"The splash and effort is made on Christmas Eve, so that on Christmas day we won't cook anything at all"by Wendell Steavenson / December 10, 2015 / Leave a comment
It is that time of year when food columnists think, let’s update tradition. Seduced by the fake-frosted vitrines of fancy delis and traiteurs, everything shiny and red and abundant, glistering, gilded, twinkling with fairy lights. We are blessed with multicultural profusion. Oh look! French marrons glacés and truffle layered brie and Napoleon mandarin liqueur. Italian panettone piled up in their festive dome-shaped boxes, tricolore Christmas tree-shaped pasta, American sugar rush madness: green striped candy canes, red and green marshmallows, maple pecan bacon.
It’s not hard to concoct confections. Off the top of my head, what about: pomegranate molasses in the turkey stuffing, pancetta wrapped dates, curried sausage rolls, parsnip and carrot slaw with poppy seeds instead of roast root vegetables, cranberry relish with lime zest…
Some new ideas are a wild success. Like the time I made roast goose and shredded all the meat, tossed it with cumin and sumac and scattered it with parsley and coriander and pomegranate seeds that gleamed like rubies. It was festive and fresh. One year I made a proper Christmas cake with dried apricots and dried figs and smashed up whole walnuts that had been preserved in syrup so that even the shells were soft and edible. I fed it with whiskey for a month, covered it in homemade apricot jam, walnut marzipan and royal icing and decorated it with snowflake cut-outs and gold leaf. It didn’t last much beyond Boxing Day.
Once I baked a quadruple ginger cake (powdered, preserved in syrup, crystallised and fresh) and wowed everyone by getting them to make their own miraculous five-minute ice-cream to go on top. It’s a trick I learned from Harvard’s Science and Cooking class a couple of years ago. Salt lowers the freezing temperature of ice (which is why it is spread on snow-bound roads to clear them). So if you put a Ziploc bag of ice-cream mix into a larger bag of salt and crushed ice and—with gloved hands—massage the two together, the ice-cream will freeze-churn in a matter of minutes. My favourite Christmas moment was watching my parents helping their grandchildren smoosh a bit of ice-cream magic—everyone equally disbelieving until one after another, they exclaimed, “wow, it’s working!” “Wow, we made ice cream!” “Wow, it’s delicious!
If you like cooking,…