Christmas for me is about making time to get together with family and friends and celebrating how much we value having them in our lives. When I was little it was all about presents, although we were never as focussed on that as many families I knew. Usually just one or 2 special items and a couple of fillers. I remember fondly the Christmas day gatherings of my family and my country cousins if they happened to be visiting for the season. I remember when sixpences were put in the pudding and there was a competition to see who accumulated the most value. I remember cherry spitting competitions and dangling pairs of cherries on your ears as earrings. I remember water fights and running under the sprinkler if it was hot. I remember mum stressing and chucking a wobbly the day dad threw out the pudding cloth. I remember being mesmerised by the beautiful tree lights, sitting or lying under them and just watching them sparkle. I still do this, I love sparkly Christmas tree lights!
We once again hosted a gathering on Christmas Eve for our friends and it was a great night. The aim of the night is to be very relaxed, to enjoy each others company and I like the opportunity to make a few treats for us to eat. A few of the dishes we had this year were,
Dumplings! Ever since I read Celia’s post about dumplings that led me to the Dumpling Sisters site, I now regularly make dumplings from scratch. They are so easy to make, a little time-consuming but easy and they taste so much better than the bought ones. I’ve posted about these a few times but I can’t help myself, they are so good and were a big hit on Christmas eve.
Another dish I made was Midye dolma or stuffed mussels. I tasted these when we went to Turkey and have wanted to have a go at recreating them ever since we returned. You can find street food sellers right along the waterfront in Turkey and they sell thousands of them. The mussels are stuffed with a mixture made from rice, currants and spices then cooked and served with a squeeze of lemon juice. I used the recipe from Ozlems Turkish Table and they were a hit. I have to add though, it is no mean feat cleaning and opening 60 odd mussels to stuff with dodgy hands, I have a whole new level of respect for the vendors in Turkey! My hands are still suffering and sadly don’t think these will be a regular item.
I made some mini sourdough croissants and filled them with ham and cheese and served them warmed through, very nice and definitely a repeat again item. I used the sourdough croissant recipe from Shipton Mill and reduced the cut croissant size to 7-8 cm by 15 cm and they were just right for finger food size.
I also made some mini sourdough ‘baklavants’, croissants with a baklava style filling and a honey and rosewater glaze but they didn’t make it out and are now in the freezer for another time. We did have a few on Christmas Day with breaky.Of course there was a couple of platters of general nibbles, marinated mushrooms, oven roasted cherry tomatoes, focaccia and other assorted sourdough bread (oops, no pics apart from the tiny snippet front right below). And of course our favourite Indian Pakora made using the recipe from Annabel Langbein’s Free Range Cook Book. These would have to be one of the best vegetarian party foods you can present. I served them with a yogurt and mint sauce made simply by blending yogurt and mint together. These are now a much loved tradition every year and it is always a hit.
It was a delightful Christmas Eve, our little fella decided he loves spicy stuffed mussels (and everything else really). Very clever of him to work out you can use a mussel shell as a spoon too! We thoroughly enjoyed the night and were very well behaved which meant we were able to enjoy Christmas Day as well! I’ll do a short post on that next. Unfortunately we didn’t get to catch up with everyone we had hoped to but that will be addressed in the New Year. I hope everyone else has had the pleasure of having such a relaxed and enjoyable Christmas, it’s been lovely having a kitchen to work in!