waiter type who Mac certainly had his eye on for dessert...
So I would definitely go back to Iris - and really enjoyed my meal and catching up with Mac who is one of my favourite people to go to dinner with.
One of my favourite recipe books is the Moro restaurant cook book. Sam and Sam Clark (yes, they are both Sam's!) restaurant in London produces the cuisine of Spain, North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean following the saffron-cinnamon connection in our rather greyer and chillier climes. The robust style of Spanish cooking balances the lighter, more exotic dishes of the Muslim Mediterranean and creates a food experience that is exotic and charming to the palate.
Last weekend I was cooking for veggie friends, one of whom doesn't eat cheese or mushrooms or spinach - so out the window went my veggie mainstay of spinach and ricotta lasagne. Which was a good thing because veggie food is really interesting and just as flavoursome as the carnivorous variety - but for some reason it seems socially acceptable to be lazy about veggie food - and it inspired me to take a look through my Moro cookbook and dig out a new recipe to try.
I found an excellent dish called Turlu Turlu - great name - and the recipe is below with my variations from the original. I have substituted parsnips for turnip and extra peppers and potatoe for courgettes (I found the courgettes at this time of year to be just to insipid and Andy is not a fan of the turnip). The idea is that the veggies are large and chunky - not small wee bits - for both flavour and because you want them to retain their shape through the roasting and sauce process.
2 aubergines - halved then halved again, put in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 20 mins or while you are chopping rest of veggies then rinse under cold water (stops them getting to soggy) 3 parsnips - peeled, halved then halved again 3 carrots - as above 3 green peppers - de-seeded and cut into chunky slices 4 medium potatoes cut into 2cm cubes - I leave the skins on Clove of garlic roughly chopped/crushed 1 medium white onion roughly chopped A handful of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley A handful of roughly chopped coriander A teaspoonful of coriander seeds Can of chickpeas, cooked and drained A bottle of passata A teaspoon of allspice Several glugs of olive oil Rocket and cherry tomatoes
Take the aubergines, potatoes, parsnips, carrots and peppers and put in a large bowl. I sometimes need to use two bowls. Then sprinkle with the chopped garlic, onion and allspice. Glug in some olive oil, enough to coat the veggies. Mix it all up well.
Split between two or three roasting tins. You want an even one layer so they roast evenly and without steaming. Put in a hot oven and roast for 45 mins turning every 15 mins.
Cook the chickpeas then drain. Put chickpeas back in teh pan and add the passata. You want enough that it will coat the veggies but not to make it soupy. It is quite a dry stew you are going for.
When the veggies are done, add the chickpeas and passata and give it a good but gentle mix (don't want to mush up the veggies).
Serve with crusty bread and a light rocket and tomatoe salad.