The Christmas Kitchen

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I love cooking at Christmas – what can beat the cosiness of being indoors creating delicious extravagant treats as the cold December rain hammers against the windows?  What can beat the pleasure of working with a hot oven when it’s cold, dark, wet and windy outside?  I love to decorate the kitchen with fairy lights and then to watch their reflection bounce off the windows as night closes in, whether I’m cooking supper for the family or luxurious puddings and cakes the Christmas kitchen is a delight!

For me, as Christmas approaches, I dust off the familiar Christmas CDs and torment the rest of the family with endless hours of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, the smooth velvety voice of Michael Bublé, as I settle in the kitchen weighing out ingredients for what feels like hundreds of Christmas cakes!  Then of course, I have The Pumpkin Patch Christmas workshops, full of excited children who can hardly stand still for long enough to mix, let alone weigh out the ingredients!! 

Probably the best Pumpkin Patch Workshops of the entire year have to be the Christmas Cookery Club (‘though Easter isn’t far behind!).  It’s a great time to get creative and experiment with icing and sprinkles and a little craft.  We forage the hedgerows for what remains of the winter berries, and cut down buckets full of ivy and holly ready for the Christmas table decorations.  My usual boring shed looks more like a florists workshop as scissors and secateurs cut and chop lengths of ivy to size, and rolls of ribbon are creatively used to tie them all together for Mum and Dad’s Christmas present.  With gold and silver spray their efforts look wonderful and don’t come with a £35 price tag!  The best things in life are free … or nearly, anyway!

I dream of snow and frosty mornings, the traditional Christmas card scene, but, this winter has (so far) been a wash out of mediocre temperatures and nondescript, fairly uneventful weather. Maybe I should be grateful! However, whatever the weather, I shall still hide away in my kitchen, oblivious to the rain, or the dull overcast days.  The outside will be hidden under the blanket of darkness which descends each late afternoon.  Inside will be warm and cosy: the fire lit, the oven on, and I will be content cooking and baking away with the numerous Pumpkin Patch Cookery Classes, the family and friends. 

The best Christmas recipes should be simple; why get stressed by crazy and  complicated recipes when all the children want is company to play or to watch a good Christmas film? That said, it’s good to have some me time; and if that means experimenting with a few recipes in a cosy kitchen whilst listening to Bing Crosby and sipping a glass of mulled wine … then so be it!  The best and easiest compromise I guess, is to invite the kids to join in; Experimenting with recipes can be hard work, some work and others not, but that’s the best way to learn and gain confidence in the kitchen! 

Start with something easy, and sweet! Christmas cup cakes are usually a hit with younger chefs and cooks, or the gingerbread biscuits printed in last weeks Journal.  Let them go wild with the icing and decorations and they’ll have such pleasant memories of cooking at Christmas, that they’ll never understand what all the stress is about!!  When they’re fed up of Bing Crosby they’ll soon find something else to do!! For a savoury recipe try Belinda’s rissoles recipe, also printed last week, or the Christmas cole slaw below. This is great alongside any leftover turkey or just part of the boxing day or tea time salads.

A little activity for little people:
Make list of ten things that remind you of Christmas (here’s mine):

A log fire (Nuts roasting on … of course!)
Sparkly fairy lights 
Making stuffing
Mince pies with stars on to top
Dark evenings
Choosing the Christmas Tree
Hats and scarves
School Christmas Concert or Carol Service
Christmas Music
Friends and visitors
Our little Nativity scene ( yes, OK, that’s eleven!)

My top ten Christmas Recipes
Starry mince pies
Honey Glazed Ham
Christmas cole slaw
Mulled Cider with fruit
Cinnamon Palmiers 
Cranberry compote with ice cream
Cranberry and port sauce
Magical gingerbread house
Mince and apple filo parcels

Christmas cake