I’ve got everything I need, bar the vegetables for the day and the cream for the trifle and Brussels sprouts. I’ve found a delicious new recipe for sprouts this year and it’s so delicious that in my practice run last week even the guy was drooling. It’s ridiculously rich, but so what. It’s once a year. It’s the whole point of Christmas lunch, isn’t it. Indulgence mixed with tradition — what a delicious combination.
He’s usually a hater of sprouts, the guy. I’m a lover of them. He says they smell bad and eats them with long teeth, if at all. I’m happy to eat his share of the sprouts if he takes the cherries I pick out of the Christmas cake and pud off my plate. Oh yes, these beauties have also been made, and are just being nursed occasionally with some glugs from the brandy bottle. I’ve made a batch of special Scottish Christmas shortbread and my traditional stamped-out biscuits (two different star shapes, a Christmas tree and a crescent moon). I’m the epitome of organised. It’s been no bother. Weekends have been wonderful. Baking is perfect relaxation for me.
I’ve also wrapped or bagged every present. I’ve forgotten no one (I hope). I have spent months buying them online, and it’s been a chaotic to-ing and fro-ing of delivery people. You should see how busy they are now. Good thing I got in early. The delivery of online purchases is a thriving new industry and offers great employment opportunities for the drivers, who I always have a quick chat to. “You can leave any big-screen TVs here as well. It’s no problem,” is my standard quip. Some laugh good-naturedly. Others are in too much of a rush.
It’s also been fun, browsing through websites and choosing what I hope people will like. I usually click away until the basket has racked up a wallet-busting amount, and then I panic and delete most of it before ordering only what I really need according to the gift list I drew up.
We don’t splurge on gifts and I try to buy what people need. But I also want their pressie to be pleasing and that’s why I supported a wonderful local artist who is selling beautiful things with my favourite bird, the robin chat, depicted on it. I’m imposing the robin on some of my nearest and dearest and I don’t think they’ll mind at all.
This year has seen some momentous changes. And they’ve changed us. The July violence and unrest had that effect on us. We’ve learned — with Covid-19 too — that we must expect change and adapt to it. Big change has become normalised to an extent. Maybe this has added some measure of flexibility to our lives. Well, if this theory holds any water, then maybe I can blame the biggest festive change in our household on that. The guy and I came to a very big decision for this year. We’ve changed our Christmas chocolates. It was not a decision taken lightly. We weighed it up and in the end decided that just because we’ve always voted for Quality Streets does not mean we always have to. (Sounds a bit like the 2021 elections in a way.) So, we decided on those little malty balls of deliciousness. Oh, you know the ones I mean. How I love them, but I resist them all year because of the effect they have on the bathroom scale. It’s not me, it’s them. I swear.
So we bought them in every flavour (the ones with peanuts, coconut ice, shortcake and raisins, then extras for in case, and this after I’d forgotten I’d already bought some. (Freudian slip up? The best kind!) We’re virtually swimming in them. Well, I couldn’t be happier. There’s been a chocolate drought in this house for long enough. And it’s once a year people, once a year.
Okay, so my gift to you is the recipe for the best Brussels sprouts courtesy of TV chef Molly Yeh. Here goes as I remember it. Get your fresh sprouts ready by slicing them in half. Heat a bit of oil in a big, heavy based pan and toss them around in it, carefully browning them up.Add a couple of finely sliced leeks and cook until they’re softish. Then stir in a few tablespoons of flour. Don’t decimate the sprout halves though. They must still look like sprouts. Here comes the decadence. Tip in enough cream to make a silky sauce and stir until it thickens. Add in some Dijon mustard to taste. If you want to be really OTT, add some grated Parmesan with your salt and pepper and voilà, you’re in sprout heaven. Enjoy.
There’s no Weekend Witness for the next two Saturdays, which fall on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, so I’m wishing you all the best for the holidays now.
May they be peaceful, plentiful — especially with enough Brussels sprouts — and Covid-19 free.