Hello. Fat Englishman here…
All through December I was having fun with a little personal Advent Calendar I was putting up on Facebook as the days passed. Nothing particularly deep or profound – just some things that appealed to me as being mostly seasonal and uniformally scrumptious.
Anyway, rather than let the whole exercise disappear into the mists of time I thought I’d collect all the different days’ offerings together here for your edification in the hope that you might find something that will tickle your fancy.
So, from December 1st to the 24th, here goes:
As it’s December the 1st it must be time to get the Advent Calendar going. So each day until the 25th I’ll offer up a particular craving. Today I’m hankering after a nice helping of Spotted Dick with Custard – home made of course.
Day 2 of the Advent Calendar and with snow on the ground on a crisp December morning there’s nothing I crave more after walking the hounds than a good glass or two of Vintage Port with some blue cheese and a handful of almonds.
For Day 3 of my little Advent Calendar project, I offer you traditional Shortbread. Not purely a seasonal indulgence, but somehow a delightfully inevitable part of my Festive indulgences! Particularly nice with a glass of Port or Sherry, but perhaps more commonly eaten as part of afternoon tea.
Day Four of Project Advent Calendar and the snow is still coming down thick and fast, Christmas music is playing and it can surely be no better day to make mince pies! Traditionally left out on Christmas Eve for Santa, they are also eaten throughout the Christmas period and – in my less-than-humble opinion, benefit enormously from the addition of a little brandy to the filling (after all, it’s what your Granny would have done isn’t it?)
No festive season can be considered complete without an ample supply of Mulled Wine. So for Day 5 on my Advent Calendar here’s a recipe and a little historical background on Smoking Bishop – possibly the most traditional of English approaches to this most glorious of warming winter concoctions. If it’s good enough for Jonathan Swift and Charles Dickens to mention and if it can survive from the Middle Ages then it’s good enough for me!
Here’s something for Harry Potter fans or – if you fancy it – some original recipes for Buttered Beer from 1588 and 1664. The modern version is based on the writings and utterances of JK Rowling on the subject and is safe for young ones, the others less so. Though not necessarily festive, small ones would definitely think of this as a treat!
Today’s Advent offering is Toad-in-the-Hole – desperately simple to make and wonderfully comforting with onion gravy. Make sure you use really good sausages – Cumberland, Toulouse or Beef and Guinness perhaps.
Day 8 on the Advent Calendar and it’s time to look at the more exotic traditions of another culture – in this case the Sami people of the Northern Nordic regions. To them reindeer conjure images other than those of our Red-Nosed friend and this book offers recipes for reindeer steak, soup, tongue and much more. The squeamish might think of it as venison, but it’s really reindeer.
Christmas Cookies a seasonal institution for so many people and they’re also what I’ve chosen for Day 9 on my culinary Advent Calendar. In the wee small hours of the morning when most of us are fast asleep, Bakery Elves everywhere are hard at work crafting irresistible goodies for hungry souls. This delightful video is from Jarosch Bakery – which has been owned and run by the same family in Chicago for over fifty years, and I happen to know they produce rather delightful delicacies!
To celebrate Day 10 on the Advent Calendar, I give you no less than the traditional Christmas Pudding! Best served with fresh-made English custard or Brandy Butter (and NEVER with whipped cream – it just isn’t up to the task). Brought to the table alight with flaming Brandy, the most traditional of puddings will contain a silver sixpence – whoever finds it being considered lucky (assuming they don’t swallow it of course!)
Today I’ve decided to feature Traditional Egg Nog – as distinct from the sickly sweet and rather characterless variety found in the average grocery store. With a history traceable to the late 1600s, a true Egg Nog is enlivened with Brandy, Rum and Nutmeg and warms the cockles of one’s heart!
Here is an Advent offering for Chocolate lovers everywhere – Hot Chocolate as originally made. Wonderfully decadent and most certainly worth the investment of time and effort (when isn’t it worth one’s time to mess around with chocolate after all?). Of course you may never want to touch the modern powdered concoctions ever again. Oh, and for God’s sake, please resist the temptation to deposit those ghastly marshmallows or whipped cream on top.
By now you should be thinking about getting your hands on your Christmas bird – the most traditional (and in my view the best) of which is undoubtedly a Goose. Rich, flavoursome and succulent meat, crispy skin and loads of fat for roasting the potatoes. What could be better? All very Dickensian.
Break out the Brandy Snaps. A classic winter delight these rather fiddly treats definitely reward the effort, especially if eaten with a hot toddy or some mulled wine. They’re also rather good if stuffed with cinnamon whipped cream. Why not give them a try?
You don’t get much more Alpine than Raclette and with the inclusion of the roaring open fire that melts the half-wheels of cheese, a Raclette party is undeniably festive. And that’s why it’s secured a place on the Advent Calendar for December 15th. Now I shall be dreaming of it all day long!
Today’s offering is nothing less than the traditional Christmas Cake. Admittedly one should really make this some weeks ahead to enjoy the full benefits of the booze involved, there are also plenty of recipes that don’t require the time spent “resting” (traditionally in a cake tine under the bed!). Delicious and decidedly hearty.
At Englishman Towers, no Christmas can be considered complete without at least one sort of glazed ham making an appearance (on the bone of course). Infinitely superior to those watery and anaemic lumps of nastiness you’ll find in the average grocery store, these are best sourced direct from the breeder and prepared lovingly to the recipe of one’s choice (preferably handed down on a tattered piece of paper and written long ago by a barely – but affectionately – remembered cook some generations hence).
Ahh Stilton. Truly no festive season can be considered complete without one’s truckle of top quality Stilton on hand to be slowly consumed day-by-day during the revels. Whether on it’s own, with crackers or bread, with Port or a hearty red wine, it really makes no difference. This most majestic of cheeses enriches any moment and thoroughly deserves to occupy December 18th on my culinary Advent Calendar. If you haven’t got yours yet, I urge you to delay no further – precious pleasures are passing you by!
It’s time for old-fashioned Gingerbread. Not to be confused with the inanely grinning little people-shaped biscuits, this is more like a stickier, denser and spicier version of banana bread. It goes very nicely with a cup of afternoon tea in close proximity to a fire after a walk in the snow.
Today’s entry in the Advent Calendar is what most British families will be sitting down to on Christmas Day – Roast Turkey with all the trimmings. Alongside the bird itself and it’s stuffing (for which there is a particularly good recipe here), you’ll need roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots and brussels sprouts (though count me out on the last of these – nasty!). Add loads of gravy and you’ll be set to go (at least until it’s time for dessert!).
At this stage in the game it must be time for a good old-fashioned Yule Log. With it’s origins in just about every European country that can be bothered to stake a claim (generally going back hundreds of years), the Yule Log was originally a carefully selected and trimmed tree that was brought into the house whole to have it’s base shoved into the fire so it could slowly burn down over the Christmas period. Presumably the much more appetizing chocolate-based version that we now enjoy was substituted when people started to acquire decent carpeting and furniture with which dirty old trees simply weren’t compatible.
Whereas many traditional Christmas foods tend toward the heavy and rich, today’s offering for the Advent Calendar takes a different turn. While it is undeniably light, it remains rich and is one of the most decadently delicious desserts known to man (in my less-than-humble opinion). It is nothing less than Nigella Lawson’s famous Christmas Pavlova. This version is a delightful seasonal variation that looks as good as it tastes.
Trifle is often to be found on the table at Christmas parties and this one makes use of your seasonal supplies of Egg Nog so it deserves it’s place on the Advent Calendar for today. And served up in smaller cups you can always go back for more without feeling guilty – should you be afflicted by such things!
You’ve sung the song, now eat the bird! While most people may never actually eat it – in which case they are missing out on a very good thing – almost everyone will hear reference to it in the Festive season and so the proverbial Partridge in a Pear Tree is my final offering on this year’s Advent Calendar for Christmas Eve. Pear and partridge is a particularly fine pairing, and if nothing else you’ll actually be able to get your guests to sing for their supper as they won’t be able to claim they don’t know the words!
So there you have it… my first attempt at a foodie Advent Calendar. It seemed to go down rather well as a way of occupying people’s idle moments on Facebook so perhaps I’ll do another next year.